Over 150 Years of Witness
Photograph (c) Ray Brown
Christ Church Beechworth
Worship began on the site of the current church in 1855, service being held in a tent.
Beechworth was the principal settlement of the earliest towns (c1850) of Northern Victoria. Religions of all denominations were in evidence and services were conducted in one form or another. With Anglicanism being the official religion of the Commissioners Camp, a prominent site was secured for the building of the Church.
The first buildings on site were the stone Schoolroom and Hall (built 1857), which were used as a temporary church. This building was later the location of the grammar school in which the young Isaac Isaacs, later Prime Minister of Australia, taught.
In 1857, Stevens and Balfour contracted to build Christ Church, Beechworth to the design of the Melbourne Diocesan Architect, Mr. Leonard Terry for the sum of 3000 pounds.
The foundation stone now hidden by the tower construction was laid by Mr. Justice Cope early in 1858, and the church was ready for use on the 2nd. October of the same year. The whole structure is of local granite, hand chiselled and cornered on site. The magnificently proportioned tower, reaching 17 metres in height, and the apsidal chancel were added in 1864.
The Reverend G.F. Cross became the incumbent in 1885 and it was during his time that the William Anderson pipe organ was installed. Restoration of the organ revealed that some of the pipe work is of very early European origin. The organ has been fully restored and is now maintained by Ian Wakely Organ Restorers.
Originally thought to be a potential pro-cathedral for the proposed North-Eastern Victorian diocese, Christ Church ceased to be the centre of the Archdeaconry of Beechworth in 1901, with the creation of the new Diocese of Wangaratta. It continues to be one of the Diocese’s 'great jewels', in the words of one Rural Dean.
Installation of a ring of 6 bells was completed in 1994 and Beechworth is the first country town in Victoria and only the third in Australia to have a ring of six bells. Approximately forty other rings are situated in provincial or metropolitan cities around the country.
The Parish of Beechworth includes the communities of Beechworth, Stanley, Wooragee, Hurdle Flat, Silver Creek, Woolshed Valley, Everton, Eldorado, The Beechworth Health Care Services, and H.M. Prison Beechworth.
St Jude's Eldorado
Classified by the National Trust in 1962, this beautifully maintained church, one of North East Victoria's historical gems, was built in 1870, at a time when men were flocking to the area in search of gold and tin. Stonemasons Nicol Turner and James Scott built the church from local granite, and it was opened for worship in 1871. The story goes that a Foundation Stone was laid on 12th October 1870, however it seems to have disappeared. Even the army, who came in with a mine detector in 1954, hoping to find the metal box usually buried under foundation stones, failed to discover it. Shortly afterwards a commemorative stone was laid instead.
Other stories attached to items inside the Church are just as fascinating. The Brass Altar rails were a gift from the Church of St. James the Less, at Mt. Eliza. The Font was given in memory of Edgar B. Dawson, a highly respected Lay Reader at Eldorado, Milawa and Whorouly, who was one of the 133 drowned when the passenger ship "Quetta" hit a submerged rock off Cape York in 1890, and sank in three minutes. The stained glass windows are memorials, one to those parishioners who lost their lives in the 2 world wars, and the other to 3 former worshippers.
St. Jude's is part of the Parish of Beechworth, and today a small but dedicated band worship in the church weekly, while other activites take place in the Guild Hall. The Church is a popular venue for Weddings, and is frequently visited by members of families with historical connections to Eldorado.
Photograph (c) Jamie Durrant