St John’s Anglican Church Mudgee
Every Week Services
Cooyal: First Sunday in the month, 10.000am
St John’s Groups
Choir Practice: Tuesday 7pm.New members
Men's Mixer: Dinner and discussions for men, with guest speakers. Contact Bruce Kurtz 6372 3936
St John’s Anglican Church, Mudgee
When Australia was first settled, the Church of England Bishop of Calcutta, India was in charge of the Australian Church, which was an archdeaconry of his diocese. Then, in 1836, Archdeacon William Broughton was made Bishop of Sydney. Rev Espey Keane, of Kelso near Bathurst, was Mudgee’s ‘Church of England’ priest at this time.
The parish of Mudgee was founded in 1841 by Bishop Broughton, and a church built that same year, with Rev. J. Gunther becoming its first resident minister in 1843. In 1848 a bark roof slab hut was built facing Church Street, opposite the present Regent Theatre, as a school.
A new school replaced the old bark hut in 1860. When Mudgee Public School was built in 1878, St John’s parish school had more than 200 children attending. The above picture is the laying of the foundation stone of the new school in the 1860s.
The gold rush brought many people to the Mudgee region and the old church became too small, so a new building was sought. The foundation stone for the present church building was laid in 1858, the building designed by Weaver & Kemp of Sydney. A chamber cut in the lower foundation stone has a time capsule, a bottle, with a copy of the Mudgee newspaper September 28, 1858, the coins of the realm and a parchment inscribed with a description of the occasion. The present church was completed by 1861, replacing the first church building, which was demolished in 1860. The first building was 60 feet x 40 and seated 200.
St John’s famous pipe organ was installed in 1881. The organ, and the church bell, was bought and donated o the church by Robert HD White of Havilah, an active member of the church at that time and a choir member. Mr White is known to have supplied an organ for many churches in NSW at the time. The bell was exceedingly heavy and needed a sturdy frame in the tower, which a contractor built for £52 ($104). The bell is made of steel, is 3 feet 7 inches (42 ½ cms) tall and 13 feet 1 inch (156 ¾ cms) in diameter.
Added to this was the expense of getting the organ from the ship to Mudgee, a cost of £150. The organ was insured for £1,000 ($2,000) at the time. The old organ, supplied to the church by JW Walker in 1855, was given to the Mudgee Presbyterians in 1882. The new Brindley & Foster organ had 3 manuals, 24 speaking stops and couplers and tracker action throughout. It is one of the finest examples of 19th century British organ building in NSW and is one of the best instruments outside an Australian Capital City.
The 1881 organ was recently completely restored by Sydney based organ specialist, Peter Jewkes Pty Ltd. Mr Jewkes said the 1600 pipes have a Germanic influence in its sound and was 100 years ahead of its time when it was built 126 years ago. Rector of St John’s, Canon Anne Wentzel said the restoration cost about $160,000, with more than two thirds coming from the Mudgee community. The NSW Heritage Council gave the church a grant of $50,000 to assist the work. Mr Jewkes said 1600 pipes were removed and painstakingly restored to preserve their tonal characteristics, some being sent to Melbourne specialist pipe makers where perished cork ‘bung’ tuning stoppers were replaced with new spotted metal felted tuning canisters to ensure tuning stability. Mr Jewkes said the restoration would give the organ another 100 years life and as only one of two in the State, would be a big tourism drawcard for Mudgee.
In 1890, church land around the school (the old playground) was leased to TH Marks for 20 years at £25 per year for the first 10 years and £75 pounds for the balance of the term. Marks built a building on it. Then the church borrowed £1,200 from the endowment funds of the diocese and erected the branch store on the land between the Sunday School and Short Street, a building of galvanised iron, and the trustees of Mr Marks’ estate took a lease of the building for a term expiring with the building lease, due to expire in 1910, when the church renewed the lease of the whole premises for 10 years at the annual rental of £360. The firm went bankrupt in 1937 and the shell of the building remained, an eyesore to the town and a burden to the church, a resolution to demolish Marks’ Store taking until August 1939 to come to fruition. At this time the church also owned a small farm of about 12 acres situated in Short Street Mudgee at the rear of the gaol and a small farm of about 8 acres situated on the river near the butter factory. Although the revenue from these properties was spent on maintenance of church buildings, in reality, the business venture was a failure and a hard lesson learned because it caused parishioners to depend on the rents to provide for the church rather than free giving, and, of course, the money, less expenses and loan repayments, was very little, let alone consideration of the spiritual value of free giving.
In March 1921 a new ministry began, with St John’s Hostel for girls officially opened at Bleak House, at the east end of Market Street. Mr Hunter White of Havilah gave the house rent free for 3 years, and later gave the property to the church. The hostel was to give girls a home from home in a Christian environment while they were educated at Mudgee High School. The venture closed in 1938 because of financial difficulties. A boys’ hostel was also started at ‘Kiora’ Lewis Street. Bleak House was sold and the proceeds given to the Sydney diocese.
The stained glass windows in St John the Baptist Church Mudgee are a collection of heritage art in themselves, and a great tourist drawcard. Many of the bush churches also have beautiful stained glass windows.
Left is a most beautiful stained glass artwork of Mary at the annunciation. You can see the angel in blue above her head and the dove representing the Holy Spirit in the white top left.
During World War II, the then 22 year old Peter Clark was killed in an air training exercise in England. A stained glass window in memory of him was given by his parents. The window depicts Jesus giving his blessing to St George, patron saint of England where Peter died. The head of St George is a reproduction of Peter’s own head and features. Planes are silhouetted in the blue sky over the Saint’s head. A circle window overhead contains the RAAF emblem. St George has passed into the presence of Christ, and the dragon, symbolising Nazism or any evil, is still a live, fuming fire. At Christ’s feet an angel kneels, holding the crown of life toward St George.
Many tourists come to the church to see this window, other stained glass windows and the Brindley and Foster pipe organ, many commenting on the beauty and peace within the historic church.
On the theme of peace—at the start of World War II, the King called for a World Day of Prayer to restore peace to the world. City people were being evacuated to the country and St John’s Sunday School’s rolls rose to 250. New faces appeared in the congregation. A description of the annual event at the time was written in the Mudgee Guardian by Gordon Madell:
It was a Day of Prayer.
Rectors of St John the Baptist Church Mudgee
1843-1879 James Gunther
1993 - 1997 Campbell Brown
1997 - 2000 Don Saines
2001 - 2006 Jennifer Inglis and Philip Gill
2007 - 2010 Anne Wentzel
2011 - 2013 Rev. Max Wood
2013 - Rev Dr David Craig