Architecture, Local History, Social Life

It Takes a Community to Raise a Church

Dear Reader this is the last post for a while. 
I have decided to take a six-month furlough from blogging Kandos History. 
To work on another project that has been neglected for years. 
Also after 71 posts and 59 articles I think I’m burnt out. 
The site stays open. 
It has a good search facility and plenty of local history.

When Kandos was conceived in 1913, ninety-seven percent of Australians were Christian. Churches were the hub of communal life in cities, towns and villages. They were centres of worship, religious ceremonies and education, and through their fund-raising activities, they were also centres of entertainment: balls and bazaars, dinners and dances, concerts and meetings, sports days, flower shows and euchre tournaments.

The cement company knew that churches would be vital in their new town and three months before the first land sale, promised council and community, that there would be reserves set aside for churches. Perhaps negotiations failed – which church would have which high spot? No church reserves appeared on the plan.

At the first land-sale in August 1915, Reverend Morris Yates, Methodist Minister at Mudgee, forestalled the competition by purchasing two premium blocks in Buchanan Street (as well as an adjoining one overlooking the Works). They were high above Jaques Street, at ‘nearly the highest point in the town’. It was left to the other denominations to select and purchase their own sites. Within twelve years Kandos had its churches: Methodist 1919, Anglican 1921, Catholic 1922, Salvation Army 1926, Presbyterian 1927.

I am interested in the charming stone gothic Anglican church sitting in the heart of Kandos, because this year, on Sunday 6th March, the church celebrates its centenary. The patron saint is St Lawrence. Or is it St Laurence? The spelling is debatable but its meaning is ‘laurelled’ or ‘honoured’ from the Latin ‘Laurentius’. This young Archdeacon of Rome (225-258) suffered a martyr’s death at the hands of Roman Emperor Valerian, after giving the church’s money to the poor instead of to the Emperor. The legend of his death, depicted in a Rubens’ painting, shows him roasting on a gridiron. He supposedly joked with his torturers: ‘I’m done on this side, turn me over’. However that story has more traction than historians are willing to give it. Nevertheless he is held to be patron saint of the poor, and of cooks and chefs. 

It is human nature to want to leave your mark on the world and there are plenty of opportunities in a new town. Street names and foundation stones for two. Hunter White, local pastoralist and shareholder/director of the cement company, was the first to donate land for an Anglican church, in March 1916, four blocks on the corner of Rodgers and Noyes Streets (the more elevated south-west corner I believe). The land was cleared by volunteers and fund-raising began. However, there must have been concern about the site. In May 1919, the present site, a donation of Mrs Elsie Dangar, wife of Singleton pastoralist Rodney Rouse Dangar, was selected. Dangar Street is her memorial. 

Two donators, two sites and two architects. In February 1919, the Church Building Fund Committee accepted the offer of company architect Stanley Jeffreys and local builder and brick-maker James Owen, to submit a plan for a church, with a sanctuary on the east end and a porch and vestry on the west end. Again concern. The Bishop inquired. Harold Hardwick was named the architect and Mr Babidge began the groundwork, in July 1920. There was to be only the nave ie the main body of the church. The chancel, vestry, tower and porch would be added later. 

Now who would lay the foundation stone? In October readers of the Mudgee Guardian learnt that Barry Acton of Mudgee Monumental Masons had ‘cut and lettered a very handsome foundation stone to be laid by Mr Hunter White of Havilah’. In late January 1921, readers learnt that the foundation stone would be laid by the Bishop. A few days later they learnt it would be laid by Hunter White and consecrated by the Bishop. But no. On March 5 the Right Reverend George Merrick Long Doctor of Divinity, laid the stone with an inscribed silver trowel presented by the architect. 

By that time tenders had been called. Mr Worral’s tender was accepted and erection began in stone. Successful fundraising meant the chancel could also be included. Local builder Walter Murphy got the tender for the roof; and the woodwork within the nave and chancel. But then it seems funds dried up, so twelve locals guaranteed twenty-five pounds each. To top it off ‘the very handsome freestone altar, pulpit and font have been presented to the church’. An anonymous donation I presume. 

We enshrine ‘firsts’ and anniversaries in our record of life. Kandos Anglicans probably know that the first service in their church was Christmas Day 1921 and the first baptism, of Elwyn Spratt and Lionel Smith, was on Christmas Eve. The Silver Jubilee twenty-five years later was celebrated at Christmas. 1922 was the year of most other ‘firsts’. On 5 March, on the anniversary of the foundation stone, Bishop Long dedicated and opened St Laurence Church and held the first confirmation ceremony. The first wedding was on 28 June between Alice May Lloyd and Thomas Arthur Lofthouse. On 1 August, just ahead of the feast day of St Laurence, the parish of Kandos came into being. Its first priest, Reverend Wallace Conran, was inducted on 19 November. 

Imagine for a moment how that church continued to grow over decades, through volunteer labour, donations, funds raised from community events, and funds borrowed. Trees were planted facing Angus Avenue and more ornamentals a year later. A white picket fence ‘set the church off to advantage’. A garage, built by volunteers for their first rector, housed his car. A rectory was built in 1925 with a loan of £800 from the Diocesan loan fund and paid back at £80 a year. A noticeboard ‘of unusual and distinctive design’ was a gift of cement works manager, Harold Schroeder and some of his men. During Father Kircher’s time as parish priest, 1936 to 1946, a number of improvements were made including a fibro porch, blessed and opened by the Bishop near the Feast of St Laurence in 1937. There followed a lino floor for the porch and carpeting for the baptistry. Parishioners and families are memorialised in donations of ornaments and furnishings for the church, including a sanctuary lamp, sanctus gong, waxed oak cover for the baptismal font, Priest’s chair, candlesticks etc. In 1940, during St Laurence festivities, a St Mary’s Bell and belfry was blessed, designed by Bill Stephinson, built by C Reilly, and paid for with funds raised by the Girls’ Friendly Society, with the building fee waived by council. 

By 1941 the church was free from debt and thus could be consecrated. On 10th August, the Feast of St Laurence, in a packed church, the Bishop of Bathurst (Rev A L Wylde) conducted the consecration service and took possession of the title deeds for the diocese. 

One could say that St Laurence’s church came of age in 1984, when the fibro porch was replaced in stone and its interior lined in wood. Around the same time the cedar doors and sandstone fence were retrieved from the Cudgegong Church of St James the Less, before Windamere Dam flooded the site.

In the early years of church building at Kandos, sectarianism was noticeably set aside for fund-raising events. All were invited and many supported. 

St Laurence Anglican Church by local artist Simone Mackin
Article and image from “Construction” 10 January 1940

12 thoughts on “It Takes a Community to Raise a Church”

  1. Thank you for the article on the history of St. Laurence Anglican Church. Somehow it never occurred to me to look into the history of the church. It is indeed a beautiful church and in the late 1950s and early 1960’s I was the church organist there. Some evenings, in the heat of the summer, I would go to the church to do a little practice for the upcoming service and welcomed the coolness inside the building that the sandstone provided. I have many fond memories of the church.

    I would also like to comment on your article Mrs Peerman’s Garden. Mrs Peerman taught my father and many years later I too was one of her pupils. I believe there were many families in town where she had taught two generations. There were also a couple of families where she taught three generations. Truly remarkable.

    I shall miss your monthly columns but can understand the ‘burnt out’ issue. Do enjoy your break and I sincerely hope that you eventually do decide to return to sending out monthly posts on Kandos History.

    Kind regards,

    Karlyn Robinson

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    1. Karlyn thank you for such a lovely comment. In writing the history of our town and area, the pleasure is in knowing people like you connect to it and understand it better. How can I not return?

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  2. I grew up in Kandos in the 1950’s & 1960′ and attended St Laurence church.Walter Bridge Murphy is my grandfather by the way I didn’t know he built the roof.Pauline Branley.

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  3. Great story Colleen thanks for the history of St.Laurence
    I have enjoyed all your blogs please come back with other articles of our town

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  4. Enjoy your “time out” what a superb job you have done seeking the history of Kandos, I have looked forward to all of the information you have passed on to many. Sincere thanks and keep safe and happy. thanking you Carol O’Hara.

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  5. What a wonderful last (for the moment) Kandos History blog. It is rich in fascinating detail as always. Kandos townsfolk, and many of us beyond this proud little town’s community borders, have dipped in and out of your blogs with delight. You kept finding stories that made the unknown, the over looked and the forgotten come alive. Thanks Col.

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