Sydney Architecture Images- Leichhardt and area

Hunter Baillee Presbyterian Church


Cyril and Arthur Blacket  Builder: Bowden & Curtis, Simpson Brothers, R.Kirkham, A.M Allen


Collins and Johnston Streets Annandale




Victorian Academic Gothic




  Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church, photograph courtesy  Raine & Horne
  The Organ
You can also hear this instrument in recital before the fortnightly Evening Service.

The visually striking and majestic sounding instrument in the Hunter Baillie Church is by the English organ builder William Hill & Son, and was installed in the church in 1892. It is certainly conjectural, but highly probable that the choice of this builder, apart from his fame in England and elsewhere, rests in his being the successful tenderer for the construction of his magnum opus, the Grand Organ in Sydney Town Hall.
The tall, neo-Gothic casework, in the same style as Arthur G. Hill's 1888 case in Chichester Cathedral, is of exceptional beauty and is unique among Hill's many organs in Australia. Decorative tracery fills the spaces between the tops of the display pipes and cornice mouldings, the display pipes being of burnished tin as well as (unusually) of wood. The cornice mouldings are decorated with gilded pateræ and those of the pipe towers and flats are topped with traceried parapets.

The tonal concept of the organ comprises twenty-four stops distributed over three manuals and pedals with a complete diapason chorus being available on the Great manual and with the Swell and Choir divisions composed of flutes, strings and reeds. Throughout its one hundred and fourteen year history the organ has remained substantially unaltered (although fashion, and the tastes and fancies of interested parties did effect various changes to the instrument until the 1980s).

Thanks to the generosity of the many musicians who have donated their services to the cause of the Organ Restoration Fund, and the patronage of a loyal and enthusiastic audience, we have raised over $85,000 in twelve seasons of our Spring Festival of Music. That amount, together with matching grants from the N.S.W. Heritage Council, has now allowed us to complete two stages of the Organ Restoration Project: first, the complete refurbishment of the Choir organ including restoration of the Swell Cornopean stop which, in February 1997, was playable once again at its original place in the organ and heard for the first time in more than a century! Current work (the completion of Stage Two) has entailed shipping the Great Trumpet rank to the UK for detailed refurbishment by an expert in Victorian reeds of the Hill period.

Thanks to the help of all our benefactors and friends, we look forward to achieving more of the colossal but long-overdue task of restoring this exceptional example of Australia's organ heritage.
  The Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church is a Victorian Gothic Revival style Church constructed of white Pyrmont sandstone, the base in rusticated but remaining masonry is dressed.

The church consists of a nave of six bays with two transepts. In place of a chancel is a separate vestry. At the eastern end of the nave (ie ecclesiastical west), there is a square tower with a newell stairway and spire the apex of which rises 55 metres from the ground. There is a parapet walkway at the base of the spire. At each corner of the tower there is a finial connected with the spire by two flying buttresses.

An open king post roof, possibly of cedar spans the nave. Pillars which support the nave have columns of Aberdeen granite with capitals and feet of Victorian bluestone. The roofs of the South transept and the nave are covered in Westmorland slate. The roof of the north transept is covered in a European green and Bangor slate. Vestry and porch roofs are covered in Westmorland slate.

Except for the tower porch, the floor is of wood. The area unoccupied by communion and pew platforms is paved in encaustic tile of geometric design.

The threshold of the gates to the tower porch is of Victorian bluestone. The rest of the tower porch floor is paved in black and white diagonal marble bordered in red encaustic tile. The ceiling of the tower porch is vaulted in stone. The principal doorway to the porch is embellished at the arch with tracery in stone and with ornamental wrought iron. There are two ornamental wrought iron grill gates within the principal doorway.

Doors throughout the church are of cedar. Lancet windows of the tower's newell stairyway and upper storeys together with the spire's dormer windows are of leaded tinted glass. The windows of the bell chamber are fitted with wooden louvres. Aisle, clerestorey, transept, vestry and western porch windows are of leaded geometric coloured glass.

The designs of the pointed arches of the nave and apsidal arches of the transepts are possibly contrived freehand rather than by geometry.

Gas brackets in brass encircle the capitals of columns in the nave and have bands decorated with Scotch thistles and Greek crosses.

The Collins and Johnston Street perimeteres are fenced also in Pyrmont sandstone with a rusticated base and dressed piers with gabled caps, the piers being connected by wrought-iron balastrades.

The main porch contains the following tablets:

West wall - top 'This tablet was erected by the congregation in loving remembrance of Isabella Dunmore Lang and Widow of the founder of the Church, born at Sydney, 8th November, 1843, Died at Casula NSW 24th January, 1925, the expression of her love for Christ was in loving service to others. 'His servants shall serve and they shall see His Face'. Revelations XXII, 3-4

West wall - below 'This Church was erected by his widow to the memory of John Hunter Baillie, generous friend of the Presbyterian Church in this colony and a liberal contributor to many benevolent and charitable institutions - born at Hamilton, Scotland, on 29th July, 1818, died at Sydney, 25th March, 1854. The memory of the just is blessed'. Proverbs X, 7.

West wall - left 'To the memory of Helen Hay, widow of John Hunter Baillie, daughter of the late William Mackie of Greenock, Scotland, 9th October 1815. Died at Sydney, 18th May, 1897, in the 83rd year of her age. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from their labours and their works do follow them' Relevations IV, 13"

West wall - right 'This tablet was erected by the Congregation in affectionate remembrance of the Rev. Peter Falconer Mackenzie, founder of this Church, who entered upon rest on the 26th October, 1904, in 73rd year of his age, the 47th year of his Ministry, and the 19th year of his pastorate of this congregation. He feared God and knew no other fear'

The Memorials to the First World War, 1914-18, are on either side of the main porch and they were both unveiled by his Excellency, Lord Forster, P.C, Governor-General, 19th December, 1920.

The 1890 William Hill & Son Organ is one of only six Hill & Son organs in NSW to have survived in original condition and is particularly distinguished because of its unique case.

Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Chuch, School Hall

Simplified Gothic polychrome moulded brick with dressed sandstone mullions in the windows and open timbered roof. Original proportions were 50 feet long, 22 feet wide and 28 feet high. Belfry and bell at the centre of the roof (since removed). Additions at the western end (1911, and in modern times). Suggestion of the influence of John Horbury Hunt in the design. (Heritage Office files)
  The Hunter Baillie Memorial Church was officially opened on 23 February, 1889, after three years' construction. The Church and its furnishings, together with a Manse (which stood on the adjoining corner of the intersection), a hall and the land on which they were all erected were financed at her own expense, at a cost of more than £35,000, by Mrs Helen Hunter Baillie (née Mackie) as a memorial to her husband. John Hunter Baillie died in 1854 at age thirty-five while still Secretary and Inspector of the Bank of New South Wales. His widow was seventy-eight when she died in 1897.

The church's architect was Arthur Blacket, son of the famous colonial architect Edmund Blacket. Morton Herman, in his book 'Architecture of Victorian Sydney', describes the church thus: . . . with a pure and delightful silhouette when seen from any angle . . . Edmund Blacket . . . built many beautiful towers and spires in his time . . . none of them quite equals the dramatic delicacy of Hunter Baillie Church.

The building is constructed in early English Gothic style, albeit with a Scottish character. The magnificent spire (the tallest in Sydney) reaches a height of sixty metres above street level. The interior is finely proportioned with massive pillars of Scottish granite and Melbourne bluestone; stained glass and an open timbered roof add to the beauty and dignity of the building. Much of the timber is Australian red cedar whilst the pulpit is superbly carved Oamaru stone from New Zealand, with green marble columns and base. Being of great historical and architectural significance the building is the subject of a Permanent Conservation Order by the Heritage Council of N.S.W. It is also on the National Estate register.

The church has been the object of an on-going program of restoration. The Heritage Council, recognising the significance of the Hunter Baillie Church funded major restoration work in the 1980s to an amount of $90,000. This permitted reconstruction of the southern transept and restoration of the stained glass in both transepts. The congregation was responsible for the restoration of the unique brass coronets (the original gas lights!) and sanctuary lamps as well as the iron fence and vestibule gates. The stained glass windows in the aisles were restored to mark the church's centenary year. On-going restoration is being performed by voluntary labour with the help of donations to the Restoration Fund.

Much still remains to be done — including the tower, clerestory windows, stonework and the organ — and the cost will be very great. We hope that the Heritage Council will continue to assist as funds become available, and that the support of members and friends to give both their time and money for the work will also continue so that the restoration program can be completed. Any donation that you might make to further the restoration of this grand example of our country's heritage would be most gratefully received.
  Church counts cost of old age
By Linda Morris
SMH February 2, 2004

Repair job . . . stonemasons work on the spire of the Hunter Baillie Presbyterian Church. Photo: Dean Sewell

Hunter Baillie Presbyterian Church in Annandale was built in 1889 as a memorial by a widow for her husband.

Thirty-five years after the death of John Hunter Baillie, his widow, Helen Mackie Baillie, donated the £35,000 needed to build the church, church hall, school and manse.

But while the couple's love endured, the church has not. Weather and pollution have taken a toll on the Gothic-style sandstone exterior.

With the permission of the NSW Heritage Office, stonemasons have removed about one third of the south-western finial, a sculptured stone ornament that decorated the base of the church's elegant 56-metre spire. The finial had severely eroded and was on the verge of collapsing.

The remaining stone was capped with a lead covering. Inspection of another finial showed it to be in even worse condition and workers removed the portion yesterday.

Church organist Ralph Lane described the remains of the south-western finial "akin to how a human leg might look if the foot and ankle were amputated because of gangrene. It's hardly a pretty sight in neo-Gothic terms either," he said.

The cost of replacing each finial is estimated at $8000, a price that the church's congregation cannot afford, having recently paid a $70,000 public indemnity insurance bill.

To restore the entire church, the congregation needs to raise at least $3 million. Murray Brown, spokesman for the NSW Heritage Council, said Hunter Baillie Church had been subject of a permanent conservation order since 1981. It has been listed on the State Heritage Register since 1999.

The funding issue is a common problem. Many churches have to deal with dwindling congregations and the upkeep of crumbling structures. Sydney's two cathedrals, St Andrew's and St Mary's, rely on government funding for restoration work.

Mr Lane said the congregation is pinning its restoration hopes on a National Trust-sponsored appeal or for the church to be placed on the new National Estate register, enabling the project to receive government assistance.

"There are a lot of neo-Gothic buildings in Sydney but not a church built directly by the love of a women for her husband," Mr Lane said. "I can't think of any building constructed under the same circumstances."