St. John the Evangelist Church | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

St. John the Evangelist Church

Item details

Name of item: St. John the Evangelist Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.4007977332 Long: 150.0777131600
Primary address: Main Street, Wallerawang, NSW 2845
Parish: Lidsdale
County: Cook
Local govt. area: Lithgow
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP372255
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main StreetWallerawangLithgowLidsdaleCookPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

St John the Evangelist Church, Wallerawang constructed between 1880-1881, is of State significance as a rare example of a major church building erected by private philanthropy, equalled in Lithgow only by the Hoskins Memorial Church and comparable to the Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church in Annandale. It is one of the last major churches in the State built entirely by private philanthropy and is possibly the only example of a 'union' or public dual-denomination church identified to date in the Central West region. It is associated with the architect Edmund Blacket and is a fine example of the architecture of Blacket and Sons. It is associated with the Lithgow pioneering family of James Walker and Edwin Barton who was the surveyor of rail routes to western New South Wales. It is unique in the Lithgow area as a dual denomination Church and has wide social significance. St John the Evangelist Church contains numerous significant moveable objects and artefacts (eg main alter, pews, readers lectern, baptismal font and other associated furnishings, tables and chairs) that were purpose-built for the Church. (Heritage Office 2002)
Date significance updated: 05 Oct 06
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Blacket and Sons
Builder/Maker: George Donald
Construction years: 1880-1881
Physical description: A large imposing church of Victorian Gothic style . The building is symmetrical with rectangular body, of cruciform plan with square high bell tower in 3 lifts (no turret), smaller chancel and transepts. Entrance porch at street side only (possibly an early addition). Pointed-arched sandstone windows, some stained glass, some diamond and square panes. The tower is even topped with battlements and pinnacles of a real 'Carpenters' Gothic type and has interesting animal face gargoyles. Mix of dressed stone quoins and bush hammered stone elsewhere. Walls are buttressed. Cement on the roof is unsympathetic. There are fine stained glass windows erected between 1906 and 1962.

Nave 16m x 7.3 m (53' by 24'); Chancel 6m x 5.4m (20' by 18'); organ chamber and vestry are in the transepts; Tower 15.2m (50') high.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is fair to poor. Cracking to bell tower.
Date condition updated:01 Aug 02
Further information: Winners of the KAB Tidy Towns Heritage Awards 2007
Current use: Religious Worship (Presbyterian Church services 1st & 3rd Sundays month)
Former use: Aboriginal land, squatting run, farm village (part), estate chapel, Anglican & Presbyterian & Catholic religious worship

History

Historical notes: The place named Wallerawang derives from the language of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people who occupied the area before white settlement. It is said to mean 'place near wood and water' or 'plenty of water'.

The first colonial settler in the Lithgow-Wallerawang district was James Walker. He was born in Perth, Scotland, in 1785, the son of wealthy merchant. He became an artillery officer in the Royal Marines and retired in 1822. In May, 1823, he set sail on the Brutus for N.S.W.

A road was surveyed from Hartley to Mudgee in 1823, eleven years after the first successful white crossing of the Blue Mountains (Friends of St. Johns Church, undated).

On reaching Sydney in September, Governor Brisbane granted Walker 809 ha (2,000) acres at Wallerowang, which stretched to the Wolgan Valley to the north. This land had been by-passed on the way to Bathurst by the early settlers. In 1837 he applied for more land between the Wolgan Valley and Bathurst. Walker started 1800 cross-bred sheep, 64 merinos, 312 head of cattle and 15 horses. By the end of 1840, he held an immense tract of country under licence and was running 1487 cattle and 20,534 sheep. In 1854 he was the holder of 16 stations with an area of 190204 ha (470,000 acres).

Thomas returned to Scotland and married his wife Robina Ramsay Walker (his cousin) in 1832. They had four children; Allison, Archibald and Georgina (all born at Wallerawang) and Wilhelmina (born in London). James had sympathy with the Church of England as well as a strong acceptance of Presbyterian doctrine. He was a deeply religious man and built a house, Wallerawang Station and a church. Clergy from both denominations were frequently welcomed at Wallerawang, including the Rev. Colin Stewart, pioneer Presbyterian Minister who arrived in the area in 1830 (Friends of St. Johns Church, undated).

James Walker died on 24 November 1856, aged 71 and was buried in the family cemetery on the estate. He is remembered as having good dealings with his convict workers and also a remarkable relationship with the local Wywandy Aboriginal people. In 1866 his widow, who still held licences for 15 stations, died in 1867 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

Their daughter Georgina Walker-Barton married Edwin Barton, who was the surveyor / engineer of the Zig Zag railway. He died in 1876. Mrs Barton commissioned renowned Gothic Revival church architect (and family friend) Edmund Blacket in 1880 to design St John The Evangelist Church on the estate as a place of worship for the Church of England and the Presbyterians of Wallerawang. The church was a commemoration to her parents and family, who had all died before her (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). It was to be used as the Wallerawang Estate Chapel and a 'union' or public dual-denomination church: by both the Presbyterian and Anglican denominations in memory of James Walker, his wife Robina and Georgina's late husband Edwin Barton. She mainly financed the construction and established a small Gothic Revival style brick school nearby, which is still standing. The reflection of religious philanthropy is an important theme in Lithgow with five other churches in the area being privately funded.

The stone was from a quarry on Tunnel Hill, and the fine stone for the tracery and door frames came from Sydney. The carving on the W.A. karri pews was designed to represent the Scottish heritage of the Walker / Barton family. The builder George McGarvie Donald of Lithgow was a master mason and builder who helped create the city of Lithgow. He would later become its first Mayor and MLA for Hartley (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). Born in Paddington in 1846, he was son of a Scottish stone mason George Donald. George senior had been encouraged to migrate to New South Wales by Governor Macquarie who wished him to assist with government building works. George junior did an apprenticeship as a mason under his father and uncle. After this he was engaged on railway construction projects in the Bowenfels district in the late 1860s. He worked on stone railway bridges at the Great Zig Zag and Marrangaroo and married Marion Miles, daughter of one of the construction foremen.

Following completion othe railway Donald moved to Hill End and worked on a range of construction projects. Among these was Hill End Methodist church, built of basalt rubble from the gold mines. It is now used as an Anglican church. After the failure of the deep lead gold boom of the 1870s George returned to the Lithgow valley and established a construction business with Thomas Crowe. In the early 1880s he constructed St.Mary's Presbyterian church for Thomas Brown, built as a memorial to Brown's wife, Mary. He also built Cooerwull Academy (now De La Salle College, Littleton) for Brown, and the Church of St. John the Evangelist at Wallerawang. Other projects included Lithgow Town Hall, Wallerawang Public School the Lithgow Oddfellows Hall and many residences. Donald and Crowe also built Mort's freezing works. George Donald was extremely active in community affairs and had a great sense of social justice. He was founding member of the GUIOOF Lily of the Valley Lodge and the Good Templars Lodge. Popular among citizens he was elected the first mayor of Lithgow after establishment of the Municipality of Lithgow in 1889. He held the seat of Hartley in the NSW Legislative Assembly jointly with Joseph Cook from 1891 (ibid, 2014, 32-33).

Donald was responsible for the best stone buildings of the late Victorian period in the area. The foundation stone was laid in 1880 by Bishop Frederic Barker D.D. of Sydney. He was assisted by the Anglican incumbent from Hartley and the Presbyterian Mininster of Bowenfels, with Rev. Colin Stewart in attendence (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

Knowing Blacket's great success since 1843 in both Sydney and Australia for harmonising religious desires for austerity/simplicity with High Anglican richness, detail and iconography, Georgina ensured a magnificent opening ceremony in 1881, officiated by various dual denominational clerics. Furthermore she granted in perpetuity the land to St Johns to be a parish Church for Presbyterians and Anglicans. The church was opened on 6 November 1881 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Steele, MA, Minister of St. Stephens Presbyterian Church, Phillip Street, Sydney. In attendence was Rev. W.J.Debenham, BA, Anglican Church representative, Mr Morgan, the local catechist, Rev. William McKenzie MA, Minister of Bowenfels and Wallerawang and Rev. Colin Stewart. The private church was used by both denominations with equal rights, an early ecumenical move (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

The church's timber floor is locally-cut black Sallee (Eucalyptus pulverentula)(Witty, pers.comm., 20/3/2016).

The church bell was cast by John Warner & Sons, Cripplegate, London, in 1880. Numerous memorials grace the church, in the form of plaques and stained glass windows. The magnificent east window represents the Prophets, Apostles, Christ and Martyrs. The church window is in memory of Georgina Lyon Wolgan Abbott, who married Thomas Abbott in 1882 after the death of her first husband Edwin Barton. The window was installed after Georgina's death in 1906 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

The latest window was installed in 1962 in memory of Mary Barton, Georgina's daughter. James Lyong Walker Barton and his sister, Lue Loveday Walker Barton, were murdered at Wallerawang (by then renamed and rebuilt as 'Barton Park') on 26 September 1948 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). Barton Park homestead, including Wallerawang's extensive stone barn and outbuildings, is now under the waters of Lake Wallace, created in the late 1950s to power nearby Wallerawang Power Station. The Walker / Barton family cemetery now belongs to Delta Electricity Company and the cemetery remains above the water line. It may be visited by contacting the company (Friends of St. JOhn's Church, undated).

St. John's Church was given by the sole surviving member of the Barton family, Miss Hazel Gowring Walker Barton. On 18th November 1952 the Trustees of the Church of England, Sydney Diocese and the Presbyterian Church NSW became the new owners as tenants in common, with equal moiety (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). The Presbyterian Minister from Bowenfels was conducting regular Sunday services but the local Anglican Parish has not used the church regularly since the early 1980s. Regular Anglican workship ceased at the church in 1971.

In 1983 a violent storm damaged the north-east tower's pinnacle, which fell and smashed. badly damaging the roof. Gosford Quarries repaired the roof and pinnacle, using Maitland stone (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

Sometime during 2001 the Church's insurance company ordered the property to be locked and fenced after an engineer's report revealed serious cracking in the bell tower that could be dangerous to people within the grounds. At this stage the Church was no longer used for regular church services.

In 2001 the Church was advertised for sale. Suggestions ranging from dismantling and rebuilding the church in Canberra to bulldozing it completely were met with vigorous opposition from the Presbyterian Bowenfels parish. Their efforts were supported by the establishment of the Friends of St. John's Church, to save this important community asset. The Friends' charter is to preserve the fine building in the interests of the community (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).

The church now belongs half to the Friends of St. John's Church and half to the Presbyterian Church NSW (Witty, pers.comm., 20/3/2016). Through the work of the Friends of St John Committee, who were successful in obtaining a grant from the Heritage Office, a conservation management plan and urgent structural and maintenance was work completed during 2004 and 2005. To mark the occasion of the official re-opening of St John the Evangelist Church a Thanksgiving Service was held on 14 May 2006. Church services (Presbyterian) restarted in May 2006 are now held on 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at 8.30am. Once again the Church is available for services of all faiths.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Maintaining Scottish communities-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Woolgrowing-
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 Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Anglicanism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Presbyterianism-
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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. Colin Stewart, Presbyerian minister and Gaelic speaker-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George Donald MLA, Lithgow mason, building contractor, first Mayor, MLA for Hartley-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George Donald MLA, Lithgow mason, building contractor, first Mayor, MLA for Hartley-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Walker, squatter and philanthropist-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Georgina Lyon Wolgan Walker, squatter and philanthropist-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Edwin Barton, surveyor /engineer of Zig Zag and western railway routes-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Bishop Frederick Barker, Bishop of Sydney-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. Dr. Robert Steele, Minister of St. Stephens Church, Sydney-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. William McKenzie, Minister of Bowenfels and Wallerawang-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Warner and Sons bellcasters, Cripplegate, UK-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Thomas Abbott, grazier-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Hazel Gowring Walker Barton, philanthropist-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
St John the Evangelist Church is one of the last major churches in the State built entirely by private philanthropy and is possibly the only example of a 'union' or public dual-denomination church identified to date in the Central West Region.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
St John the Evangelist Church is associated with a number of prominent people and families including the architect Edmund Blacket and his firm Blacket and Sons and the Walker-Barton family.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
St John the Evangelist Church is a fine example of the work of architect, Edmund Blacket. It has the attributes of Victorian Gothic style. Materials and workmanship used throughout the Church are of high quality including many stained glass windows, detailed carving to the sandstone and timberwork. The Church occupies a prominent site at the northern entrance to Main Street, Wallerawang.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
St John the Evangelist Church has been the focus of Presbyterian and Anglican activities in the Wallerawang area for over 100 years. The Church contains a number of memorials commemorating local people and is valued by the community as a place of religious signifciance.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
St John the Evangelist Church is one of the last major churches in New South Wales built entirely by private philanthropy and is possibly the only example of a 'union' or public dual-denomination church identified to date in the Central West Region.
Integrity/Intactness: Largely intact, including interior designed by Blacket.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
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

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0170210 Sep 04 1437511
Local Environmental Plan  09 Dec 94   
Heritage study  01 Jan 97   
National Trust of Australia register      

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Greater Lithgow Heritage Study 1997-19981998B112Ian Jack in conjuction with Graham Edds & Assoc, J Colleran & E Higginbotham.  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007St John the Evangelist Church View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007St John the Evangelist Church View detail
WrittenChristison, Ray2014'The Church that helped the Chinese Revolution' View detail
WrittenFriends of St John the Evangelist2002History of St John the Evangelist Church, Wallerawang
WrittenHughes Trueman P/L2002Report to the NSW Heritage Office - St. John The Evangelist Church, Wallerawang
WrittenIntegrated Design Associates2005Conservation Management Plan - St Johns Church Wallerawang
WrittenLithgow District Heritage Study1998Brief History of St John's Church, Wallerawang, information sheet
WrittenNational Trust of Australia2002State Heritage Inventory Form

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: 5053347
File number: H02/00181


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