History of St Paul's Anglican Church Canterbury

St Paul’s Anglican Church Canterbury – The opening of the North Porch and the completion of the Choir Vestry, 1931.

Canterbury was named after the Viscount Canterbury, Governor of Victoria from 1866 – 1873. Early properties on the south side of Canterbury Road were mainly used for grazing crops and market gardens, whilst properties on the north side of the road were “gentlemen’s” residences. The establishment of the railway line to Canterbury and beyond in the mid-1880’s meant that the future was assured for the early gentlemen farmers in this agricultural township – a land boom was experienced in 1888 with land being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder.

Perhaps it was due to this period of increased activity and growing population that the Anglicans of Canterbury decided to build a local church rather than continuing to worship at St. Barnabas’ Balwyn. Whatever the reason, on the 14th January 1892, the Rev. Reginald, Stephen D.D., convened a meeting to establish a district within the parish of St. Barnabas to service the Canterbury community.

The initial church building costing £478 was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. F.F. Goe, Bishop of Melbourne, on the 5lh July 1892 and a Board of Guardians was elected on the 2nd August in the same year. The first meeting of the St. Paul’s Vestry, which replaced the Board of Guardians, was held on the 18th January 1911. Despite substantial growth in the activities of St. Paul’s district, it was not until 1906, with the appointment of the Rev. T. Keyran Pitt, that St. Paul’s achieved the status of a parish. Oddly enough it was six months later that the parish was notified of its boundaries:

A line commencing in the middle of Marlow Street at its junction with Canterbury Road thence Southerly along the middle of Marlow Street to the line of Railway thence Westerly along the line of Railway to its junction with the outer circle line of Railway Thence Southerly along the outer circle Railway line to its junction with the Creek North of Hartwell Station thence in a straight line Easterly to the middle of Highfield Road thence Northerly along the middle of Highfield Road to Riversdale Road thence Easterly along the middle of Riversdale Road to Middlesex Road, thence Northerly along the middle of Middlesex Road to Canterbury Road thence Westerly along the middle of Canterbury Road to the commencing point. (Registrar of the Diocese, 22/7/1907)

These boundaries remained until February 1926 when the area south of Riversdale Road was ceded to St. Dunstan’s, Camberwell.

During the incumbency of the Rev. C.L. Desailly, the parish members commenced a drive to build a larger and more imposing church, the foundation stone of which was laid on November 7th 1914. Between August 1912 and 1915, £l230 were raised and the new church was built for a cost of £2035 and 10 shillings. Complete with the furnishings, fittings and organ, the total cost was £2810 and 18 shillings.

The new St. Paul’s Canterbury was dedicated on 11th April 1915 by Archbishop Clarke. The original church building had been sold to St. Peter’s Murrumbeena for £190. In 1931 the sanctuary was enlarged and the choir vestry and north porch were added. Then in 1953 the present church porch was added at the west end of the truncated nave. In 1962 the memorial chapel was dedicated by Bishop G.T. Sambell. Six weeks later, on July 5th, St. Paul’s was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Donald Redding, Bishop Coadjutor of Melbourne.

It was as early as 1903 that the Guardians resolved to add a hall to the church buildings. After failing to find a suitable existing building for removal, a hall was built on the land immediately west of the lane and was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Melbourne on Easter Day 1905. This hall served the parish well until 1964. However, as early as 1919 the probable need for expansion was recognised and land east of the lane was purchased. It was on this land that the new hall was built in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the land east of the lane had been occupied by the St. Paul’s Kindergarten which opened in September 1945 under the guidance of Mrs. Dorothy Tribe, who remained Directress until she retired in 1966. New kindergarten facilities were built into the new hall complex in 1964 and St. Paul’s Kindergarten continues to be an important extension of parish life.

The current vicarage was built in 1971, replacing the original weatherboard structure that had been built in 1907. In 1991 the vicarage was extended to its present size.

Of course a parish is more than bricks and mortar and while St. Paul’s has an excellent record of bringing building projects to fruition that is not all that is remarkable about this community of faith.

A perusal of old records, minute books, parish newsletters and photographs soon reveals the rich heritage of worship, fellowship and Christian concern which is central to the life of St Paul’s. Annual meetings over the years heard reports from numerous parish organisations such as the Sunday School, the Church of England Men’s Society, the Ladies Guild, the Girls’ Friendly Society, the Mothers Union, the Parochial Missionary Guild, the Friends of St. Paul’s and the St. Paul’s Tennis Club. Another measure of the spiritual life of the parish is the number of men who have been ordained after being nurtured within the St. Paul’s family – 8 in all have taken holy orders.

There are further reminders of the dedication, hard work and Christian witness of earlier generations within the church itself, in windows and other memorials in the fabric of the building. Visitors are urged to study carefully these memorials which give an idea of the depth of commitment of so many past members of the parish.

Perhaps it was because Canterbury in 1892 was still semi-rural and village-like and remained so well into the twentieth century that some of the early pioneers of the parish remained actively involved for very long periods. F.C. Parry, for example, resigned from the vestry in 1950 after 59 years of unbroken service. He had been present at the first meeting to establish St. Paul’s on the 14th January 1892 and since then had acted at various times as Churchwarden, Treasurer, Synodsman, Sunday School Superintendent, Lay Reader and Choir Member.

The Redman family is forever linked with St. Paul¹s who donated the magnificent rose stained glass window in the sanctuary, Christ the King of all Nations, by Christian Waller. In fact, the Redmans¹ offer which was accepted in October 1930, stimulated the vestry to extend the sanctuary and add the north porch and choir vestry in 1931.

One of the enduring features of St Paul’s has been the musical tradition of the parish. Choral worship has always been very important to the St. Paul’s community and as a result the church is blessed with an organ of outstanding quality and a history of dedicated organists and choirmasters.

It was not all easy in the old days, however. The records show ongoing concern about the perennial worries of parish life, the most frequent being teachers for the Sunday School, the drop in attendance at services during bad weather, the need to make special provision for teenagers and the need to maintain church funds. Despite these and other problems, however, St. Paul’s has endured and thrived and will continue to do so into the future.

Committee which met 14 January 1892 to establish St Paul’s Canterbury

Rev. R. Stephen, D.D. (Chairman), Messrs Bisgrove, Dewson, Bagnell, Morley, L.W. Bruun, Chas. Barry, B.D. Smith, P. Ward, W.K. Vail, H. Marsh, GR. Paice, A. Allen, J. Reford Corr, F.C. Parry, Wm. Cadwallader.

Committee which planned and built new church in 1913-14

Rev. C.J. Desailly, Th. Schol., B.D. (Chairman), Messrs G. Greenman, G. Robinson, A.E.H. Carleton, G. Edwards, G. Bennett, P.D. Touzel, R.H. Tipping, C. Mason, C. Row, J. Shelton, F.G. D’Ombrain, C. Bucknill, F.C. Parry, H.W.C. Smith, C J. Row, R.H. Tucker, H.T. Ballantyne, W.F. Gates, A.G. Hall.

Clergy of St Paul’s Canterbury

(As Parish of Balwyn)

Rev. R. Stephen, D.D. 1892-1894
Rev. J.C. Love 1894-1896
Rev. F.E.S. Snodgrass, M.A. 1896-1900
Rev. J. Allen 1900-1906 (As Parish of Canterbury)
Rev. T. Keyran Pitt, M.A. 1906 -1910
Rev. C.L. Desailly, Th. Schol., B.D. 1910 -1915
Rev. J.H. Dewhurst, Th.L. 1915 -1928
Rev. H.H. Hammond, Th.L. 1928 -1940
Rev. A.F. Falconer, Th.L. 1940 -1954
Rev. J.E. Holt, Th.L. 1954 -1957
Rev. A.C. Donnelly, Th.L. 1957 -1971
Rev. J.D. Potter, B.A., Th.L. 1971 -1986
Rev. F.McL. R. Lowe, Cert.D.+B.C. 1987 -1991
Rev. R J. Cleary, B.Ec, B.S.W., B.Th., Dip.Ed. 1992 -1995
+Rt Rev G. Hearn, Th.L., Th. Schol, BA, Dip RE. 1995 – 2001
Rev. P. Black, 2001-2008
Rev. Susanne Chambers, 2008 – present


Parish Profile St. Paul’s 1991
Vestry minutes 1892-1980, summarised by Miss Nance Morsby.
History Summary written by Judi Cleary 1992.