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Published January 13th 2017
Worship on display
Religion once played an important role in the establishment of South Australia, due to the colony, situated in a far away Great Southern Land, representing a place where freedom to practice whatever faith people chose, was encouraged.
The Wesleyans were amongst the first religion to establish itself in South Australia back in the 1830's, followed by the Congregationalists and the Baptists. Many of these branches of religion were seen as alternative to the mainstream Anglicans and Catholics, and permitted more flexibility in the way people worshipped.
Many historic churches still stand as a testament to time, some still utilised for religious services and others, transformed into private residences or businesses.
I came across 6 churches during my wanderings around Yorke Peninsula which are worthy of a mention, should you spend some time in this beautiful part of our State.
On the corner of Hughes and Church Streets in Wallaroo lies St Mary's Anglican Church. This church was erected in 1864 and its internal fittings include both the altar and pews being made of teak.
The church is still functioning today and has served the community, once made up of Cornish miners, labourers, pastoralists and farmers, as well as immigrants from Wales, Scotland and other parts of England.
This Wesleyan church began operation back in 1863, built on land donated by Walter Watson Hughes, on whose larger property Walla Waroo, copper had been originally discovered, and who was the co-founder of the University of Adelaide.
There had been a pine and calico chapel previously on the site two years before the main church was built and a school had opened in the chapel with 28 students.
The church last ran services back in 1978 and has now been converted to a private residence, which recently was up for sale, boasting a 7 metre curved ceiling, baltic pine floors and classic timber features.
This church in Edithburgh has been inspired by Romanesque style religious buildings in Europe amongst others in South Australia and was built in 1923.
The distinctive stone work on the outside of the church makes it stand out, built at a time when Edithburgh was a growing and thriving town, with the population reaching around 1,000 by the end of the 1920's.
Also around this time, Edithburgh had become the third busiest port on the Yorke Peninsula, so St Margaret Mary's played an important role in providing worship for the burgeoning community.
The Uniting Church at Moonta stands as an impressive Gothic style structure overlooking the town square and was opened in 1874 as a Wesleyan Methodist Church.
Local South Australian materials were used to build the church including Mintaro Slate for the steps, Hindmarsh brick dressings and Duchess Slate for the roof as well as limestone.
Moonta, being the main centre of the copper discoveries, prospered as a town during the 1860's and by 1875 had a population of 12,000. During this time a lot of the parishioners would have been workers down the mines, many of them with Cornish backgrounds.
The Methodists had much empathy for the poorer working classes in England and many miners from Cornwall became converts. In fact, within Moonta alone, there were originally 5 Methodist churches established. Only two survive today, this one and the Uniting Church at Moonta Mines.
Apart from a vestry which was added to the front of the church later, the original structure survives, made with limestone for the walls and an iron roof.
The original services held in this church were provided by the Jesuit fathers from Sevenhill, near Clare. The first permanent priest came from Kadina in 1866 and a strong Catholic community developed in the Copper Triangle, with an early convent school being established in Kadina by Mary MacKillop's Josephite Nuns.
Located out at Moonta Mines, east of the main township of Moonta, the former Methodist Church was built in 1865, just 4 years after the discovery of copper in the area. Interestingly it is still classified as one of the largest churches in Australia, with a seating capacity of 1,200 over two levels.
Amazing to think that some of these hard-working miners would have toiled all day in the mines and still have time to build a place of worship as well as their own miner's cottages.
The Moonta Methodists had a great impact on the politics of South Australia, particularly through their involvement in the labour movement. The early Methodists were also teetotallers and disapproved of any form of gambling, attending church on Sundays, the only day off from working down the mines.
At its opening in 1865 it attracted 1,000 worshippers and at one time the Church also boasted the largest Sunday School outside of Adelaide. Lipson Hancock, who was a son of the mine manager, Captain H R Hancock,developed a graded system of Sunday School teaching at Moonta Mines Church, which became a model for other churches throughout Australia, and even overseas.
The beautiful organ in the church was acquired in 1888 and to enhance the sound quality, an oboe was added during World War One.
Unfortunately,church doors are generally closed..pity as I would like to look inside.The Moonta Mines Methodist Church,The Uniting Moonta Church and the former Wallaroo Methodist Church are 3 of the churches mentioned,that I have been able to take a look inside.The one at Wallaroo,was somewhat different inside to most churches that I have been into and I was disappointed that it had to be closed and converted into a private residence.Perhaps these churches could stay open for a few hours longer on Sundays,to allow visitors to poke their heads inside...especially those 2 churches in Moonta,where many tourists visit throughout the year...an added tourist attraction for the town.