St Mary’s History
‘In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
In 1836, the Jackson brothers and George Evans arrived from Tasmania, with their sheep – thus begun the settlement of Sunbury.
The first place of worship to be built in Sunbury was a Catholic church – built in 1860. Two years later, Anglicans & Presbyterians began worshipping together in a hall built by railway contractors.
By 1863, Anglican numbers were dropping as the railway line to Sunbury had been opened and the new railways camp moved to Riddell. A public meeting was called, resulting in the election of a committee, chaired by Sir William Clarke, to organise the building of a church in Sunbury.
The Government granted one acre of land at the corner of Stawell and O’Shanassy Streets and made a likewise grant to the Presbyterian community across the road.
The building of St Mary’s was begun in August 1866 according to the plans of Leonard Terry, which provided for a blue-stone gothic church. Only the nave was built at this stage for the cost of £1013/10/1. The building was opened for public worship on 24 November 1867, by Archdeacon McCartney (later Dean of Melbourne)
A year later (1868) the church bell was erected at the cost of £22/10/-.
The chancel and vestry were added in 1880. Many of the trees that still stand in the church grounds were also planted in that year.
Likewise, the stained glass windows behind the altar are believed to have been installed in 1880, when the chancel was added. They are dedicated to Agnes Clarke, younger daughter of Sir William and Lady Janet Clarke, named after Lady Janet’s mother Agnes Snodgrass. The left pane depicts St Agnes, who herself died young at the age of twelve and is the patron saint of girls. The right pane depicts Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus, while the centre panel depicts Jesus welcoming little children.
The marble font was erected in memory of Lady Clarke in 1872 and was later moved to its present position in November 1917.
The Jubilee Memorial Organ chapel was added in 1918 completing the cruciform design of the church.
The porch entrance was added at a later date some time after this.
The brass lectern was presented by the widow of John Francis (Premier of Victoria 1872-1874, established the Goona Warra winery and died January 1884) and the stained glass windows above the entrance were also presented in his memory by the congregation.
St Mary’s celebrated the centenary of the parish in 1963. In that year the Marble Altar and Sanctuary floor was added in memory of Ivy Knox, daughter of Sir William and Lady Janet Clarke.
Behind the church stands the vicarage, the third to be built. The original vicarage was built in 1879. Named “Priorswood”, it still exists at the eastern end of Station Street.
Further along O’Shanassy Street is the Parish Centre. The central part of this building was built in 1884, as a Sunday School, for the cost of £333. This hall is still used today not only by many different St Mary’s groups, but also by a number of community groups who hire out this facility.
Extensions including a new kitchen, toilets, administration office, vicar’s office and small meeting room were added in 1993.
In 1997, further extensions were added to include the Community Store which today thrives as an outreach to the people of Sunbury.