Drawing by Andrew Foy
The Hunter Baillie Memorial Church was officially opened on 23 February, 1889, after three years' construction. The Church and its furnishings, together with a Manse (which stood on the adjoining corner of the intersection), a hall and the land on which they were all erected were financed at her own expense, at a cost of more than £35,000, by Mrs Helen Hunter Baillie (née Mackie) as a memorial to her husband. John Hunter Baillie died in 1854 at age thirty-five while still Secretary and Inspector of the Bank of New South Wales. His widow was seventy-eight when she died in 1897.
The church's architect was Arthur Blacket, son of the famous colonial architect Edmund Blacket. Morton Herman, in his book 'Architecture of Victorian Sydney', describes the church thus: . . . with a pure and delightful silhouette when seen from any angle . . . Edmund Blacket . . . built many beautiful towers and spires in his time . . . none of them quite equals the dramatic delicacy of Hunter Baillie Church.
The building is constructed in early English Gothic style, albeit with a Scottish character. The magnificent spire (the tallest in Sydney) reaches a height of sixty metres above street level. The interior is finely proportioned with massive pillars of Scottish granite and Melbourne bluestone; stained glass and an open timbered roof add to the beauty and dignity of the building. Much of the timber is Australian red cedar whilst the pulpit is superbly carved Oamaru stone from New Zealand, with green marble columns and base. Being of great historical and architectural significance the building is the subject of a Permanent Conservation Order by the Heritage Council of N.S.W. It is also on the National Estate register.
The church has been the object of an on-going program of restoration. The Heritage Council, recognising the significance of the Hunter Baillie Church funded major restoration work in the 1980s to an amount of $90,000. This permitted reconstruction of the southern transept and restoration of the stained glass in both transepts. The congregation was responsible for the restoration of the unique brass coronets (the original gas lights!) and sanctuary lamps as well as the iron fence and vestibule gates. The stained glass windows in the aisles were restored to mark the church's centenary year. On-going restoration is being performed by voluntary labour with the help of donations to the Restoration Fund.
Much still remains to be done including the tower, clerestory windows, stonework and the organ and the cost will be very great. We hope that the Heritage Council will continue to assist as funds become available, and that the support of members and friends to give both their time and money for the work will also continue so that the restoration program can be completed. Any donation that you might make to further the restoration of this grand example of our country's heritage would be most gratefully received. Donations $2.00 and over are tax deductible.
Refer Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February, 2004. smh
Refer NSW Heritage Office website for Heritage information www.heritage.nsw.gov.au
Presbyterian Church of Australia website www.Presbyterian.org.au
Presbyterian Church in NSW website on the parish website www.pcnsw.org.au
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