IT LOOKS like a scene from a Jane Austen novel. When you leave Richmond heading for North Richmond, look right just after Chapel Street and you’ll see St Peter’s Anglican Church set amongst green fields and hedges.
It’s been an integral part of Richmond life for one and three-quarter centuries, and its parishioners will celebrate that fact on Sunday, July 24 this year.
Youth minister Josh Wilson said the day will kick off at 10am with family activities, then a free barbecue lunch, a celebratory service, more family activities and historical tours of the church and cemetery.
The Gazette will help celebrate the milestone with a series of stories on the extraordinary history of the church and its very old burial ground in the lead up to the celebrations, beginning this week with a quick timeline of significant events in its past.
The church’s story begins in 1810 with the burial ground located across the road from the church in Windsor Street, just before the descent to Pughs Lagoon.
It took its first burial in March of that year – that of Roger Twyfield – and has been in continuous use ever since. The parish’s first marriage, though not in the current church building, was a month later when Austen Forrest married Jemima Pitt.
All this was before the town had even been formally named ‘Richmond’ by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. That didn’t happen until December that year.
In January 1811 Macquarie visited the site to set the wheels in motion for a church, though it was not begun until 1837. Until then a building on Francis Street and then the current site’s schoolhouse were the temporary worship places.
When the church was finally finished, it was consecrated on July 15, 1841 by Bishop Broughton. The only entrance then faced the mountains, with the current entrance on Windsor Street added in 1850.
The church was constructed by local builder James Atkinson in the Colonial Georgian style at a cost of 1697 pounds.
Lit originally only by candlelight at night, kerosene lamps were added to brighten things in 1866, and its beauty increased further with the addition of blue and red glass panes to the previously plain windows in 1874.
In 1891 the eastern-facing stained glass windows were donated by Joseph Onus Jr to celebrate the church’s 50th anniversary.
Electric light didn’t come until a week after WWI ended.
In 1956 disaster struck when a small cyclone demolished the steeple and took off the roof of the Sunday school across the road, but they were lovingly replaced. On Christmas Day in 1971 the steeple was again severely damaged. The subsequent repair is now failing and there are fears the steeple will have to be rebuilt in the near future.
- If you would like to play a part in the celebrations you can contact Josh Wilson on 0402 991 559 or current minister Wayne Tildsley at email@example.com.