Gawler Thematic History - Worshipping

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Fast Facts
Type of thing Government
Date made or found 2020


As Gawler was a significant town in a notably religious colony, churches of every denomination were built within the first few years of settlement. The founders of South Australia seemed determined to create a society of religious tolerance without ‘established’ church privileges such as were common in Britain at the time. 121

Colonel Light made special provision for churches when he laid out the town plan which provided space for the Anglicans (Orleana Square) and the Presbyterians (Light Square) on two of the main town squares and for the Catholics in the remaining (Parnell Square). In fact, the Presbyterian Church was never built at its planned location, but today the town has, in addition to the list above, Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist (now known as Uniting) and Lutheran churches as well as Assemblies of God, Baha’i, Baptists, Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventists and Salvation Army places of worship.

The Church of England was the first to lead regular worship with Rev W H Coombs conducting services in the basement of the Victoria Mill from Nov 1846. By March 1847, the Foundation Stone of the first Anglican church in SA north of Adelaide was laid and the church named St George after England’s patron saint and in honour of Colonel Gawler. The building was completed within 12 months and its shortcomings became apparent with faulty construction of the walls and the heavy roof necessitating its replacement after just a decade. In 1858, the foundation stone for a new 14th century early English style edifice was laid.

The Parsonage House was built on glebe land near the Lyndoch Valley Road in 1848 and that same year the CofE Board for the administration of the Government grant voted £40 for the building of a public school in Gawler.

In 1856, the Free Kirk of Scotland erected a building on Cowan Street with an elegant tapering spire visible from all parts of Gawler. The allotment had been presented to the Presbytery by the late Mr John Auld.

The Catholic Church in Parnell Square was erected in 1855 with a residence and schoolhouse on an allotment opposite. Father Coyle was its first clergyman.

The Independent Chapel was built at the junction of Dundas and Cowan streets in Light Square in 1851.

The Wesleyans built their first chapel in 1850 at the junction of Todd Street and Scheibner Terrace. It was enlarged in 1858 to accommodate over 400 worshippers.

Churches continued to provide a focus for social activity as well as spiritual needs in the early 20th century. With most of the denominations having completed substantial churches, attention was given during these years to establishing modest parish churches in the newer settled districts and to supplementary activity, displayed particularly in the creation of a number of church halls and the laying out of tennis courts on church land. By 1928 the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican churches all had associated courts.

Church membership showed no significant decline and a wide range of new societies were established, individually and jointly, by the churches, particularly in the first decade of the twentieth century, but the number of alternatives to church organised activities for the young was also increasing. 122


This report has been prepared by the following people:

• Nancy Cromar (Flightpath Architects)

• Deborah Morgan (Flightpath Architects)

• Kate Paterson (Flightpath Architects)

• Douglas Alexander (Flightpath Architects)

The study team would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people:

• David Petruzzella (Strategic Planner; Town of Gawler)

• Jacinta Weiss (Cultural Heritage Centre Coordinator; Town of Gawler)

• Jane Strange (Senior Development and Strategic Policy Officer; Town of Gawler)

Gawler History Team thanks: Flightpath Architects, Ryan Viney and the Town of Gawler for allowing us access to this important document of Gawler History.

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  • 121 Whitelock D. p. 207-213
  • 122 Whitelock p.207-213

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