Newtown Baptist Church, including interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Newtown Baptist Church, including interiors

Item details

Name of item: Newtown Baptist Church, including interiors
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Primary address: 191 Church Street, Newtown, NSW 2042
Local govt. area: Marrickville
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
191 Church StreetNewtownMarrickville  Primary Address
Lennox StreetCamperdownMarrickville  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Newtown Baptist Church is of local significance as the first Baptist Church (1873) to be erected in the Marrickville LGA. Additional Baptist churches were built at Lewisham (1884), Marrickville (1889) and Stanmore (1901), as local congregations grew.

It contains a rare c1820s pipe organ, which is one of the earliest known pipe organs in Australia.

The possibility of state significance in relation to the wider Baptist movement and the rarity/uniqueness of the c1820s pipe organ requires further assessment.
Date significance updated: 11 Jan 12
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1873-
Physical description: The front elevation, facing Church Street, is rockfaced sandstone, with painted Flemish bond brickwork to the side walls. The building has rendered detailing to the principal facade with a gabled entry porch, trifoliated window arches and a large circular rose window to the gable. The building has slate roofing.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Building is in reasonable condition but is in need of maintenance. Plumbing is rusting as is the metal wire to the exterior of the windows, some of which are broken.

Internally, the timber ceiling is in excellent condition. So is the pulpit and baptismal pool. The transept stained glass windows have been altered over time and are in need of repair and restoration. The nave stained glass windows are in need of restoration. The stone tracery in the rose window above the western end is missing, and was presumably the same as that above the eastern end. The internal plaster walls are in need of repair. The lighting consists of modern fluorescents.

The blue and white exterior colour scheme greatly detracts from its appearance as a nineteenth-century Gothic Revival parish church and does little to enhance its prominent corner location. Neither does the wire fencing along Lennox Street aid the appearance of the church.
Date condition updated:16 Jul 98
Modifications and dates: Has been painted and had metal wire installed on the exterior of the windows
Current use: Church
Former use: Church


Historical notes: This corner site was originally part of Governor Bligh's 240-acre Camperdown Estate, granted in 1806. It was purchased in 1861 from George Benson. This site was purchased as closer settlement took place after the Gold Rush.

In 1873 the first part of the church (ie the main nave portion) was opened. It was built with the assistance of John Langley and others. The architect is not known. While the church was being built, the School of Arts, and later the Town Hall were used for services.

The church was erected in association with the resurgence of building activity in the early 1870s, and at a time when many churches were being built in the Newtown area. For example, St Stephen's Anglican Church, next door, was built between 1871-1874; St Joseph's Catholic Church in 1869; and the Methodist Church, Stanmore (now part of Newington College) in 1874. It is orientated west-east, instead of the usual east-west, presumably to retain the front porch and entrance door along Church Street.

This was also the first Baptist Church (1873) to be erected in the Marrickville LGA. Additional Baptist churches were built at Lewisham (1884), Marrickville (1889) and Stanmore (1901), as local congregations grew.

The transepts were added at some time in the 1870s, possibly the early 1880s. It was possibly at this time that the small, castellated vestry was added on the southern side, forming an entrance to Lennox Street and obscuring some stained glass windows.

A signed watercolour held in the church and dated 1905 by John F Fryer shows the church surrounded by a wooden picket fence with Gothicised posts. The southern brick walls have been painted in a polychrome scheme.

In 1919 repairs and additons were made to the church. A 'school room ' or 'primary hall' was added to the south-western end. The space between this building and the southern transept was enclosed to form a kitchen, partially obscuring the original shape of the building and additional stained glass windows. Work also included raising the porch and installing new lights.

In 1928 a large timber pulpit was donated and installed on a raised platform in the crossing of the church and against the wall which divides the crossing from the sanctuary (the traditional 'sanctuary' space of cruciform churches not being utilised as such within Baptist worship practices; instead the space is walled off and used as a gathering place and change room for the ministers). Also installed at the same time was a large, tiled, baptismal pool between the pulpit and the holy table, in conformity with Baptist practices.

Also in 1928 the Manse next door was built.

In 1930 the 'Memorial Sunday School Hall' was built at the north-western end of the church, adjoining the school room. It was opened in May. It includes two memorial dedication stones and a stained glass 'Light of the World' window in a Gothicised frame. The addition of this hall further obscured the original form of the church and additional stained glass windows.

Interior photographs taken in 1930 (held by the church) show the arrangement of the seating and other furniture. The gallery above the western end has seating for the choir; and there appears to have been raked seating in the transepts. The photographs also indicate the painted wall scheme and painted banner in the western wall, above the choir.

It was possibly at this time that new memorial stained glass windows were installed in the nave, replacing original clear quarry glass windows. Original quarry glass survives in the eastern front wall and the first nave windows (now within the porch area). The date of the large transept windows is not presently known, but are possibly original (ie 1870-1980s) in being diamond quarries, and dissimilar to the Art Deco, 1930s nave windows.

In 1938 the pipe organ was installed. It was donated as a memorial gift of the family of Richard Bell and came from the Harris Street Baptist Church after its closure in 1935. Installation by S T Noad involved some modifications to the organ itself and its case, and the removal of the raked seating in both the southern and northern transepts. Some of the original panelling from this raked seating survives as a partition wall on the northern side forming a small office and incorporated into the organ case on the southern side.

According to Graham Rushworth in 'Historic Organs of NSW', this organ is a rare, pre-1820s organ and possibly the second oldest in NSW. It comprises the remnants of a rebuilt and enlarged chamber organ, dating from the early nineteenth century, possibly pre-1820. It is said to have been a present from George III (d 1820) to a friend in Sydney, but this story has not been corroborated. It was acquired by the Harris Street Baptist Church in c1875 and was enlarged by Charles Leggo in 1920.

Following its installation in the Newtown Baptist Church, part of its original 1820s front case survived as a screen on the left-hand side of the organ. Rushworth believes enough of the original organ survives to enable restoration to its pre-1820 appearance and working order.

At some stage, in the 1970s-1980s, the exterior brickwork was painted two shades of blue, and following damage from hailstorm in 1999, the roof was re-slated using undamaged old slates and new slate.

The present pews were given to the church by St Andrew's Cathedral in ???.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Newtown Baptist Church is of local significance as the first Baptist Church (1873) to be erected in the Marrickville LGA. Additional Baptist churches were built at Lewisham (1884), Marrickville (1889) and Stanmore (1901), as local congregations grew.

The c1820s pipe organ in the church is likely to be of state significance as one of the earliest surviving pipe organs in Australia and in a condition which would enable its reconstruction to its 1820s chamber organ form.

The Newtown Baptist Church was also built at the same time as a number of other Newtown churches and is evidence of the economic development and increase in population that occurred in Newtown in the 1870s.

The possibility of state significance in relation to the history of the Baptist movement and possibly the earliest surviving Baptist church in New South Wales. Need to investigate relationship with the greater Baptist movement in NSW; possibly an early suburban Baptist church.

Has associations with local persons of note, namely John Langley. The architect is not known.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Newtown Baptist Church is of high local significance, possibly state significant, as a nineteenth-century, Gothic Revival Baptist church. The name of the architect is not known; nor the reason for the choice of Gothic Revival style, which in many ways is in conflict with Baptist Church worship practices.

Earlier Baptist Churches employed a neo-Classical Tabernacle style (eg Tabernacle on the corner of Bathurst and Kents Sts, Sydney; Newcastle Tabernacle; and Bathurst Tabernacle). Newtown Baptist Church is one of a number of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Baptist churches in the Gothic Revival style. Other examples include: Kingsgrove (1875), Lewisham (1884), Marrickville (1889), Stanmore (1901), and the Central Baptist Church in George Street (1936).

The choice of the Gothic Revival style with its use of the cruciform shape is somewhat antithetical to Baptist practice which does not utilise the sanctuary or observe spiritual demarcations between clergy and laity; instead, the space of the traditional sanctuary at the head of the cruciform plan is walled off and used as a change room and meeting space and a choir gallery is installed over the traditional east end. The choice of Gothic Revival style may have been due to the overwhelming popularity of the style in the late nineteenth century and possibly even influenced by the construction of St Stephen's Church, taking place at the same time, under the supervision of architect, Edmund Blacket .

The Newtown Baptist Church retains its original late nineteenth-century configuration, including the choir gallery with its curved cast iron balustrade, and dividing wall between the crossing and the 'sanctuary'. It also retains its finely constructed and highly ornate wooden pulpit and tiled baptismal pool, installed in the late 1920s, which also conform to Baptist liturgical practices.

The Newtown Baptist Church is one of a large group of Gothic Revival parish churches built in the Newtown area in the late nineteenth century and across all the major denominations. Others include:

c1859-1860 Wesleyan Methodist Church, King Street (architect: George Allan Mansfield)
1862 Congregational (now Uniting) Church, Railway St, Petersham
1869 St Joseph's Catholic Church (architect: Thomas Rowe)
1870 All Saints Anglican Church, Stanmore (architect: Benjamin Backhouse)
1871-1874 St Stephen's Anglican Church, Church St, Newtown (architect: Edmund Blacket)
1874 Methodist Church, Stanmore (now part of Newington College)
1881 Presbyterian (now Korean Canaan) Church, Gordon St, Petersham
1882 St Luke's Anglican Church, Stanmore Rd, Enmore
1886 Enmore Church of Christ, Metropolitan St, Enmore.

The possibility of state significance requires further research.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The church is likely to have a high degree of significance to the local Newtown Baptist community as a place of worship since 1873.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The church displays exceptional significance as early example of Baptist church architecture employing the Gothic Revival style (need to confirm).

It also displays exceptional research and technical significance in relation to the pre-1820s organ that survives in the church, which is of state significance and in need of further research to establish its age and manufacturer.
SHR Criteria f)
The c1820s pipe organ is extremely rare if not unique in Australia, and likely to be of state significance.
SHR Criteria g)
Integrity/Intactness: The church is relatively intact and has lost some integrity with painting.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville LEP 2011I14412 Dec 11 2011/645 
Local Environmental PlanMarrickville Local Environmental Plan 2001 18 May 01 86 
Within a conservation area on an LEPwithin draft cons. area Marrickville LEP 2001    
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Marrickville Heritage Study19862.48Fox and AssociatesNovember 1984 No
Marrickville Heritage Study Review19972030090Tropman & Tropman Architects1997-1999 Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenGraeme Rushworth1988Historic Organs of New South Wales
GraphicJohn F Fryer1905Watercolour sketch
WrittenJohn Stiller1981Documentation of Pipe Organ, Baptist Church, Newtown
WrittenNewtown Baptist Church historical notes compiled by Lilith Norman
GraphicNoel Bell Ridley Smith and Partners1992Preliminary Concept Sketch
Photographunknown1930interior and exterior photographs
Photographunknown interior photograph after 1938

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2030090
File number: 2.48

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