A brief history of Anglican (Church of England) Church in Ararat


Rev'd Philip Homan

Rev'd Philip Homan

The Rev’d Philip Homan (1814–1896) (ordained in 1849 in Ireland) had been brought to Australia from Ireland in April 1856 by Bishop Charles Perry, the first Bishop of Melbourne. The Rev’d Homan was asked to work on the gold diggings and rode his horse around Creswick to Fiery Creek (Beaufort) and made occasional visits to Ararat and Pleasant Creek (Stawell). The Ararat Parish registers show baptisms of children in May 1856 by Rev’d Homan and the marriage of William Bobart and Harriet Clarke at Cathcart in October that same year.

In October 1857, there were meetings in Ararat to work towards having a resident clergyman and school building (which could also be used for public worship.) Mid October 1857 saw the arrival of Rev’d Philip Homan as the resident clergyman to Ararat and district. Worship was held in a tent near the present Rectory. The tent proved unsatisfactory in high winds. Church was at 11am and 6.30pm while Sunday School was at 10am and 2pm on Sundays. The Trustee and Vestry meetings were held in Bank of NSW.

In November 1857 the Government granted ₤200 for a Church and later the Denominational School Board granted ₤200 for a School building. In April 1858 Bishop Charles Perry opened the new Church of England school house as a place of worship. The School was run by Headmaster Mr William Brown and cost ₤315, ₤51 being contributed locally and ₤200 coming from the Denominational School Board. In 1863 was enlarged by 20 feet at a cost of less than ₤100. Rev’d Philip Homan lived in a tent in Cathcart and later in Ararat. Funds were also sought for the building of a parsonage which was built for slightly over ₤200. This was four bluestone rooms near the site of the present vicarage.

In September 1859, two acres was reserved by the Government for development by the Church. In September 1863 the Rev’d Homan wrote to the Diocesan Architect to furnish plans for a Church capable of seating 300 people in the body of the Church and costing about ₤2500 with chancel and tower or ₤1500 without chancel and tower.) In November 1863, the foundation stone for the Church was laid by Archdeacon Braim of Portland but it was not until 21st October 1866 that the Church was opened and dedicated by the Venerable Theodore Stretch, Archdeacon of Geelong. The Church was finally consecrated on the 16th April 1882 by the Right Rev’d James Moorhouse, Bishop of Melbourne acting for the Bishop of Ballarat (Samuel Thornton) who was absent.

On 26th September 1867, Rev’d Philip Homan married Miss Charlotte Langley at Gorrinn by Archdeacon John Potter.  Together they had seven children.

In April 1875, Right Rev’d Dr Samuel Thornton was consecrated the first Bishop of Ballarat in Westminister Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He arrived in Ballarat in August 1875. In December 1875, the first bishop of Ballarat (Bishop Samuel Thornton) visited the parish for the first time.  He arrived by train and had a luncheon in the parsonage garden.

The Rev’d Philip Homan resigned from Ararat on 30th June 1889, aged 75 years and having served in the Parish for over 32 years. He later died in Moonee Ponds on 21st September 1896. In November 1989 lamps in the church were to be lit by gas at a cost of ₤20/17/-

In 1891, during the time of Rev’d Samuel McGeorge the foundation stone for a new Sunday School was laid. The building cost ₤570. The building was opened by the Ven Archdeacon Arthur Green on April 29th 1891.

In 1901, the Church of England Grammar School started with the help of the then curate Rev’d Andrew E Peacock who was the first Principal. Other staff in 1901 were Arthur Ashley, Miss E.G Stephens, Miss Cannon, Miss Vickery and Mrs Weir. By 1910 the School was well established and additional class rooms had to be built and old ones renovated. There were 3 permanent teachers, 2 visiting teachers, 72 day students and 8 night scholars ranging in age from 6-18 years old. Evening classes for short hand, typing and book keeping were held. In 1911, the Headmaster was J.H Davies and the school consisted of a newly built bluestone and brick building of five classrooms, two lavatories and an office. There were dual desks in the latest design. The Ararat Grammar School was governed by the Vestry of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ararat, with the object of giving sound education up to the Standard of the Melbourne Senior Public Examinations, and based on a religious foundation according to the teaching of the Church of England. Boarders were under the personal charge of the Headmaster and his wife and the School had a cadet corps and scout patrols. The play ground comprised almost 6 acres contained areas for cricket, football, tennis, basketball, rifle shooting, a children’s corner including slides, swings and see-saw and also stalls for ponies of those scholars who rode in from the country. This School continued to operate until the 1950’s. In 1957 the Ararat Church of England Grammar School closed due to financial problems. There were 35 pupils enrolled and one teacher at the time.

The Church in 1903

The Church in 1903

During the time of Rev’d Edward H Davies there was a need for extending the church. The chancel was added for approx. ₤1000 and dedicated by the Right Rev’d Arthur V Green, second Bishop of Ballarat, on 26th June 1903.

In 1911, during the time of the fourth vicar of Ararat Rev’d Sidney Beveridge, the charming brick church at Great Western was build. This was consecrated by Bishop Arthur Green on May 10th 1911. Also in 1911 a bell was obtained for the Church in Ararat. The Parish of Ararat consisted of a church at Great Western, Moyston and Buangor. Landsborough has been part of the parish (it is now part of Stawell parish) and in recent times Willaura has joined the parish. The church at Willaura was consecrated on 8th February 1911.

During the time of Rev’d Harry Noltenius, the debt from the building of the Chancel in 1903 was cleared and the building of the new and current vicarage was constantly discussed. The old vicarage was in need of repair but repairs had been delayed for many years. After the Great War the vicarage was on the agenda again and the new vicarage was opened on January 9th 1923 at a cost of ₤2,800. The old vicarage was sold for ₤100.

In 1915, money was raised to erect the High Street gates costing ₤100 and iron framework costing ₤50 in memory of Rev’d Andrew E Peacock having spent 16 years in Ararat (3½ as a curate). Rev’d Peacock rendered conspicuous service in the parish between 1898 and 1901. He died in Warrnambool in 1912 having become Archdeacon there. These gates provided the entrance to the Church, ending with a huge cedar of Lebanon trees growing outside the Church doors. Some seedings of this are now growing behind the present bell tower.

Rev’d George Menlove arrived in the parish in 1925 and successfully cleared the ₤1000 debt on the vicarage. He also restored and beautified the Church in between 1926 and 1928. These alterations cost about ₤5000. In 1928, His Excellency, Lord Somers, Governor of Victoria laid a corner stone of the church extensions.  Land was also purchased in High Street.

Rev’d Bertrum Dewhurst gave sympathetic ministry during the depression. In January 1940 Holy Trinity Church was gutted by fire and within half a hour the roof collapsed and the building was ruined. The vicar and his people toiled together and the Church was re-built and re-dedicated and made more beautiful than before. This was done within one year of the fire and without incurring further debt. The restored church was consecrated by Bishop William Johnson in December 1940. While the church was being rebuilt worship was held in the church hall after more chairs costing 2/6p each were purchased.

In 1941, the giving by envelope system was introduced in the Parish and started with 50 envelopes. The Annual fete in 1945 brought in a profit of ₤190 and the verger was paid ₤2 a week.  The Vestry, in 1945, discussed in great detail the desire of the tennis club to have Sunday afternoon matches for members only. A motion granted permission provided they attended church services and other activities first and that they commenced after 1.30pm and concluded by 5pm. This motion was defeated.

In September 1946 “Anglican Youth Week” was held a saw the forming of a C.E.B.S (Church of England Boys Society) and “Soldiers of the Cross” system in the Sunday School. Later a Parish Youth Council was formed and a branch of the C.E Fellowship.

The Church in the 1950s

The Church in the 1950s

In 1951, Rev’d Canon Ernest Yeo was appointed . He was paid a stipend of ₤400 per annum plus a traveling allowance of ₤120. He was also given the sum of ₤104 per annum for work in the Ararat Mental Hospital. At the rear of the Rectory, in 1951, there was still a stable and buggy house with a hay loft above. Attached to this was a wash house, which was later converted to a temporary residence for Rev’d Neville Thulborne, the first assistant curate.  Also in 1951 there was a pipe organ where the present pipe organ is situated, with choir stalls in the sanctuary. The organ had deteriorated beyond repair and was sold for ₤600.  The electric organ, which replaced the old organ, was in an organ loft above the (liturgically) west doors and the speakers attached to the walls above the baptistery.

In 1956, a Youth Hall was erected as a memorial to those from the parish who served in World War II. The building was dedicated by the then Bishop of Ballarat, Bishop Johnson on Sunday 30th September 1956.
In April 1961 a new electric organ (Wurlitzer organ and amplifier) was installed in the Church. This organ broke down in November 1979 and the minutes of the Parish council said that a guitar would be used on Sundays as a temporary measure.

During 1980, plans were made to purchase a Logan “kit” home to be used by the curate. The Diocese released $8,876 from investments held by Holy Trinity towards the cost of erection. Another $8,000 bank loan was approved. Many working bees enabled the house to be built.  The final cost of the Curates house was $27,500 including carpets and paths. This house is now known as “Church House” and was blessed by Bishop John Hazlewood in May 1981. A double garage was added for $788 in 1982.

After many years of planning and much discussion, the plans for the Narthex were completed in 1984. The narthex was built and blessed by Bishop John Hazlewood on 14th July 1985 at a Choral evensong..
The current hall was built in 1988 after land was sold to Safeway Supermarket. The Hall was blessed by Bishop John Hazlewood at the 7.30pm Evensong on 30th October 1988. The choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Ballarat assisted in the service. High tea was held before the service in the hall and a cup of tea was also provided afterwards.
In 1989, an organ fund was established to raise money to replace the electric organ. During this year a choir was formed and introduced sung psalms. In 1993, it was decided to buy a pipe organ from Goodwood Uniting Church, Adelaide for $10,000. The pipe organ was built by George Fincham and Sons in 1960. It cost another $23,000 to dismantle the organ in Adelaide, move it to Ararat and to reassemble it in May 1994.

2005 saw the laying of new carpet in the Church at a cost of $10,000 and the sanding and refurbishing of the floor in the hall.

Incumbencies at Ararat

This brief history was compiled from a variety of sources by Fr John Mathes, Fr John Burston, Leila Croft and Julia Norman-Bail.