124 Napier St, Fitzroy (Presbyterian Church)

The Fitzroy Presbyterian Church at 124 Napier Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

“This building was constructed as the Presbyterian Church in 1871-1872 to the design of architect, George Browne, and built by James Sumner and Co., for a cost of £2,700 (including fittings).  It was described in the Illustrated Australian News of May, 1872, as follows:

“….. the foundation stone was laid by Sir James McCulloch on the 13th of  November, 1871… The complete design has only been carried out so far as regards the nave, the transepts being in future.  The nave is 65 feet long by 40 feet 6 inches wide and the walls are 25 feet high.  The roof which is opened to the ridge is stained and varnished, and a new mode of ventilation has been introduced in the form of Gothic perforations of the roof are supported by hammer beams resting on ornamental corbels and columns….. The building is composed of bluestone with white dressings of freestone and tracery round the windows.  The main entrance is opened by a well treated porch, the floor of which is laid with Minton’s tiles.  The internal fittings of the Church, together with the pulpit, are executed in French-polished cedar.  At the rear are erected vestries and class-rooms, with the usual out buildings.  The front elevation is treated with ornamental buttresses terminating with small spires and wrought iron vanes.  The main window of the front gable is large and of open tracery as are also the smaller windows…. All the windows have been glazed in most elaborate designs with embossed, stained and ornamental glass and were made by Messrs. Urie and Ferguson, of this city.  The grounds are enclosed with iron palisading” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.141).

Google Image – November 2014

Image held by Fitzroy Library.124 Napier Street, Fitzroy. Napier Street Presbyterian Church. Built in 1871.
John Lockyer O’Brien (1905–1965) was an historian at the University. His collection of about 4,000 photographs was taken in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many of them capture the architecture and streetscapes of inner-city Melbourne when the area was in transition between its then 19th century topography and working-class status prior to large-scale demolitions to made way for the construction of the Housing Commission high-rise blocks, and middle-class migration back to the inner-city and subsequent renovation and gentrification of its housing. He was also interested in the early architecture of country Victoria and photographed 19th century homesteads, hotels, churches, banks, railway stations, as well as humbler buildings. He and his wife Laurie owned and resided in a double-storey Georgian-style bluestone house in Hanover Street, Fitzroy. Photo from the Collection.

“The building survives intact today apart from some internal arrangement.  The cedar ceiling and panelling survive as does the original hammer beam roof truss system.  No original drawings survive, but it appears that the original proposal for transepts “in future” was never realised.  This is the only ecclesiastic building by George Browne that has been identified.  Browne was also responsible for ‘Rupertswood’, Sunbury (1874) and the former Academy of Music, 17 Lydiard Street, Ballarat (1874).  It provides a significant example of an intact English transitional Gothic Church building with intact coloured stained glass and original finishes both internally and externally.  The fine cast iron fencing on a bluestone plinth compliments the building.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.141).

From the Argus, sourced from the Fitzroy History Society Newsletter, July 2018.
Foundation Stone, revealed July 2018

In 2018, the former church buildings were converted into three units over three levels with a new building constructed on the north side of the property. The stained glass windows in the building were retained. During the work (July 2018) on the rear building its foundation stone, laid in 1927, was uncovered. It names the church’s then minister Rev. J.B. Barnaby, deaconess M. Young, social work director, D.A. Cameron, Sunday school superintendent C.A. Dight, the architect R.B. Hamilton and the builders, Reynolds Bros. The newspapers of the time record the laying of the foundation stone and other information about the church. (Fitzroy History Society Newsletter, July 2018).

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