ENGLAND is dotted with Saxon and Norman churches constantly reminding the visitor that its architects have been busy since the 11th century. Since Australia wasn’t even settled until 700 years after that – 800 years in Brisbane’s case – even the “old” isn’t really very old.
To find a church with some history attached is a bit more challenging but not impossible.
It’s not a bad effort considering the first free settlers had lobbed into town only 50 years earlier. (Brisbane only became a municipality in 1859 and wasn’t declared a city until 1925).
It’s important to the architectural heritage of Brisbane because it was one of many significant buildings designed by the colonial architect F.D.G.Stanley, who also designed the General Post Office, among others.
Members of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland came into some money when they sold their land in Creek Street to the National Bank.
They had already replaced their original little wooden building with a stone church only 13 years earlier in 1876, but the offer must have been too good to refuse (18,750 pounds).
They bought the site of the first Children’s Hospital, and recycled much of the stonework, railings and gates from Creek Street, lugging it up to the top of Spring Hill. They had already built a brick Sabbath School on the land by 1886, and used this while they built their new church.
The foundation stone was laid on October 8, 1887 and within 19 months they had moved in.
During the 1890s, the steeple dominated the Brisbane skyline and it became known as “the kirk on the hill”.
It still dominates the St Paul’s Terrace view, although now this beautiful structure in porphyry stone with sandstone facings and ornamentation, is surrounded by modern buildings and has the Meriton tower, currently Brisbane’s tallest building, peeking over its shoulder.
As its 10 pairs of stained glass windows depict scenes from the life of St Paul, it would seem that the church gave its name to St Paul’s Terrace.
Inside is a magnificent pipe organ originally imported for the Creek Street church and rebuilt in 1963.
It’s easy to imagine the interior is along the lines of 19th century Scottish churches but to confirm this will mean turning up for a service at 9am or 6.30pm one Sunday, to have a better look as its impressive iron gates are locked during the week.