Affectionately known as ‘the moving church,’ St James Church currently resides at Griffith’s Pioneer Park Museum, whose historical and cultural value has increased with each move.
As the oldest church in the MIA, it was built in 1907 and was located between Yoogali and Bilbul on a property called “The Cliffs”.
Originally a multi-denominational church, in 1913 it needed to be moved as the WCNIC, or the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission repurchased the land to build irrigation channels.
It was then moved from ‘The Cliffs’ all the way to Hanwood where it stayed until the 1970’s.
In that time it was used as an Anglican Church until it was moved to be on display at Griffith’s Pioneer Park Museum.
Pioneer Park Museum’s Curator Bonnie Owen talks about the history of the “moving church” in the video below:
“It’s a monumental task moving such a big building,” Miss Owen said.
“It was moved on a sled by a team of bullocks belonging to George Spry, as well as a traction engine to get the whole thing moving belonging to Ted Spry – a big task to get it to Hanwood.”
As a building, it has excellent heritage with many interesting stories associated with it.
When we move buildings, often the heritage is compromised as it has been moved from it’s original location.
“The wonderful thing about this church is that it was moved as part of it’s history – and extraordinary effort at the time.”
“It’s move to the museum has made it somewhat of a moving church, and I hope it won’t be making any more moves, we are lucky to have it.”
One of the interesting items still in the church is the baptismal font, which originally came from St Paul’s Chapel at Warrangesda, the aboriginal mission out by Darlington Point which closed in the 1920s.
Another feature of the church is the altar - a replica of the original altar used by the Church at The Cliffs.
“The reason it had been replicated, the original alter belonged to the original Bishop’s Lodge Chapel in Hay, and was brought to the church. The original was actually returned to Hay.”
Late last year the Museum acquired some original documentation pertaining to the first relocation.
The donated documents outline how James Harris was commissioned for the removal and relocation of the church, and was paid a tidy sum of 78 pounds.
“We are very lucky to have this original documentation,” Miss Owen said.
Griffith Pioneer Park Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the City of Griffith. It contains original buildings, machinery, vehicles, antiques and even Churches amongst their collections.