Presbyterians on the North Shore

History of the Churches at North Sydney and Greenwich

The first Presbyterian services held in Australia were conducted by Thomas Muir, who arrived in NSW in 1794 convicted of sedition against the British government. The location of his farm, named ‘Huntershill’ after the village near Glasgow where he grew up, has now been lost, but many authorities believe it stood near Jeffrey Street in Kirribilli, directly across from Sydney Cove. If so, the North Shore can claim to be the cradle of Presbyterianism in this country.

The area north of the harbour remained sparsely settled, however, and it was not till half a century later that a Presbyterian school was built on Blues Point Road, just above Lavender Street, and a dozen years later still (1866) that the first church building was put up.

This building became the nucleus of the present St Peter’s Church. Though the building in its present form was not completed for another 40 years, it has retained the consistent understated style of a 19th century church in the Reformed tradition.

The workmanship of the era is highlighted by the beauty of the stained glass windows, the carved cedar pulpit, and the choir gallery. Also of note is the grand pipe organ, which dates back to 1885.

Over the years, there have been many people prominent in Australian life who have had associations with St Peter’s. Among the memorials in the Church is a plaque in memory of Dr John Flynn, the founder of the Flying Doctor Service, who was an elder of the Church and made it his Sydney base until his death in 1951.

The Church and Manse of St Peter’s and the stone schoolhouse on the eastern side of Blues Point Road are classified by the National Trust of Australia and the Heritage Council as buildings of great significance.

With the growth in population on the North Shore, other Presbyterian churches began to be built – first, to the north, at Crows Nest (near the top of Shirley Road), and to the east at Neutral Bay.

At Greenwich, Presbyterian services first began in 1899. The Taylor Memorial Church was a gift of Mr. John Taylor who lived in "Rothesay" Greenwich, in memory of his daughter, Margaret Campbell Brennand, in 1905 at a cost equivalent to about $160,000 in today's money.

A new hall and manse were completed on the church site in 2000. The Church was renovated in 1998 and is now an attractive building with a small pipe organ, seating about 100 people.

Since the foundation of the Uniting Church in 1977 there have been many fewer Presbyterian congregations. North Sydney and Greenwich are now one parish with two churches, with Chatswood and Mosman for nearest neighbours.

Both our churches welcome visitors at all services – 10 am every Sunday at Greenwich, and 10 am and 6 or 7 pm (depending on the season) at St Peter’s. An additional service is held in St Peter’s at 1.15 pm on Thursdays to reach out to the North Sydney business community.

In 1944 Rev John Calder compiled a history of St Peter’s Church to mark the centenary of the establishment of the Presbyterian school: 100 Years of Presbyterianism on the North Shore

 

 

Further information about Presbyterians on the North Shore in the early years may be found at:

The Trustees and the School
The First Ten Years of the Congregation
Liquidity, Debt, and the Budget – 1873-1884
Roger McKinnon – the Anderson Years
Roger McKinnon – the Last Years
A Popular and Fashionable Church