St. Philip and St. James C/E Cemetery

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Australian Cemeteries Index
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Curator: Clarrie Bartlett 08.83863782


The fine old church of St. Philip and St. James nestles on the side of a hill outside the town ship of Old Noarlunga, on the outskirts of Adelaide , South Australia . Built in the early days of the settlement of South Australia , it has become a landmark for, not only the residents, but also all travellers between Victor Harbour and Adelaide .

The first stone was laid in December in 1850, followed in March 1851 by Bishop Augustus Short laying the Foundation stone, believed to be on the Northern wall. It was a further 14 months before the building was ready to be dedicated and used.

As was the custom, the Anglican Church Council granted 150 pounds sterling towards the cost, and the rest of the money was raised by whatever means was possible. Consequently, it was only the bare bones of the church that were used for the first 15 years. The Tower was magnificent; standing regally, looking down towards the sea. Under the tower was a small porch leading into the nave. No more, no less, but it served the people from Hackham in the north, Port Noarlunga, Seaford and Moana in the West and the farming community in the surrounding area.

The stone for the church had been quarried from the riverbank. The Onkaparinga flows to the east of the church about a hundred yards from the building and down very steep cliffs. Bullocks hauled the rocks up the face of these cliffs using a winch anchored to a rock outcrop amongst what is now the graveyard. It is marked by a special notice and can be found just south of the Tower in amongst the tombstones. This piece of ingenuity was of great interest and became the focal point of many an outing. The main road south wound from Hackham down past the front of the church to the Horseshoe Hotel, then east to ford the river and up the hill on the other side towards McLaren Vale and Encounter Bay.

Slowly the rattling of the slates on the roof began to distract from the sermon, and the draughts from the hessian-covered windows became too much. After all, it was on a hill and hills attract breezes.

After about 13 years, renewed interest, probably helped by a certain prosperity in the area, brought about a change. The church was extended to allow for a sanctuary, chancel and vestry, with a large archway leading to them. However in forming the archway, the southern wall moved about an inch, and it was found necessary to place two buttresses on the eastern end of the south wall. The windows were glassed in with leadlight, except those on the Tower which are still covered in with sheet metal, and the roof was re-slated, more professionally, to prevent the rattling and no doubt to stop the leaking. The walls inside still remained untreated stone.

The Rev. E. K. Miller was vicar of the Willunga area by now. He eventually had the four churches in the Parish under his wing, and resided in the vicarage at Willunga, deemed at that stage the most central area. From here he rode his horse on Sundays to attend to his flock, and conduct the last service of the day at 3pm at St. Philip and St. James. For about 20 years this was his habit, until the kind inhabitants of the little town of Noarlunga , banded together and raised funds to buy him a buggy. Sad they must have been to see this much-loved vicar retire. But there was still time in his old age to settle down and write his memoirs which have become a valuable and reliable source of information to historians of today.

Just after the turn of the century, the church was in trouble again. Cracks and general wear and tear were showing in the additions, so these were removed and replaced with more “commodious” lines, but making the area too dark for the choir. It was then decided to install the beautiful east window. The leadlight window, typical of its day, was installed by 1915 and, apart from removal during the war years, it remains a joy to everyone who enters. Also about this time, the stone flagging was replaced by a wooden floor.

1931 saw more repairs take place, but not structural, while over the years the inside walls were finally painted. The Noarlunga Council gave valuable help in 1974 when the land to the north was reformed to prevent water damaging the wall. A fence was built, and trees planted along the front. But still there is no electricity. One day of the year the 8 kerosene lamps are hung and lit for the midnight service at Christmas.

So electric power is needed as well as attention to the ravages that time - 140 years in fact - has wrought on the fine old building. A loyal faithful congregation has tried hard over the years to maintain the church but now must ask for help.

A maintenance and restoration committee was formed in 1989 to plan for the current restoration program both in the short and long terms. The architect for the State Heritage Branch of the Department of Environment and Planning is advising and closely monitoring the preparation for the first stage which is concerned with the replacement of stone capping on the shoulders of the walls and lower tower. The funding for this has been provided by the $1,500 donation from Morphett Vale Branch of the National Trust. The provision of machinery by the Noarlunga City Council will also make possible the construction of a french drain on the northern side of the building.


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