Exploring New South Wales: Maitland & Morpeth churches 1

St Mary’s Church, West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

St Mary’s Church, West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

Phil and Jane Pullin were my final Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Society hosts, when I lectured to the Pokolbin DFAS.  I warmed to them immediately because, when I texted to say I was stuck on a train with no buffet, they greeted me on the platform with a bottle of water and a chicken sandwich.

They were also enormously helpful in filling my free time with visits to a collection of Victorian Gothic churches in around the amalgamated towns of Maitland and Morpeth, which lie at the tidal limit of the River Hunter and became an important junction on the Great Northern Railway between Sydney and Brisbane.

The modern city of Maitland is a good place to see the work of the English-born, self-taught Australian architect Edmund Blacket (1817-1883), who is best known for his St Saviour’s Cathedral, Goulbourn, New South Wales (1884) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GoulburnStSaviour%27sCathedral.jpg], St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney (1868), and the Great Hall and Quadrangle of the University of Sydney (1861) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SydneyUniversity_MainBuilding_Panorama.jpg].  He was the mentor of other major nineteenth-century Australian architects such as John Horbury Hunt (1838-1904).  Blacket is regarded as a safe, conformist architect, who seems to have been most comfortable designing small parish churches.  In fact, some of his parish churches are quite grand.

St Mary’s Church, West Maitland (1860-7) is a spacious, gracious, aisled church with twin porches and a tower added in 1880, two years after the church was consecrated.  Built of local Ravensfield stone, its oddity is the undersized west window, which lights the west gallery in which the 1881 Willis organ was placed in 1959:  http://www.maitlandanglican.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=56.

The plainer, brick sister church, St Paul’s, West Maitland (1858) is also by Edmund Blacket.  Its detached bell tower of 1888 was part of an uncompleted enlargement plan.  It is now deconsecrated:  http://www.maitlandanglican.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=57.

Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Gothic Down Under:  English architecture in the Antipodes explores the influence of British architects, and British-trained architects, on the design of churches and other buildings in the emerging communities of Australia and New Zealand.  For details, please click here.


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