St. Francis Xavier's Roman Catholic Church | NSW Environment & Heritage

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St. Francis Xavier's Roman Catholic Church

Item details

Name of item: St. Francis Xavier's Roman Catholic Church
Other name/s: Saint Francis Xavier's Church; St. Scholastica's Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -34.4925262012 Long: 150.3321232140
Primary address: Hume Highway, Berrima, NSW 2577
Parish: Berrima
County: Camden
Local govt. area: Wingecarribee
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Illawarra
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT144DP758098
LOT244DP758098
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Hume HighwayBerrimaWingecarribeeBerrimaCamdenPrimary Address
Oldbury RoadBerrimaWingecarribee  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

St Francis Xavier's, Berrima, is of state significance as the only intact and essentially unaltered Pugin-designed building in New South Wales, indeed in the whole of Australia. With his complete set of liturgical furnishings (excepting the rood screen which may not have been constructed) and in a scholarly mid thirteenth-century Early English Gothic idiom, beyond the compass of New South Wales architects at the time of its design in 1842, it is his perfect exemplar for the re-creation of a small English medieval village church. Pugin is acknowledged to be England's greatest and most influential early-Victorian designer and theorist. The building is one of only two such Pugin churches of its particular typology and with these liturgical furnishings in the world, the other being Our Lady and St Wilfrid's, Warwick Bridge, Cumbria, England. The building is associated with John Bede Polding, first Catholic bishop in Australia, later first Archbishop of Sydney and founder of the Australian Catholic hierarchy, who supplied the plans that he had acquired from Pugin in 1842. As such it clearly demonstrates Polding's evolving taste in church architecture.
Date significance updated: 21 Jun 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: Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin
Builder/Maker: William Munro
Construction years: 1849-1851
Physical description: Designed in 1842 in an Early English Gothic idiom of around the mid thirteenth century, the church consists of: a four-bay nave, buttressed at the corners, with north porch and a single bellcote astride the west gable; a two-bay chancel with diagonal buttressing to its east wall; and a sacristy abutting the chancel south wall. It is constructed of ashlar sandstone and has corrugated iron roofs. The nave and porch interiors are of ashlar sandstone, the chancel and sacristy being plastered. The nave has an open timber roof with arch-braced collar tie trusses having arch-braced king posts. The chancel has a plaster ceiling dating from the last quarter of the twentieth century. The floors are wooden. The chancel is equipped with stone sedilia and piscina as well as an Easter sepulchre recess. Rougher finish to the stonework of the nave east wall interior above the level of the north and south walls indicates that the surface was designed to receive a Doom painting. With the exception of the chancel, porch and sacristy ceilings and the corrugated iron roofs, the entire structure is original and intact and unaltered.

The present forward altar is original, as is the baptismal font (not by Pugin), all other furnishings dating from not earlier than the last decade of the nineteenth century.

The church is sited on an open block with large mature European, Californian (Monterey pine, Pinus radiata) and native trees around its perimeter and some small shrubs and trees on the block.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally very good condition.
Date condition updated:15 Jun 06
Modifications and dates: Last quarter c.20: New plaster ceiling to chancel. Reversible.
1991: Disabled ramp to north porch, along with re-orientation of porch approach steps. Reversible.
1988-1993: Replacement of ceiling in sacristy. Reversible.
1988-1993: Pine board ceiling to porch. Reversible.
Further information: This is Pugin’s only intact and essentially unaltered building in Australia. In its layout and permanent liturgical furnishings—piscina, sedilia, Easter sepulchre recess, provision for a Doom painting (the designed rood screen appears not to have been erected)—it is a comprehensive expression of his ideal for the revival of a small English medieval village church. It is one of only two such intact churches of Pugin’s with this typology and these furnishings worldwide, the other being Our Lady & St Wilfrid’s, Warwick Bridge, Cumbria. It is the only Australian church with an Easter sepulchre recess and provision for a Doom painting.
Current use: Catholic church
Former use: Convict Barracks site, Catholic parish Church

History

Historical notes: Berrima is the second oldest (European) settlement in Wingecarribee Shire and the oldest continuing settlement in the shire. The first town settlement in the district was in 1821 at Bong Bong, 8km south-east of Berrima on the Wingecarribee River (Webb, 2008, 9).

The site of Berrima was selected by Surveyor General Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1829 on a visit planning the route for a new road alignment from Sydney to replace the old Argyle Road, which had proven unsatisfactory due to a steep hill climb over the Mittagong Range and river crossing at Bong Bong. In 1830 Mitchell instructed Robert Hoddle to mark out the town based on a plan Mitchell's office prepared, along the lines of a traditional English village (with a central market place and as many blocks as possible facing onto the WIngecarribee River), and using the local Aboriginal name. The new line of road came through the town (Allman Johnston, 2007). Berrima was to be established as the commercial and administrative centre for the County of Camden.

Following the approval of Governor Bourke in 1831, the period 1824 to 1841 saw significant flourishing development as mail coaches changed their route to this new line of road. Early town lots were sold in 1833, predominantly to inn keepers and around Market Square, including the first town Lot sales to Bryan McMahon (Webb, 2008, 9).

Governor Bourke designated Berrima as a place for a courthouse and gaol to serve the southern part of the state (Webb, 2008, 9). With construction of the Jail from 1835-9 and its Court House in 1838 to serve the southern part of the state the town flourished into the 1840s as mail coaches called, public buildings including churches in 1849 and 1851, establishment of many hotels and coaching houses to service local resident needs and passing trades, persons and commercial travellers. Its 1841 population was 249 with 37 houses completed and 7 more in construction. Research has indicated there were some 13 hotels or grog houses in Berrima at the one time in the early days before the coming of the Southern Railway to the Moss Vale area, which by-passed Berrima (Allman Johnston, 2005).

During his 1841/1842 trip to England, John Bede Polding OSB, first Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, was exposed to the impact of the revolutionary new Gothic Revival works by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. He attended the dedication of Pugin's St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, England, in June 1841 and subsequently consecrated Robert William Willson there in October 1842 as first Catholic Bishop of Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land. Polding also saw Pugin's ambitious design for a vast new monastery for his former Benedictine monastic brethren at Downside Priory, Somerset.

As a consequence Polding sought designs from Pugin for a range of buildings and these were despatched in December 1842. The package of designs included a temporary free-standing bell tower for St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, along with major extensions destined to ultimately replace that building, a school and at least five designs for churches, from small two-compartment structures to a large spired triple-gabled building. All differed from any of Pugin's existing English or Irish designs. It should be noted that although the bell tower and Cathedral are no more, Pugin's extant school (St Mary's Cathedral Chapter House) and four churches in Sydney (Ryde, Balmain, Broadway and Parramatta), although all substantially altered, represent the greatest number of Pugin buildings in any city, town or village anywhere in the world.

From 1840 the Catholic community in the Berrima district had been worshipping in a chapel converted from two huts formerly used to house chain gangs. In 1846, Dean John Grant of the Campbelltown mission determined to erect a permanent church in Berrima, and as a result Polding supplied him with a set of Pugin's plans for a small two-compartment church. Polding came down to Berrima to bless and lay the foundation stone in mid 1847, but work on the building's erection did not commence for another two years with William Munro as builder. Munro would appear to have started the job upon completion of Edmund Thomas Blacket's Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1847-49) in the same village.

Research by historian Linda Emery reveals that the major local contributor, promising 20 pounds, was publican Bryan McMahon, owner of the Berrima Inn in Jellore Street. A former soldier transported to NSW for desertion, he came to Berrima as the overseer of one of the convict road gangs workin in the district. Recognising the potential of the growing market town, he left his government position in the mid-1830s and built Berrima's first licensed inn. The other major contributors to the building fund were also publicans - Michael Doyle of Berrima, Redmond Connor of Sutton Forest and John Keighran from Bargo. Builder William Munro was finishing the construction of Berrima's Holy Trinity Anglican Church when he secured the contract in 1849 to build St.Scholastica's. A Scottish immigrant, he had arrived in the colony in 1838 and began his working life in NSW as a house carpenter. His work in Berrima, also including major repairs to Berrima Court House, set him on the path to success and he became a leading Sydney architect (Berrima District News, 2015).

St. Scholastica's stands on the site of the Berrima stockade, where the road gangs that worked on construction of the Great South Road were housed. When the gangs left Berrima in 1838, the Catholic Chaplin of NSW, Father John McEncroe, applied to the Government for the land on which to build a church and a school. The first mass was celebrated in 1840 and later that year the foundation stone was laid (National Trust, undated).

The building of a more permanent church was first mooted in 1840 and a subscription list opened, but it was 9 years before construction began. Builder William Munro was just finishing Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Berrima when he secured the contract to build the new catholic church. In February 1849 Archbishop Polding laid the foundation stone in the presence of some 150 local residents. The stone came from the same quarry used for building Holy Trinity.

Noted Pugin expert Brian Andrews, in an essay on the Pugin Foundation website, points out that the design of St.Scholastica's was a totally original evocation of a small English medieval village church. He also states that the quality of workmanship in the church reveals that Munro was a very competent builder. (Southern Highland News, 2015).

The church has remained virtually unaltered since its construction in 1851 and still reflects Pugin's exacting standards of proportion. In the late 1880s, the Berrima church was incorporated into Moss Vale parish. (National Trust, undated).
St. Scholastica's was for many years the focus of Catholic worship in the district, but as the railway towns of Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale developed, Berrima declined. In the late 1880s the Berrima Church was incorporated into the Moss Vale parish and the name changed St. Francis Xavier (Southern Highland News, 28/9/2015).

The 1851 census showed the number of buildings remained the same but the population had dropped to 192. During the 1850s Berrima experienced another boom period after the discovery of gold. When the Great Southern Railway bypassed Berrima in 1867 the town again began to decline as Mittagong, Moss Vale and Bowral developed. Berrima remained virtually unchanged for the next 100 years, preserving the town as an almost intact colonial village (Webb, 2008, 10).

In 1948 the Berrima Training Centre, a minimum security correctional centre opened at the Berrima Gaol. In the 1960s the National Trust of Australia (NSW) started to classify and seek to protect heritage properties (Webb, 2008, 22).

Since the classification of a number of buildings in Berrima by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) in the 1960s, the popularity of Berrima has increased, particularly as a tourist destination. Recent developments in the town have seen the emergence of bed and breakfast accomodation facilities, reflecting the early years of the town's development that provided accomodation for travellers through the construction and operation of various inns (Webb, 2008, 10).

In 1992 the Sydney to Canberra Freeway (F5) bypassed Berrima (Webb, 2008, 22).

The building has remained substantially intact, apart from some ceiling additions in 1988-93. Except for a short period from 1973 to 1984 when the building was closed, it has always functioned as a Catholic church.

In 1984 it was reopened and since 2000 has been substantially repaired. It is open for mass, weddings and other sacraments through the Moss Vale Parish. A dedicated 'Friends of the Church' group manages the ongoing restoration and maintenance of this local heritage treasure (Southern Highland News, 2015).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Role of transport in settlement-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages A quiet Rural District-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 19th Century Infrastructure-
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 Gothic Revival-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Catholicism-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with William Munro, well known Scottish builder become architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Archbishop John Bede Polding 1835 - 1877, RC clergyman-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Augustus Welby N Pugin, leading English Gothic Revival architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
St Francis Xavier's Church is of state significance as a comprehensive demonstration of its designer Pugin's ideals and theories as embodied in his writings. As the acknowledged father of the Gothic Revival his publications had a profound impact on the course of nineteenth-century design, particularly as applied to church architecture and furnishings. This impact is evident in the pattern across New South Wales towns and cities where the overwhelming bulk of church designs from the 1840s were in a Gothic idiom resulting from the powerful message of Pugin's equation of Gothic with Christian.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
St Francis Xavier's is of stste significance for its association with John Bede Polding OSB (1794-1877), the pioneering Catholic bishop in Australia and, from 1842, Archbishop of Sydney and founder of the Australian Catholic hierarchy. The Pugin design for the Berrima church was supplied by Archbishop Polding, one of a set of designs that he had obtained from Pugin in late 1842, and it reflects his maturing views on the nature and purpose of church architecture. It is also of star significance for its association with Pugin who was a key figure in the establishment of the Gothic Revival style for church buildings throughout the British Empire.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
St Francis Xavier's, Berrima, has the ability to demonstrate the creative brilliance of Pugin, England's greatest and most influential early-Victorian designer and theorist. The building, being intact and with his designed liturgical furnishings (except for its rood screen which may never have been constructed), fully exemplifies his ideal for the re-creation of a small English medieval village church. Its fidelity to the Early English idiom of the middle of the thirteenth century was, at the time of its design in 1842, well beyond the compass of any architect in the Colony of New South Wales.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Except for a short period from 1973 to 1984 when the building was closed it has always functioned as a Catholic church. It is highly esteemed by architectural historians as 'a near-perfect exemplar of Pugin's concept for the revival of a small medieval country church.' More general community esteem would be enhanced by increased awareness of the building's significance, following SHR listing.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
As the only intact and essentially unaltered Pugin building in New South Wales, indeed, in the whole of Australia, St Francis Xavier's has the potential to serve as a valuable educational resource for students of the built environment, of the Gothic Revival style in New South Wales and of the establishment of the Catholic church in NSW, particularly prior to the episcopacy of Cardinal Moran in the late 19 C.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
St Francis Xavier's, Berrima, is rare as the only intact and essentially unaltered Pugin building in New South Wales, indeed, in the whole of Australia. It is the only Australian church with an Easter sepulchre recess and with provision for a Doom painting.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
This church is a paradigm of Pugin's influential views that came to dominate church architecture. This impact is evident across New South Wales towns and cities where the overwhelming bulk of church designs from the 1840s were in a Gothic idiom resulting from the powerful message of Pugin's equation of Gothic with Christian.
Integrity/Intactness: Intact and essentially unaltered
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 0177125 Jan 08 10180

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAndrews, Brian2001Australian Gothic
WrittenBrian Andrews2006St Francis Xavier’s Church, Berrima, NSW, Conservation Management Plan
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)(Berrima District Branch) A Church Ramble - visit four very different heritage churches in the southern highlands
Writtenuncredited, in Southern Highland News, 28 September 20152015'Berrima church is a Pugin design of heritage significance'
WrittenWebb, Chris & Charlotte2008Conservation Management Plan, Coach & Horses Inn, 24 Jellore Street, Berrima

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: 5060063
File number: H06/00162


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