St Johns East Malvern

History

The Church of Saint John the Evangelist

The story of Saint John’s in East Malvern began in 1883, and has involved three church buildings, two locations, two names and two changes to the parish boundaries.

Saint John’s was at first a daughter or ‘mission’ church of Saint Mary’s, Caulfield, and had its origins in the perception of the Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Rev. H. B. Macartney, that there was an urgent need for Christian ministry in the part of his parish that was developing close to the Caulfield Racecourse. There was at the time no church of any denomination in that vicinity, and the Vicar was particularly troubled that there was no religious instruction available for the boys and young men employed at the racecourse.

Rev. Macartney therefore set up Sunday classes at a house in Normanby Road, and soon after that, when residents in the area expressed a desire for a church nearer than Saint Mary’s, he arranged for the acquisition of a piece of land, slightly bigger than a quarter of an acre, situated on the south side of Red Hill and bounded by Dandenong Rd. and the Caulfield railway line. This land was the gift of Mr. George Davis, and on it the Vicar, probably at his own expense, arranged for the erection of a wooden building, “measuring about 20′ by 40′ and as yet unlined”, which was to do double duty, as a school room and as a church. An invitation was issued to the “Opening Festival of Saint John’s Church, Caulfield adjoining the Race-Course, Dandenong Rd., Friday evening, Nov. 30 1883″, and the building was opened by Archdeacon Stretch on that date.

Services were held each Sunday morning and evening, with a Sunday School at 3.00pm. Attendances averaged about 70; collections realized up to 30 shillings per Sunday. There was a choir, established and trained by a Mrs. Pearson.

Two months after the church was opened, the building was made available for use as a school. A partition was placed across the single room during the week and had to be removed before services on Sunday. This awkward arrangement lasted only one year, the school closing on 3rd September, 1885, and moving to one-room premises in Tooronga Rd. However, it was not long before a circular was issued calling for a schoolroom to be erected close to the church.

In April 1888 Saint John’s Church received its own incumbent, the Revd. John Boyle Gason, and acquired a parish of its own. Land was purchased on the west side of Finch St., East Malvern, and the earlier site was sold for £1875. On 9th December 1888 Saint John’s Caulfield held its last services and the wooden church building was moved to the north side of the Finch St. site, in time for Saint John’s East Malvern to welcome its first congregation on 16th the southern part of the Finch Street block. Building began with the construction of the chancel, the organ chamber, the vestry and part of the nave. The new church was consecrated on Friday 24th June,1904.

As soon as the new brick building was in use, the wooden church became a Sunday School and Parish Hall, though by 1906 it was clear that a larger building must be provided for these purposes. The wooden church then gave further good service at St. James’s, Glen Iris, and St. Gabriel’s, Huntingdon, before finally being demolished. St. John’s possesses an archive chest fashioned from a beam of the old church.

During the early part of the twentieth century the church congregation rapidly expanded. In consequence a branch Sunday School and a mission church (now All Saints’, East Malvern) were established, and plans were made for a larger church on the Finch Street site. On Wednesday, 14th April, 1920, the last services in the brick church were held. For the next two and a half years, while the new church was being built, services were held in the parish hall.

On 16th December, 1922, the new church, incorporating much material from the older building, was consecrated as a Peace Memorial Church. An unusual feature of the ground plan is that the chancel is at the west end of the church, the reverse of the traditional position.

The church that visitors see today is basically as it was in 1922, except for modifications to the seating arrangements and to the positioning of the main attar and the organ console. These latter changes reflect developments in the styles of worship adopted by the parish.

In 1925 the vicarage was remodelled and in 1927 a kindergarten room was built on to the Parish Hall.

In 1945 the south transept of the church became a “Warrior Chapel” with an Honour Board naming parishioners killed in action in the First World War. There is also a Book of Remembrance for those killed in the Second World War. Adjoining the church on the north side is the Barry Shaw Garden of Remembrance, dedicated 28th November 1965.

In recent times there has been a major refurbishment of the Parish Hall, supplying much improved kitchen and toilet facilities, meeting rooms, a choir room and a pleasant main hall for parish functions and for hire. The renovation of the Parish Hall was made possible partly by 7089 hours of labour given by members of the parish, $50,395 of personal donations and $143,221 from parish funds. The Hall was rededicated in November 2005.

In 2006 the St. John’s of East Malvern Foundation Limited was set up to give continuing valuable support to the parish and to the community.

Vicar’s of the Parish

1888-1915 J. B. GASON
1916-1928 H. B. HEWETT
1928-1942 J. H. DEWHURST
1942-1948 F. A. TOWNSEND
1948-1955 R. F. BROWN
1956-1961 T. R. H. CLARK
1962-1977 L. M. HOWELL
1977-1987 D. J. CONOLLY
1987-1997 F. WANDMAKER
1997-2005 G. M. TISDALL
2006-2018 J. G. BALDOCK

Saint John's