HomeCouncilHeritage grant to preserve unique coastal church

Heritage grant to preserve unique coastal church

St John The Divine Anglican Church
St John The Divine Anglican Church.

For 85 years the St John The Divine Anglican Church has played an important role in the Burnett Heads community with an Our Stories Our Places grant set to preserve its unique façade.

The Bundaberg Regional Council heritage grant initiative provides dollar-for-dollar contributions to preservation projects in defined areas which will positively contribute to the region’s streetscapes.

Listed as one of Council’s Local Heritage Places and located at 1 Paul Mittelheuser Street in Burnett Heads, the design of the St John The Divine Anglican Church is unique to this area with its Tudor-style construction and basalt base laid with locally-sourced volcanic rock.

In its February meeting Council approved a $6,356.45 Our Stories Our Places grant towards conservation measures for the church.

Valued at $12,712.90 the project will see like-for-like timber replacements on the bell tower, windowsills and front façade in addition to repainting of the front façade.

Anglican Parish representative Neil Phythian said he was grateful for the grant provided through Council’s Our Stories Our Places program.

“The short answer is we wouldn’t be able to do it [without the grant funding],” Neil said.

“Money is very tight at the moment and all the costs have gone up.”

He said, from Christmas carols to community events, eight decades later the unique church continued to play a pivotal role in the community.

“It’s probably the oldest community building,” Neil said.

“The fact that it’s unusual, it’s got a stone base, it’s got that Tudor-style timber on the outside, it’s got a very unusual, curved roof.”

He said tourists and locals frequently photographed the building and the parish and ladies’ guild hosted regular community events.

“We do have a pet blessing service in October and that attracts a lot of people with dogs from Burnett Heads and everywhere really,” Neil said.

“We also ring the bells for the first turtle coming up in the turtle season.”

History of St John the Divine Anglican Church Burnett Heads

In the 1930s Burnett Heads was a small fishing village on the south bank of the Burnett River, which consisted of men’s cottages and fishermen’s holiday homes.

Neil said the attraction of the coastal lifestyle and the possibility of growth in the area made it the logical place to expand the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg.

Mr Christie Mittleheuser donated a block of land near the coast for a church to be built, although it remained vacant for some years until 1939 when Rector of Bundaberg the Reverend Harold Osborn decided it was the ideal location for the church, named for Saint John the Evangelist.

Neil said the parish was determined not to build a wooden building on wooden stumps, which was the usual construction for country churches at the time, which led to the English Tudor design on a base of basalt rock.

At the time volcanic rock was abundant in the area and served as a cheap material for the building's base.

“All hand-split rocks, and the front fence is made of them too,” Neil said.

According to Council’s Local Heritage Places report, the foundation stone was laid by the Most Rev. J.W.C. Wand on 6 August 1939 who described the site as “the most beautiful of any church throughout the diocese”.

It’s not just the building’s façade which holds unique heritage features.

Inside visitors will find original furnishings, including kerosene lamps that were installed when the church was first erected.

“These are the same lights that lit the original Christ Church in 1878,” Neil said.

“We light them now on special occasions such as when we hold the Christmas Carols at the end of the year.”

Find out more about the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg on the website.


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