THE HISTORY OF TWO CHURCHES
Christ Church Whittlesea
In 1863 Thomas Wills donated 15 acres to the Anglican Church. Construction began in June 1864. Made of bluestone foundations with brick walls and a slate roof, the church features a 208 lb bell that hangs in a structure beside the church, Archbishop Charles Perry conducted the first service on 25th February 1866.
Several years later the Vicarage was built next to the church. The Parish hall started construction in 1955. The church ground has a fenced memorial garden.
DOWN THE MEMORY LANE IN WITNESS TO GOD'S FAITHFULLNESS
St Peter's Memorial Church Kinglake
The original St Peter’s was built in 1922 from locally donated materials. A World War memorial church, it was a unique building with wood panelled lining. A reproduction of the Famous nativity painting of the Virgin attended by two soldiers by Miss Violet Teage hung over the altar. The original now as then remains in the Cathedral because of the risk of fires.
The new church was built on the site of the old church on Gangelhoff Hill and boasts magnificent views of the surrounding areas. In keeping with its WW memorial theme it has a beautiful stain glass window at the naïve designed by Dr Peter Toyne, which depicts twelve poppies in remembrance of the twelve servicemen from Kinglake who died in the First World War. The Church was designed by Insite Architects and was dedicated on 16 March 2014 by Archbishop Dr Philip Freier. The new church is a modern building that has excellent facilities.
PRESENT-DAY ST PETER'S WWI MEMORIAL CHURCH
The Story of St Peter's Memorial Church
Before 1920, Church of England services were held in private homes or in the barn on Owen Finegan’s farm. After the first Public Hall was built in 1897 near the Bald Spur road, the highest point in the Kinglake district, Anglican church services were held there. Sunday school and Bible classes were held in the Kinglake State School building with a hand organ played by Mrs Charles Carlyle who walked more than a mile from her home with her children.
In 1920, following the suggestion of Rev. E. Selwyn Chase, the vicar attending services in Kinglake at the time, it was decided that a church be built for the Church of England congregation and that it should be a ‘gift’ or memorial church to service men who had fallen in World War I. A committee was formed and the members included Mr Telfer, Mrs Dan Murphy, Mrs and Mrs Charles Carlyle, Mr and Mrs Trounson, Mr and Mrs Sam Pearson, Mr and Mrs John Lawrey, Mr Jennings, Mrs Jennings-Pearson, Mr and Mrs Harry Thomson, Miss Daisy Thomson. Mr George Coller canvassed the district on horseback for donations.
The land was donated by Mr Rosman Snr and the sawn timber by Oxlades mill located nearby. The mill was closing down and the manager offered to donate the timber if the men of the congregation would give their time for the work. This was agreed and Rev. Chase and Bert McDonald put the first piece across the bench. It is said that all the timber for the frame came from one local tree. Church members then transported the timber by sledge up the hill to the site.
Other donations were: Altar rails – Mr Towsey; Cupboard – John and Elizabeth Lawrey (in memory of John Cornish Lawrey); Prayer desk – Hugh Kerr; Hymn board – Harry and Elizabeth Thomson and William Harris; Chairs – Florence Thomson, Ernest McDonald and Christopher Reilly; Communion service books – Daisy Thomson.
Presentation of Painting
Well-known Melbourne artist, Violet Teague, presented an oil painting, 'The Adoration of the Shepherds', to the church, and later explained the circumstances in a letter to the church congregation:
“Two years ago, your vicar (Rev. E. S. Chase) told me that Kinglake was building a gift church as a memorial to her soldiers fallen in war. I asked and received his permission to paint the altar piece in memory of five men dear to me. He too had a name to commemorate, that of his nephew, Lieutenant Edwin Octavius Hutchinson, and asked that it be written over the altar with my five names, and instead of the blackwood pulpit that he had first thought of as his gift, defrayed all the expenses of the painting and was never too busy to find out for me any condition of space or lighting that I needed, making for me many diagrams of the position it would occupy and plans of the church, beside what he could tell me at first hand of the Holy Land, and his wholehearted and helpful enthusiasm; so that from first to last it is his gift and mine.
“Miss Jessie Trail etched the brasses for her share. She served throughout the war with the St John’s Ambulance. Under each man’s name is his battalion colours or regimental or ship’s crest, and below the battlefield where each fell. HMS Marlborough has a Spanish motto, ‘Fiel pero Desdichado’ (‘Faithful but unfortunate’). The battalion colours are indicated by the fine lines that fill the spaces as in heraldry. Trooper Ludlow Bartrop fought with the New Zealanders. His badge, 4th Waikato Squadron, Auckland Mounted Rifles, was a kaka bird with a wreath of kowhai leaves and blossoms and the motto ‘Libertas et natale solum’. ‘Per castra ad astra’ is the family motto of Lance Corporal Nicholson.
“The picture itself needs a little explanation. I have called it “The Adoration of the Shepherds”. Who is a shepherd? The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep and shepherds were the first to greet our Lord. It was the wise men who followed the star and came to where the young child lay but these shepherds of our day, so many and so faithful, they followed a star too, and went their brave way, ‘per castra ad astra’.
Dedication of St Peter's Memorial Church
St Peter's Memorial Church was officially opened and dedicated by The Most Reverend Harrington Clare Lees, Archbishop of Melbourne, in a ceremony held at the church on 15 November 1922. The service included the confirmation of a number of young people and the Archbishop afterwards joined the congregation for afternoon tea.
Bushfires raged out of control through parts of the Kinglake district in February 1926, destroying the Kinglake Hotel, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the Public Hall near St Peter’s Memorial Church of England. Mr John Jennings, the Church Warden, managed to save St Peter’s with a knapsack fruit spray and with some help from three young men, McKenzie, Guy and Weatherley, and from Mr Leo Lawrey. Mr Jennings later wrote to Miss Violet Teague to assure her that the church and her painting were safe.
Visit by Archbishop
In February 1930, the Archbishop visited Kinglake and was given a very warm welcome by local residents and visitors. On reaching Kinglake, he was welcomed on the roadside and an address of welcome was read by Professor Laver, president of the Kinglake Progress Association. Mr W. H. Everard, MLA, and the Vicar added words of welcome.
The service was delightfully simple and impressive. In speaking, the Archbishop said that he was impressed by the beauty of the surroundings and urged that all should find God in the beauty of nature. There was also the beauty of art with which they had decorated their church building; this was to help them realise that God was a God of Beauty. But the beauty of a good life was the most beautiful of all and the object for which they should all strive.
After the service, the Archbishop was taken to view some of the beauty spots of the neighbourhood including the famous Jehosophat Gully where he was given to drink some genuine billy tea. A high tea, served by the ladies of the locality and including many delectable dishes, wound up a most successful and happy day. The Archbishop, in replying to his toast, expressed his cordial thanks for the delightful day he had spent and the hope that he would be able to visit Kinglake again before long.
In 1939, most of the church records were lost when the bushfires destroyed the home of the secretary, Mr R. Skelton.
Additions and Restoration
A Sunday School room was added to the church building in 1957 with assistance under the ‘Wells’ scheme. The congregation men painted the interior and the Ladies Guild members painted the furniture. Two wall heaters were donated and two church wardens’ wands were presented by the Westworth family.
In 1978, major repairs to parts of the building were required and a restoration project was undertaken.
In 1992, the 70th anniversary of the opening of the church was celebrated with a special thanksgiving service and a reunion of past and present members.
In 1995, two public buildings, the Kinglake Central Memorial Hall and St Mary's Catholic Church, each located not far from St Peter's, were burnt down as a result of vandalism. Immediate steps were taken to remove the Teague painting from the church in case of further destruction. It was later decided that the painting be handed over to St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne on permanent loan for safe-keeping. A same-size photographic replica was presented to St Peter's and the Teague painting now hangs on the north wall of the cathedral.
In 1999, an assessment revealed that the church building was again in need of major repair. Volunteers assisted in the work of restoring the roof and the exterior weatherboards and cleaning the interior lining, and a new front entrance door was designed and installed.
St Peter's Destroyed by 2009 Bushfires
On 'Black Saturday', 7 February 2009, St Peter's Memorial Church was one of several public buildings destroyed in the bushfires which swept through the Kinglake district.
Information supplied by Kinglake Historical Society, and prepared by Deidre Hawkins