Our Church - Past and Present

Our history and heritage - 150 years of worship

Whilst the physical structures of the church buildings and surrounds may be historical or attractive in some way, St Jude’s is in reality the people. It is true that our meetings are open to anyone who may wish to join us, but we recognise that the members of a church are not simply those who may attend meetings. Rather they are those who have come to personally trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we meet, it is as groups of people who are bound together by our common experience of knowing God as our Father and each other as his adopted children.

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Our Heritage

Our history and heritage – 150 years of worship

The following is a history of Anglican Ministry on the Southern Highlands of NSW and of the Anglican Church of St Simon and St Jude, Bowral.

Whilst the physical structures of the church buildings and surrounds may be historical or attractive in some way, St Jude’s is in reality the people. It is true that our meetings are open to anyone who may wish to join us, but we recognise that the members of a church are not simply those who may attend meetings. Rather they are those who have come to personally trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we meet, it is as groups of people who are bound together by our common experience of knowing God as our Father and each other as his adopted children.

In November 1853 the Rev. James Hassell took up temporary residence on the Oxley family property ‘Wingecarribee’.


He had been appointed Rector of the Parish of Berrima, which covered the land that Bowral would later stand on. Tradition says that he took a Christmas service in the house. It is from this date that Anglican ministry in Bowral is seen to begin, and over most of that time it centres on the church of St Jude’s.

Situated in the heart of old Bowral, St Jude’s is part of Bowral’s earliest history. Its buildings and early grounds have connections with Bowral Public School and what is now Bradman Oval. Some of its early congregational members are commemorated in Bowral street names. With its rectory, and own cemetery, situated across from the public school established in 1867, it is part of Bowral’s earliest growth. However, though 116 years old this year, the present church is the third building used for Anglican worship.

The "Township of Bowrel" was proclaimed in 1859 on land belonging to John Norton Oxley, son of the explorer. In 1863 a travelling evangelist, J. J. Westwood, described it as "Wingecarribbee or Bowrels", a new township of six months growth, in store and public houses, chiefly for supplying the wants of railway navvies”. The reputation of the town as a place of cultured and pleasant living was yet to come.

Once the town land was proclaimed in 1859, J. N. Oxley wrote to the Rector of Berrima that he was giving in the Bowral area a land gift of 48 acres. This was to be used for a church, rectory and glebe (an area of open land which could be used to support the Rector) of 43 acres 3 roods. His gift, though very generous, was not absolute; the church should pay all legal costs for the land transfer. Oxley in 1861 also initiated the idea of the first building erected on the land. This was to be a stone and slate structure built by parishioners that would serve as a church and Sunday school and a church school (for all denominations) during the week.

This structure was completed in 1863 and quickly fulfilled all its purposes. Indeed the school gained pupils so fast that it was necessary to build a second room to accommodate the numbers.

In 1867 the first teacher resigned. The proposed next teacher refused to accept the appointment unless the school was sold to the colony’s Council of Education as a public institution. For £100 the building and an acre of land became the foundation of Bowral Public School. The original building was pulled down in 1895 but a plaque on a piece of the original stone marks the spot. With the building sold, for the next few years the Anglican congregation of Bowral had no fixed place of worship. Services were held in the hut of a couple called Brennan who lived on the glebe, or in the hotels in the town. The story is told that one wealthy Sydney visitor, a Mrs. Harrison worshipping in the dining room of the Imperial Hotel that she promptly donated £1000 (about $70,000 today) for the building of “a proper cruciform church”.

In 1874 the first church designed by Edmund Blacket, was dedicated. It was an unusual design which he was very pleased with: “it looks well; it is so much unlike the regular conventional form of church that it is sure to attract attention.” It was a style regarded as Saxon or Norman with more subdued light in the short nave and chancels, but with a central tower which had big windows to concentrate “brilliance” there. A writer on the Blacket family, Dr Morton Herman, called it “a small gem of architecture”. The church was named as the Church of St Simon and St Jude.

But it was designed for a congregation of only 140 and Bowral was growing swiftly. Within a few years, with the regular congregation and increasing numbers of weekend visitors, it was becoming overcrowded on summer Sundays.

The Rev. Stanley Howard was to make a decided impact on the architecture of the church site. Inducted in


1879, and living at first with his family at 20 Merrigang St, he petitioned for a proper rectory next to the church. It was built for £1,169 and was a copy of his father’s parsonage in England. Rev. Howard was determined that the cost of the building should be paid off quickly with gifts, sales and other fund-raising activities. In November 1882, three years to the day that his family moved into the completed building, it was paid off, but Rev. Howard did not see it. He had died a few weeks earlier.

His successor, the Rev. J. W. Debenham, continued the push for a building which could seat a larger congregation. A committee was formed and at one stage looked at plans for a church with a capacity of 700, though this was promptly cut back to 400 on the grounds of cost. It was proposed that if the old church could not be enlarged, it should be left and used as a school and hall. A strong supporter of a new church building was Bishop Barry, son of a notable English architect, who, in a comment on the social transformation of Bowral, said he liked to see, “churches simple and rude when the houses were simple and rude also; but he did not like to see the church building rude when the houses around them showed increasing signs of improvement”.

There was a great deal of discussion – and strong dispute – in the church building committee about the architect and various designs of the new church building, if the old one could not be satisfactorily enlarged. On February 27, 1886, it was reported in the local paper, The Free Press, that a contract to build a new hall and enlarge the old church was decided on. However, three weeks later the same newspaper reported that the old church was to be pulled down. A new church designed by Mr. Thomas Parrott of Goulburn was to be built on the same site, with a new school hall to be built first. The debate before the final vote had been so fierce that Rev. Debenham in a letter to Mrs. Howard claimed that he had found it necessary to persuade some wealthy parishioners to continue their subscriptions after they had voted to oppose this decision.

The design was agreed upon because it was “designed for economy” yet it had classical Gothic appearance favoured at the time. Iron pillars were used to support the interior roof arches. Wrapped in plaster, they were slim, elegant and strong, taking a weight that would have required much bulkier stone or brick ones. The church would be constructed of all new material.

The new, now present, church is built of tuck pointed brick with double buttress of Mittagong stone and a slate roof supported by 16 interior arches. Inside, the church is 24m long with transepts 19m across. The width of the nave is 12m, and the roof 8m high. The wood work throughout the building is Kauri pine. Forty-eight windows evenly disperse light throughout the building. Originally of cathedral glass, all but two are now of stained glass. They are a visual history, commemorating the lives of some ministers and members of earlier congregations. The window over the sanctuary, representing The Good Shepherd with Peter and Paul, were among the first to be put in and commemorate Rev. Stanley Howard.

Bishop Barry laid the foundation stone on June 8, 1886. The Governor of NSW, the Rt. Hon. Baron Carrington, attended with other local dignitaries – perhaps another comment on the increasing social status of the town. Building proceeded rapidly, though briefly held up in September through a shortage of bricks, but by late October The Free Press reported that the brick and stonework was finished, and timber for the roof could be installed. A couple of weeks even before the official opening the building was complete enough (with a bit of tidying up) for the marriage of Miss Annie McCabe of Berrima and Dr. C. J. Jenkins.

Although the church was not quite finished the official opening took place on Sunday, February 20, 1887.

St Jude's Bowral

It was presided over by the Primate, Dr. Barry, who had so enthusiastically supported its construction. His sermon text for the occasion was from 1 Corinthians 13:13: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Adding an ecumenical aspect to the occasion, the choir of the neighbouring Weslyan church joined the choir of St Jude’s in the service. The final touches were finished by March 5. In accordance with church tradition, because the total debt on the church, hall and additional work of £2462/5/0 had not been paid completely, it was Sunday, January 28, 1905 that the official dedication was presided over by Archbishop Samurez Smith.

Two items were missing from the new building: a proper organ and a pulpit. From 1887 onwards the church only had the use of a small organ. Then in 1894 a committee was formed to raise funds for a proper one. Mrs. H. M. Oxley and Mrs. T Loveridge became joint honorary secretaries and treasurers, with 11 other members. The first function was a fete on the Oxley property which raised £40, and many others followed. By November 1898 enough was raised to talk to a notable Sydney organ specialist, Charles Richardson. The cost would be £350. Installation started on February 5, 1900, and the work was finished and dedicated on March 11 that year. Originally the keyboard was in the nave close to the sanctuary, but was moved to its present position during later work. It has had pipes added and been restored several times. It has been recently restored again, under the direction of the present organist, Dr. Allan Beavis.

A 1980 letter from a firm of Melbourne organ restorers, George Fincham, says it is a “rare example of a (Victorian) Richardson organ”. It is the biggest in the Southern Highlands and can he heard in regular midweek and Sunday concerts. According to Miss Barbara Morgan, daughter of the Rev Distin Morgan, the Rector of St Jude’s from 1910 to 1937, the organ was powered by a gas engine which “made an awful noise”.

This was sometimes used to effect by the organist, George Vincent, who walked from Mittagong twice a day every Sunday to play it. If he felt the sermon had gone on long enough, he would slip out and start it up.

Some parts of the original Blacket church were incorporated into the chancel floor and vestry, as was the bell tower. The only items of furniture that were transferred from the original church were the font and the communion table. For 12 years the new church had no pulpit, sermons being delivered from a reading desk. In December 1898 the Rector, the Rev. S. Wilkinson, was authorised to inquire about pulpits, and reported at the end of February that for £27/10/0 a handsome one could be obtained. He appealed for ladies (it was always the ladies!) to start a special pulpit fund, but a month later was able to report that it was going to be given as a gift by T. H. Keigwin.

On Saturday, April 29, 1899 an extra large packing case came down by train and was taken to the church. It was then discovered that measurement had not been made, or not too well – the pulpit would not fit through the main doorway. However with the doors taken off and a great deal of effort it was possible to get it through with 3.5 mm to spare!

In 1910 the interior of the church looked very different from the way it is today. In that year, Rev. Distin Morgan became the new Rector, and his daughter left recollections of the church at the time. There was green linoleum on the aisles and dark green paint up to 1.3m on the walls. Above that was a yellow dado, and then light green paint to the roof. At some time the chancel step and the font had been covered with a gloss enamel paint. The effort to remove it by hand with sandpaper took a long time, and for weeks it was necessary for the font to be covered by a tent to stop the dust flying everywhere. She commented that without heating the church was freezing on winter mornings. Even kerosene heaters taken over by her mother and herself and left on all Saturday night made little difference.

In the sanctuary area things were very plain, with only a red frontal on the communion table, or a white one for a festival day. After a long debate in 1907 and 1908 even flowers had been disallowed on the table. Gifts of vases and a brass cross were again to cause a lot of argument before they were eventually accepted.

A major change to the appearance of the sanctuary area occurred in 1931. From the proceeds of an estate left to the church, the wood panelling was designed, purchased, and erected. In the following years more panelling was erected, and choir stalls put in place.

This necessitated the moving of the pulpit to its present place. Gifts and memorials had helped to furnish the church, some of them remembering those who were killed in the world wars. A plaque on the minister’s reading desk at the end of the choir stalls remembers Herbert Edward Southey who died in Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.

In 2004, following consultation with the congregation, the sanctuary was remodelled. While the wood panelling around the walls was retained, the choir stalls were removed to create an open space flowing to the sides. This enabled the pulpit to be moved back to its original position and original height, for normal services. It is however, mobile so that for dramas or special presentations it can be moved out of the way. The new communion rails are also movable, making the whole area more flexible for congregational and public events.

One other link with Bowral’s history is the land given to the St Jude’s by John Norton Oxley in 1859. In 1910 there was no housing between the church and the hospital, but in the 1920s land was sold off. Members of the church, particularly Henry Molesworth Oxley, brother of John, felt that some of the land should be used for a place for adults and children to play. Bowral Council, which rented and finally bought land agreed, and a park and playing space would become the future Bradman Oval.

New Development - 2015

By 2011 it had become obvious that our present buildings no longer served well the seven day a week ministries of a modern church.  In the life of every church there comes a time when it is necessary to make a great effort to undertake a major redevelopment of its facilities to provide for ministry into the future and now is the time to redevelop our church complex.

This was an exciting and challenging time in the life of our church while building works were underway, the 9.45 Family service and 5.30pm Live service met in the Bowral Public School Hall and services held at the church managed to continue meeting in the original church.

The challenge that faced us was to unite our total membership, gather community support and raise at least $1.5 million through the sacrificial giving of our parishioners and friends of St Jude’s.


Our goal was to build a modern church complex that was sensitive to the heritage values of our site, while providing for a wide range of ministries and community activities.

The opening of the new facilities was held with great celebration in Autumn 2015 with Anglican Archbishop Glen Davies officiating, cutting the ribbon amongst a sea of autumnal balloons and decorations.

Further historical reading

The booklet “150 Years for Christ -1853 to 2003” provides a more detailed history of the Anglican ministry on the Southern Highlands and of the Church of St Simon and St Jude.

A copy can be obtained from the church office office@bowralanglican.org.au for $5.00 plus postage.

St Jude’s Cemetery

Included in the grounds of the original Glebe, located behind the existing church building is the Parish Cemetery.

Today, not a lot is known of the establishment of the cemetery, but it appears that the first burial took place in September 1886. The cemetery continued to be used until, in May, 1887, the Bowral “Church News” notified that no further burials would be permitted there after June 30, 1887, except where land had been “taken up and paid for previous to that date.”

The next development took place at a meeting of Bowral Municipal Council on July 3, 1890, when, to strengthen the church wardens’ hands, it was decided that the cemetery representatives receive notice that unless they prohibited burials in the present cemetery on and after August 1, 1890, only excepting those then owning land there, the council would pass a by-law prohibiting all burials under power conferred by the Municipalities Act, 1867. The general idea of this appears to have been that such action would force the Government of the day to act regarding settlement of establishment of another cemetery elsewhere.

An appropriate notice signed by Rev. J. W. Debenham as incumbent, and John Bowen, Copeland Bennett and A. B. Morgan as churchwardens was duly published, and a letter written pointing out that the position would be serious after August 1 unless a cemetery had been vested in trustees by then. The letter added: “Unless the authorities of the Wesleyan Church allow Church of England people to be buried in their cemetery, the bodies will have to be conveyed to Mittagong, Bong Bong or Berrima. This will cause great inconvenience and great expense . . .”

Land known as “Carter’s site” (the present-day General Cemetery) was resumed in February, 1891, the first burial was that of a New Zealander, George Parkinson, in the undenominational portion on June 14, 1892, and the Church of England section of the new cemetery was consecrated by the Primate, Dr. Saumarez Smith, on May 11, 1893.

Today, there is recorded, the names of some 118 people that have been buried in the cemetery. Visitors to the cemetery are often seen wandering among the gravestones to glean some of the sense of history.

For those interested in genealogy, information can be obtained from the following website link, or by email to office@bowralanglican.org.au


Included in the grounds of the original Glebe, located behind the existing church building is the Parish Cemetery.

Defined as: “a sepulchral vault or other structure with recesses in the walls to receive the ashes of the dead”.

The Parish has two such Columbarium walls incorporated into the cemetery.   These are still in use, with recesses or niches available for reservation.

If you would like more information, please contact the church office at: office@bowralanglican.org.au.

St Jude’s – Our History In Music

Pipe Organ

Pipe organ – early history

In November, 1898, the Sydney organ specialist Charles Richardson conferred, in Bowral, with the Rector and churchwardens, advised a pipe organ costing £350 as most suitable for the church’s requirements and offered to build a section for £250, and finish the work when the other £100 was forthcoming.

Mrs. H. M. (Emily) Oxley was able to guarantee that the £250 would be in hand by the following Easter, and, after discussion of technical details, Richardson was asked to submit plans and specifications for a £250 organ, which, with the consent of the parishioners, could be proceeded with without delay.

A meeting in February, 1899, authorised the Rector and wardens to obtain the instrument from Richardson, nearly £300 then being in hand, and a motion was carried acclaiming Mrs. Emily Oxley for initiating collection of funds, the service of ladies and friends who had assisted, and the generosity of a Mrs. Gadsden for her contributions.

Arthur Massey, organist at St Barnabas’, Sydney, authorised progress payments, and the work, under the contract, was to be finished by the following December, although, in fact, delays occurred, and the organ did not arrive in Bowral until February 5, 1900 – whereupon Richardson and two assistants set about its installation.


The Archbishop of Sydney, assisted by the Rector, Reverend E. S. Wilkinson, dedicated the instrument on Sunday, March 11, 1900, there being 340 in the morning service congregation, the same number at the afternoon confirmation service, and 288 in the evening. Text of the Archbishop’s Sermon was from Psalm 17: “Sing praises to God . . .”

The collections totaled £33 – sufficient to pay off the remaining debt on the organ, total cost of which was some £380. The same month, Ben Osborne gave £20 for a new 2ft. stop (the piccolo harmonic), and, by the end of March, installation work had been finished.

The first recital

Was given by Arthur Massey, assisted by his wife as soloist, and also by Cecil Compton (who had been appointed organist and choir- master in October, 1899, from many applicants, after eight years in a similar capacity at Moss Vale Church of England), and the choir.

Later history

Other important steps were, the installation of a gas engine to power the blower in 1901 (apparently nine pennyworth of gas then gave 10 hours’ service); and some years later the organist, G. E. Vincent, advised doing away with the gas engine and substituting some better method of supplying air to the organ, as the engine and bellows were noisy. Finally, electricity was used for the first time in the church, both for lighting and to power an electric motor, replacing the gas engine, on December 21, 1924.

The Richardson Organ had Great, Swell and Pedal organ departments, and 16 stops as well as couplers, including the Clarabella and Principal stops added in 1935 in memory of the late G. E. Vincent, organist and choirmaster at St Jude’s from 1908 until his death on March 6, 1932.

Despite Richardson’s skill, the organ chamber proved too small, and it was found that, although the walls had been covered with a solution reputedly impervious to damp, the organ was being affected by damp air, and steps were taken to enlarge the chamber at a cost of £40, a contractor named Potter doing the work.   The chamber was thus doubled in size and permitted the pipes to be set parallel to a new wall. During the history of the organ, numbers of repairs have, of course, been necessary.   The major undertaking having been the expenditure of some £365 in 1955 restoring the instrument to its original quality.

The Fincham rebuild

The Richardson Organ was originally built in the English Romantic tradition, but in 1981 it was completely rebuilt and extensively modified by the Melbourne firm of Finchams. This rebuild converted the Organ into the neo-classical style in vogue at the time and changed radically its tonal qualities and its action.

The Richardson-Fincham organ as modified by Peter Jewkes

In the late 1990s it was decided that the Organ was again in need of a major overhaul and Peter D G Jewkes Organ Builders was employed to restore the Organ’s action and make some tonal modifications to make the instrument more eclectic.

The first stage of this work was completed in 2003 when much of the Organ’s action and wind system was replaced and a stop combination piston system was installed. The second stage was completed in 2005 when a Trumpet Stop was added and further work was done on the action. The third stage was completed in 2008.  This stage significantly upgraded the Swell Organ by adding a Violin Diapason 8; replacing the Gemshorn 4 with a Principal 4; re-footing the Oboe8 and extending the rank to enable it to double as a Contra Oboe 16; and adding a Cornopean 8.  In many respects, this completes the tonal modifications.

The remaining work to be undertaken in the final stage of the 2003-2009 project is the cleaning of the Great Organ pipe work; the replacement of the Pedal board and its wiring to enable the Contra Oboe 16 to speak as an independent Pedal Organ stop.  This work will be carried out as funds become available.

To finance this work, members of the Church and local community have been invited to sponsor pipes. To date, pipes have been sponsored by individuals, families and organizations.

The St Jude’s Organ is significant to the Southern Highlands in that it is the largest and most complete instrument of its kind in the area capable of handling most of the standard organ repertoire. It is used regularly for services as well as for recitals at the Mid-week Lunchtime Series, Music in Autumn, Music in Spring, an annual Sponsors’ Recital and in other Community Concerts in the Church.

St Jude’s Annual Music Programme

St Jude’s offers a wide selection of music that will appeal to all tastes.

More can be read at the St Jude’s Music Association Website.


Our Church - The Present

St Jude’s is blessed to have a large property which includes an iconic two storied Rectory built in 1880, a beautiful Church building constructed in 1886 and a Sunday School Hall of similar vintage.

There are extensive grounds incorporating an historic cemetery all set off with beautiful deciduous trees.

However, these facilities did not meet the demands of a modern church family and St Jude’s has recently undertaken a significant re-development project to serve the needs of a growing and evolving Christian community well into the foreseeable future.

It takes into consideration the flow of people throughout the complex, including those in wheel chairs, and the needs of all ages throughout the complex.  It is functional, and sensitive to the heritage and environmental issues. Importantly, it will meet the ministry needs of St Jude’s well into the future.

Key features of the new design

  • A multipurpose auditorium to facilitate Contemporary Church Services of up to 250 people
  • A dedicated children’s and youth area with specialist facilities such as wet craft area, children’s toilets and storage.
  • A central lounge and reception area adjacent to the main entrance. This is the meeting hub and focal point of the whole complex with a welcoming stone gas fireplace to gather around.
  • A suite of offices for ministers and administration.
  • The church, auditorium, hall and the new structure are all linked together and under cover, minimising exposure to the elements.
  • A deck and children’s play area, all meeting modern safety standards.
  • A much larger and up-to-date kitchen.
  • Fellowship and meeting rooms.
  • Parking for up to 80 cars, with one way vehicle flow.

You are warmly invited to visit our new buildings, however if you contact us first we can arrange a warm welcome and tour of the complex.

Computer generated visualisation of the pre-existing and new buildings with the roof removed to show the internal layout of the various spaces.

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