St Johns Camberwell

Our History

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From rural house church to suburban landmark

Anglican services have been held on this site since the first church opened on 8 February 1863. Anglican worship in Camberwell, however, began in 1856 – when it was still a small rural outpost of Melbourne – in the home of Mr. James Price in what is now Burke Road. Mr. Price, who was later known in family memory as a lay reader at St John’s, possibly conducted the first worship himself.

A few years later, the vicar of Christ Church, Hawthorn, the Reverend William Wood, began riding to Camberwell to conduct regular services. In 1862, a Sunday school began in the Camberwell area, and in response to a petition from residents, the colonial government made a Crown grant of several acres at the junction for the building of a church.

The following year, the first church, then known simply as the ‘Church of England at Camberwell’’ opened for worship. Services in the new church – a small brick building in the Gothic style – were still conducted from Hawthorn. From 1865 they were conducted by the curate, the Reverend Matthew Martin, who became St John’s first vicar in 1867.

Soon the church building was too small. By 1869, a new chancel had been completed to bring the church’s capacity to 200. As Camberwell grew, a still larger building was needed, with more work commencing in 1887. Further additions were necessary in 1914, while a spire was added in 1924. This vast building was destroyed by fire in 1955.

The present church, designed by renowned church architect Louis Williams and believed by many to be his finest work, was completed in November 1957, only two years after the fire which destroyed the old building. It incorporates some fine stained glass, including a set of windows by Napier Waller. The pipe organ is a large Hill, Norman and Beard instrument. In 1991, the chancel was redesigned to incorporate a nave altar.

The present parish centre, directly adjoining the church, was opened in 2000.

In February 2013, St John’s celebrated 150 years of continuous Anglican worship on this site.