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The Victorian branch of the National Trust of Australia classified Christ Church Beechworth in 1959 for its regional significance and its organ for its state significance in 1992. St Jude's Eldorado was classified for its regional significance in 1988.

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History

Christ Church Beechworth

Anglican worship in Beechworth began in a tent in 1855 in what became the Christ Church churchyard.

 

After gold was discovered in 1852, Beechworth rapidly became the colonial government's administrative centre for North East Victoria, and with Anglicanism recognised by the Commissioners Camp as an established religion a prominent site was soon secured for a church. 

The granite Schoolroom and adjoining Hall were built in 1857 and used for services. It later became a grammar school in which one of the pupils was Isaac Isaacs, later dux and a student-teacher before he studied law, became a barrister, Victorian parliamentarian, Attorney-General, acting premier, later federal member for Indi, attorney-general, chief justice of the High Court, Privy Councillor and Governor-General of Australia.

In 1857, Stevens and Balfour contracted to use Beechworth granite to build the nave of Christ Church to a design by local architect James Dobbyn. The foundation stone, later hidden by the tower, was laid by Court of Mines and County Court judge Thomas Cope, chair of Beechworth General Sessions court, early in 1858. The church was ready for use by October 2 and completed in 1859. In 1864, the polygonal apse and commanding tower designed by Melbourne diocesan architect Leonard Terry were added at a cost of 3000 pounds.

Englishman George Cross, the husband of significant female poet Ada Cambridge, became rector of Christ Church in 1885 and during his incumbency in 1887 a fine pipe organ was installed. It had been made by colonial organ builder William Anderson of Little Flinders Street, Melbourne, for St George's Catholic Church Carlton in 1882. Restoration of the organ in 2008 revealed some of the pipework to be of early European origin.


Christ Church was considered a potential pro-cathedral for a proposed Anglican diocese in the North East in the latter part of the nineteenth century but the archdeaconry of Beechworth ceased in 1901 with the creation of the new diocese of Wangaratta.


Installation of a ring of six bells in the church tower was completed in 1994 and Beechworth became Victoria's first country town and only the third in Australia to have a ring of this number.

 

The Victorian Heritage Register notes that the church interior features 'an impressive timber ceiling, and a number of fine stained glass windows by eminent nineteenth century stained glass makers, including Ferguson and Urie and William Montgomery'.

Beechworth Anglican Parish supports the communities of Beechworth, Stanley, Wooragee, Hurdle Flat, Silver Creek, Woolshed Valley, Everton and Eldorado, Beechworth Health Service and Beechworth Correctional Centre.

St Jude's Eldorado

Classified by the National Trust in 1962, this beautifully maintained church, one of North East Victoria's architectural jewels, 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 October 12, 1870, but it seems to have disappeared. Even the army, which came 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 in its place.


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 Mount Eliza, south of Melbourne. The font was given in memory of Edgar B. Dawson, a highly respected lay reader at Eldorado, Milawa and Whorouly, who was among 133 people 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 two world wars, and the other to three former worshippers.

 

St. Jude's is part of the Parish of Beechworth, and today a small but dedicated congregation worships weekly, while other activities 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.

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