Saturday 25-Sunday 26 July: St James’ Morpeth Celebrates 175 Years

St James’ Morpeth – 175th Anniversary of Consecration

On Sunday the 26th of July St James Church Morpeth will be celebrating 175 years of worship and ministry in the Morpeth, Hinton, Woodville, Largs and surrounding communities.morpeth4

St James’ has also been very much a Diocesan church. Bishops Tyrrell, Pearson, Stanton and Stretch were all resident in Morpeth, which in the early days was also the administrative centre of the Diocese.

During the war years St James’ served also as the chapel for the Grammar School which was located at Morpeth for a time. As well those who have studied at St John’s or spent time at the former Diocesan Conference Centre will have fond memories of this historic church.

The parish warmly invites the Diocesan family to join them in celebrating the 175th anniversary of the consecration of St James. Bishop Greg will lead the worship, the service beginning at 10am. Following this there will be a BYO picnic in the Parish grounds (BYO everything)

Any clergy attending are invited to robe. Please advise the parish if you are doing so at

On December 31, 1840, St James’ Church Morpeth was opened and consecrated by the Bishop of Australia, William Grant Broughton. It had been three years in the building, and was provided for by the generous gift of local parishioner, Lt Edward Charles Close. For the people of St James’ Morpeth today, this anniversary marks an exciting celebration, a celebration marking the whole year!. However this is also a significant anniversary of the Diocese as the history of the Parish of Morpeth is much tied up with the early history of the Diocese.

175th year celebrations

Since these early days the people of St James’ Morpeth have continued to serve God, the parish, and the diocese faithfully. The parish has lived through the ups and downs many parishes have experienced, maintaining a faithful, cheerful and welcoming life.

As we celebrate this significant year in our church’s life the Parish has a number of activities planned. In February, at a launch of the 175th year, former Rector the Reverend Dr Ray Williamson preached.

In March we held a Tyrrell dinner – celebrating the life of Bishop William Tyrrell, former parishioner as well as bishop. Some of the produce of his nephew’s family was sampled during the evening.

We have marked the centenary of Anzac as a parish, remembering our Gallipoli veteran, Rupert Craddick who was killed at Lone Pine. During Reconciliation week we will celebrate in worship the first peoples to walk our land, the Wonnarua people, acknowledge their custodianship, but also recall the sadness of their story. We will have a convict dinner (should be easy catering!), and hear from local historian Brian Walsh on this part of our region’s story.

morpethThe Main Event – July 25-26

This July we invite all who would like to celebrate with us to join for fellowship and worship. There will be a 175th dinner held at the East Maitland Bowling Club on the Saturday evening. Bookings may be made through the Parish

On July 26 (the date on which we shall mark St James this year) we will celebrate and give thanks for 175 years of faithful life and ministry here, and for the great gift the parish has been given, both through Close, and through the lives of many clergy and parishioners. Our worship will be led by Bishop Greg Thompson, commencing at 10am. An old fashioned BYO picnic lunch will follow in the church and rectory grounds. All welcome.

Finally, as part of our 175th year, the parish would like to gift a stained glass window to the church, and also build up the stonework repair fund. Enquire at the parish.

We’d love to have you join us for our 175th year, you will be warmly welcomed.

Some early history

The first official Anglican presence in the Newcastle and Hunter region can be found with the appointment of the Colonial Chaplain Middleton to the area north of the Hawkesbury. With the appointment of William Grant Broughton as Bishop of the See of Australia in 1837, the first steps towards a more formal church structure began. By this time there was the first Christ Church Newcastle (1818, later replaced) and the AA Company had built a chapel at Stroud (1833 – this was consecrated as a church in 1851).

Elkin records St James’ Church as the next church built, with several others also in construction at the time.

There were soon a dozen parishes. Morpeth was part of East Maitland Parish, while across the river many of the areas that now also make up the parish of Morpeth were designated the Parish of Hinton.

St James’ Churchmorpeth5

The story of St James’ Church is said to begin on the battlefields of the Peninsular War, in Spain. Here, Close and his men rushed in for a battle of which Close was the only survivor. It is said that he there made a promise that if his life was spared he would build a church. In 1837 he fulfilled this vow overseeing the building of St James’ Church.

The foundation stone was laid on the 2nd of January 1837, for a building project that took almost four years to complete.

The consecration ceremony was held on December 31 was said to be an event of some significance, as St. James’ Church at Morpeth was the first to be completed and consecrated in the Hunter Valley, north of Newcastle.

A Diocese (and a Parish!) proclaimed

In 1848, with the founding of the Diocese and the arrival of Bishop Tyrrell, Morpeth became the home of the Bishop and the heart of the Diocese. Bishop Tyrrell lived first in the Rectory, until he had completed the purchase of Closebourne – “Bishopscourt” in late 1848. Bishops Pearson (1880-1889) and Stanton (1890-1905) also lived in this home).

Bishop Tyrrell saw himself as very much a parishioner of the Parish, and took his part in parish life when his travels and duties allowed him to.

1848 is also a significant year for the Parish of Morpeth which was declared that year and had its first rector, Josiah Rodwell, appointed.