Brief History of St James' Toowoomba

Built in 1869, St James' Anglican Church is the oldest church in Toowoomba still standing and in use as a place of worship. The original part of the church is an unusual example of Gothic Revival architecture executed using polychrome brickwork, a common feature of parish churches of this period in England, but quite rare in Queensland.

Designed by Brisbane architect Richard George Suter, the church features some of his trademark details, such as the decorative turret above the crossing. St James' was built by local builder (and later Mayor) Richard Godsall, who also built many other Toowoomba landmarks such as Clifford House and Gabbinbar Homestead.
 

 View of original church from Russell St. Circa 1869 (src: Qld State Library)

View of original church from Russell St. Circa 1869 (src: Qld State Library)

SITING THE CHURCH

The plans were originally prepared for the site of St Luke's on the corner of Herries and Ruthven Street (where the current St Luke's replaced an earlier timber church), but there was much disagreement amongst the community as to whether another site should be chosen for the new building.

Well-known Toowoomba personality and prominent churchman James Taylor offered an acre of his valuable land on the corner of Mort and Russell Streets for the new church and the Bishop eventually agreed.

 Showing the original apsidal Chancel, from corner of Mort St. + old Rectory. circa 1872 (src: Qld State Library)

Showing the original apsidal Chancel, from corner of Mort St. + old Rectory. circa 1872
(src: Qld State Library)

 View to the Sanctuary and Chancel screen  

View to the Sanctuary and Chancel screen
 

INTERNAL layout

St James' has a traditional cross-shaped (cruciform) floor plan:

  • with the Sanctuary, containing the altar and choir stalls at the eastern end
  • separated from the main Nave
    by an elaborately carved, wooden Chancel Screen
  • with North and South Transepts
  • and a Baptistery at the western end of the Nave.

The original church was extended in 1882 to a design by prominent local architect James Marks, replacing the original apsidal Chancel with a large gabled end. The organ chamber and Vestry were added in 1904, during rebuilding works to the Chancel and North Transept to rectify structural cracking.

In 1953, the original Baptistery was demolished and replaced with one designed by local architect Charles Marks (grandson of James Marks).

The original slate roof was replaced with rib-and-pan iron sheeting in the 1890s.

 1882 Cole & Duckworth pipe organ  

1882 Cole & Duckworth pipe organ
 

SELECT Features:

Organ

In the Chancel is a magnificent Cole and Duckworth pipe organ, imported from Manchester UK in 1882. It was a first for Toowoomba and is a fine example of a 19th Century instrument.

A trumpet stop and Clarabelle pipe set were added in 2016 to enhance the performance of the organ.

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Baptistery

The Baptistery features a magnificent alabaster and malachite baptismal font that dates from around 1890.

 Serving Battalion colours laid on the altar during the annual Milne Bay Service

Serving Battalion colours laid on the altar during the annual Milne Bay Service

MILITARY MEMORIALS

The North Transept features the battle honours and laid-up colours of the 25th Australian Infantry Battalion ('Darling Downs Regiment'). Many members of the original 25th Battalion were parishioners.

An annual service remembering the Battle of Milne Bay is held in St James' late in August, with the support of the local 25/49th Battalion RQR (Colour Party), and the Harlaxton RSL Band.

Milne Bay is remembered as the first defeat of the Japanese on land during the Pacific War.

The Baptistery is dedicated to the men of the Parish who served and died in the Second World War, with a Roll of Honour listing 19 names inserted into the wall.

MilneBay 082008-2285.JPG
 New Guinea Martyrs original bamboo cross with inscription

New Guinea Martyrs original bamboo cross with inscription

NEW GUINEA MARTYRS

The Baptistery contains a stained glass window in honour of Father John Frederick Barge, one of the 12 Anglicans of the wider 333 WWII New Guinea Martyrs, who was beheaded by the Japanese in New Britain (New Guinea). Father John, ordained in 1932, had been an assistant priest at St James', prior to heading as missionary to New Britain in 1935. 

Each year, New Guinea Martyrs' Day is commemorated on 2nd September.

In 1950, Bishop Michael Hinsuke Yashiro, then Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai) and Bishop of Kobe, was the first Japanese allowed into Australia after the war.

Seeking reconciliation, he visited Australian parishes associated with each New Guinea Martyr and presented all with a small memorial cross made from bamboo and inscribed with the phrase 'Reconciliation and Repentance'. 

The original St James' Parish cross, presented for St Thomas' Church where Fr. John had responsibility while in our Parish, resides now in the Martyrs' Chapel in St Anne's Highfields alongside other significant Martyrs' memorials transferred from the former St Thomas'.

In 2016 a replica was copied from the original cross for St James. This replica now rests in a box on the wall in the North Transept, beside the stone pulpit.

Additional reading:

ABM & Diocesan Martyrs Resources

AnglicanHistory.org

St John's Canberra

All Saints Belmont

 Symbolism and storytelling is present in each stained glass window

Symbolism and storytelling is present in each stained glass window

Stained Glass Windows

Throughout the church are many beautiful stained glass windows, with some donated as memorials to prominent local citizens in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

St James windows-2001.JPG
St James windows-1997.JPG