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Podcast: festival brings together bell ringers

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The Bundaberg CBD has some beautiful churches and in this episode we hear about the significance of two to the local community.

Welcome to Hidden Histories: CBD Church Spotlight, the tenth episode of series two of the Bundaberg Now Podcast.

The Bundaberg CBD has some beautiful churches and in this episode we hear about the significance of two to the local community.

Four bell ringers from the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg recently attended the Australia and New Zealand Association of Bell Ringers annual Bell Ringing Festival in Sydney.

Local bell ringer Russell Cobb was in the party and got to experience different bell ringing sequences to what is on offer in Bundaberg.

“Once a year, bell ringers from all across Australia come to a particular bell tower, or several bell towers, to have a wonderful ringing festival,” Russell said.

The six bells in the Christ Church Anglican Church War Memorial Bell tower are change ringers, with bells rotating in a full circle to produce sounds, according to Russell.

“The wonderful thing about Bundaberg is that we have two bell towers, Saint Andrew’s has been in existence for a very long time, and that is a carillon,” he said.

“It’s a different style of ringing than what we have here at Christ Church.

“So, Bundaberg is blessed with two quite different approaches to bell ringing, and that’s a good thing, I think.”

The Holy Rosary Church is another majestic building in Bundaberg, featuring colourful stained glass windows filled with meaningful stories.

Archive coordinator Cathryn King said there were 25 windows that encompassed the bright white building.

“The three stained-glass windows at the back is the Saint Patrick, the Sacred Heart and Saint Brigid,” she said.

Listen to the full podcast episode to hear more:

In this series we shine a spotlight on the heritage buildings and infrastructure in our region.

Listen as we uncover memories, mysterious ghost stories and bizarre facts about some of our most iconic structures.

You can also listen on Google, Apple, Spotify, TuneIn or your favourite podcast app.

Hidden Histories: CBD Church Spotlight transcript:

Gennavieve Lyons [00:00:06] Welcome to this special series of the Bundaberg Now podcast where we shine a spotlight on the history of our region. My name's Gennavieve Lyons and I'll be your host as we uncover history and stories about some of our most iconic buildings and structures.

The CBD has some beautiful historic buildings, today we’ll hear about two of the significant churches that add to the city centre.

Standing tall on the corner of Woongarra and Maryborough streets, the Christ Church Anglican Church has been a prominent structure in the Bundaberg CBD for nearly a hundred years. The gothic style architecture includes pointed arches with moldings in the porches, windows and arcades.

The concept of Christ Church commenced after the Bishop of Brisbane, W.T.T Webber, visited Bundaberg in 1886 and promised a permanent church. The structure was officially opened in 1927 after more than 40 years of planning, preparation and delays caused by World War One. In 2019, a restoration saw six peace bells introduced to the War Memorial Bell Tower. Bundaberg became home to the heaviest peal of six bells in Australia delighting local bell ringers.

Russell Cobb is a bell ringer in the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg and spoke with Bundaberg Now about the annual Bell Ringing Festival which occurs every June. A team of four Ringers from the Anglican Parish attended the Bell Ringing festival in Sydney this year, and were able to try a range of different sequences in different bell towers.

Russell Cobb [00:01:37] The Ringing Festival is an annual event in Australia, it is put on by a group called ANZAB, the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bell Ringers, so it covers all of Australia and New Zealand. And once a year, bell ringers from all across Australia come to a particular bell tower, or several bell towers, to have a wonderful ringing festival.

So, we're at Christ Church, which is the Mother Church of the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg and the bells in our bell tower are quite a recent addition to the city. In the Australian scene they’re the new kids on the block. We have six bells only. Other towers sometimes have eight and 10 and 12 bells. We have six bells, but they're very heavy bells, and they're in fact the heaviest set of six in Australia.

Now the kind of ringing that we have is called change ringing. So, this is where the bell rotates in a full circle action and the ringers change position, so you get a lot of sequence changes in that ringing. The wonderful thing about Bundaberg is that we have two bell towers, Saint Andrew’s has been in existence for a very long time, and that’s a carillon. It’s a different style of ringing than what we have here at Christ Church. So, Bundaberg is blessed with two quite different approaches to bell ringing, and that’s a good thing, I think.

Gennavieve Lyons [00:03:28] The church restoration went beyond the introduction of the bells. The mechanical pipe organ was also restored to its former glory and is one of only three of its kind in Australia. The church also houses several stained-glass windows from overseas, brought to Bundaberg to embellish the building. The lectern was made in England and is acknowledged as one of the finest in Australia.

A sight to behold, the Christ Church Anglican Church can be admired both inside and out.

The Church of St Mary of the Holy Rosary was just a small wooden building when it opened in 1875. Father Thomas O'Brien was the officiating priest celebrating mass in the small church, but the congregation soon outgrew the space. A new building known as the Holy Rosary Church was constructed in 1888 with additional sanctuary and transepts completed in 1926. The neo style was designed by Francis Stanley. It was unusual for Australia, but has cemented its place as one of the grand historical buildings of Bundaberg.

The Holy Rosary Church is a majestic building that stands out against the blue skies of Bundaberg. Colourful stained glass windows fill the white walls with meaningful stories.

When opening the new extension in 1926, Arch Bishop Duhig commented that the sanctuary windows were unique in design and claimed them to be the finest in Australia.

Archive coordinator Cathryn King shared this information about the church’s history and the beautiful memorial windows.

Cathryn King [00:05:23] I think there are 25 of them all together and very little was know about who the people were until we put out an advertisement in the parish newsletter and word of mouth. So we have got the stories of more people than we did before. There are a few well-known people that we know sort of, like the Walter and Mary Adams. There was something a little bit known about the Wallace family, something about the Zunker family, and something about the Novakoski families. But many of the others were just unknown. 

Three stained glass windows at the back, you'll see, Saint Patrick, The Sacred Heart and Saint Brigid. The stained glass window to St Patrick was donated by John Wallace and his wife. The window to Saint Brigid is in memory of Augustine Apollonia Maria Zunker. Another window was to Phyllis Eileen Novakoski. She was the wife of Joseph Anthony Novakoski.

The windows in the church were carried out and installed by Exton and Co of Brisbane and the designer of the three stained glass windows in the sanctuary, I believe, was done by Mr. Lancaster. In the original nave of the church there were no stained glass windows and if you look at them you can sort of see that there are two different designs. The ones in the nave are designed differently from the ones that are in the transits. I thought at the beginning that perhaps it was just a changing fashion, that it was done like this. But from photographs I've seen, the ones in the nave had the rounded window at the top and then seemed to have four plain glass windows below them. So perhaps there was a bit of fashion or something like that when the church was designed that wanted to sort of contrast the old with the new. Who knows? But many of the people, but the stained glass windows had a memory of people who would not have been alive in 1888 or who were very much alive in 1888. So it's there all in memoriam windows. It means that the people that they're in memoriam to have been dead and have been organised by their families in memory to them.

Where we're sitting right now, is where the original church in 1888 ceased. The transepts and the sanctuary and so forth were added in 1925, 1926 to the plan of Mr. Faircloth, who was sort of well-known in Bundaberg at the time.

The original plan for the for the nave and how the church was built was done to the design of Stanley, who was the colonial architect of the time, and he's responsible for other buildings in the town that were built. The old Commercial Banking Company of Sydney on the corner of Bourbong Street and Maryborough Street was one of his, used to be the Queensland National Bank on the corner of Targo Street and Quay Street that's another of his designs, and I'm not too sure whether he designed the Grand Hotel or the Club Hotel down on the corner of Bourbong Street and Tantitha. But one of those two buildings are all also to his architectural designs as well.

Gennavieve Lyons [00:09:07] Standing the test of time, the Holy Rosary Church is a prominent and important part of our region’s heritage.

Join us again next month for another look into Bundaberg’s historic buildings and places.

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