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St Andrew’s South Brisbane: A Fascinating History

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St Andrew’s Anglican Parish South Brisbane boasts one of Brisbane’s oldest church buildings. The 142-year-old building, which remains a much-loved place of worship today, has a fascinating history.

On Saturday 30 November 1878 the Governor of Queensland, Sir Arthur Kennedy, laid the foundation stone of the building. A large gothic-style stone building that seated 700 was planned according to a design by Italian-born Australian architect Andrea Gionvanni Stombuco.

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The impressive design included fine stained glass windows, a tower and spire. Five hundred people attended the grand ceremony. The stone is located outside the northern lower entrance and is inscribed “A.M.D.G.” and dated MDCCCLXXVIII. It was the first of three stones that mark the three main stages of the building’s construction.

St Andrew’s was not the first Anglican Church in South Brisbane. Its forerunner was St Thomas’, built in 1855-58 on a site close to the Brisbane River, on the corner of Melbourne and Stanley streets, near Victoria Bridge (the present site of the Queensland Museum and Queensland Art Gallery). St Thomas’, a small building of brick and rubble, was flooded in 1869 and by early 1870 no longer housed its growing congregation. A new site was needed.

In 1875 the Trustees found an elevated location in South Brisbane at the corner of Vulture and Cordelia Streets. It was (then, as now) both picturesque and prominent. The trustees bought five of the six allotments at auction for £342; a church member who opposed the project bought the sixth allotment (the highest). The church purchased the sixth allotment over a decade later, after the owner’s death.

Construction began in 1878, but the money ran out before the lower portions of the walls were completed. For two years the building remained in this state. It became known publicly as “Smith’s Folly” after the Rector, Reverend Frederick Smith, one of the main drivers behind the plan for a new and prestigious church building.

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c. 1881. View of South Brisbane across the Brisbane River. The Anglican Church at South Brisbane is under construction. Photo source: State Libary of Queensland. Public domain.

By June 1882 sufficient funds (£2000) were raised and the corner stone laid. This second stone marker is located outside the southern transept entrance and is inscribed “Jesus Christ The Chief Corner Stone MDCCCLXXXII”. James O’Keefe secured the contract to complete the first stage of the building (chancel, transepts and first bay of the nave). Construction took 12 months. A temporary masonry wall sealed the unfinished nave. On Wednesday 6 June 1883, Rev Dr Matthew Hale, Bishop of Brisbane, dedicated the building and on the following Sunday consecrated it in the presence of most clergy of the Diocese.

The Walker pipe organ, built in England in 1884, was installed in an elevated gallery in 1885. It was relocated to its present position in 1911.

The Anglican Parish of South Brisbane grew rapidly. Between 1886 and 1888 St Andrew’s had oversight of churches built at Thompson’s Estate (Annerley), Woolloongabba, West End and Bulimba.

In 1889, a rectory was built on the newly purchased sixth allotment, the highest point of the precinct. Designed by Diocesan architect John Buckeridge, it stood there for 99 years, until 1988, when it was sold and removed (today it is a private home at Pullenvale).

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Undated. Former St Andrew’s rectory, Vulture Street site. Photo source: Anglican Church Southern Queensland Records and Archives Centre (Brisbane). Public domain.

The Parish Hall was built in 1909-1910 to a design by William A. Caldwell. It cost £1000.

By 1914, with St Andrew’s Parish still growing, the need to complete the church building was urgent.  The Rector, Canon R S Hay, called a meeting of parishioners on 21 April 1914. Over 400 people attended and enthusiastically agreed to extend the building, at an estimated cost (at the time) of £5000. An appeal was launched and, by August 1914, £1,594 had been raised. However, with the outbreak of World War I, plans for the extension were put on hold.

After the end of the war, the appeal re-opened. It continued for 10 years until the goal of £9000 was reached. The rector at the time, Reverend L J Hobbs, did not rest until the target was reached.

On Saturday 31 October 1931, the Governor of Queensland, Sir John Goodwin, laid the corner stone of the nave at the Cordelia Street end of the site. This third stone marker is located to the left of the main entrance stairs and is dated 1931. Architect Lange L. Powell supervised construction, which was completed by mid-1932. The nave extension was dedicated by Archbishop Gerald Sharp on Saturday 11 June 1932 in the presence of a huge congregation.

Today, the building’s latter stages of construction can be seen in the slight variation in colours of the stonework dating from 1882-1883 and that of 1931-1932.

Other additions and refurbishments (in comparison) have been relatively minor. In 1951, a Chapel of Remembrance and columbarium was built underneath the church building and, over the next few years, the area under the nave extension was refurbished as “The Club Room”.

In 1988, a peal of six bells was purchased and installed in St Andrew’s tower. Funds came from specific bequests (following an appeal opened in 1928, St Andrew’s Jubilee year) and a donation from Brisbane’s Expo committee.

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2019. St Andrew’s South Brisbane bellringers demonstrate how they ring the St Andrew’s bells.

St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. Interestingly, the tower and spire of Stombuco’s original design were never constructed.

What happened to St Thomas’ Church? The original building was replaced in 1931 by a new building facing Grey Street. In 1962 the congregation of St Thomas’ relocated to a building in Manning Street, South Brisbane, formerly the Catholic Apostolic Church. The building was renamed St Thomas’ and consecrated by Archbishop Halse on 23 March 1962. This third St Thomas’ Church closed as a place of worship in 1979.

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Undated. The “new” St Thomas’ Church, Grey Street, Brisbane. Photo source: Anglican Church Southern Queensland Records and Archives Centre (Brisbane). Public domain.

Gallery

References

The story of St. Andrew’s, South Brisbane. (1959). South Brisbane: Parish of St. Andrew’s.

Wetherell, E. W. & St Andrew’s Church of England (South Brisbane, Qld.) (1979). The story of St. Andrew’s, South Brisbane. South Brisbane:St Andrew’s Church of England.

BRISBANE’S HISTORIC CHURCHES. VIII. (1905, February 4). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 12. Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19303305

South Brisbane New Parish Church. (1878, December 7). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 312. Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19777790

NEW PARISH HALL AT SOUTH BRISBANE. (1909, October 11). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19607195

St. Andrew’s Church, South Brisbane. (1914, April 22). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 4. Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19938585

Corner Stone Laid (1931, October 12). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 5 (FIRST EDITION). Retrieved February 7, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190682583

Queensland Government. Queensland Heritage Register. St Andrews Anglican Church. Online: https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600304

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