St James Church of England

St James Church, Morpeth

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Pillidge , Town of Morpeth
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 1999.
The Building
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 Patron.
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 were needed.
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 Pews
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 Windows
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
The aisle of the Nave is set with tiles from the local homestead of Duckenfield Park
and were a gift from the Eales Family.
The Organ
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 is breathtaking.
The Pulpit
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 Font
The Baptismal Font was designed by Edmond Blankett and positioned in 1864
during alterations.
The Lectern
The eagle lectern which depicts the lifting and soaring of God's word is a memorial
to Bishop Tyrrell, who died in 1879.
The Statues
The wood carving of St James carrying his staff of pilgrimage and book, denoting
his spreading of God's word.
Also at the front of the church stands a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling
the baby Jesus in her arms.
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
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 felt
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 equipment.
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 indescribable.
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 cemetery
located in a small valley to the South of the church.
A tree lined path leads from Closebourn House to the Church. Sandstone stepping
blocks are still visable where the paths end and the road begins.

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© Copyright B & M Chapman (QLD) Australia
Last revised: 03/04/2017.