All Saints Blackwood

This historic Church, dedicated on 29 October in 1865, is one of the few remaining Churches dedicated by Bishop Charles Perry, the first Bishop of Melbourne. The Church Gazette, the Church of England Newspaper of the time spoke of an “exceedingly neat, well-constructed building” which “stands on a hill commanding an extensive prospect… The population is not wealthy but intelligent and respectable… The scattered character of the population and its isolated position render it very difficult to maintain there the ministry of the Church and due pastoral visitation of its people.” 

There were probably services held in private homes before they were held in the newly opened Anglican school in 1855.  Initially the officiating clergy came from Kyneton. At the height of gold-mining activity in the area around 1855 the local population was estimated to be about 30,000. By 1864 services were being held in schoolhouses at Golden Point and Simmons Reef. The Revd Matthew Henry Ashe became the first Rector of Blackwood in 1866 and remained there until 1873.

Since 1857 there had been a Chinese congregation at Golden Point. In 1874 there was still a congregation of some 35 Chinese people, and the Chinese Catechist, Peter Back Soo, was known to preach sermons that went on for a couple of hours.

Sometimes services at Blackwood were taken by the priest and lay-reader at Bacchus Marsh, which was the neighbouring parish. In the 1860s there was a lay-reader in Bacchus Marsh, George Andrew Scott, the son of an Anglican priest, who was later jailed for holding up the Bank at Egerton. He became known as “Captain Moonlight” and on his release from jail in 1879 was involved in a siege in NSW in which he shot and killed a policeman. He was hanged in 1880. It has been suggested that he may have taken a service at All Saints.

The third Rector, Archibald Turnball, appointed in 1877 was kept busy with three Churches (Blackwood, Simmons Reef, and Barry’s Reef), four Sunday Schools, baptisms, marriage services, burials, confirmation classes and the Chinese mission, and was away from home a great deal. In his absence, a local Bank Clerk, Frederick k Horne, was a frequent visitor to the Rectory, and eventually he and Archibald’s wife Harriet, went off together. Archibald was granted a divorce in 1878. This would have been a scandalous event in those days.

The Church gained further notoriety when a lay reader, Harold Robinson, was shot and killed in 1908 while “walking on his verandah reading a theological book”. The bullet passed through the book. Many years later this book “On Faith and the Creed” by C.A. Heurtley complete with bullet hole, was found at a Church fete, and presented to All Saints Blackwood where it may now been seen on request. (See following story.)

The Revd Robert Buchanan was the last priest to live in the Rectory, leaving in 1898. In 1889 Blackwood became part of Trentham parish. Lay readers lived in the Rectory until 1915, when it was renovated and leased, and then finally sold in the 1950s.

Although Blackwood is within the boundaries of the Diocese of Melbourne, when the Diocese of Bendigo was formed in 1902, Trentham became part of that Diocese, so Blackwood has been looked after by clergy from the Diocese of Bendigo since that time. In 1942 Trentham, and with it, Blackwood, became part of the Parish of Woodend. Over the years there has always been at least two services a month at All Saints, which is the current pattern.

The blue of the windows and the cross pattern on the frosted glass, were added in  1993 when the Church was used for both a wedding and a funeral in the TV series, “The Man from Snowy River.” During the film the Church was “burnt down”.

All Saints Church was first recorded in the Register of the National Trust on 9 July 1959. In 1997 the Trust reviewed its status and upgraded it to Classified. A further review by the Trust in 1977 resulted in the following citation:

“A charming naïve timber Church in primitive Gothic style with classicising details, dated from 1865. The windows have Gothic glazing bars and the roof is capped by a square bell cote. In 1990 the Church was included in the National Trust’s Register.”

It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Blackwood, and the only Church in the town to have remained in continuous use.

With grateful acknowledgement to the notes of Penny Garnett, May 1978,  and  A History of the Diocese of Bendigo, 1902 - 1976 by Dr Keith Cole, “Aspects of early Blackwood” by Alan Buckingham and Margot Hitchcock, and Archdeacon N.D.Herring’s Manuscript History, the major sources for this brief history.

 

In 1889 All Saints Blackwood became part of the Parish of Trentham.

In 1902 St George’s Trentham, with All Saints Blackwood, came under the care of the newly formed Diocese of Bendigo.

In 1942 St George’s Trentham, with All Saints Blackwood, and St Mary’s Woodend, formed the Parish of Woodend.

In 2013 All Saints Blackwood joined the Parish of of Bacchus Marsh in the Diocese of Melbourne.