CONTINUING, unintentionally, on the church trail of any good tourist today, while walking home from Central Station, I discovered another exceptional specimen.
Tucked in among the city skyscrapers is a delightful little stone building between Wickham Terrace and Turbot Street. It is a peaceful place that retains its charm despite being wedged between two very busy city streets.
A plaque on the outside announces that All Saints is the oldest surviving church still being used in the inner city which also makes it the oldest existing Anglican Church in Brisbane.
With its east end windows having been installed in 1870, it also has the oldest stained glass in Queensland. They were made in Melbourne by Ferguson, Urie and Lyons who also made most of the windows for St Paul’s in Ballarat.
Inside are significant art works, such as the first public work of the acclaimed Brisbane sculptor, Daphne Mayo who made the 14 Stations of the Cross, a needlework parish banner and a set of 18th century French vestments.
The story goes that land was granted for a church to be built on the site that was then known as Windmill Hill, in 1856. It was decided it would be used for a sister church for the congregation of St John’s Church of England (which can be seen just down the street, what were they thinking?)
A stone church that the locals called Brisbane Tabernacle but was officially known as the Wickham Terrace Episcopalian Church, or the Wickham Terrace District Church, welcomed its first worshippers in February, 1862.
It was made of pink porphyry stone from the local quarry at Windsor and seated 400.
In 1864, the congregation decided to break away from St John’s and by 1869, their church was too small.
Meanwhile, Bishop Edward Tufnell had been consecrated first Bishop of Brisbane in Westminster Abbey on June, 1859 and in May 1860, he set sail for Brisbane with five priests, two deacons, four laymen and £7000 in donations, arriving four months later in September.
(Apparently Tufnell expected to find the Church in Queensland ‘in an exceedingly languid state’ and was not disappointed.)
Under his guidance, the Tabernacle was to be extended and the roof raised by adding to the height of the existing walls. Alas, the old walls weren’t strong enough and in the end it had to be rebuilt using some of the original Tabernacle stone blocks, on top of the original foundations.
The soundness of the old stone was later tested by the shocks of blasting when the railway tunnel linking Brisbane City (Central) to Fortitude Valley (Brunswick Street) was driven below the church foundations in 1887.
The good Bishop Tufnell proposed the name All Saints for the new church, which was designed by the architect, Richard G. Suter, a church warden of the parish, and the foundation stone went down in April, 1869.
It opened for worship on September 8, 1869, although some alterations were still taking place into the early 1870s and it wasn’t consecrated until March, 1885.
All Saints, like St John’s but without the magnificence of the cathedral, is also 19th century gothic revival style. It has buttressed walls of rough faced rubble, porphyry and sandstone, and a metal clad roof.
The interior has a fine example of a hammer-beam roof, something seldom found in Australia, but quite common to the quaint little churches that dot the English countryside.
Bishop Tufnell, who appeared to have difficulty with the “crudity of colonial life” returned to a more genteel English country ministry and died at Chichester in 1896.
All Saints is regarded by many as the “Parish Church of the City of Brisbane” and should you be walking that way, it is well worth it to take a moment’s pause to admire the beauty of another time, inhale the scent of old timbers and enjoy the serenity.
- Day 3: Bide a wee (brismania.com)