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St Thomas Anglican Church Enfield

St Thomas Anglican Church Enfield: Photo: Cathy Jones (2004)

St Thomas Anglican Church Enfield: Photo: Cathy Jones (2004)

A Septimus Hungerford lived in Australia for ninety-nine years after being born in Ireland in 1825 to Emanuel and Catherine (nee Loane) and is one of the outstanding rectors associated with the historic church of St Thomas at Enfield.

With the opening up of tracks to Parramatta and Liverpool (Cowpastures at Camden) coaches started operations in the mid 1820s when a Mr Ireland gained the contract for the Sydney-Liverpool run.  By 1840 Mr Ireland had the mail contract to Goulburn using the Bark Huts at Enfield as a staging post.

The Faithfull Farm and an estate owned by Mr Wilshire became the setting for the village of Enfield named after the market town near London, where the activity revolved around timber-getting, then farming, market gardens and an orchard was established by Hilly on the Cooks River at the foot of the present Burwood Road.

It was in this setting that the influential Thomas Hyndes built St Thomas Church in Coronation Parade to a design by John Frederick Hilly.  It consists of a sanctuary, chancel, nave and vestry, surmounted by a spire on a square Norman tower. Distinctive adornments added to the interior near the turn of the century were scriptural verses over chancel arch, and nave walls.

Thomas Hyndes was a young Londoner who arrived in Sydney Town in 1803, was granted land at Enfield

Interior of St Thomas' Anglican Church Enfield

which Governor Macquarie would not recognise, went to the South Coast and milled cedar successfully and returned to Enfield in 1823.  He also acquired extensive grants of land in the area now known as Wahroonga and Turramurra.  He built his country home on Punchbowl Road in 1842 which was called Adelaide Park and in 1847 he donated five acres of his property to the Bishop of Sydney to build a church. A hall was initially built by Thomas Hyndes in which regular services were held until the completion of the proper church in lS4, the foundation stone was laid on the let. February of that year, it was opened for worship on the 9th January 1849 and consecrated on the 31st. December of that year. The pipe organ was installed in 1909 and the lychgate dedicated in 1921.

Of great historical significance today is the cemetery containing the graves and headstones of pioneer families with unusual verses as was the practice of those days. For example, the headstone of a young blacksmith in his early twenties, who was thrown from his horse while shooting kangaroos near the church, states:

My sledge and hammer lie reclin’d/And in the dust my voice is laid/My bellows, too, have lost their wind/My coal is spent, my iron’s gone/My fire’s extinct, my forge decayed/My nails are drove, my work is done.”

A Memorial Tablet to the memory of Thomas Hyndes who died in 1855 is inscribed “To the memory of Thomas Hyndes who died 18th. February 1855.  If you will seek his memorial — Look Around”.

The original building made of roughly dressed sandstone is typical of an English village church. Surrounding the church is a cemetery containing 3,500 grave sites. In 1849 when the church was open for worship, the hall was used for a denominational school and flourished until 1895. In 1923 the front section of the original hail was demolished and a new Parish Hall was built with a second storey over the old rear section containing kitchen and meeting rooms.

Memorial windows are an interesting aspect of St. Thomas. The main eastern windows depict the Last Supper below the Crucifixion in the central panel, Moses and the Laws are on one side and the disciples including Thomas on the other side. St Thomas was firstly part of the St. John’s Ashfield district and was declared a separate parish in 1868. The Rev F Wilkinson, Rector of Ashfield at the time, caned the wooden figureheads which look down from the walls of the church. The church in those early days was lit by candles, the seating consisted of forms and the inside walls were roughly finished as it had been intended to plaster them.  In 1939, the worn out shingled roof was replaced by the present attractive slate roof that blends so well with the stone walls of the church. A system of electric bell chimes in the tower was installed as a memorial to the men of the parish who fell in WW2.  A Wall of Remembrance was built near the church and links the past with the present by providing a newer method of disposal of the body by cremation.

Amusing readings in the records tell of a Rainbow Fete in 1928 when 6d, coupons were sold, redeemable for a like amount at the fetes.  Another item for the year 1897-8 is for payment of £2.12. 0 at the rate of 1/— per week for blowing the church organ!  Measures taken to combat the devastating Pneumonic Influenza Plague which swept the world in 1918-9 are entries in the Service Book for Sundays 2nd and 9th February 1919, showing that by order of the authorities, services were not permitted in the church on those dates.

This church is a fine example of the faith of humble servants of God who have continued to preach now for almost a century and a half. We are deeply indebted to the Rev. Graham Harrison for making available the records of St Thomas Anglican Church at Enfield.

Written by Lucy Stone (1994).

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