St James Church of England
St James Church,
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Pillidge , Town
Morpeth Church of England Cemetery
Photo of foundation plaque
courtesy of Mark Pillidge
: : 20/2/2000
This passage was copied
exactly as it apears in a small brochure written presumably by a
member of the Parish Council ,obtained from the church in November
The building was constructed to fulfil
a battle vow of Lieutenant Edward Close
during the Peninsular War. The
foundation stone was laid on January 2, 1837. The construction of
sandstone walls, lined with hand made bricks, was carried out over a
three (3)year period with stone being quarried locally. The church
was completed in 1840 and consecrated on December 31, 1840 by
William Broughton the first Bishop of Australia with St James as its
In the early 1860's the Architect
Edmond Blackett was engaged to design and
implement additions and changes to the
building to accommodate the growing congregation, including the
addition of the Sanctuary and Vestry, the Chancel arch and the
carved stone pulpit.
In 1874 the church suffered major
damage from a fire in the roof which resulted in
another architect to be engaged, Mr.
John Horbury Hunt, to oversee the repairs.
He included in the repairs the walls
to the Nave to be rebuilt higher by an extra two
courses, while removing the original
internal brick lining to these walls, and the new "hammer beam"
style of roof, which resembles the hull of a timber ship was
constructed. His design for the roof and ceiling was considered "a
thirlling concept and a most remarkable feature",
as quoted by Professor A P Elkin, a later rector.
This is the roof framing which is
still visible today. The roof was clad with slate
shingles (which were removed around
the 1940's) Also the style of buttresses were changed from the
original rounded parapet style to the square shape which are also
visible along the outside of the church today. The tower remained
the same, thus giving the appearance of being short in comparison to
the rest of the church.
In 1989 the church suffered major
structural damage as a result of the "Newcastle
Earthquake". Woodhouse &
Danks, Sydney architects were engaged to oversee the repairs that
As well as structural repairs such as
tensioning rods being drilled through the
rubble filled sandstone cavity walls
the Parish undertook secondary repairs which included the
replacement of Asbestos shingles for the new fibrous cement
currently in place, the repair to roof framing and lining timbers
and the replacement of the dormer vents located along the apex of
the Nave roof. Also floor repairs were carried out along with the
sympathetic upgrading of lighting to the building. The repairs
commenced in 1993 and took almost 12 months to complete.
The existing cedar pews
and the beautifully carved pew ends are from locally hewn
cedar and were placed in
the church in 1864 and have survived fire, as well as thoughts in
the 1960's "to
cut off the carved tops of the pew ends "
as they blocked the view.
They offer testament to
over a century of use, including initials carved in them by
past students of the
Church of England Grammar School (Closebourne Centre)
The Stained Glass
As well as the East window, St James Church also has other
fine stained glass
windows. In the Porch there are two stained glass windows on
opposite walls which remind us of the time when St James was the
parish church for the Bishop of the Newcastle Diocese. One window is
in the memory of William Tyrrell, the first Bishop of Newcastle,the
other is of George Stanton, the third Bishop.
At the front of the Nave, adjacent to the chancel arch is a
three panel stained glass
window of the three Apostles; Peter, James and John.
The aisle of the Nave is
set with tiles from the local homestead of Duckenfield
and were a gift from the
The original organ was
located in the Gallery level within the tower, with the
western wall between the
tower and the Nave on that level being open. The present instrument
is a rare, surviving William Davidson organ installed in 1877.
Originally it was constructed in the front left hand corner of the
chancel, but it obscured nto only the window but also part of the
chancel arch. Operated by air generated by bellows you can still see
the mark against the stone where the person who pumped the bellows
stood, behind a timber screen.
In the 1940's it was
decided to electrify the air pump to the organ and shift it to its
present location at the
rear of the Nave.
The East Window
In 1871 the beautiful East window (picture above) was
installed in memory of
Edward Charles Close who died on May 7th, 1866.
The dominant and magnificent five level stained glass window
depicts: the central
lights of the Last Supper, Jesus' crucifiction in the centre
focal panels and His Resurrection. These panels are crowned by a
rose window, uniquely placed in an eastern church wall, depicting
the Ascension. Bishop Tyrrell is said to have designed the window to
teach and create beauty in his parish church. The window was paid
for by the "inhabitants of the district"in
memory of the founder of St James Church. The full impact of this
window is best experienced when the rising sun's rays filter through
the coloured glass. The coloured shafts entering the darkened church
This unique Pulpit is a
replica of the medieval pulpit from the church in Beaulieu
parish Hampshire England
where William Tyrrell had been parish priest before his appointment
to Newcastle.The meticulously cut stone was crafted by Daniel Yates,
a Maitland stone mason.
The Baptismal Font was
designed by Edmond Blankett and positioned in 1864
The eagle lectern which
depicts the lifting and soaring of God's word is a memorial
to Bishop Tyrrell, who
died in 1879.
The wood carving of St
James carrying his staff of pilgrimage and book, denoting
his spreading of God's
Also at the front of the
church stands a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling
the baby Jesus in her
Standing under both of
these statues are Votive candle stands where people may say a prayer
and light a candle as a symbol of offering their prayer to God.
The foundation stone
which is located at the floor level near the Chancel Arch was
laid by Edward Close, the
13 year old son of Lieutenant Charles Edward Close. He was 51 years
old when he laid the same foundation stone once more when the church
was re-built after the fire in 1874.
The passage below is not
related to the one above but is only a reflection of the feelings we
During November 1999 we visited this church, We took these
photo's so they would remain as part of this
site.It was truely amazing to stand in front of this church
and witness what some of our country's early pioneers had built.
Built from sandstone blocks carved and transported to the site, the
church was erected with out the use of (as we call) modern
Standing in the door you enter the first section of the
church mainly notice boards and a few tribute plaques
on the walls. This leads to the main chapel and, it is, as
if you are transported back in time. The feeling one gets is
The inside of the church is solemn and tranquil. Light
shines through the stained glass window that
overlooks the altar. This window is made of hundreds of
stained glass pieces . The seating is made from timbers that date
back to the time the church was built. The workmanship is of a style
that salutes the church . Every detail is as one would expect from
the craftsmen of the 19th century. church .
Standing in the chapel you can feel the presence of those
who used the Church . The christenings, the
mariages and finally the last rites of those who lived and
worked the land around Morpeth. This church would have been the last
place for many before they began their final journey to the small
located in a small valley to the South of the church.
A tree lined path leads from Closebourn House to the Church.
blocks are still visable where the paths end and the road
Copyright B & M Chapman (QLD) Australia