St. Ambrose Church | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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St. Ambrose Church

Item details

Name of item: St. Ambrose Church
Other name/s: Cooee Church, Church of St. Ambrose, St Ambrose Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -31.7095658357 Long: 148.6633276200
Primary address: Myrtle Street, Gilgandra, NSW 2827
Parish: Bobarah
County: Ewenmar
Local govt. area: Gilgandra
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Gilgandra
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT226 DP6192
LOTD DP927471
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Myrtle StreetGilgandraGilgandraBobarahEwenmarPrimary Address
Wamboin StreetGilgandraGilgandra  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Anglican Property Trust Diocese of BathurstReligious Organisation 

Statement of significance:

St. Ambrose Church commemorates the town of Gilgandra's unique place in Australia's WW1 history, as the place where Australia's first and largest 'snow balling' recruitment march began. The Church was constructed using locally raised funds and a substantial peace and thanks-giving donation from the parishioners of St. Ambrose Church Bournemouth, England. The donation was awarded to Gilgandra (over other towns in the British dominions) due to the town's remarkable war service record which included the 1915 Coo-ee March. The substantial peace and thanks-giving donation given to Gilgandra for the construction of St. Ambrose Church, appears to be unique within NSW and Australia.

St. Ambrose Church was designed by prominent Melbourne architect Louis Reginald Williams (1890-1980). Williams is considered to be one of Australia's foremost ecclesiastical architects. St. Ambrose Church is a fine example of a relatively early Louis Williams church. The Church exhibits a number of characteristics of Williams' style. St. Ambrose Church is also a good representative example of the Inter-War Gothic style of architecture (c.1915 - c.1940) of which Williams was a key practitioner.
Date significance updated: 19 Jul 10
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: Louis R. Williams of North and Williams, Melbourne
Builder/Maker: J. D. Ryan
Construction years: 1921-1922
Physical description: St. Ambrose Church is set in open park-like grounds on the cnr of Myrtle and Wamboin Streets, near the southern entrance to the town of Gilgandra. The Arts and Crafts, Gothic styled Anglican church, was designed by Louis R. Williams (a key practitioner of the Inter War Gothic style of architecture) and exhibits a number of characteristics of Williams' style including:

- Numbers of small windows grounded dramatically under long concrete lintels;
-The use of flattened segmental arches;
-Imposing gabled roofs broken into irregular shapes at the extremities
- Avoidance of complete symmetry;
- Honesty of fabric, i.e. brick is always seen to be brick, concrete is always seen to be concrete (not represented as fake stone). Timber structural members are more solid than strictly necessary;
- The main elevaton of the chancel (in the case of St. Ambrose, the south facade of the church) having windows placed at a height which allowed the congregation to focus on the rituals of worship, without the distraction of too much light in the sanctuary.

A description of the church is provided below.

Exterior
From the exterior St. Ambrose Church is cruciform in shape. The exterior walls of the building comprise face brickwork with bands of patterned brickwork running cross the upper elevation of the south facade, bellcote and the facades of the transepts. The north and south elevations of the main body of the church, as well as the east and west elevations of transepts, are gabled. The roof cladding comprises glazed terra-cotta tiles.

The south elevation features thin diagonal buttresses that rise to enclose a blank arched recess containing a rose window. The rose window comprises a plain circular opening divided by a brickwork cross. Either side of the buttresses are median-height arched openings that give entry to spaces behind the canted interior walls of the chancel, where panelled doors open to admit summer breezes. Attached to the south-east corner of the south wall of the church, is a bellcote with sloped sides and a spire.

The north elevation of the Church is unfinished, only two of the proposed four brick bays were constructed. The additional bays (baptistery and porches to either side) were omitted due to a short fall in the building fund. Weatherboards were used (supposedly as temporary measure) to infill the area. Today the boards are covered by manufactured board stamped with a brick pattern. The cladding is punctuated by a centrally located door opening. Originally, the doorway was protected from the weather by timber porch with a lean-to-roof, but in 1975 the porch was replaced by a timber framed narthex clad in the same material as the north elevation. Above the narthex is a lancet window and directly above the window is a gable vent. A cantilevered hipped roof is attached to the northern gable end. The two side bays have median-height arched openings. The bay on the eastern half of the north elevation is punctuated by a door opening reached by a set of steps, while the opening in the west bay provides entry into an ambulatory aisle.

The eastern elevation is dominated by the east transept (the choir) and a semi-circular chapel. The east transept face is punctuated by: a door opening, above which are three narrow rectangular window openings; two lancet windows; and a small arched window (framed by 'hanging' buttresses), that pierces the centre of the gable. The sweep of the gable roof is interrupted by short parapets on either side with mini-crenellations on top. The semi-circular chapel projects from the southern side of the east transept and dies into the side-wall of the chancel. Sunlight enters the chapel through the small rectangular shaped windows that run around the exterior wall of chapel just under the roof-line. The chapel has a conical shaped roof. The roof cladding comprises terra-cotta shingles.

The wide nave roof of the church comes low on the sides. On the east elevation, a single sweep of the roof takes in an arcade and ambulatory aisle. Light enters the eastern side of the nave through five lancet widows which pierce the east wall of the nave. On the west elevation the arcade is beyond the nave wall, creating a shade-pool. The western elevation of the Church is dominated by west transept (the vestry and organ loft). The west transept face has wing buttresses forming its outer edges and a broken gable with a half-hip projecting over a single long lancet window. Lower down the wall are two groups of narrow window openings, three each under a single concrete lintel.

Interior
From the exterior St. Ambrose church appears to be cruciform but this impression is contradicted by the assignment of the interior spaces. The low chancel arch (which rests on two massive piers) does not form part of a crossing but is in fact the entrance to the chancel and choir area.

The interior walls of the Church are bare-brick. The nave and chancel ceilings comprise timber boards and timber tie-beams support the roof. The lower half of the western nave wall is pierced by small, grouped windows which overlook an external ambulatory aisle enclosed by an arcade. An arcade on the eastern side of the nave opens into a low internal aisle.

The chancel is located in the south end of the Church with altar placed at the base of the south wall. The chancel is lit from above by clerestory windows in the east and west elevations. A large arch-headed opening - decorated with a wrought and cast iron rood screen - in the east chancel wall, provides a view into the choir area from the chancel. Access to the choir area is through a segmented arch-headed door opening. On the south side of the choir, is an arch-headed door opening that leads into the chapel, which comprises the transept plus the circular apse.

The west wall of the chancel is solid with the exception of an arch-headed door opening to the vestry, with a window opening, and an organ gallery opening corbelled out above. What appears to be the 'west transept' from the exterior actually comprises two rooms on two levels. The vestry is located on the ground floor with the organ chamber above, although there is no pipe organ present.

(Source: National Trust of Australia (NSW) inventory listing sheet - St. Ambrose Anglican Church; Australian Institute of Architects NSW Biographical Information, Louis Reginald Williams; Gilgandra Community Based Heritage Study)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building and grounds appear to be very well maintained. Structural issues relating to the inadequacy of the building's foundations continue to plaque the building.
(Source: Gilgandra Shire Community Based Heritage Study)
Date condition updated:15 Jul 11
Modifications and dates: A narthex replaced a timber porch in 1975.
(source:The Gilgandra Weekly St. Ambrose 75th Supplement Tuesday July 22, 1997).
Current use: Anglican Church
Former use: Anglican Church

History

Historical notes: The foundation stone of St. Ambrose Church was laid by NSW Governor, Sir Walter Davidson, on the 22 November 1920 with the words, "In the faith of Jesus Christ; in grateful memory of those who have served in the Great War, we place this foundation stone of a church to be built as a thank-offering for victory and peace." Governor Davidson in his speech alludes to the unique association the Church has with WW1. St. Ambrose owes it's existence, in a part, to a peace thanks-giving gift of 1,200 pounds, made by parishioners of St. Ambrose Church Bournemouth, England to the town of Gilgandra, which they judged to be "the town in the British dominions with the greatest record of achievements in the war" (Sydney Moring Herald 31 July 1922).

After the close of WW1, parishioners of St. Ambrose Church in Bournemouth, grateful for the assistance England had received from the dominions in defending the British Empire, decided make a peace thanks-giving gift of 1,200 pounds to the town in the Empire with a good church and wartime service record. The money was to be used to construct an Anglican church. Competition for the gift was well underway by the time that Bishop of Bathurst, George Long heard about the competition while in London. Bishop Long contacted the Bournemouth church authorities and persuaded them not to give their decision until Gilgandra's church and war-service record was placed before them.

Gilgandra had an impressive war-service record. The Gilgandra district had sent 250 volunteers, out of a district population of 4,500 to help with the war effort. Gilgandra was also famous for its association with Australia's first and largest recruiting march, the Coo-ee March. The Coo-ee March had been organised by Gilgandra resident William (Bill) Hitchen, working in conjunction with Alex Miller, secretary of the local recruiting association, in response to calls for more volunteers to join the war effort.

By 1915 the flow of volunteers signing up to defend the Empire had slowed to a trickle as the setbacks at Gallipoli and the reality of 20th Century warfare began to hit home to the Australian population. The Coo-ee March, which was to start in Gilgandra and ended in Sydney, was intended as a recruitment drive. New recruits were to be called for, using famous bush call Coo-ee, at each town on route. On the 10th October 1915, 30 Gilgandra men set off on the 320 mile (515km) march to the cheers of a 3,000 strong crowd. The 30 men were joined by another 5 Gilgandra men on route.

The March took a month to reach Sydney and by the time the marchers arrived at their destination the numbers of recruits had swelled to 263. The Coo-ees received a tremendous welcome from Sydney-siders with thousands lining their route from Ashfield to the Domain. The success of the Coo-ee March inspired other 'snowball' recruiting marches such as: The Waratahs who marched from Nowra to Sydney (120 recruits), The Kangaroos who marched from Wagga to Sydney (230 recruits); the Wallabies who marched from Narrabri to Newcastle (173 recruits); and the Kookaburras who marched from Toorweenah to Bathurst (93 recruits). The Kookaburra March, which took place in January 1916 was also organised by Bill Hitchen (along with his brother Richard).

The other condition set by Bournemouth church authorities, was that the recipient town had to have a good church record. Gilgandra, which was proclaimed a town in 1888, had a well established association with Anglican Church. Churches were active in Gilgandra in the 1880s and by 1897 the protestant denominations had built a Union Church. Regular Anglican services were held in the town by the turn of the 20th Century. Gilgandra's first Anglican church, The Church of the Resurrection, had been built in circa 1903 by public subscription and with the help of English parishes, which pledged to help support the work of the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd (also known as the Bush Brothers). Priests from the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd had served the Gilgandra district from 1902. The brotherhood regularly travelled to outlying villages and homesteads to administer the Anglican faith. In 1911 brothers based in Gilgandra served 4,000 Anglicans in a vast area between Moriguy to Gulargambone, Collie to Mendooran, and from Coboco Creek to the Warrumbungle Mountains.

Gilgandra was selected by the Bournemouth church authorities as the recipient of the peace and thanks-giving gift in December 1919. At the time the Bournemouth donation was received, Gilgandra's Anglican congregation was in the process of raising money for a new church, as the Church of Resurrection had fallen into disrepair. The Bournemouth gift together with the money already raised was not sufficient for the building that Gilgandra church authorities had in mind, and therefore before building of the new church could commence, a loan of 2,000 pounds had to be secured.

Plans for the new Church, which is styled after its English name sake, were drawn up in 1920 by architect Louis Reginald Williams from the Melbourne firm North and Williams. North and Williams specialised in church work. Louis Williams is regarded as one of Australia's foremost ecclesiastical architects. Demolition of the old church began in July 1921 and by September 1921 the builder, J D Ryan had laid the foundations of the new Church.

St. Ambrose Church was consecrated by Bishop Long on 26 July 1922. It was dedicated after St. Ambrose, Bournemouth in recognition of the gift of 1,200 pounds and in memory of those who served in the Great War. The Church, which cost around 5,200 pounds to build, was left unfinished with two bays, a baptistery and porches to either side omitted from the western elevation, due to a shortage of funds. For the next sixty years St. Ambrose Church was under the supervision of the Bush Brothers. The last Bush Brother, Rev John Green, left Gilgandra in 1963. Rev Green was succeeded by Rev Doug Peters, the first vicar to be appointed to the Parish.

Today, the St. Ambrose Church has become a focal point for commemorating the 1915 Coo-ee March. Every October during the Coo-ee Festival, a memorial service for the Coo-ees is held at the Church on the final day of the festival.

(Source: The Gilgandra Weekly Coo-ee March Re-Enactment Supplement Tuesday July 22, 1997; The Gilgandra Weekly Coo-ee March Re-enactment November 14, 1987; Australian Institute of Architects NSW Biographical Information Louis Reginald Williams; Church in the Australian Bush: the Anglican Church in Gilgandra by Kate King; Gilgandra Remembers by June Curran; Gilgandra Shire Community Based Heritage Study; "Memorial Church Consecrated at Gilgandra," Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 1922).

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 (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
St. Ambrose Church commemorates the town of Gilgandra's unique place in Australia's WW1 history, as the place where Australia's first and largest 'snow balling' recruitment march began. The Church was constructed using locally raised funds and a substantial peace and thanks-giving donation from the parishioners of St. Ambrose Church Bournemouth, England. The donation was awarded to Gilgandra (over other towns in the British dominions) due to the town's remarkable war service record, which included the 1915 Coo-ee March. Today St. Ambrose Church is a focal point for commemoration of the Coo-ee March. The annual memorial service for the Coo-ees is held in the Church on the last day of the October Coo-ee Festival.

St. Ambrose Church is historically important at a local level, as the Anglican parish church of Gilgandra and the surrounding district since 1922. The site has hosted Anglican services since 1903.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
St. Ambrose Church was designed by prominent Melbourne architect Louis Reginald Williams (1890-1980). Williams is considered to be one of Australia's foremost ecclesiastical architects and a key practitioner of the Inter War Gothic architectural style.

St. Ambrose Church is of local significance for its association with the work of the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd (otherwise known as the Bush Brothers). The Bush Brothers supervised worship at the Church from its dedication in 1922 until the last Bush Brother left Gilgandra in 1963.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
St. Ambrose Church is fine example of a relatively early church designed by Louis Williams. The Church exhibits a number of characteristics of Williams' style:

- Numbers of small windows grouped dramatically under long concrete lintels;
- The use of flattened segmental arches;
- Imposing gabled roofs broken into irregular shapes at the extremities;
- Honesty of fabric, i.e. brick is always seen to be brick, concrete is always seen to be concrete (not represented as fake stone).Timber structural members are more solid than strictly necessary;
- Avoidance of complete symmetry; and
- The main elevation of the chancel (in the case of St. Ambrose, the south facade of the church) having windows placed at a height which allows the congregation to focus on the rituals of worship without the distraction of too much light in the sanctuary.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
St. Ambrose Church is important to the Gilgandra community's sense of place. The history of the Church has become inextricably bound to the history of 1915 Coo-ee March, and as such the Church contributes to the Gilgandra community's sense of identity, as the place where Australia's first and largest 'snow balling' recruitment march began. The Church is also important to the local community as memorial to all those who served in the Great War of 1914-1918.

St. Ambrose Church has a strong association with the Gilgandra district's local Anglicans. The Church has been a place of Anglican worship since 1922.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The substantial peace and thanks-giving donation given to Gilgandra for the construction of St. Ambrose Church appears to be unique within NSW and Australia.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
St. Ambrose Church with its: asymmetrical massing; face brickwork; steeply pitched roof; bellcote; rose/circular window; buttresses; crenellations; pointed arches; use of exposed timber roof trusses over large spans; traditional load-bearing masonry walls and reinforced concrete construction (concealed from view) demonstrates the principal characteristics of the Inter-War Gothic style of architecture (c1915-c.1940).
Integrity/Intactness: The building has a high degree of integrity.
(Source: Gilgandra Shire Community Based Heritage Study).
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
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions 1. All Standard Exemptions
2. All activities for temporary change of use where such activities do not alter existing fabric or setting of the heritage item, such as temporary exhibitions and concerts.
3. Activities for installing and replacing external signage where these signs do not negatively impact on significant fabric, do not involve the disturbance of archaeological relics or deposits and are sympathetic to the heritage item.
4. Activities for installing and replacing external lighting where these activities do not negatively impact on significant fabric, fixtures and fittings and does not involve the disturbance of archaeological relics or deposits.
5. Removal of internal (non-original) furnishings and fixtures where removal of such furnishings and fixtures does not negatively impact upon significant fabric or the significance of the place.
6. Addition of furnishings and fixtures where installation of such furnishings and fixtures does not negatively impact upon the significant fabric and is sympathetic to the heritage item.
7. Repositioning of moveable furnishings where such activity does not negatively impact upon the significant fabric.
8. Replacement of (non-original) floor coverings as needed.
9. All activities associated with the ongoing use of the Church for religious purposes provided they do not negatively impact on the significant fabric or significance of the place.
10. Maintenance of the existing landscape, both vegetation and built elements, including planting, pruning and removal of diseased trees.
11. Installation of timber or concrete edging around the existing car park and driveway provided the installation does not involve the disturbance of archaeological relics or deposits.
12. Excavation of a shallow drain (maximum depth and width of 20cm) in the existing car park and driveway area provided the excavation does not involve the disturbance of archaeological relics or deposits.
Jan 28 2011

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0185328 Jan 11 8258
Heritage studyChurch of St Ambrose 20 Jan 09   
National Trust of Australia register St. Ambrose's Anglican Church608830 May 99   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1987Fall In We Want You At The Front: Come and Help Enlist at Once
Written 1922Memorial Church Consecrated at Gilgandra
Written  Cooee March
Written  Australian Institute of Architects NSW Biographical Information - Louis Reginald Williams
Written  The Coo-ee March 1915: The Biggest Washup I ever Heard Of View detail
WrittenJ Ecob (originator) & Joseph Kinsela (finisher)1999Gilgandra - St. Ambrose Anglican Church (Trust Inventory Listing Sheet)
WrittenJohn Leary1969Gilgandra This is Our Town: St. Ambrose Church - the unfinished church born out of the devel of discontent
WrittenJune Curran1997St Ambrose Church Celebrates its 75th
WrittenJune Curran1995Gilgandra Remembers (Booklet)
WrittenKate King2005Church in the Australian Bush: the Anglican Church in Gilgandra (Booklet)
WrittenRay Christison2008Gilgandra Shire Community Based Heritage Study
WrittenReverend Harold Dymond Peel (Brother Dym) Horse Days: Bush Memories
WrittenRichard Apperly, Robert Irving, Peter Reynolds1994A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to Present

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: 5061153
File number: 10/10030


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