St. Stephen's Anglican Church and Cemetery | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


St. Stephen's Anglican Church and Cemetery

Item details

Name of item: St. Stephen's Anglican Church and Cemetery
Other name/s: St Stephen's Church Of England, Camperdown Cemetery
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.8946440418 Long: 151.1796388810
Primary address: 187 - 189 Church Street, Newtown, NSW 2042
Parish: Petersham
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Marrickville
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP137465
LOT1 DP90249
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
187 - 189 Church StreetNewtownMarrickvillePetershamCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
St Stephens Church & Cemetery TrustReligious Organisation25 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

This building is one of Australia's best Gothic Revival churches on this scale and its unique and historic surroundings render it a building of the highest importance. The church is in a prominent position on the crest of a rise, approximately three miles south west of the city of Sydney. The spire is notable for miles. The cemetery forms a unique close to the Church; it contains numerous fine trees including a large Moreton Fig Tree. (Lucas 1975)
Date significance updated: 10 Dec 99
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.


Designer/Maker: Edmund Blacket
Builder/Maker: George Dowling and Robert Kirkham
Construction years: 1871-1874
Physical description: St Stephens Church of England is an English Decorated Gothic Revival church in cruciform plan with side aisles, gallery, two vestries, porch and tower with a stone spire on the north side. It is built from Pyrmont stone with a slate roof and stone traceried windows. Externally the church is well massed, the whole being dominated by a fine stone tower and spire. The ornament of the exterior is restrained. (Lucas 1975)

The fine Walker organ with 1,100 pipes and tracker action was made in England in 1874. (Frith 1977:7)

The peal of 20 domes was made in England by the Whitechapel foundry and was installed in the church in 1880 after being used in the Great Exhibition in the Botanic Gardens in 1879. (Frith 1977:7)

The Rectory

The Sexton's Cottage
Current use: church and cemetery
Former use: church and cemetery


Historical notes: The present St. Stephen's Anglican Church is the second church by that name in Newtown, both of which were designed by noted church architect, Edmund Blacket. A call for tenders for the construction of 'a small brick church at O'Connell Town', the original St. Stephen's Church, was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 23 November 1844. H. Knight was awarded the contract to build the church, and a Mr. Brander was the carpenter. The foundation stone was laid, on the Thursday 26 December 1884, by the Right Reverend Dr. William Broughton, first Bishop of Australia, who also preached. The Reverend Dr. T. Steele, Rector of St. Peter's Cook's River, assisted in the ceremony that was attended by a large crowd comprised principally of residents from the immediate neighbourhood. The church was situated on the "New Town Road", near Victoria Street, on land donated by representatives of former Governor William Bligh's widow, Elizabeth.

The building was completed in nine months, at a cost of (Pounds)417, and was consecrated on Tuesday 9 September 1845, by Bishop Broughton, at a service conducted by Dr. Steele, before a church 'crowded to excess' with clergy, dignitaries, including Lady Gipps, Wife of the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Maurice O'Connell, Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, and his wife, Mary, a daughter of Governor Bligh, the Mayor, members of the Newtown Odd Fellows Lodge, and parishioners. The newspaper account described the church as a 'very neat brick edifice, seventy feet long by twenty-six wide' with a vestry and belfry. The exterior was rather plain, the main feature being large rectangular windows, and the vestry/porch in the center of the building's three bays. The interior was 'very neatly fitted up, all the pews being open'. The roof, likewise, was open. Both open bench pews and open roof were recent innovations in the colony, as was the seating arrangement for the choir, in stalls facing one another, in the chancel.

With the growth of population in Newtown in the 1860s it became clear that the small church had become inadequate. It had been designed so that it could be easily enlarged if necessary. This course of action, however, was rejected in favour of erecting a new church on a new site in Camperdown Cemetery. When finally replaced, the original church remained in use as the parish hall and Sunday School, until destroyed by fire 16 September 1938.

In order to build on the newly chosen site, an act of the New South Wales Parliament was required. A petition from the parish, signed by Christopher Rolleston, William Sedgwick, William Crane, T.C. Breillat and S. C. Brown, requested an act to enable the Bishop of Sydney to convey land to trustees of the church for the erection of a church and parsonage in the Cemetery grounds. Upon presentation by Mr. Charles Windeyer, member for West Sydney, the NSW Legislative Assembly voted, 10 February 1871, to receive the petition and proceed with an Act. The Act, entitled The Camperdown Cemetery Trust Bill, moved through both houses of parliament quickly and by late March it had received the Governor's consent. Copies were printed by the Government Printing Office and available at 6d apiece. The Government Gazette, 2 September 1871, provided official notice of the Act.

Edmund Blacket had been appointed architect on 17 February 1871 and by June had submitted plans and called for tenders for the first part of the building. Blacket agreed to provide supervision of the construction. The contract for the first stage of the stonework (walls to the height of 17 feet) was awarded to Robert Kirkham and his partner, George Dowling. The foundation stone was laid by the Governor, the Earl of Belmore, on 11 November 1871. The rector, the Reverend Robert Taylor conducted the first part of the service assisted by other clergy, and the Dean of Sydney preached. A scroll was read by Mr. C. Rolleston, and deposited in the cavity of the stone in a sealed bottle, which also contained copies of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Churchman. The scroll was as follows: - "Newtown: To the glory of God, and in remembrance of the Christian Martyr St. Stephen, the foundation-stone of this Church was laid by his Excellency the Right Honorable Somerset Richard, Earl of Belmore, Governor-in-Chief of the colony of New South Wales, on the eleventh day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1871, being the thirty-fifth year in the reign of her Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, &c., &c., &c. The Right Reverend F. Barker, D.D., Bishop of Sydney and Metropolitan. Incumbent - The Rev. Robert Taylor, of Moore College, Liverpool, N.S.W. Trustees of Cemetery - Messrs. T.C. Breillat, S.C. Brown, W. Crane, sen., C. Rolleston, and Dr. Sedgwick. Church-wardens - Messrs C. Rolleston, Dr. Sedgwick, and W. Crane, sen. Church Building Committee - The Revs. R. Taylor and W. Scott, M.A.; and Messrs. M. Albery, M. R. Allan, R. N. Banks, D. Bedford, T.C. Breillat, S.C. Brown, Hon C. Campbell, Hon. J. Campbell, H. Chisholm, W. Crane, sen., W. Crane, jun., W. Curtis, G. Davison, Captain Evans, R. Fowler, F.T. Humphery, W.J. Jordan, M. Metcalfe, R.C. Murray, R.J. Rawsthorne, C. Rolleston, G. Rossitter, C. Sampson, Dr. Sedgwick, H.R. Smith, H.E. Vaughan, H. Vickers, and W. Wilson. Honorary Treasurers - Messrs. T.C. Breillat and S.C. Brown. Honorary Secretaries - Rev. R. Taylor and Mr. M.R. Allan. Architect E.T. Blacket, Esq. Builders - Messrs. G. Dowling and R. Kirkham."

It was announced that the church when completed would cost (Pounds)8000, and (Pounds)6000 would be needed to complete the edifice so that it could be used for divine service. (Pounds)3000 had already been subscribed by the inhabitants of Newtown, and about (Pounds)900 by the friends of those who had been buried in Camperdown Cemetery.

The building progressed quickly and by September 1873 tenders were called for the second stage of the stonework and completion of the walls of the church, clerestory, tower and steeple. Robert Kirkham was awarded the contract for the second stage. Others involved in the construction of the church were William Curtis, roofing, W. E. Elphinstone, carpentry, and W. Watson, sittings. St. Stephen's was completed in 1874, and a meeting of the subscribers to the building fund was held on Saturday 28 March to allot and let the pews. The first service of worship held on 5 April 1874, Easter Sunday, and an official opening on 9 April. The tower and spire were completed in 1876.

St. Stephen's is an English Decorated Gothic Revival church in cruciform plan with side aisles, gallery, two vestries, and porch. The building is dominated, on the north side, by the fine 140-foot high stone tower and spire, which can be seen for miles. The walls of the church are sandstone, quarried from the nearby Pyrmont stone quarries. The exterior ornamentation, apart from the stone traced windows is restrained. Interior columns are of Melbourne bluestone and the roof is slate. With dimensions of 110 by 48 feet, and a final construction cost of (Pounds)13,000, it was the largest and most prominent building in the area, and was widely recognized as one of Edmund Blacket's finest designs. The full amount for the cost of the building was subscribed at one time making it possible to erect it in a continuous operation without stops and starts unlike so many other churches Blacket designed. Eminent architectural historian Morton Herman calls the design of St. Stephen's, 'a magnificent success - It is a church designed to be seen all round from every angle, and from every angle it is eminently satisfactory'. In another of his books, Herman designates St. Stephen's as 'one of the finest Gothic Revival buildings in Sydney.' Joan Kerr describes the church as 'one of [Blacket's] most successful buildings', Blacket having, by 1870 'completely mastered his Decorated Gothic repertoire' and [being] more confident in composition and less fussy in detailing than in some of his earlier designs.' The tower and spire, she notes, are one of Blacket's finest compositions.

The two-manual pipe organ was built by the London firm, J.W. Walker and Son, in 1874, at the cost of (Pounds)800. Blacket designed the organ case, sending specification to Walker and Son. He also was instrumental in having the organ placed in the south transcept rather than in the west gallery. The bells, a set of twelve hemispherical bells, new type of bell, manipulated by a keyboard, were ordered by Blacket from the well known foundry of Messrs. Mears and Stainbank, Whitechapel, in the East End of London. Prior to installation in St. Stephen's tower, they were exhibited in the great Sydney International Exhibition of 1879-80.

Other than some minor alterations to the organ in 1895 by G.K. Sandford of Newtown, and a redesigning of the chancel by prominent Sydney architect, Burcham Clamp, in 1927 and carried out by J.M and A. Pringle, the church remain as Blacket designed it. (Donald Kirkham 2010)

The adjoining Rectory was built in 1910. The Sexton's Cottage was built in 1848 and the huge Moreton Bay Fig Tree (Ficus macrophylla) to its immediate south-west and some of the European oak trees (Quercus robur) in the cemetery also date from this time.

The Camperdown Cemetery was established in 1848 on about 13 acres of the 240 acres granted to Governor Bligh, known as the Camperdown Estate. This was the first privately-owned and operated Anglican cemetery in Sydney (Brettell, 2015, 2). It was the main cemetery for Sydney from 1849 to 1867 (Diesendorf, 2001). During this time it received over 15,000 interments and was the subjct of a state government select committee inquiry. This inquiry was convened to address the mismanagement of a number of cemeteries within Sydney and it found that the accusations directed at the Camperdown Cemetery were founded (Brettell, 2015, 2). Sale of plots was terminated in 1867 (Diesendorf, 2001) and it closed in 1868 (Brettell, 2015, 2) but a trickle of burials continued until the 1940s (Brettell, 2015 says 1920s, these being within family and pre-purchased plots and crypts).

Following its closure the cemetery fell into disrepair (Brettell, 2015, 3). It was reduced in size in the 1950s when Camperdown Memorial Rest Park was established (Diesendorf 2001), comprising two distinct sections that now comprise the area - the St. Stephens Church and graveyard (within a six foot high sandstone wall) and the Camperdown Memorial Rest Park (without the wall), treated as broadly grassed open space with pockets of tree planting, and, directly south of the graveyard wall, a children's play ground area (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 2/11/2016). The Church and graveyard have been managed since the 1970s by the Camperdown Cemetery Trust and the Camperdown Memorial Rest Park is managed by Marrickville Council (Brettell, 2015, 3).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of contemplation and devotion-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian rustic Gothic-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Anglicanism-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Operating and maintaining cemeteries and burial grounds-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Edmund Blacket, Government Architect-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any item on the site meaning the continuous protective care of existing materials;
(2) routine maintenance to the cemetery and grounds;
(3) alterations and changes of use to the church hall.
Oct 17 1986
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentDunbar Tomb -- Conservation Analysis Report (1996) submitted for comments Jul 18 2007
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0046202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0046217 Oct 86 165 
Local Environmental Plan  01 Sep 89   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007St Stephen's Anglican Church and Cemetery View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007St Stephen's Anglican Church and Cemetery View detail
WrittenBrettell, Sophie2015'Understanding and managing the significance and intangible heritage values embedded in the site of a former cemetery' View detail
WrittenC Lucas1975National Trust Classification Card
WrittenClive Lucas Stapleton and Partner2004St Stephen's Anglican church Newtown : conservation management plan
WrittenDonald Kirkham2010St. Stephens Church Newtown (history)
Writtenedited by Alan Nichols1976Camperdown : a history of Camperdown cemetery & St. Stephen's Newtown
WrittenJ L Diesendorf1992Architectural assessment of St Stephen's Anglican Church, Newtown : national estate program final report
WrittenS Frith1977Preliminary Report on the Restoration of St. Stephens Church, Camperdown Cemetery and Surrounds at Newtown NSW
WrittenSlade, Barry1988'Another time, another lifestyle - St.Stephen's Church', in This Australia (journal)
WrittenStiller, John; Walker JW & Sons;1978St. Stephen's Anglican Church, Newtown, NSW. Documentation of pipe organ built by J.W. Walker and Sons opened 1874

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045479
File number: S90/04080/001-003 & HC32177

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