St John’s Church Celebrates 175th Anniversary

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St John’s Church is a much-loved icon of Camden. Its tall steeple visible from across the district, with its prominent position up on the hill. 2024 marks a significant milestone. On the7th of June, St John’s Church Camden celebrated the 175th Anniversary of its consecration.

Provisions for the Anglican church date back to 1825, when John Macarthur acquired 5,400 acres of land, which would become the Camden township and St John’s Church Precinct. Following John Macarthur’s death in 1834, his two sons James and William, began clearing land in preparation for the town. The brother’s plans for the town included a police station, magistrate’s court, post office and Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian Churches.

In May 1841, a parcel of land was allocated to the Bishop of Australia, Rev. William Broughton, for the erection of a church, a residence for a clergyman and a burial ground.
The original church building plans were drawn in 1837 by James Hume of Sydney for a ‘classical style’ building. However, his design was abandoned above the 1840 foundation course in favour of the then contemporary ‘decorated gothic style’ design provided by John Cunningham, an English architect known to the Macarthur family.

In late 1837, Samuel Wheeler, was brought to Australia with his parents by the Macarthur family. As sawyers, they were employed by the Macarthurs to cut the finest timber for the construction of St John’s. Their exquisite craftsmanship evident in the ironbark ceiling and cedarwood pews of the time.

Richard Basden, the local builder, was employed to construct the church. He supplied the 386,000 bricks from his brickyard, located on the corner of Argyle and Oxley Streets. John LeFevre acted as the carpenter and constructed the brick spire, framing and other timberwork. The ironbark used by Samuel Wheeler and his father, was cut from the forest at Mount Hunter. The stone was sourced from Denbigh at Cobbitty and lime from quarries near Goulburn. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1840, it was not until 7th June 1849 that the building was consecrated by Bishop Broughton.

The now distinguished building comprises of the western tower with a needle spire 38.7m high, nave and the chancel, which was added in 1874. St John’s Church remains a central part of the community of Camden, continuing to serve each generation with love and care. A special service to commemorate the 175th Anniversary will be held at St John’s on Sunday 7th July at 10am. All are welcome to attend and share in this historic occasion. Following the service, a morning tea will be held with the opportunity to view some of the church’s historical items on display.

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