Uniting Church Tod Street

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Fast Facts
Also known as: Methodist Church Tod Street
Address: 10 Tod Street
Town or Locality: Gawler
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Robert Haysom research: "March 21 1869: opening of the new Wesleyan Church, Tod Street. Cost of land and buildings 3,812 pounds."

For many photos of the Methodist/Uniting Church on Tod Street, please click here. To read centenary service information from 1969 please click here and click here.

Further photos of this Church can be seen in our article "Churches in Gawler and South Australia" and go to "Churches - Sth Aust- Ga"

We thank David Taplin for his address to Gawler History Team Inc on 3rd Occtober 2019 re the 150 years of the Tod Street Methodist Church...

[https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WBgbEQWQx0e8cnGa6Q5e5N-TJ55q_HaS/view Please click on the left hand link to view slides from David Taplin's "150 Years of the Tod Street Methodist Church" presentation.


In the early days of Gawler, lay Wesleyan Methodists met as a fellowship under the guidance of several lay preachers. Gawler Town was initially included on the preaching plan of the Adelaide Circuit and in 1850 transferred to the care of the Kapunda Circuit.

It is recorded that meetings were held in a schoolroom in 1848 under the leadership of John Jones, a blacksmith and wheel wright from Lancashire. The proprietors for the Town of Gawler had made available a block of land for the Wesleyan Methodist Church but the site, somewhere near the Eagle Foundry in King St, was considered too remote and the block of land at the corner of Tod Street and Scheibener Terrace was purchased. This first church was built in 1850 and that building still functions as the “Corner Shop” Opportunity shop. The church was quite small, 13.9m [40ft] by 7.6m [25ft], and seating 140 people. In 1856 Gawler was recognised as a circuit in its own right and the Gawler Town Circuit included North Gumeracha, Kersbrook, Millbrook, Lyndoch Hill, Port Gawler, Gawler River, Templers, Sheoak Log and Little Para [as preaching places?]. The church was extended on the western end in 1859 and the extension had transepts to the north and south. This property was later enlarged by the building of the 2-story extension of classrooms and kitchen in 1875, and again in 1959 a brick extension was made to the southern transept of the former church, now church hall, to provide an elevated stage with 2 change rooms and a backstage corridor in what had by this time become the hall for the church across the road.

Soon after Rev Thomas Lloyd was appointed in 1857, it was resolved to build a new and larger church fronting onto Tod St. The foundations were put down but no further building work took place for 10years. In August 1867 building work began with the formal laying of foundation stone at the south-east corner with considerable ceremony. The stone was a large slab of slate from the quarry of Mr Clement who donated the general building stone as well. The trustees planned to built the new walls in stages; a quarter in 3 months, to half-way in 6 months, to three-quarters in 9 months and to be completed in 12 months. The architect was probably James Macgeorge who was responsible for the design of a number of other churches including St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Wakefield St [later Willard Hall], Maughan Methodist Church and Congregational churches at Pt Adelaide, Glenelg, and McLaren Vale. The masons for the project were Messrs Manifold and Pimblot. The carpentry and seating of the new church was carried out by Taylor & Forgie, and the original windows were designed by Mr C. Brooks. The completed building was 24.4m [80ft] long by 14.2m [50ft] wide and 23.2m [30ft] to the ceiling, the height outside from the ground to the top of the pinnacle was 23.2m [76 ft]. The completed building was one of the largest Methodist churches outside of the city and cost ₤3,294. Dr Arnold Hunt in his history of Methodism in SA says “the size and the cost of the church reflected the prosperity of Gawler and the vigour of Wesleyan Methodism”. The official opening of the church took place with considerable ceremony on 21st March 1869 [some 150 years ago this year]. At the time of the opening not all the new pews had been installed and pew rents were 3 shillings per quarter for new seats and 2 shillings per quarter for old seats.

The Gawler Wesleyan Methodists were also joined by 2 other branches of Methodism – the Primitive Methodists established a small cause on Church Hill in Gawler in 1865, and the Bible Christians at Gawler West in 1858. A smaller Wesleyan church was built in Willaston in 1867. The 4 branches of the Methodism in Australia joined together on January 1 1902 to form the Methodist Church of Australasia and from 1928 until 1960 in

Gawler there were 2 circuits, one based on Gawler and the other on Gawler West, both with smaller churches from nearby integrated into the circuits.

The next work to be undertaken in 1925 was the construction of the 2 porches on the West and East doors towards the northern end of the church, the organ chamber was built, the pipe organ of 840 pipes and 17 stops installed and the church repainted.

During the ministry of Rev Walter Stafford [1962-68] the sanctuary area of the church was remodelled from one in which the pulpit was placed in the centre of the North wall and elevated, with the choir seats on several descending tiers and the organ console in front, and some seating for the congregation in pews against the side walls. The revised arrangement had a raised sanctuary area, with the communion table on a small raised “island” against the organ screen with a communion rail on 3 sides with a demount-able section of rail in the front. The organ console was relocated to its present position and the linkage mechanism was changed from tubular pneumatic to electro-pneumatic. There was a raised area on the eastern side of the sanctuary for the choir's chairs. At some stage, acoustic tiles were affixed to the lower rear wall.

1977 saw the union of the Methodist Church of Australasia, the Congregational Union of Australia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia to form the Uniting Church in Australia. In Gawler the members of the Cowan Street Congregational Church and St Andrew's Presbyterian Church had already been worshiping together as a united parish since 1967 and these people joined with those of the Tod Street Methodist Church to form the congregation of the Tod Street Uniting Church.

In 1991 more work was found to be necessary; extra structural supports were added in the roof space, major repairs were made to the heavy plaster mouldings of the lath and plaster ceiling. Aluminium extrusions were placed along the bottom of the mouldings and then secured in place with stainless steel wire looped around the ceiling trusses. In addition cables were run from the South gable to the North Gable. The ceiling lights were changed from pendant fluorescent lamps to lamps mounted above the ceiling. Upgrading was also carried out to the church's electrical wiring. The paint colors of the walls and ceiling were taken back to the original colours. The consulting architect was Ian Berriman and work was carried out by Ory Builders For the 6 weeks of this work the congregation met in the hall on the other side of Tod Street and a service of re-dedication was held on 22nd September 1991.

The next major event was the decision to form one congregation in Gawler and the first service for the “Gawler Town Congregation” occurred on the first Sunday of May 2000. The 3 properties at Willaston, Gawler West and Tod Street were put on the market. Those at Willaston and Gawler West were sold and the Tod St property retained to become the Gawler Uniting Church. [Since that time, the congregations at Gawler River and Virginia have been disbanded in 2001 and 2008 respectively with some of their members joining the Gawler congregation.]

In response to the growing needs of UCare, an outreach agency of the Gawler Uniting Church and Uniting Care, in 2005 partition walls and false ceiling were built within the church hall to provide an office and reception area.

Before any future major building work on the church property was planned, it was deemed necessary to have an engineering survey made of the existing church building. There had been some concern about the apparent leaning of the bell-tower away from the street and the report advised that the bell-tower be removed or reduced in mass and stabilized. So in 2003, the bell was removed, bell-tower reduced in height and the lean corrected. In addition the 4 finials along the front gable were repaired,reduced in height and the reinforcing bars replaced with stainless steel rods. In addition a steel frame was fixed to the inner aspect of the front gable wall and repairs were made to the slate roof. This repair work [to the tune of $120,000] had reduced the money available from the sale of property for the development of a new hall complex and once again the congregation was forced to meet in the hall over the street.

With the repair work for the church in order, planning for new hall on the site of the no-longer-used tennis courts started in earnest. After 5 years of planning, approval was given for work to commence on the new hall which was formally opened in 23rd November 2008 by the Moderator of the SA Synod, Rev Rod Dyson. The architects for the project were Hodgkison Architects of Adelaide, and the builders Cox Constructions Pty Ltd. Those on the planning committee were anxious to have a complex that was adequate for our immediate needs for meeting spaces, toilets kitchen and zoned air-conditioning, as well as being flexible in its use. The cost of the project was some $1.4m. Care was taken by the architects to use stone in the masonry of the external walls to provide a visual link to the adjacent church. In June 2007, an evening service at 5pm had been re- introduced and this service has been held in the hall rather than in the church since the hall allowed a more contemporary style of worship.

Landscaping the new hall and car park was an exercise for a number of volunteers. After removal of old fencing and tennis backstops and laying the watering system, hedges of Grevillea olivacea were planted on the Tod St and Dundas St boundaries, together with small number of Manchurian pear trees. The garden bed behind the Tod Street hedge was planted with shrubs, mostly Eremophila spp, and several low hedges bordering internal paving were established with lavender and rosemary. The periodic cutting of the hedges and pruning of the shrubs are an on-going requirement.

Provision was made in the ground plan for a fenced playground to be near the southwest corner of the new hall. However the fenced area available did not provide for adequate “fall-space” around the equipment which had been purchased. Consequently the playground equipment was erected in the area between the western wall of the church and the eastern end of the hall, the fence moved, and the intended site paved.

With Holy Communion no longer served at the communion rail because of the reduced mobility of many in the congregation, and the pulpit only occasionally used for preaching in favor of a movable lectern and a radio microphone, and the wish to have other instruments lead some of the singing, in 2011 the floor in the sanctuary was taken to one level, and the step between the sanctuary and the nave was widened, the sanctuary and its step were re-carpeted as were other areas of carpeting in the nave. The timber and paneling of the pulpit were recycled to build a sound desk for the audiovisual control equipment.

In the same year the stage in the former hall, now Administration Centre, was removed to provide space for an office for the Parish as well as internal toilets, shower and laundry for use by the church, UCare workers, and UCare clients. Later improvements for the work of UCare included the renovation of the kitchen to one of proper standard for the handling storage and processing of food items for distribution to its clients.

In 2013 a large piece of the lathe and plaster ceiling located towards the north-west corner of the church collapsed. Fortunately the damage was confined within one of the “panels”. The repair was effected by removing all the ceiling in this “panel” and replacing it with modern materials and repainting to match the existing paint finish. The work was done by skilled members of the congregation and the major expense was the hire of the scaffolding to work at 10m from the floor. While the work was being done, the morning congregation held its services in the adjoining hall.

In 2015 our Property Committee was fortunate to have the input of Living Skills Initiative, a “work-for-the-dole” organisation. Major work was carried out to dispose of storm water from the church and near the UCare kitchen as well as carrying out work to the north of the hall by extending the paved walkway to the car-park, by building a retaining wall of concrete sleepers and steel H-section posts to allow filling to give a level surface and by erecting a fence with gates to enclose an area that is a secure area for children.

In the past 2 years, the church was successful in obtaining grants under the "Fund My Neighborhood" scheme to fund the purchase and erection of a comprehensive set of playground equipment which has now been installed to the north of the hall. The previous playground equipment was dismantled and removed from the area between the church and the hall and a number of raised garden beds have been established.

We have a fine suite of buildings on the north side of Tod Street which are used by a number of church groups as well as community groups and on the south side we have the opportunity shop, administration office for the Parish as well as offices, kitchen and stores associated with UCare, an agency that provides charitable support and counselling to Gawler and the surrounding district.

It must be said that the building work undertaken and maintained over 150 years has been done by members of the congregation giving their time and skills as well as funds. In the last 50 years, the maintenance of the property has been coordinated [and done] by Reg Baker and Dennis Doody and the writer recognizes the long service given by Grantley Oates and Gavin Riggs to the Property Committee.

[The writer is indebted to those responsible for the booklet produced for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the church for details of the church's development before 1969. In his research he also found an error in Hignett & Co's “Gawler Heritage Study Stage 1 June 1982” in which it is claimed that the building of the church was financed by William Wincey.”]

David Taplin

click here to see the Video of the address by David Taplin to the Gawler History Team on the history of this church

Please <click here> to read a history of the early days of Methodism in Gawler.

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External Links

circa 1900s
circa 1900s
Uniting Church, 1959
Uniting Church, 1959
Tod Street Uniting Church 2002
Tod Street Uniting Church 2002
Tower reconstruction 2002
Tower reconstruction 2002
Tower reconstruction December 2002
Tower reconstruction December 2002
Uniting Church Windows.
Uniting Church Windows.
Uniting Church Windows.
Uniting Church Windows.
Gawler Tod Street Methodist Church Centenary_1969_Opening Celebration
Gawler Tod Street Methodist Church Centenary_1969_Opening Celebration

Memories of Uniting Church Tod Street

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