Part of Melton for over 140 years
A PLACE WITH A HISTORY
The history of the site of the Anglican Church in Melton goes back to the earliest beginnings of Melbourne itself. The land of 1 ½ acres was set aside prior to 1851 “for the use of the Church of England forever”, prior to the appointment of Bishop Perry, 1st Bishop of the newly-separated colony of Victoria from NSW.
However, it was not until 1865 that a foundation for a bluestone church was laid on the site, on the basis of a donation of 500 pounds from the prominent local landowner, Simon Staughton. Unfortunately, only an 18” foundation was put in place, and the Church was gradually built, but the money ran out ,and the building was left without a roof from 1867-68. When more money was found, it was completed ready for an opening service in January 1869, services being held there till it was officially consecrated by Bishop Perry himself in 1872. Bishop Perry recorded coming up using the old road to Ballarat, stopping at The Rockbank Inn on the way. However, the old building was only half-finished in structure.
The original church records still held, record the 4 services conducted here by Melton & Bacchus Marsh’s “infamous “Lay Preacher- Andrew George Scott –alias “Captain Moonlight,” before his “sudden departure” for Sydney. His signature is clearly written in the services book for 1868.
By 1899, the need for a Sunday School Hall was apparent, and this was opened by Miss Martha Staughton. This hall was also used by the community, including Melton Primary 430. It has a heritage listing with the Council.
It was not until 1903 that the final part of the Church was added on- the Chancel [altar area].This day was a great day of celebration in Melton’s history. The new Chancel was dedicated to the memory of Captain S.Tom Staughton, a local hero of the Boer War, who was also the local Member of Parliament. He had died of peritonitis in 1902 at the age of 27. Present on that day to dedicate a stain–glass window and Communion rails were Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, Federal member for Ballarat, which incorporated Melton. [These 2 items are still present]
By 1907, a permanent Vicarage was erected, complete with stables, remaining on the site till it’s demolition in the 1980’s.
World War 1 saw men from this parish go to “serve King & Country”- their names are recorded on an Honour Board, still preserved and displayed.
By 1988, the fact that there was no strong, solid foundation was the reason for the ultimate fate of the old Church. Wet seasons, followed by drought times, led to a gradual movement and displacement of the walls, causing it to be declared “unsafe” and “unstable” for usage by many safety authorities, including the Melton Shire Council. The ultimate decision was made to demolish it for “safety” reasons, and replace it with a more practical Parish Centre Complex that contained a hall, indoor toilets, meeting rooms, a kitchen and a more modern worship area. A panoramic window now looked onto the site where the old Church had been, a Memorial Garden for ashes being placed in it’s stead. The 1903 stain glass window, made by the same makers of some of the windows in St.Paul’s Cathedral, has been placed in the current complex, as also are the original Communion rails.
This parish has been the traditional worship place of many of Melton’s pioneering families - the Minn’s, Missen’s, Hurley’s and Beattie’s - their faith and dedication is still being carried on by the current worshipping congregation of Melton residents. A CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE WITHIN, NOT JUST A PLACE OF WORSHIP. After 146 years on this site, we look for many more years yet to serve.
Carolyn MacGavin, Parish Historian