St John's Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta

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St John's twin towers
St John's twin towers

Governor Philip Gidley King declared the Parish of St John encompassing the Parramatta district on July 23, 1802. The first St John's Church opened on April 11, 1803 and is the oldest continuous place of worship in Australia.

Reverend Richard Johnson and his wife Mary sailed on storeship Golden Grove in the First Fleet and conducted the first church service of the colony on Sunday, February 3, 1788 under the trees bordering Sydney Cove. During the next few years he established a regular church service each fortnight on the banks of the River at Parramatta.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie had a plan for Parramatta with St John's church being the focus of the community. Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie encouraged Lieutenant John Cliffe Watts, aide-de-camp to Lachlan Macquarie, to submit a design for St John's to include twin towers similar to the 12th century St Mary's Saxon Church in Kent, England, which she admired. The towers were added to the existing church and retained when rebuilt in 1855 by James Houison. Architects E. T. Blacket and Son were commissioned in 1882 to enlarge the church by designing two transepts, the North Transept to house the organ and choir.

Acknowledgement: St John's Cathedral publication, Bruce Morrison, Rector and Senior Canon, 2009. The Cradle City of Australia 1788-1961 by James Jervis. John Watts, Australia's Forgotten Architect 1814-1819 by Margaret & Alastair Macfarlane.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.