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St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

This impressive church building was the second St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church built in Perth, the first one built in 1882 on Pier Street just to the north of the present church.  

In 1879, the Presbyterian Reverend, David Shearer, and his wife and children were sent to Perth by their Church in Scotland for the primary purpose of introducing Presbyterianism to Western Australia and to establish a church in the capital city.  In 1880, using his own funds, Shearer purchased a parcel of land, Lot 19, on Pier Street and started planning for the building of the church.   

By August 1882 the first Presbyterian Church, designed by architect Mr J Nunan, was completed.  It was officially dedicated as St Andrew’s in 1891 in acknowledgement of the recent death of Reverend Shearer.  

With the growth of Perth’s population with the advent of the gold boom, the Presbyterian congregation was quickly outgrowing its church.  In 1897 and again in 1902 a competition was held for a new church design but both times the winning design had to be shelved as the Church could not come up with sufficient funds to build it.  However, it had purchased land for the new church on the corner of Pier Street and St Georges Terrace, which originally contained a house built in 1834 by Dr Alexander Collie, Colonial Surgeon and first Government Resident in Albany.  

By 1905, sufficient building funds had finally be raised and a design by the architectural practice Hine and Selby was selected.  The Federation Gothic design for St. Andrew’s Church is very characteristic of the work of Hine’s practice and is typical of many Presbyterian and Methodist churches of the day.   

The foundation stone for the new St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was laid by the Governor Sir Frederick Bedford on 1 September 1906 using a silver trowel presented by Hines and a sealed metal bottle containing a variety of historic records was placed in the cavity of the stone.  On 21 December 1906, the first dedicatory service was held in St Andrew’s in what was described as the “scarcely finished” church.  After the new church was completed, the original 1882 church was used as the church hall but later sold.  A new church hall was built in 1929 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of St Andrew’s just behind the church on Pier Street and named the McNess Memorial Hall after Sir Charles McNess who donated the funds for the building.  McNess also arranged for Reverend Shearer’s monument at East Perth cemetery to be moved to St Andrew’s where it was located on the north-west corner.  In 1967, the original 1882 St Andrew’s Church/hall was demolished to make way for the construction of Westminster House.   

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and its associated buildings have been the focus of Presbyterian activity in Perth since the first church was built in 1882.  The church also physically and aesthetically contributes to the streetscape of St Georges Terrace and is an important landmark within the Central Government Precinct.

Detailed Description

This impressive church building was the second St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church built in Perth, the first one built in 1882 on Pier Street just to the north of the present church.   

In 1879, the Reverend David Shearer and his wife and children arrived in Perth from Scotland.  The Shearers were sent here by a union of the Established Church and Free Church of Scotland for the primary purpose of introducing Presbyterianism to Western Australia, which then had about 1000 Presbyterians, and establish a church in the capital city.  Shearer, who was the first Presbyterian minister to come to Western Australia, wasted no time and only a few days after his arrival, on 12 October 1879, he held the first Presbyterian service in St George’s Hall in Hay Street (then Howick Street).  A committee of the Church was also formed.  

Originally two Crown land grants had been set aside by the Government for a Presbyterian Church north of the railway line on Stirling Street and Beaufort Street.  However these were considered unsuitable locations and so in 1880, using his own funds, Shearer purchased a parcel of land, Lot 19, on Pier Street and started planning for the building of the church.   

On 25 October 1881, the foundation stone for the new church was laid, performed by Lady Leake, wife of Sir Luke Leake.  The church – at No. 10 Pier Street – was completed in August 1882.  Originally just known as the Presbyterian Church, it was officially dedicated as St Andrew’s in 1891 in acknowledgement of the recent death of Reverend Shearer. The brick church which could seat upwards of 300, was designed in the Gothic Style by architect Mr J Nunan and the builder was Mr David Gray and internal pews and fittings made by Mr J Summers.   

Two houses that had been built on the adjacent land at No. 12 and 14 Pier Street – to the north of the church, were then acquired by the Church in the 1890s, one of which was first used to house the caretaker then both taken over for church offices.  

With the growth of Perth’s population with the advent of the gold boom, the Presbyterian congregation was quickly outgrowing its church.  In 1897, a competition was held for a new church design with first and second prizes offered.  Unfortunately, although a first prize was awarded, the Church could not come up with sufficient funds to build it and so the plans were abandoned.  Another unsuccessful competition was opened again in 1902 with prizes again awarded but also eventually shelved owing to lack of funds.  However, the Church had at least purchased land for the new church it hoped one day to build.  The land, purchased in 1904 for £6000, was not far from the original St Andrew’s Church on the corner of Pier Street and St Georges Terrace.  This was not vacant land, but contained a house that once belonged to Dr Alexander Collie, Colonial Surgeon and first Government Resident in Albany.  Collie came to WA at the same time as Captain Stirling for the founding of the Colony.  In 1834, he built his house on St George’s Terrace, considered at the time as one of the best in Perth.  Owing to deteriorating health Collie left Perth to return to England in 1835 but only made it as far as Albany where he died and was buried.  

Having had two false starts at building a church, in 1905 it was decided to set up a sub-committee specifically to manage the project still based on a competition.  In 1906, plans were submitted by the architectural practice Hine and Selby and selected by the judge George Temple Poole, Chief Government Architect.  Although they had originally wanted to build a church capable of seating around 800, the committee settled for 600 as proposed in Hine’s design and finally the church was on its way to being constructed.  The local newspaper gave a detailed report on the design:  

It is intended to be constructed with Cottesloe stone, having Donnybrook stone dressings, covered with green slates and terracotta ridging. The style is Gothic of the transitional period-decorated to perpendicular.  A spire will be erected at the intersection of the two frontages, and entrances will be from both streets.  The windows will have lead lights of rich design…Special attention has been given to the ventilation and acoustics, which, we think, will be all that can be desired.  

The church was originally enclosed by a cast iron fence but this was later removed.  

The Federation Gothic design for St. Andrew’s Church is very characteristic of the work of Hine’s practice and is typical of many Presbyterian and Methodist churches of the day.  James Hine was originally from England where he qualified as an architect.  Hine and his wife then went to Capetown where he practiced for two years then to NSW where in addition to his contract work he worked as the Diocesan architect of the Western District of NSW.  In 1895, the Hines moved to Western Australia.  Hines, who was one of many other architects who came here in the gold boom years of the 1890s, initially practiced on his own and later went into partnership with John Selby.  Hine designed a number of other church buildings in Perth including the Congregational Church in Subiaco erected at much the same time as St Andrews. 

The building contractor was Totterdell Bros Ltd for a cost of £6,600, with the works supervised by Hine’s partner, Selby.  Part of the works included demolishing Collie’s original house.  Joseph Totterdell, later Sir Joseph, was an accomplished and well-known builder.  He became President of the WA Master Builders Association and also served in both local and State Government, as Mayor of Perth and also Liberal MLA for West Perth.   

The foundation stone for the new St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was laid by the Governor Sir Frederick Bedford on 1 September 1906 using a silver trowel presented by Hines.  The proceedings opened with a guard-of-honour for the Governor, drawn from the Highland Regiment under the command of Captain G. T. Wood and headed by the regimental pipers.  As part of the ceremony, Mr F. A. Moseley placed a sealed metal bottle in the cavity of the stone containing the following Church records: 

In Memoriam Rev. David Shearer, M.A. 

History of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Perth, to present date 

Reports and balance sheets, 1894-95, 1904-05 

The “Presbyterian” 

Two circulars issued by the Board of Management with reference to the new church 

Perth daily newspapers 

Printed form of proceedings at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone.  

A month after the laying of the foundation stone, Maggie Ballantyne Shearer, the second daughter of Reverend Shearer, and who had become a teacher at the Sunday school, suddenly passed away and sadly did not live to see the new church completed.  

On 21 December 1906, the first dedicatory service was held in St Andrew’s, presided by the Reverend D. B. Smith, Moderator of the Perth Presbytery.  A large congregation gathered for the historic service in what was described as the “scarcely finished” church.  The service opened with the singing of the 24th Psalm “The Lord of Hosts”, followed by prayers delivered by the Reverends Taylor, McCarlie and Burridge, more singing from the choir and a formal address delivered by the Reverend A. C. S. James, the minister of St Andrews.  The organ from the original church was relocated in time for the opening (although this would be replaced in 1924 with the “war memorial organ”), as well as the stone font which had been especially made by Fremantle prisoners in 1892 for St Andrew’s.  

After the new church was completed, the original 1882 church was used as the church hall.  However, for financial reasons, the Church sold the hall in 1917 to the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and it was renamed The Assembly Hall.  It was still able to be used by the Church for Sunday school free of charge.  A new church hall was built in 1929 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of St Andrew’s.  The architects were K. C. Duncan and J. L Ochiltree and the hall was constructed just behind the church on Pier Street.  The building of the hall was made possible through funds donated by Sir Charles McNess, prominent merchant and property owner, and so was named the McNess Memorial Hall.  McNess also arranged for Reverend Shearer’s monument at East Perth cemetery to be moved to St Andrew’s where it was located on the north-west corner.  By the 1960s the McNess Hall was linked to the church building and later additions added.  In 1967, the original 1882 St Andrew’s Church/hall was demolished to make way for the construction of Westminster House.   

In 1976 the original landmark timber and zinc spire was irreparably damaged in a storm and a new steel-framed copper plated spire was erected in its place. 

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and its associated buildings have been the focus of Presbyterian activity in Perth since the first church was built in 1882 and now part of the Uniting Church.  The church also physically and aesthetically contributes to the streetscape of St Georges Terrace and is an important landmark within the Central Government Precinct. 

 

West Australian 4 August 1882 p. 2 

Western Mail 21 April 1906 p. 32 

Western Mail 8 September 1906 p. 14 

West Australian 22 December 1906 p. 14 

St Andrews Church Perth Conservation Plan (Allom Lovell Hocking, 1997)

Location