St. Johns Anglican Church (Cranbourne)

Detailed Historical Perspective of St. Johns

(The above link is 30 pages of History of St. John's and neighbouring areas in pdf format)

SJAC (St. John's Anglican Church) has been serving the Cranbourne and neighbouring Suburban area community since 1865. St John’s church enjoys the prestige of existing within one of Cranbourne’s oldest surviving buildings.


History of St. John's : Reproduced underneath:

Written By Claire Turner, Casey Cardinia Library Corporation
In his 1947 Centenary history of the Church of England in Australia, the Reverend G. W. Nunn made the boisterous claim that ‘church life began in Australia in 1788 with the English flag on Australian soil.Political incorrectness aside, it iscertainly reasonable to assume that Victoria’s European pioneers brought their foreign views and beliefs with them when they created new settlements. After nearly ten years, the Church of England followers in Cranbourne decided to work towards establishing their own church in the town with a resident Clergyman. Services had previously been held at private homes at irregular intervals by a visiting Clergyman from Dandenong and local services were conducted by lay readers. Mr. Frederick Parker was an early resident who is believed to have managed some of these services at Cranbourne   during the late 1850s and early 1860s. He also held a small school and Sunday school at his home.

Picture from 1908

Picture from 1908

Provision for a Church of England building was not made in the original town survey. By the 1860s, the community had gathered together and appealed to the Crown Lands Department for a grant of land on which to build a church. This was granted in 1861 for lots 7-10 in section 15. Building commenced on the Childers Street location and official worship commenced in 1865.11 This original church building remains today, with several extensions to accommodate the growing requirements of the congregation. The church appears to be one of the oldest remaining buildings in Cranbourne, although there have been a number of extensions over time. With the reservation of a piece of land for a church in Cranbourne in 1861, Melbourne’s first Dean, H. B. Macartney, appointed a team of Trustees. These included Charles Rossiter, John Wedge, Frederick Parker and Thomas Gooch.12 In 1863, an ecclesiastical district was formed for Dandenong, which included Cranbourne and Berwick. However, both Cranbourne and Berwick did not have a resident Clergyman and continued to rely on visits from the first Dandenong Clergyman, the Reverend Thomas Woolcock Serjeant. It is presumed that the first marriage in Cranbourne as an official Church district, occurred in 1863 between George Buttolph and Amey   Minister at the Gooch’s Mornington Hotel. It is possible that the bride could have been a relative of Mrs. Gooch,   whose maiden name was also Minister. In addition to a grant, the people of Cranbourne raised the funds to build their church. The foundation stone was laid by Dean H. B. Macartney on the Queen’s birthday in 1864, and the building was officially opened in January 1865. To celebrate the laying of the stone, a great procession made its way along the main street of Cranbourne. You can imagine that a visit from the Church’s Dean was viewed as quite a privilege. The Sunday school children marched, along with the church committee and the Dean, from Mr. Parker’s house to the church site. Mr. Charles Rossiter made a speech and it was reported in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus that over two hundred people were in attendance. The arrival of the first resident Clergyman in Cranbourne shortly after the opening of the new   church put an end to the irregular services and signalled the beginning of routine church life for the township’s Church of England followers. Mr. Rossiter agreed to the Berwick township’s offer to contribute fifty pounds towards the payment of a resident Clergyman, provided he resided in the bigger parish.15 In the committee’s eyes, Cranbourne was the bigger parish and they must have argued successfully because the agreement was sealed. The Reverend C. L. H. Rupp began his duties in September 1865 and he was also required to hold services at Berwick. However, instead of settling into a   calm routine, the period of Reverend Rupp’s appointment was distinguished by a great deal of managerial problems. These problems were largely instigated by the church committee itself. When Rupp arrived in Cranbourne, there was no   Vicarage for him to occupy. It was agreed by the committee that they would lease a house belonging to Mr. W. Poole for thirty pounds a year.16 At this time Poole was on the church committee and obviously stood to gain financially from this arrangement. By February the following year, there had clearly been an argument between the Rev. Rupp and Mr. Poole. The committee has chosen to allow us to believe that Mr. Parker was simply offering a better deal of rent at twenty-two pounds per year. Rupp made the decision to move and it was endorsed by Mr. Rossiter. The squabble over money and personal issues experienced by the St John’s committee is an apt example of how human nature has not changed over time. Mr. Poole stood up at the next meeting and complained that he knew things ‘had been said concerning himself at the   previous meeting. Poole had been absent when the decision was made to cancel the previous agreement. The Rev. Rupp   retaliated, perhaps hiding behind his technically neutral position. Rupp: ‘…took the opportunity of expressing his sorrow for the appearance of ill-feeling amongst the members of the Committee… he hoped that no unfriendly personal feelings would be indulged by anyone. In May of the same year, the in-fighting had spiralled into quite a serious debate. The unfortunate secretary was forced to record behavior that the church would quite possibly have been very ashamed of.

St. John’s Vicarage, Bakewell Street Cranbourne Built in 1889

St. John’s Vicarage, Bakewell Street Cranbourne Built in 1889

The secretary tells us that: In the course of the meeting a considerable amount of acrimonious spirit was exhibited by Messrs Poole and Monk towards the chairman and other members of the committee… This conduct drew from the Chairman (Rev. Rupp) expressions of displeasure that he should be obliged to meet persons in the Church Committee who, he had reason to believe, felt no confidence in him, took no interest in church matters and attended Committee meetings only when they had some unpleasant and quarrelsome business to bring forward The meeting concluded with the original committee member Charles Rossiter, resigning in disgust. Mr. Pooleappears to have removed himself from the Committee affairs after this period and the members focused on making arrangements for a Vicarage of their own. They enjoyed an amicable relationship with the Presbyterian church and shared the job of reaching outlying communities in Bass and Cardinia.
When Scot’s church sold the former Presbyterian school and parsonage in 1878, St. John’s purchased it as a vicarage. This was during the time of the Rev. Rupp’s successor, Mr. Gason. Gason had married the eldest daughter of the Rev. Duff, an alliance that could have assisted with the transaction. Duff was fond of playing the real estate market, having purchased and sub-divided a substantial portion of land in Cranbourne and Clyde. The Presbyterian quarters were demolished in 1889 during the time of Clergyman Mr. Robert Shekleton and a new vicarage was built on Church of England land in the same year. A church hall was also planned and extra land was purchased in 1906 for this purpose. The hall was opened in 1913 and is remembered by residents as a hub of activity for receptions, fund raisers, balls and school performances. It is easy to imagine how in the early years of a town like Cranbourne, when town allotments first became available in the late 1850s, financial gain preoccupied most settler’s minds. Economic survival was, after all, the reason for them emigrating in the first place and good decisions made early could be of enormous   benefit later. People like Patterson were successful because they had worked hard during their years as   employees on the land and were able to make educated decisions about land purchases. The Crown Land Department was in its infancy and faced the daunting task of allotting land. Naturally mistakes were going to be made and astute individuals were likely to benefit. Mr. Edward J. Tucker, owner of the Cranbourne Hotel was such an individual and made a tidy profit from a Crown Lands Department bungle with the St. John’s church site. The Reverend Rupp, having survived chairing the tempestuous church committee, was later faced with a disgruntled Mr. Tucker, who argued that he had been duped by the government because the land he had purchased by auction in 1866 had been reserved for church purposes.   The embarrassing situation appeared in the Church of England publication ‘The Messenger’ in 1867: The Reverend C. L. H. Rupp on the 22nd of May (1867) received a note from a resident inn-keeper (Mr. Tucker) stating that the writer had purchased the lands which the Government had granted for church purposes and soliciting an explanation. Investigation revealed that the land had been sold to a private buyer previous to the land being allotted by the Crown Lands Department for a church building. The Church committee was left in the position of having to buy back the land. The committee rallied and again displayed the ability of the Cranbourne community to work together. A petition was signed and the Board of Land Works had to pay for the land. Mr Tucker was paid £250 for the land. Church of England activity in Cranbourne flourished from the early township days of the 1850s, through to the erection of a building in 1865 and a hall in 1913. It continues to be a busy church and as the Parish records demonstrate, covered a wide area within the Cranbourne Shire. The Parish grew to include congregations at Pearcedale (St. Peter’s), Tooradin (Christ Church) and Clyde (St Paul’s). There are many interesting artifacts at St John’s that show the close relationship between the church and   the community. There is a beautiful pair of stained glass windows that were erected by the Einsiedel family in memory of Ernest and Florence Einsiedel during the 1950s and 60s respectively. Other objects such as bibles, a communion table and vases are reminders of the contribution made to the church by many of Cranbourne’s early families.

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