St Andrew’s Uniting Church. Currently Bavarian Bier Café, Parramatta. Photo: Caroline Finlay, January 2015.
St Andrew’s Church, at 2 Phillip Street Parramatta, began as a Presbyterian church on the corner of Marsden and Phillip Street, Parramatta, in 1926.
The first Presbyterian service in Parramatta was held on June 19, 1823 in ‘Mr Elder’s New Room’ in George Street. Successive services were irregular as the ministers had to travel from Sydney. By 1835 a group of ministers had met in Parramatta and made arrangements for regular services to be held in the ‘Old Court House’, on the corner of George and Church Street. This was authorised by the Governor of NSW Sir Richard Bourke. It was also in 1835 that subscriptions were raised and land was granted to the church to build its own church at what is now 217 Church Street, the former Commonwealth Bank site. The original St Andrew’s Church was designed by David Lennox and construction which began in 1840 was completed in October 1849. This church occupied this site until it was moved in its entirety to 7 McKern Street, Wentworthville, in 1928, where it still stands today.
Construction of a new St Andrew’s Church began at 2 Phillip Street in 1925, and the first congregation was held in 1926. A new church was required as the Parramatta congregation had grown and demanded more accommodation. The church was built at a cost of £15,000 and was free of debt, largely due to the Reverend John Patterson’s efforts. Reverend Patterson also had the distinction at this time of having served his church for 33 years in the Parramatta district. This new church was also credited with having one of the finest organs in the state.[i]
St Andrew’s is a Romanesque style dark brick church with a tower, a small spire, a dark brick hall, and stained glass windows.
The corner of Marsden and Phillip Street has had a long period of religious significance. James Houison, a prominent Presbyterian and builder in Parramatta had erected a small wooden church on this site by 1843, and the Free Presbyterian Church met there in the 1840s.
In 1973 St Andrew’s conducted a special service to commemorate 150years of Presbyterian worship in Parramatta. This was attended by the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam and his wife Mrs Whitlam and the Governor of NSW Sir Roden Cutler. A commemorative stained glass window was commissioned for the event. The window, which portrays St. Peter The Fisherman, was created by Steven Moor, an Australian artist. The window was donated by the Shaw family who are related to the former Reverend H. A. Shaw, who had been a minster at St Andrew’s from 1931-46.
Another feature is the large stained glass window commemorating St Andrew’s most well-known layman, Mr John Ritchie and his wife Annie. Mr Ritchie offered his services to the church from the 1890’s until his death in 1966. He was Church Secretary for three years and Church Treasurer for twenty three years, and was a member of the choir. Mr Ritchie during his many years of devotion also made many donations for repairs and maintenance that the church required.
St Andrew’s Church began as a Presbyterian Church. However, when the Uniting Church in Australia – which amalgamated the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational denominations – was established in June 1977, the Parramatta Presbyterians of St Andrew’s also joined this new formation.[ii]
In 1990 however, the decision was made for St Andrew’s to form a new parish with Centenary Uniting Church on the corner of Sorrell and Fennell Streets, North Parramatta. On the 9th September 1990, a Thanksgiving Service at 9:30 am was the last time the congregation met at the church on 2 Phillip Street.
Evening congregations met at St Peter’s Church on the corner of Church and Palmer Street, Parramatta, which has now been converted to a bridal store.
A number of renovations have occurred since the Uniting Church’s departure, though the facades of the former church and hall have been maintained, and the stained glass windows have also been preserved in their original condition.
The church was offered for sale in 1990, but the sale was eventually withdrawn. It was leased by the art supplies store Eckersley’s until the building was eventually sold in 1997 for $1,580,000.[iii] The building since then has had a range of retail uses including Echo Lounge, a bar and nightclub, and restaurants including the Italian restaurant La Porchetta. It has been the site of the Parramatta branch of The Bavarian Bier Café since 2008.
Caroline Finlay, Research Facilitator, Regional Studies, Parramatta City Council, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2015.
[i] The Churches: Thirty-Three Years’ Ministry. (1926, November 27). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, p.11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16334166
[ii] St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Parramatta [vertical file]. Parramatta Heritage Centre.
[iii] Parramatta Cityscope, September 1997-January 1998, Cityscope Publications, 1997, Map 7, p.3.