On 28 July 1869 the Taree Presbyterian Church was opened by Rev. James Cameron of Richmond with the presiding minister Rev. J S Laing delivering the first sermon in the evening. On the following Tuesday a tea was held to celebrate the event with 500 people attending. A subscription of £68 was raised which meant the newly erected church was free of debt.1
The Manning district’s first Presbyterian Minister, Rev. James Tunnadine Carter, wrote about the community’s desire for a permanent church in 1851. Congregations no longer fitted into the largest rooms of private houses2 and the Presbyterians longed for an identified, denominational space for worship, rather than the shared use of public spaces, such as the old Taree School. Sadly Rev. Carter died in 1858 at the age of 39 years, leaving a wife and five children. He is buried in the Taree Estate Cemetery, and did not realise the community’s dreams.3
The church was built 10 years after Carter’s death on land donated by Henry Flett.4 One of the conditions Flett stipulated was that the church must be built of brick. The builder of the church was Hezekiah Edwards and the bricks were made by Robert Symes who became the first Superintendent of the Sunday School.5 When the church was re-floored in 1992 and new drainage installed the foundations revealed the original Symes’ bricks and the use of large river rocks as reinforcement.6
As the congregation began to outgrow the original church, plans for a new church commenced in 1957 initiated by a bequest from the late business woman Catherine Thomson. In 1966 the new church was opened leaving the original church to be used as the Sunday School and Hall.7
In 2019, as the community celebrates the 150th anniversary of St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, the building is recognised as Taree’s oldest remaining church and oldest identified building.8
Author: Janine Roberts and Ruth Crossman.
1 Sydney Mail, 7 August 1869, 5.
2 The Empire, 9 September 1851, 3.
3 Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 1958.
4 NSW LRS Vol-Fol: 99-218;Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 31 January 1867, 3.
5 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 20 October 1951, 5.
6 Notes from the Presbyterian Church’s 150thanniversary.
8 Office of Environment and Heritage listing https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=1660029