In the 1860's Townsville was established and its Anglican parishioners were part of the Diocese of Sydney
Prior to the construction of a church, Anglican services in Townsville were conducted at the court house
The first Anglican church was established on land on Melton Hill, purchased at a sale of crown lands, with the aid of parishioners. Work began on 24th May 1871 and on October 1st, 1871 St James’ Church was opened for Divine Service. This first church was a simple and unpretentious building, constructed of timber weatherboard with a shingled roof and, like all buildings of importance, was surrounded by a ‘goat-proof’ fence. It cost £400 and was opened free of debt.
It was based at St James’ Church in Townsville. The new diocese’s first bishop George Henry Stanton was appointed on 24th June. The intention initially was to have the cathedral designed by John Horbury Hunt but Arthur Blackett of Sydney, son of Edmund Blackett (the New South Wales colonial architect) was commissioned to design a building to be erected on the church land behind the existing weatherboard structure.
Bishop Stanton did not immediately go to Townsville but spent several months in England, trying to raise funds and attract clergy for the new diocese.
He finally arrived in Townsville in May, preaching his first sermon on 21st of May.
Having become the Cathedral of the new diocese, St James’ Church was enlarged, extending the nave and north and south aisles
Plans for a new and larger cathedral began when members of the church formed a committee to raise the funds
The proposal to build a cathedral was approved by a church synod and the Cathedral Building Committee was appointed.
An organ, donated by Miss S.E. Holland (an English friend of Bishop Stanton), was added to the church.
Arthur Blackett of Sydney, son of Edmund Blackett (the New South Wales colonial architect) was commissioned to design a new cathedral. The initial designs called for a cathedral constructed of sandstone with granite columns which would hold 1000 parishioners.
The nave would be 37 feet (11 m) wide, transepts would be 24 feet (7.3 m) wide and the total interior length from chancel to bell tower would be 115 feet (35 m).
Many features of these designs were rejected upon review by the diocese and three revisions were necessary before a final plan was approved.
The final design was for a church built in stone, with a low wide central tower which would act as a ventilation shaft, and a single tower at the northern door. It was to cost £24,000 but was built in sections.
The diocese called tenders for the construction of the Cathedral. The first sod was turned on the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria on June 22nd.
The building was erected by Townsville contractors MacMahon & Cliffe. Subsequent financial constraints forced changes to the design, and the Cathedral was constructed in brick,
with concrete facings, a temporary roof and no towers.
This first stage of the Cathedral was consecrated on October 27th by the second Bishop of North Queensland, Christopher Barlow.
On 26 January, Cyclone Sigma struck Townsville; however, the Cathedral was relatively unaffected by this
On March 9th, Cyclone Leonta struck Townsville, destroying the 1871 St James’ Church and the temporary roof of the Cathedral. The Cathedral was promptly rebuilt with higher walls and a more permanent roof at a cost of £2,500.
The gas lights, seen here, remained until 1922. They were replaced by electrical lights when it became available
The second stage of the Cathedral was designed in 1955 by Melbourne architect Louis Williams, with Townsville architects Black and Paulsen responsible for the building between 1959-1960.
Although Blackett’s design had a strong Byzantine flavour, with its magnificent pointed arches and the apsidal east end, at one stage of the design he envisaged having a dome above
the nave. Williams favoured a Gothic design, which was popular for churches up to the end of the 1960s. The nave and the Western façade with the bell tower and stature of St James were all
Evidence of the extension can be seen as although the brick makers, Scott Brothers, reopened the original clay pit to make new bricks for the extension, a slight difference of colour can be seen due to the aging of the bricks. Evidence can also be seen in the ceiling where the original rough sawn, lapped timber was replaced with machine sawn, tongue-in-groove.
The final foundation stone was laid in 1960 marking the completion of the Cathedral.
36 Cleveland Terrace, Townsville
PO Box 108
Townsville, Qld, 4810
Telephone: 0423 833 451
Or contact the Dean,
The Very Reverend
Dr Kenneth Lay
0422 148 952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.