St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Yarrawonga

A Historical Summary

The first recorded Church of England service in Yarrawonga was held in the Apollo Hall, Witt Street, in 1879. Services had been held earlier at neighbouring Mulwala, New South Wales.

St. Cuthbert, an early British saint and a monk of Lindisdfarne (later Bishop) was chosen as Patron. His relics are preserved in Durham Cathedral.

Until 1884, when the first St. Cuthbert’s church was built, divine services were conducted in schools at Yarrawonga, Boomahnoomoonah, Tungamah, Youarang North, Pelluebla South and Lake Rowan by Reverend A. T. Hayhow and Reverend L. R. West (the first Rector of Yarrawonga, from 1880, appointed by the Bishop of Melbourne).

St. Cuthbert, Yarrawonga

By 1882 there were moves to erect a permanent church in Yarrawonga. Land at the corner of Lynch and Piper Streets was purchased by Bishop James Moorhouse from Mr. J. Reilly. The land cost 8 pounds, and the tender price for the church was 100 pounds. Contractor Mr. J. K. Fahey used local bricks made by a Mr. Grenell.

The enthusiastic planning committee for the first St. Cuthbert’s met fortnightly in Hunt’s Hotel.

The memorial stone was laid by the Venerable Archdeacon Tucker on 26th May 1884; the church was constructed and dedicated in that year. By 1897, the church was paid for and consecrated by the Bishop of Melbourne.

St. Cuthbert, Yarrawonga, Memorial Stone

In 1902, the Diocese of Wangaratta, together with those of Bendigo and Gippsland, were formed out of the Diocese of Melbourne and at this time some re-formation took place of the parishes that formed part of the new Diocese.

The first Rectory was built in Ely Street on land given by Mr. J. Reilly.

Originally part of the Parish of Benalla, Yarrawonga, became an autonomous parish in the early 1900’s and included St. Alban’s at Tungamah and St. Oswald’s at Boomahnoomoonah.

In 1930, the present rectory was built by Mr. A.M. Chappell adjacent to the church. The keys were handed over on 16th November to the Venerable Archdeacon Potter, who was Administrator of the Diocese in the absence of Bishop Hart. The building was said to “present an air of solidarity and dignity and is a notable addition to the better class residences of the town”.

By the late 1950’s the Vestry, the Rector and parishioners were concerned about safety aspects of the church, and the need for a larger building.

A number of parishioners provided interest free loans, which made a replacement building possible. The Rector, the Reverend Stanley Goldsworthy “wrote an inspired brief for architect John Rosenthal”; the tender of 60,000 pounds by builders L.W. Brown Constructions Ltd. of Wangaratta was accepted; and the foundation stone was laid on 15th May 1966 by the Bishop of Wangaratta, the Right Reverend T. McCall. The Churchwardens at the time were Dr. N J McCarthy and Messrs. H J Judd and R J Wright.

The new church was, for that time, a quite contemporary design and certainly different in style to any other church of the diocese. It remains so today. It portrays an air of the Colonial style of building using simple lines and basic materials. It was an attempt to meet the demands of modern liturgical practice of the time while using architectural planning familiar at the time. Even today, one would have to say that it has met these criteria well.

The interior provides unrestricted view from any point in the church to the Sanctuary area. Its openness of space allows liturgical freedom with the spacious sanctuary providing a wonderful place for music, drama as well as the essential use of worship There is an atmosphere of peace, beauty and holiness as one sits in reflection and prayer. It is certainly a place best not judged from external appearance which, though having beautiful sweeping lines, can present a bland brick appearance. True expression of its beauty is within.

The church, a modern structure with a massive granite altar symbolizing the heart of parish life, was completed and dedicated in November, 1966. A crowd of 600 people, representing all denominations attended the dedication service.

St.Cuthbert, Yarrawonga, Massive granite Altar

The cross which greets those entering the new St Cuthbert’s was mounted at the highest point of the old church. The prominent cross was a feature of the original church, thus providing continuity.

Original cross of Yarrawonga St. Cuthbert Church
St. Cuthbert, Plaque

In 1969, St. Thomas’s at St. James was transferred to Yarrawonga Parish from Wangaratta.

In 1975 the original church building was demolished, having stood for 90 years, however part of the foundation is still visible near the Centenary Rock.

A fire on 30th June 1978, extensively damaged the east end of the new church and valuable vestments, artifacts and records were destroyed.

In the aftermath of the fire the parish realized the truth in St. Paul’s words; ” in all things God works for good with those who love him ” . The insurance company moved quickly; the builder of the church started work within four days; and the parishioners who had provided loan money for the building donated the outstanding balances to clear the debt!

New build St. Cuthbert Church, Yarrawonga

By 17th September, 1978, the building was complete and debt free, and most of the missing articles replaced. The Right Reverend Maxwell Thomas, Bishop of Wangaratta, when performing the consecration, wore a cape made by Miss Lorna Lean, who had made the original vestments destroyed in the fire.

The overflowing congregation shared an uplifting experience when the former Primate, Archbishop Sir Phillip Strong; Bishop Stanley Goldsworthy, who was Rector of St. Cuthbert’s 1959-72; and Bishop Thomas joined to give the blessing.

In 1981 the Church of England in Australia became the Anglican Church of Australia. The abbreviation C of E became redundant, parishioners henceforth known as Anglicans.

Maxwell Thomas Plaque

A new hall was added to the church complex in 1984, which marked the centenary of the parish and a rock near the Piper St Driveway entrance, bears the centenary plaque. Four hundred people attended the dedication ceremony conducted by Bishop Thomas. The hall, which is used frequently, is a welcoming building; its architecture blending with that of the church. The Ladies’ Auxiliary designed the excellent kitchen. In 1997, an extension to the east end formed a flower and storage room.

A small chapel was added in 1994 on the south wall of the main sanctuary. Known as the Lady Chapel, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Right Reverend Robert Beal, Bishop of Wangaratta. The chapel features four splendid lead light windows from the original St. Cuthbert’s. The altar was a gift from St. Andrew by the Lake, Mulwala.

Lady Chapel, St. Cuthbert's Church

The Parish Church of St Cuthbert continues to this day as a strong Christian presence within Yarrawonga. The church has had upgrades at various times and an enthusiastic parish family ensures that the Church always presents well to those who pass by. The church is surrounded by well-maintained gardens and lawns and all buildings integrate well to serve the ministry and mission of the parish. May this continue well into the years and decades ahead?

Date Name General Information
1880 The Rev’d L. West
1886 The Rev’d L. White
1888 The Rev’d L. H. Potter   (also Archdeacon of Wangaratta)
1895 The Rev’d J. G. Swan
1906 The Rev’d F. W. Wray  (also a canon of Holy Trinity Cathedral Wangaratta)
1914 The Rev’d J. P. Oates
1915 The Rev’d G. Nelson  (also a Canon of Holy Trinity Cathedral Wangaratta)
1920 The Rev’d J. E. Stanage
1923 The Rev’d W. A. Williams
1927  The Rev’d W. J. Chesterfield  (later Canon and Archdeacon of the Diocese)
1950 The Rev’d C. J. Coish
1959-72 The Rev’d S. Goldsworthy   (later Archdeacon and Bishop of Bunbury W.A.)
1972-78 The Rev’d J. Thomson  (also Canon at Holy Trinity Cathedral Wangaratta)
1978-88 The Rev’d G. Terry
1988–94 The Rev’d G. Reynolds  (also Canon at Holy Trinity Cathedral Wangaratta)
1995–99 The Rev’d R. Farnell
2000–04 The Rev’d R. Niehus
2005-17 The Rev’d M. Jones  (also Canon at Holy Trinity Cathedral Wangaratta)
2017-22 The Rev’d N. Hicks