Crossed Keys of St Peter


A Potted History



A Not So Respectable Church in a Very Respectable City

As the title of this potted history of St Peter's suggests, the story of this church could be described as a story of contradictions. One of the themes that can be detected running though its history is a kind of nonconformity, sometimes discreetly veiled and not obvious, at other times quite obvious and deliberate.


The first part of the building was constructed between June 18, 1846, when Charles Joseph La Trobe laid a foundation stone, and February 1848, when it was sufficiently close to completion for the first Anglican bishop of Melbourne, Charles Perry, to have the letters of his appointment read in the church during Morning Prayer. The first part of the building greeted the influx of migrants to Melbourne who came to the colony in the wake of the gold rush; these included the not particularly well-off group represented in Abraham Solomon's painting Second Class – The Parting. In 1853, Mrs Ellen Clacy, a visitor to goldrush Victoria who subsequently published an account of her travels, had noted that 'Sunday after Sunday do numbers return from St Peter's, unable to obtain even standing room beneath the porch'. Bluestone transepts with seating in galleries as well as at ground level were added, bringing the numbers that it could hold from 650 to 1050 in 1864. A further and final extension at the east end of the church was completed in 1876.

Genteel Parishioners and the Not-so-Genteel in the 19th Century

Throughout the nineteenth century, the respectability of the congregation was a subject for comment. Howard Willoughby, a professional journalist and regular worshipper at St Peter's, commented on this aspect in 1872 in the Weekly Times, and singled out the high proportion of doctors in the pews:

All the doctors of the East-end (and their name is legion) are here in the person of their wives and families. A pew in St Peter's follows, as inevitably as a logical conclusion, the possession of a three-storied house and a shining brass plate in Collins-street. Not a few of the busiest practitioners themselves manage to steal themselves away from their practice, giving their dashing pairs of chestnuts and bays a Sunday morning's rest, and, let it be hoped, their patients a morning's respite from draughts and medicines. Here at least doctors might, with singular advantage, be included in the set prayers for magistrates – a prayer for patience, inquiry, and discretion. More of them still will attend the shorter evening service, and no accidents ever occur to call any one of their number out. Their position is a little too assured to need any device, stale or rare. St Peter's is a little above the arrangement. One feels instinctively that the intrusion of a doctor's messenger would be regarded by every seat-holder as an insult to his personal intelligence. . .

Parish records make it clear that in the decade that Willoughby wrote, there were often twelve or more prominent doctors worshipping regularly, and although J. A. Turner's painting A View Down Collins Street (1874) was originally the property of a doctor who did not worship at St Peter's, the part of the city that it depicts was precisely the territory described by Willoughby, occupied by many parishioners, and equally familiar to many others.

Medical men remained an influential element in the congregation, and in its politics, up to the beginning of the century. In 1900, when Ernest Selwyn Hughes became vicar, his brother, Kent Hughes, was already a well-known doctor and the parochial nominators included Dr Talbot Brett and Dr F. W. W. Morton. Lawyers were less numerous, though some of their number were significant in the church's establishment: the first organized body to raise funds for the establishment of a church in East Melbourne included Frederick W. Pohlman(1811-77) among the three trustees. Another trustee, James Denham Pinnock(1810-75) was a civil servant and like Pohlman, a member of the Legislative Council.

When Melbourne's Anglican synod debated the site for the cathedral in 1877, one of the speakers referred to East Melbourne as 'a most respectable – a painfully respectable suburb – (laughter) – a sort of Bloomsbury Square'. By the 1870s, the nouveau riche of the goldrush had added themselves to the genteel, though not necessarily wealthy, who had formed the colony's polite society when the church was first built. Prominent early worshippers included Charles La Trobe and members of his military staff, among the latter Captain McRae, a close relative of Georgiana McRae. La Trobe himself had hoped that the church might have been built entirely of stone, a hope that was frustrated by the depression of the 1840s; on his return to England, he presented the church with a marble font, still in regular use. Another prominent public servant who rented a pew was William Lonsdale. Frederick Wilkinson, another legal figure, was the master in equity and a church warden: a watercolour of the church by one of his family is in the parish's collection. Both John Bear, and his son John Pinney Bear, Victorian politician, described by contemporaries as 'that eccentric pioneer', an early owner of Chateau Tahbilk, was also a trustee; the church contains a memorial to him. And the homes of parishioners such as these were decorated in as comfortable and expensive a way as was possible in the wake of new-found wealth produced by gold rush. But as Richard Twopeny commented in 1883 in his Town Life in Australia, the taste of the items on which the new wealth was spent was often questionable.

Many middle class worshippers of more limited means also worshipped at St Peter's: pew rent books in the 1850s contain many entries for residents of Royal Terrace in Nicholson Street, built in 1854 as one of the most substantial terraces in the city and still standing on its site across the road from the Exhibition Building.

Several institutions rented pews at St Peter's, including the Melbourne Club, and nearby schools. The first principal of PLC, then located in Albert Street, Professor Pearson, had an association with St Peter's and also seems to have forged a link with the school that persisted after his resignation. On the one hand, Nellie Melba learnt the organ from Joseph Summers, the director of music at St Peter's, before going on to study with the organist of nearby St Mark's Fitzroy, who later claimed that she often went swimming nude with the local boys after music lessons. On the other hand, Anglican boarders at PLC were brought to St Peter's, and one left a fictionalized record of her memories of schooldays – Henry Handel Richardson, in The Getting of Wisdom. Resentful that some relatives of an assistant priest at St Peter's, Walter Vincent Green, were helping to fund her education, she satirized the assistant priest and his wife in her novel, even giving them the name of some of their real-life relatives, the Shepherds. The church appeared in the novel as St Stephen's-on-the-Hill, but its location, across the road from St Patrick's cathedral, made its identity obvious.

But there are occasional glimpses that tell us that even in the nineteenth century, middle-class respectability had to live side by side with other lifestyles. The parish's annual report in 1872 referred to behaviour problems during evening services, the result of children attending without accompanying adults. The church was already being used as a dumping ground by parents anxious to have the children off their hands for a while. Some members of the congregation regarded the goldrush as a calamity for the colony because it brought a large influx of people from classes lower than their own. One of these was Mrs Hugh Childers who returned to England in 1858 with her husband, who eventually became Chancellor of the Exchequer; she can hardly have approved of the nightman and contractor, Mr Powell, whose address was in nearby Cambridge Street, and who rented a pew at St Peter's; or Mrs Alexander Hunter, whose father had been both a convict and a slave trader.

Nor was every well-to-do citizen or landowner interested in supporting the church: one of the substantial landowners in East Melbourne before the church was built was the parliamentarian William Charles Wentworth. The trustees approached him for a donation towards the building, but received no reply. Another, the squatter, politician and dandy Charles Ebden, complained about the pew rents, and requested a private pew of his own, a request that was refused.

Conservative or Liberal, Controlling or Liberating?

Was the church an agent of social control, imposing middle-class standards, rather than a spiritual organization based on belief? There was certainly an extent to which an insistence on formality and dignity in services by prominent lay people in the congregation could lapse into a kind of controlling mechanism. When Jack Harris, the hangman, interrupted evening prayer on 27 February 1848 by trying to force a drunken recitation on the congregation, he was removed 'howling like a maimed gorilla', having nearly disfigured 'an exquisitely got up young gentleman connected with the choir'. The magistrate before whom he was brought was Henry Moor, the diocesan registrar, who had read Bishop Perry's letters patent in St Peter's only a few weeks earlier. He sentenced Harris to six months' hard labour. But there were also manifestations of a much more liberal attitude rather than autocratic control. When the sharebroker and estate agent Edward Wild, a churchwarden from 1860 to 1864, wanted the verger to be obliged against his own conscience to wear a verger's gown, it was the vicar, Henry Handfield, who sprang to the verger's defence, informing Wild that the verger was within his rights in refusing to do so.

The parish also raised funds to be distributed to the poor of goldrush Melbourne. The existence of the parish's Benevolent Society in the 1850s might indicate an organization that discriminated between the deserving and undeserving poor in the manner of a Dickensian workhouse; but the surviving records give figures of expenditure on the distribution of food – it spent 364 between June 1853 and December 1854 in this way – that suggest something less judgmental and more generous, even if its donors did believe that there was such a category as 'the deserving poor'.

If the middle classes of St Peter's believed that their worshipping habits, as well as the rest of their life-style was to be imitated by others, another issue that calls into question any assumption that this meant direct domination or control is the one of pew rents. Though the renting of pews had been a way of reinforcing social divisions in England for some time, by the 1840s, there were strong movements pressuring for its abolition, led by clergy and significant lay people. Pew rents were introduced in colonial churches, not primarily as a way of reinforcing social structures, but from the need to have a regular income for the payment of building costs, in a society in which the Church of England did not have the backing of financial endowments of the kind that it inherited in England. At St Peter's, Bishop Perry argued with some of the laity in the early 1850s as to whether pew rents should be used towards stipends or towards paying off the debt on the building. Nor were they an automatic source of income: a near-crisis occurred in the early 1860s when many renters failed to pay their subscriptions; and from time to time the verger, who collected the rents, had difficulty in obtaining the amount due from some subscribers.

Pew rents continued at St Peter's until the last decade of the 19th century; but in 1871, a proposal was put forward for the creation of a mission church in Collingwood where all seating would be free; St Saviour's became an independent parish in its own right in 1880, the first Anglican church of its kind in the inner-city area. And if the renting of pews had strong critics in England amongst the clergy and the middle classses, it was likewise criticised as an undesirable practice by well-to-do Anglicans in Melbourne such as Mr Justice Stawell. Though the abolition of rents at St Peter's lagged in time behind many English churches in this matter, it preceded most Melbourne Anglican churches; there were a handful of churches where some members of congregations maintained the practice until just after World War II!

The formation of St Saviour's was not the only sign of an interest in creating an Anglicanism that extended beyond the middle classes: so was the recommencement of a school at St Peter's in 1898 as a result of the initiative of E. S. Hughes, then assistant priest. He envisaged a school forming a function for the Anglican children of Fitzroy and Collingwood families akin to that provided by Roman Catholic parish schools, a function radically different from that of the grammar schools. As such, it was heavily subsidized.

A High Church Identity

If Harris the hangman's demonstration at evening prayer was most likely to have been an expression of a stream of working class alienation from the Chureh of England or institutional religion in general, an even earlier act might be interpreted in that way. On 10 December 1846, during the early stage of the building of the church, a stone cross was removed from the gable of the church, and 'found with a piece of rope round its neck, in a gully in the now Fitzroy Gardens'. It was far from a purposeless act of vandalism, the cross had been fixed with an iron dowel into cement onto a substantial plinth two feet square. The architect considered that it would have taken four men using the ladders of the roof shinglers to move it. Instead, it may well have been a deliberate protest over what was already identified by its critics as a kind of non-conformity or rebellion within Anglicanism – the Tractarian or Oxford movement, broad labels given to the 19th century revival of high church doctrine, devotion and liturgy in Anglicanism.

This revival within the Anglican church had its origins in an earlier stream of 17th and 18th century Anglicanism. But elements in it had a nonconformist flavour. It described its ancestry critically as the 'high and dry' school, and rejected the idea that the Church of England was simply a formal state church, or an organisation for promoting ethics or a cerebral religion – the charge levelled against some other Anglicans. Like many Anglicans caught up in the evangelical revival, its members were committed to a religion of passion and of feeling. In the eyes of its critics, there was something very un-Anglican, and 'not British' about the passionate fervour that this revival cultivated in its devotion to Jesus in the eucharist; in the dramatic impact of some of its liturgical celebrations, especially of Holy Week; there was passion and emotion too in hymn texts translated by its scholars from early Christian Greek and Latin sources. Its adherents favoured churches built in the revival Gothic style, often with elaborate and carefully researched fittings, but all reflecting a vision of the middle ages of a romantic and emotionally charged kind, of an age of faith, assurance and beauty – a reaction, conscious or unconscious, against many aspects of industrialised, commerical and urban contemporary society.

At St Peter's, involvement in this kind of Anglicanism was at first of a very restrained kind. Throughout the nineteenth century, its eucharistic liturgy was performed with the utmost ceremonial simplicity, without vestments, incense, or other Catholic signs: Willoughby commented in 1872 that the only perfume in the church came not from incense, but from the scented hankerchiefs of well-to-do gentlemen. But it developed a definite identity nonetheless that contrasted with the severe Evangelical stance of Bishop Perry, who publicly cautioned his clergy against the dangers of any such excesses. Perry manifested his anxiety particularly over liturgical music. He regarded it as theatrical and identified it with Roman Catholicism and the current high church revival in England.

In contrast to Perry, Melbourne's well-to-do sought formality, aesthetic adornment and sophistication in church, just as they expected these standards in other public places and in their homes. At St Peter's, while Edward Wild was denied a ceremonially robed verger, many of the congregation supported a sophisticated musical repertoire in the liturgy, directed by Joseph Summers, an Oxford Bachelor of Music at a time when such degree-holders were rare enough in England. His brother was Charles Summers, the sculptor who created the Burke and Wills monument before eventually leaving Melbourne for continental Europe. Perry issued injunctions in 1857 and 1865 restricting the kind of music to be used in Melbourne churches in the liturgy. After long resistance to some members of the laity who encouraged Handfield to defy them, Handfield permitted a musical regime in worship that aligned him with those who refused to conform. At the same time, St Peter's was far from being the only, or even most prominent, such Anglican centre in Melbourne. Until the end of the nineteenth century Melbourne's high church centre was All Saints East St Kilda, with its remarkable decorated Victorian interior and musical tradition, as well as its long standing incumbent, John Gregory.

Handfield, vicar from 1854 until his death in 1900, embodies the contradictions involved in St Peter's almost from its beginning. On the surface, he might appear as one of the establishment, as Perry's ward, and as an individual whose connections according to Burke's Peerage included the titled; certainly the middle class and well-to-do in Melbourne claimed him as one of their own. But his relationship with Perry went through a period of stress and tension as he realised that he could not conform or reproduce the image of bishop in himseIf. His churchmanship marked him out from Perry and some other Melbourne clergy. And so was laid one of the foundation stones of difference in the place.

Boom Wealth, and Bust
Social Conscience: E. S. Hughes

Meanwhile, as the century drew to an end, but before the financial crash of the 1890s, the old East Melbourne gentry died off or retired, sometimes moving to the more fashionable St Kilda. In the last decade of the century, just before pew rents were abolished in 1895, women, including many widows, accounted for a large proportion of the pew renters. And the traveller on foot had not to go far from the church before entering a world of contrasts. Close by were areas that were described in contemporary sources in terms that were less than respectable. The inner city, whose population increased dramatically with the building boom of the 1880s, brought overcrowding in the kind of lanes and alleyways described by Fergus Hume in The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. To the north lay Fitzroy, many of whose larger terraces became lodging houses during the 1890s depression, following the collapse of the boom. Perry's successor, Bishop Moorhouse, encouraged the establishment of an inner-city mission within the parish boundaries, staffed by women, from which evolved the Community of the Sisters of the Holy Name. And the traveller on foot did not even have to take a few minutes' walk away from the church in order to be confronted by contrasts: the 1902 vestry minutes referred to prostitutes using the pavement in front of the church itself as an area from which to solicit. If Moorhouse considered that large cities inevitably brought about an increase in vice, and Handfield wrote of 'the evil which lurks behind the greatness of great cities', it was now literally on St Peter's doorstep. Whatever gentility or respectability St Peter's might continue to support was henceforth to rub shoulders with its opposite.

If contrasts were now sharply juxtaposed on one another, they were equally part of the character and life of Handfield's successor as vicar, Ernest Selwyn Hughes, assistant priest from 1894 until 1900, and then vicar until 1926. His own family were well-connected, without being well-to-do; but he married a wealthy widow. If this suggested elements of the establishment, he trained for the priesthood at a time when many Melbourne Anglicans still inherited Bishop Perry's prejudices in favour of English-born clergy, especially for 'plum' positions. A proficient sportsman, he projected himself not just as a muscular Christian, but as a man with a strongly Australian delight in an almost larrikin, certainly nonconformist streak. His devoted admirer and biographer, Lilla Brockelbank, frequently recalled the way in which he poked fun both in conversation and from the pulpit at precious young men and stuffy well-to-do women. He had a robust enjoyment of the physical, and not just in sport. In 1914, he dealt with 'gate-crashers' at a reception in the parish hall, knocking one unconscious, an action for which he received much praise in the press. And in later years, he carried a heavy walking stick, quite prepared to defend himself if necessary.

Following a trip to England in 1888-89, just after his appointment as curate at St Mark's Fitzroy, he created a remarkable centre of social work at the Holy Redeemer Mission in Fitzroy. He attracted working people around him, who followed him when he became curate at St Peter's. Their presence was a feature of its congregation throughout his ministry. In the 1920s, the parish paper carried obituary notices from time to time of parishioners who were identified as having commenced their association with Hughes in his days in Fitzroy. A witty writer in the same source in December 1924 parodied part of psalm eighty five ('mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other') when he described the congregation:

You have frivol and worship, gaitey and solemnity, jazz and art. Collins Street and Collingwood have met together; ignorance and knowledge have kissed each other, and there is no patronage. Nobody thinks she has been 'gracious' to any one else; no one thinks anyone has been condescending to her.

As assistant priest at St Peter's, Hughes had delivered addresses for the Christian Social Union in the heart of the city's business district, in the Olderfleet Building, then the home of the stock exchange. Here he denounced the adulteration of food by unscrupulous businessmen and other corrupt trade practices – and became the subject of leaders in the Age and the Argus. Soon after, he was part of a group petitioning for the creation of entertainment for working people, including free band concerts. He suggested that vandalism would disappear if classes were run to educate working men in the principles of labour and trade unionism, and actively supported the labour movement in a fortnightly journal, The Mitre, which he launched in 1897. Labour issues featured in some of its editorials as well as in a regular column headed 'Labour Notes'. Hughes made many of his opinions known to the Lord Mayor, Sir Donald McEacharn. After he had retired from St Peter's, Hughes claimed that McEachern, whose re-election as mayor in 1900 hung on a single vote, had opposed his appointment as vicar of St Peter's.

But an engagement with a mild degree of socialism did not preclude him from marrying Isabell Thompson, widow of a former Trinity College friend and contemporary, and owner of extensive property in the Western District. When Martin Boyd later recalled Hughes and his wife, it was in terms that suggest a plutocracy. A photograph of the couple in the midst of a parish group not long after their marriage certainly shows her as a grand dame. It contrasts sharply with a much later one taken in 1928 with Maynard, about to take a camel ride near the sphinx, in which she appears as the picture of abject or exhausted misery. If it was a plutocracy, it was a very generous one. Not only was there a stream of generous gifts to the church in terms of art works, including fine copies by Uffizzi Gallery copyists of old master paintings, and long-term expenditure on the grounds. There was her support for the parish school, which involved subsidizing costs to the value of almost 300 every year until 1926, and the payment for a totally new building complex.

A School with a Difference

Schools of one kind or another had operated on this site since 1849 – the Diocesan Grammar School, the forerunner of Melbourne Grammar School, until the end of 1854, then a denominational state school, until the passing of the Education Act of 1872, after which the building was leased to the state government for use as a state school. When state parliament resumed the land on which the first vicarage and school buildings stood, a new school building fronting onto Albert Street was built in 1885. But it was not until 1898 that Hughes, still the energetic assistant to Handfield, organised funding and staffing so that it functioned as a school. But this time, it it did not revive any of its past identities. Instead, Hughes envisaged it as an Anglican parish school, to provide an Anglican education for the children of the working people of Fitzroy and Collingwood. Regular and definitely Anglican teaching was given, and all of the school's children were involved in services of their own every week in the church. Its boys were encouraged to join the choir. On one occasion, a choirboy with more daring than most encouraged the others to consider going on strike; Hughes pre-empted their plot by encouraging the boys to sit at the front of the church, then went on to explain to the congregation why they were taking up the places of honour. Unwilling to leave the church in the face of the congregation, they remained behind to be admonished by the vicar. The daughter of a choirboy likewise recalled stories of pranks being played on tradesmen in the inner city.

When the school opened in 1898 the weekly fee was 6d; by 1930, the year of its closure, it had risen to 1/-. From beyond the immediate vicinity, it also attracted children from other suburbs whose parents wanted them to receive a definite Anglican education. Many parents could not (and some would not) pay, and their children attended free of charge. When the school was finally closed in 1930, St Patrick's College took some children in on a no fee basis.

Though Isabell Hughes was a wealthy individual, the parish as a community had not been the recipient of sizeable gifts from its earlier gentry parishioners, and the school faced a crisis in 1912. Having no financial reserves from which to pay for the long-term upkeep of the building, it had already fallen into a serious state of disrepair, and was condemned by the health inspectors. In many other situations, this would have signalled the school's death-knell. It was not. Isabell Hughes provided her solicitors with 5000, which was credited to the parish as an anonymous donation towards the cost of a new school building. The result was the red-brick hall and surrounding complex, designed by Alexander North, which fronts onto Gisborne Street. For the moment, an Anglican education was still to be offered to working class children from the immediate vicinity.

But the parish's lack of any permanent endowments of its own from which to fund such a venture meant that the future of the school was virtually sealed when E. S. Hughes retired from St Peter's in 1926. The school still received some support from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute – but none from the diocese. In 1926, diocesan authorities were approached to support the school with finance from capital derived from properties that had originally provided education for inner city children from less well-to-do backgrounds. The correspondence that ensued is a painful series of documents, revealing that some of the diocesan decision-makers were only able to see virtue in putting money into 'safe' areas, the exisiting grammar schools – though as Janet Macalman has demonstrated amply in Journeyings, a number of these, such as Trinity Grammar, provided an education for children of lower middle class families with limited financial resources. The onset of the Depression marked the end of the parish's attempts to finance the school's shortfall.

Enter the Anglo-Catholic: Another Kind of Nonconformity

In his interest in Christian socialism, Hughes was not unique among Melbourne's Anglicans, or those elsewhere; other contemporaries who shared it were John Stephen Hart, eventually dean of Melbourne and bishop of Wangaratta, and Reginald Stephen, later bishop of Newcastle brother-in-law of Gerard Kennedy Tucker, founder of the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence. But it nevertheless distinguished him from many of his contemporaries. And more pointedly, if this was a kind of nonconformity, so was his style of Anglicanism, in terms of the prevailing tone of Melbourne diocese. His was no restrained high churchmanship like that of Handfield, his predecessor; instead, it was an out-and-out, in many ways aggressive Anglo-Catholicism. Within his first years as vicar he transformed the way in which the liturgy was conducted by introducing vestments, incense, and the ceremonial of high mass. As a curate, he had already taught about the desirability of confession, and preached a Catholic eucharistic doctrine.

His proposed appointment in 1900 met with much criticism from conservative evangelical circles, and there was a deliberate attempt to block his appointment. Nor was it just a case of plain sailing within the parish itself. In an obituary for a former parishioner, John Mills, in 1939, the parish paper recalled how all the younger men of the choir went on strike when Gregorian plainsong was introduced as a staple element in the musical diet; a choirboy, Frederick Ward Harvey, was nicknamed 'the little Protestant' because he refused to reverence the altar. A number of parishioners affiliated themselves with other churches; the Ludlows, working-class Collingwood residents, were one such family. They joined the Salvation Army's ranks.

But it was in 1906 that a series of letters appeared in the Age and the Argus, in which readers debated the desirability of accepting, controlling or supressing Anglo-Catholicism. During this debate – a kind of debate that had also taken place in the press in other capital cities in Australia, and in many centres in England – the more virulent critics indicated that they considered Anglo-Catholicism to be nonconformist and unrespectable by drawing on a racial, and racist, vocabulary. Its worship, they claimed, was akin to the idolatry of the Chinese, or of the South Sea islanders whom missionaries came to convert. Nor was this the only way of emphasizing that it was foreign. Its supporters were accused of committing Anglicans to the standards of continental Roman Catholicism, and here the Spanish and Italians were treated as the models of undesirability. It was not only that their religion was superstitious and idolatrous; it was that they were part of a southern European economic 'third world'. Commitment to Anglo-Catholic doctrines and liturgical and devotional habits would result in national decay for Australians and for Britons, since the economic greatness of the British empire, and of Australia as part of that empire, was a direct result of its Protestantism. Thus it was argued that the kind of Anglicanism that St Peter's now represented was dangerous to society, a perilous kind of nonconformity.

The revival of confession in particular, brought out fears that family and social structures were under threat. Critics claimed that the authority of the husband and father was threatened as long as another male – in this case the priest-confessor – was privy to confidences that were not shared with (and controlled by) the husband. Young people too, especially young women, would be manipulated, the victims of an ecclesiastical thought control. Hostile (and ignorant) novelists even pictured priests testing the obedience of married women penitents by demanding that they should make their confessions at impossible late-night hours, in deserted churches.

The earnest protest of conservative and sometimes well-informed evangelicals, as well as the wilder fantasies of the ill-informed, helped to impart to Anglo-Catholicism a frisson of naughtiness, the attraction of being different in the face of a seemingly po-faced establishment – and this was true for Anglo-Catholics in England, USA and elsewhere, as well as in Australia. This was articulated, in an extreme way, in the instance of the teenage son of a prominent Evangelical Anglican cleric in London, who was attracted to worship at St Cuthbert's Philbeach Gardens. Forbidden by his parents from continuing the association, he was restricted to his home, but wrote to a friend, encouraging him to arrange for one of the St Cuthbert's priests to visit, dressed in soutane and biretta, in order to enjoy watching the anticipated angry parental response. Though this pleasure was not forthcoming, the boy created a dramatic enough scene when he escaped from the house, surfacing nearly a week later in the residence of an Anglo-Catholic priest. The Cavalier case, as the press termed it, reappeared in a thinly disguised fictional form in Compton Mackenzie's novel, The Altar Steps. It is not unreasonable to ask whether Hughes'Anglo-Catholicism was in a small way, another manifestation of his own desire to make fun of humourless convention, to deflate pompousness and to thumb his nose at the establishment in other ways. And Dancey's cartoon A Peep into the Future, in which the Roman Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Carr, presentes Hughes to the pope, reflects not only the prevalent conservative Protestant Melbourne's anxiety over Anglo-Catholicism, but also that attraction of the forbidden.

To make this observation is not to deny that Anglo-Catholics had a serious commitment to doctrines, or to question the genuineness of their devotional life. They were not just acting. Instead, they were finding something, or a number of things present, that they were not being provided in many other Anglican churches of the time. The nonconformity, or rebellion, of the Anglo-Catholics, was expressed in a deep eucharistically centred piety, accompanied by a lavishness, a dramatic gesture, an emotional explicitness, that was felt by many of its devotees to be missing in other expressions of Anglicanism.

Something of the ethos of Anglo-Catholic worship in general is indicated in views of the interior of St Peter's over a period of time, culminating in the international baroque of decorations in the sanctuary under Maynard with six neo-baroque candlesticks, the tabernacle, crucifix, and, pointing down to them all, as if to the centre in which He is still actively present, the painted wooden copy of Thorwaldsen's statue, the Compassionate Christ, poised on a ledge above the Last Supper mosaic. At the heart of the cycle of Christian worship, the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter, on Holy Thursday morning, the consecrated elements would be reserved at the chapel altar for the all-night vigil; Geoffrey Hoy's photograph of the altar of repose in 1958 represents well a long tradition of extravagant decoration, of grand gesture to express devotion. And the exquisitely refined and detailed embroidery, as well as the baroque and intertwining patterns that repeated themselves on the sumptuous fabrics of the vestments, equally spoke of an attitude to God that was convinced that He was to be approached through, and encountered in, the beautiful. This conviction was held by those who otherwise regarded quite different styles of vestments as the ideal: in Hughes' time, the preferred models were medieval English ones; under Maynard, there was a move towards counter-reformation and continental Latin styles. It is hardly surprising that an innnocent visitor to St Peter's shortly after Maynard's appointment commented to a regular worshipper that the liturgy was beautiful, but that she belonged to the Church of England!

The Anglo-Catholicism that Hughes promoted was far from being a uniformly conservative, let alone a reactionary movement. This was particularly so in its attitude towards women. It offered them great scope for artistic expression, and the sanctuary was almost dominated visually by art works of their creation, in the form of vestments, altar frontals and banners. By the beginning of Word War I, an embroidery guild had been formed, and soon its members produced high quality works, such as the set of red high mass vestments made by the three Montgomery sisters. Another highly gifted Melbourne embroiderer, who eventually moved to Glenelg in South Australia, was Ethel Barton, whose altar frontal embodied responses to World War I that were both devotional and nationalistic. Its AIF serviceman is more realistic that many other soldiers in symbolic art, because he is not an untouched ideal, but a wounded man; but he is still an ideal, for he wears the rising sun insignia as a halo, reflecting the belief of some contemporaries that servicemen who died in battle had a saintly status. Ethel Barton was hardly alone in seeing the soldier in quasi-religious terms: Will Dyson, an official war artist, had pictured a serviceman gathering wood in a way that suggested something far more momentous in his lithograph Gathering Wood at Delville. And as well as these locally produced examples, there were imported works of art. Fine vestments were imported from England, such as the remarkable high mass set made by the Sisters of Saint Margaret in East Grinstead, or the slightly earlier French tapestry chasuble. There was another way in which the feminine could be promoted, though it was one which articulated femininity in a way that late 20th century feminists find unsatisfactory: representations of the Blessed Virgin. Processing aIong the walls above the Stations of the Cross, the old master copies worked by Uffizzi Gallery artists provided a visual emphasis on the feminine that was unequalled in any other Anglican church in Melbourne. These were supplemented by additional images: several Arundel Society prints of old master paintings, and other works on canvas, eventually destroyed in a fire in 1963.

An intellectual dimension was present as well, with an openness to liberal biblical scholarship and criticism. According to the parish paper, study groups that focussed on the relationship between modern researches, literary, historical and scientific, and the biblical texts, proved highly popular during the second decade of the century. They offered an alternative to fundamentalism or evangelical piety. And highly controlled and traditional channels could become vehicles for more liberal attitudes. Confession, revived by many Anglo-Catholics, gave an opportunity for discreet pastoral counselling. There is clear evidence from the very first years of Maynard's minstry of another kind of nonconformity that has also continued to the present: a number of gay men (and possibly women) came to the church, some for counselling and support, others for friendship, and others yet again for the anonymity provided by a church which was not the centre of a suburban parish. But this presence seems likely to have been foreshadowed in the last years of Hughes' ministry.

A penitent who had gone to both Maynard and his long-term assistant, Father James Cheong, regarded Maynard as the more progressive of the two. This is hardly surprising, since Maynard pursued a careful reading in psychology through a subscription to the Hibbert Journal and a careful reading of other sources, at a time when many university academics still regarded it with a mixture of suspicion and contempt. Here Maynard saw a possibility for harnessing those results of contemporary modes of understanding and using them in a Christian framework, where this could be done without doing violence to what he regarded as Christian essentials. He particularly stressed to penitents the damaging effects of repression and of negative attitudes towards the self. Later, during the years of World War II, he encouraged the formation of a small circle of clergy to discuss questions of psychology that related to the pastoral care that a priest is called on to exercise. And if confession was a traditional formula through which new insights could be channelled, even the extensive use of symbol by Anglo-Catholics, whether in public liturgy and ecclesiastical art, or in private devotion and domestic piety, could be an accomodation to contemporary humanity. Vestments, banners, incense and exalted liturgical music might often be justified by reflecting on their use in the past. But at the same time, there was an appeal to the present and a recognition of its needs. Industrial humanity needed the aesthetic, the creative, as ways of creating a sense of value and worth in the face of mechanization and the anonymity of post-industrial mass culture. The symbolical restraint of those streams of Anglicanism that regarded the Protestant Reformation as the yardstick and model was no longer appropriate. The opponent in terms of churchmanship was the one who might be out of date.

Culture and Race

There were other, perhaps more powerful and potentially destructive contradictions. The minority status of Anglo-Catholics in the overall life of Anglicanism in Melbourne perhaps made its adherents readier than those of other kinds of churchmanship to tolerate certain kinds of nonconformity. But this was only partly true when it came to questions of race. Throughout World War I, Hughes promoted the war effort as a kind of imperial crusade, which might even end with a Christian flag flying over the now Turkish centres of the former Byzantine empire; the parish paper promoted patriotism and loyalty in its readers by publishing extensive correspondences from parishioners serving at the front. There was nationalistic pride in Ethel Barton's sanctified serviceman in her war memorial altar frontal. And in the debate over Anglo-Catholicism in the press in 1906, Hughes and others had stressed that Anglo-Catholicism itself represented the best kind of national ideals and inheritance. It claimed to be a distinctly British expression of the Catholic inheritance. Its supporters explained that their desire to identify with the pre-Reformation inheritance was consistent with the earliest manifestations of Anglicanism, which had its own version of the Reformation, but a conservative one, in which many elements rejected as corrupt by continental Protestants had been retained. In their view, continental and foreign influences were responsible in the 16th century for creating a mistakenly Protestant surface profile for Anglicanism – Anglo-Catholics had their roots in the most British conservatism, their critics in the dubious, the foreign.

Patriotic responses to World War I were harnessed to create a war memorial that was overtly Catholic in form, a wayside crucifix. It gave a central place in Melbourne's landscape to a Catholic symbol, but was justified at the time of its unveiling in March 1924 in nationalistic terms. It was claimed that such shrines were a familiar and indeed nostalgic sight for men who had fought in France or Belgium – what could be more appropriate?

Despite the strong nationalist strain, there was an openness at St Peter's to those of quite different cultures, specifically, the newly arrived Greek and Syrian Orthodox. Greek priests appeared in processions on special feast days at St Peter's before the outbreak of World War I, and the years that followed; the tiny Syrian Orthodox community was given a room in the building complex in which to worship according to their own rites when they had fallen out with the Greek Orthodox.

But closer, in the city heart, and within the parish boundaries, was a larger community with longer-standing roots in Victoria. Parish school group photographs, and lists of prize-winners in end of year school reports, show that the children of Chinese families attended the school. But while Hughes encouraged the Greeks and Syrians, there was a more ambiguous attitude to the Chinese. The Melbourne etcher John Shirlow had created romantic images of the lanes off Little Bourke Street, in which the occasional Chinese figure appears. But these showed the Chinese in dark, narrow, seedy laneways, and were only marginally less negative in their suggestions than the overtly sinister tones of Tom Robert's etching variously known as The Chinese Cook Shop or The Chinese Opium Den . Melbourne's fiction readers were also familiar with the hints of something unsavoury about that area in Fergus Hume's Mystery of a Hansom Cab.

On the surface, St Peter's contradicted this kind of perception. When the Australian Board of Missions, an Anglican missionary organization, decided to widen its scope of activities beyond Australia and New Guinea, the first missionary to come forward to work outside Australia with its support was Mary Holloway, who went from St Peter's to teach in a school run by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Ping Yin in Northern China in 1912.

Most of all, for almost forty years, its assistant priest was Father James Cheong, born of Chinese parents who had come to the Ballarat goldfields when young. Both he and his father asserted considerable pride in their culture; Cheok Cheong addressed meetings of several thousand in the Melbourne Town Hall, in the presence of the governor, and was described in the press as speaking with the fluency of a Macaulay or a Burke. A successful merchant and property owner, he sent James to Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar. The boy had gifts to please the most conservative establishment tastes – a flair for the classics, and especially for classical Greek. The head of an English public school described him as a 'perfect English gentleman', and his connections were such that he could be sure of a career in the diplomatic service or in customs. Instead, after the Boxer Rebellion, during which time he was teaching in Hong Kong, he left for Oxford to train for the priesthood. And later on, comfortable Melbourne parishes wanted to invite him as their vicar. Spiritual direction and counselling was considered to be his forte, and many Australian bishops came to him to make their confessions, including Bishop Halse of the Riverina, who wrote on his death that he had more prelates as his penitents than any other Australian priest.

But despite his good connections and obvious gifts, discrimination was never far away. In 1914, Archbishop Clarke found that when his name was raised as a possible candidate for some parishes, there was outright rejection. Some long-standing parishioners and others even now recall the way in which their parents hesitated at the thought of a Chinese priest – until on actually encountering this highly Anglicized individual with a cultured accent, all their apprehensiveness disappeared.

But Hughes own attitude, despite years of positive co-operation, is perhaps the ultimate betrayal. In 1926, in writing to Maynard to invite him to consider accepting St Peter's, he described Father Cheong as 'a saintly old bird', but 'too Oriental to run a parish'. Soon enough, Hughes was to regret having encouraged Maynard, and a reader of his subsequent correspondence with Cheong, full of warmth and comradeship, can only wonder whether guilt and regret had not come to take the place of his previous patronizing self-assurance. Perhaps Anglo-Catholics were particularly sensitive to comments in the debates over Anglo-Catholicism in which critics described its rituals as something oriental, even specifically Chinese. A medical student from Victoria visiting an Anglo-Catholic church in Scotland in the first decade of the century described one of the sanctuary party as dressed 'like a kind of Chinaman', and a hostile English critic had compared communicants at the altar-rail with Chinese criminals awaiting execution!

There was some ambiguity in issues of mission, not unconnected to ones of race. Though the missionary activity of most churches has existed in a symbiotic relationship to the expansion of trade, the relationship between mission, imperialism and cultural expansion has always been marked by tensions. At the end of the 19th century, members of various Australian churches, Anglicans among them, backed their plea for a strong missionary involvement in New Guinea, as Australia's colony, by pointing to the situation of the contemporary aboriginal communities. Their present decimation was seen to be the consequence of their exposure to a pattern of settlement dominated by Europeans unrestrained by ethical or spiritual considerations. Guilt over the state of aboriginal communities was used to create a strong base for support for a Christian presence in New Guinea, and high churchmen of various shades dominated much of the Anglican response in Australia.

Until the last quarter of the twentieth century, men and women from St Peter's offered themselves for work as nurses and teachers, and in other roles: the parish papers from 1911 onwards reproduce correspondence from many of these former parishioners, and record a long line of farewells, and welcomes on their eventual return. They formed a significant proportion of the whole Anglican New Guinea Mission: of the eighty-four European staff members up to 1920, one in seven either came from St Peter's or had close connections with its clergy. The first, a teacher, Annie Ker, went in 1899; other teachers included Margaret Bechervaise and Honor Winterbottom; Elizabeth Rattigan, a nurse, met her husband, Father Chignell on the Mission; A. J. Bachelor was an accountant; Samuel Tomlinson and Edward Cullingford were carpenters, the latter burnt to death in a fire in 1913; Charles Sage was a blacksmith; Norman Dodds a launch engineer. In 1939, Maynard himself attended the consecration of the cathedral in Dogura, and an image from his collection of photographs formed the basis of a panel in a major set of windows in the church, installed as a memorial in 1946, and designed by Napier Waller. Their subject, the life of the New Guinean church, was depicted in many different aspects, but central was the representation of those men and women who had chosen to remain in the country in the face of the Japanese invasion, and were killed at their hands. In the post-war reconstruction, Jean Henderson, a St Peter's parishioner, played a significant role in the establishment of training programmes for nurses at St Barnabas' hospital in Dogura.

But while the New Guinea Mission was responded to with enthusiasm, what about the plight of the aboriginal communities? Attempts to create a more active response within the churches was hindered by the prevailing conviction that these were dying, and thus a lost cause; the inertia of the general community exacted a definite toll. But to balance against this, Hughes had been a strong supporter of the Australian Board of Missions, commencing at a time when work in aboriginal communities was a major goal; it would have been with every encouragement from him that several parishioners went to work in aboriginal communities, particularly at Yarrabah. And, much closer to the church itself, Fitzroy had its own aboriginal community. Here there was interaction. There are oral reminiscences of Father Cheong's acceptance by, and ministry amongst, members of that community. Neither was European nor Anglo-Celt, and so they had a common bond.

A parishioner who was an activist in this area was Helen Baillie, who frequently corresponded with Maynard during the 1930s on a wide range of social justice issues. Undeterred, or perhaps motivated, when Bishop Cranswick of Gippsland refused to allow her to work at Lake Tyers, she purchased a property in Fitzroy which she ran effectively as an open house for members of the aboriginal community there. She also visited aboriginal communities in northern Australia, publishing brief journal articles on her findings. She wrote to Maynard of how she felt unfulfilled by the comfortableness of a conservative home, and had argued with her father on politics. She was a woman with an independent income, and socially well connected: there were peers in the family, a grandfather had been vicar of Toorak, and more pointedly in connection with her concern over aboriginal issues, her ancestors in the Western district had a well-recorded involvement in aboriginal massacres. The economist John Maynard Keynes noted that for many supporters of socialism at this time, an important motivating factor was the emptiness of materialism and success. Helen Baillie illustrated his dictum extremely well.

New Forms of Conservatism and Radicalism: F. E. Maynard

The twin streams of conservatism and radicalism, conformity and dissent, continued to run side by side in Hughes' successor, Farnham E. Maynard, who became vicar of St Peter's in 1926. An individual with a tendency to exercise a strong controlling role, he could be unapproachable and unwilling to discuss matters, whether it were the grounds for dismissing an organist he considered to be unsuitable, or the arrangements for the small community of young men and others who lived in the vicarage. In his later years, on occasions when those assisting at the altar made liturgical mistakes, the dictatorial hand descending hard on the offender's wrist could sometimes be heard across the sanctuary. Discipline was not just spiritual. He ate well, even during World War II, and had a cook and others living on site who acted as house staff. His connections equally suggested those of a gentleman. Many bishops from the country and interstate stayed at St Peter's, were involved in its liturgy, and were regular correspondents, including John Frewer, Gerald Sharp, William Charles Wand, John Oliver Feetham, Reginald Stephen, Reginald Halse, Ernest Burgmann, William Johnson and John Stephen Hart. His visit to Europe and the Middle East in 1928 featured several meetings with the daughters of former state Premier, Sir George, and Lady Turner; he would issue invitations to the governor and mayor to attend St Peter's. And he evoked a positive response from the most aristocratic of Melbourne's archbishops, Sir Frank Woods, who made it his deliberate policy, though he was in no way a promoter of Anglo-Catholicism, to visits St Peter's with greater frequency than most other churches. Maynard was certainly respected by Melbourne's archbishops, despite his sometimes openly critical attitude towards their statements – and this ranged from a caustic rebuff in the parish paper to Archbishop Head's uncritical comments on the British empire at the beginning of the Great Depression, to a disclaimer made from the pulpit before reading a pastoral letter addressed to the Anglican church on the subject of communism.

But here there was likewise an element of nonconformity. It is well pinpointed in a description by Sir Phillip Strong, then bishop of New Guinea, describing his presence at a visit by the state governor to St Peter's in March 1943:

Preached at St Peter's Eastern Hill. High Mass at 11 am. The service was broadcasted and preceded by the Asperges. The Governor and Lady Dugan were present and occupied the front seat. . . Lunched afterward with Canon Maynard. . . Lady Dugan left her Prayerbook which I took back; a joke that it was not needed much; the Dugans are more used to the Irish Protesant traditions and I think were rather shocked by St Peter's and definitely did not like it but they were careful not to express their opinion and are very genteel in that way. . .

The bishops who frequented the place were all high churchmen of varying shades; a number, like Halse, Feetham and Frewer, familiar with and happy to take part in Anglo-Catholic ceremonial. Maynard's correspondence contains an amusing note from Archbishop Wand of Brisbane. In response to an invitation from Maynard to take part in the normal Sunday high mass, Wand suggested that his preferences, and liturgical knowledge, was for a simpler style of liturgy – but given Wand's own background and familiarity with Anglo-Catholic ways, it was a discreet way of evading exposure to a situation in which he was in the control of a master of ceremonies, rather than being in control himself. But other letters indicate the unfamiliarity of such ritual on the part of some visitors. Though Archbishop Head wore cope and mitre at St Peter's, and faced strong criticism in the Age and Argus from evangelical quarters for so doing, he often wrote, questioning the ceremonial – 'by what authority?' And while the congregation was at home with its preferred liturgical style, Joseph Booth, Head's successor, was described by James Murray as having a look of perpetual discomfort in the liturgy, with eyes bulging like a startled rabbit, and dispensing holy water during the Asperges at high mass like an unwilling gardener.

Perhaps it was because he fitted in with a dissenting Anglicanism that his political position met with littIe more, at worst, than private criticism from some individuals in the congregation, as well as varying degrees of support from others. For his political views were radical in a way that Hughes' had never been. In 1920, with his bishop's permission, he spent three months working in the Mount Morgan gold mine, in order to gain first-hand experience of the conditions in which working men operated; on Sundays, he continued to function as a priest. Later, in his first publication, Economics and the Kingdom of God (1929), he recalled the monotony of work for the men, and their sense that their labour was not for themselves but for the profit of others. In the diary he kept during his work as a miner, he questioned how much their lifestyles were marked by desire to rebel, or by a mindless conformity, and how much their formation was due to environment and culture. His support of the British merchant seamens' strike in 1925, when he was rector of the Brisbane church of All Saints Wickham Terrace, gained him a definite reputation. His appointment to Melbourne was greeted by one working woman who wrote to him of her joy in having a priest who understood her own class and its sufferings at the hands of 'the idle rich'.

Economics and the Kingdom of God (1929) could well be desribed as a tract directed against greed and against the economic rationalists of the day. In it, he suggested that the current economic situation indicated that capitalism was now labouring under a strain too heavy for it to bear – it was possibly close to collapse. He referred to World War I, seeing capitalism and imperialism as important causes, a line of argument that he was to continue in relation to World War II. New approaches that saw beyond commerical profits for employers had to be found. It was as a result of this publication that he was invited the following year by Reginald Halse, then bishop of the Riverina, as a key speaker in a conference at Broken Hill between communist party members, other mine workers, and employers, which was held after the Riverina diocesan synod. Every priest in the diocese had been provided with a copy of Maynard's work to read and to discuss. And in Melbourne, Maynard used radio broadcasts as well as many opportunities of speaking live to different groups as a way of disseminating his view on social and economic issues. An Anglican Hour was paid for on the radio station 3DB, then owned by Sir Keith Murdoch, and in the mid 1930s, Murdoch threatened to close its operations, claiming that too much time was given to the spoken word. He was placated when a larger musical content was provided – at least for the time being. Had he really been concerned about music, or had he been nervous of Maynard's occasional forays into politics? – though if the surviving texts from some broadcasts are any indication, they were balanced in content and not polemical in tone.

His socialist interests brought him in contact with a wide range of people, and attracted some of them to an involvement at St Peter's. Miners on strike at Wonthaggi were one of Helen Baillie's causes for enthusiasm. And an artist who was both a socialist, and who depicted miners in his artistic output, was Noel Counihan. Counihan was a fellow-member with Maynard of many socialist organizations, and like him, was watched by ASIO. Maynard joined Helen Baillie in involvement with anti-fascist pressure groups in Melbourne in the inter-war years. As a vice-president of the Ethiopian Relief Committee and Spanish Relief Committee, he supported anti-Italian forces during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, and supported the mission of a group of Australian nurses, and the sending of a shipload of relief supplies to civil war Spain. There were strongly worded local criticisms, including those of Russell Clark, brother of Manning Clark, who denounced him as an advocate for the murderers of clergy and religious.

In the 1944 lecture series, A Fair Hearing for Socialism, subsequently published in book form, he co-authored with Ralph Gibson, a leading Communist Party member. This and another lecture series in 1947 that subsequently became the publication Religion and Revolution were delivered in the cathedral synod chamber to large audiences. At the beginning of the century, Hughes' Mitre had commented in editorials on addresses on labour from the cathedral's pulpit; now it was host to even more liberal thinking, and its dean wrote an appreciative introduction to Maynard's second series. But while he saw much to admire in communist states, visiting China and Russia in 1952, Maynard was capable of denouncing elements in these communist states, not just the official state attitude to religion and its promotion of anti-religious propaganda, but of policies of state in other areas. During Stalinist purges, when other Western socialists generally remained silent, or sought to explain them away, he criticised the Stalinist state for 'devouring its children', and creating 'a terror worse than that of the Tsars'. By the early 1950s, he was writing to friends in England that communist states needed to offer more than material well-being to their peoples; if they did not do so, they were likely to collapse. In this critical and perceptive attitude he contrasted with another socialist cleric whom he in many ways admired, Hewlett Johnson, the so-called 'red dean' of Canterbury. In 1951, when Johnson was invited to Australia by the Australian Peace Council, Maynard made him welcome at St Peter's as a preacher. At the same time, there were agressive phone calls to the vicarage and graffiti on the footpath outside the church.

As might be expected, his radical socialism meant that his attitude towards World War II was different from Hughes' to World War I. Though he had no illusions about the nature of fascism and Nazism, and regarded the democratic system of government practiced by most of the allied nations as the one that offered humanity the greatest range of freedoms, he was also prepared to recognize that people of good intention and genuine integrity were fighting on both sides of the same conflict. While Hughes compared servicemen dying in battle with early Christian martyrs, Maynard explicitly wrote in the parish paper that it would be hypocritical to describe servicemen who died in battle as saints; he did so in the midst of a touching tribute to a former altar server who had been killed in combat. While Hughes described the Germans and Turks of World War I in totally negative terms, Maynard pointed out that the Japanese had learnt some of the attitudes that contributed to the conflict from Europeans.

When the conflict was over, he encouraged one of his penitents and a former member of the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence, Frank Coaldrake, to go to Japan to work as a missionary, and in 1956, he welcomed Father John Matsumoto, a Japanense priest furthering his education in Australia, to St Peter's. Equally, in the aftermath of the war, he kept up a barrage of comments in the parish paper and elsewhere, denouncing the renewed thrust of American and Japanese economic interests, and identifying America as a threat to world peace. At this point his own view of the communist nations was somewhat simplistic. His attendance at peace conferences in 1952 was made in the belief that the communist states only sought peace. The presence of Australians at these exercises was discussed heatedly in the federal parliament, and after Hewlett Johnson's visit to Melbourne, Archbishop Booth referred in a synod charge to the misplaced idealism of those who praised the communist states.

The encounter with members of the Orthodox communities, commenced by Hughes, continued under Maynard, and became truly multicultural, at a time when few Melburnians were interested in the way of life represented by them. Along with parishioners, he visited the Greek church of the Evangelismos in Victoria Parade in 1932 to take part in the Easter liturgy. Soon after, he invited the Orthodox Archimandrite in Melbourne to write articles to correct the misrepresentation contained in the writings of Maurice Hindus of the persecution of Christians in Stalin's Russia. Then, after World War II, he allowed the Russian community the temporary use of St Mary's mission as their church while they sought a more permanent place.

Maynard encouraged more than the formally religious expression of other cultures. During the 1930s, the parish hall was the setting for Greek dancing, and addresses in Greek and Arabic. Just before the outbreak of World War II he accepted the Austrian refugee Kurt Merz as a resident in the vicarage. Merz completed an arts degree at Melbourne University, though classed as an enemy alien, and was obliged to obtain a special permit if he were to do more than bicycle between St Peter's and the University. As well as sharing a general interest with Maynard in socialist theory, he was particularly interested in the early writings of Karl Marx, at a period of time when they were receiving little attention. Another refugee from central Europe was the Bauhaus trained sculptor Andor Meszaros, who was introduced to Maynard by another parishioner, Elizabeth Agar. Meszaros was one of a number of migrants who reminded Maynard of the divide between socialist theory and the practice of the communist state, but he and Maynard equally stimulated one another in discussions over art, aesthetics and religion. Here Maynard was an incentive to a mind not formally religious, yet deeply moved to interpreting the events of Christ's Passion as a complete life cycle. This concentration on the Passion is seen not only in the series of Stations of the Cross, but in several other works as well. Maynard's interpretation of some of the stations has survived; presumambly they talked over other aspects. Maynard's connections with Julian Bickersteth, a priest who had worked in Australia and subsequently became a canon of Canterbury cathedral, helped to obtain a commission for Meszaros to create figures for the chapel of St Anselm in Canterbury cathedral.

St Peter's and the Stage

Another index of a kind of nonconformity was the attitude of St Peter's to the stage; but in this area, the acceptance and enjoyment of the stage and of those who made their living from it was in increasing conformity with the attitudes of the community beyond the churches, though it contrasted strongly with the attitude of the diocesan mainstream under Bishop Perry. Low church Anglicans such as Perry inherited the attitudes of earlier English Puritans toward the theatre, envisaging the stage as wordly, and an encouragement to immorality; likewise its staff were regarded as morally questionable. By the end of the 19th century, the attitude of high churchmen towards the theatre, actors and actresses was often very positive, and not just in Melbourne or Australia. Both Hughes and Maynard were chaplains to members of the Actors' Church Union, an organisation founded in England in 1898 to promote positive attitudes and relationships between church and stage. But as well as genuine concern to minister to people of theatre, and a positive attitude toward the arts, was this also another manifestation of that frisson of naughtiness and refusal to conform that has already been noted elsewhere?

Whatever its origins, the results of such a positive attitude were many and varied. Gregan McMahon's theatre company performed for at least three seasons in the parish hall in 1914-15. Hughes' love of the theatre dated back to his early years, and his involvement in the ceremonies for the ashes of Nellie Stewart in 1931 were said to be a consequence of his youthful admiration of this actress. In 1932, during their season in Melbourne in which they appeared in Saint Joan, Medea and Macbeth, Dame Sibyl Thorndike and Sir Lewis Casson visited St Peter's. Maynard approached Thorndike and invited her to write an article for the Defender, the journal of the Australian Church Union, of which he was then the editor. The result was a series of letters on confession. From 1938 until 1961, Gertrude Johnson's National Theatre had the parish hall as its home both for rehearsal and for many performances. These included The Beggars' Opera in 1939, and wartime productions of Romeo and Juliet, The Glass Menagerie and The Corn is Green in which Gloria Mellody played leading roles; here Ray Lawler acted in and produced his own works. Shiveram, the first Indian dancer to visit Australia, also danced in the hall in 1947. Subsequently, in 1969, it became the rehearsal centre for the Elizabethan Trust orchestra, and then the State Opera orchestra. New performance conditions made it necessary for the stage to be removed, and for an extensive refurbishing of the hall.

The Ultimate in Nonconformity? St Mary's Mission

If St Peter's was never a centre of utter conformity, its profile as a significant inner city church was never in doubt. It could be criticized, even thundered against, for one or other of its divergencies; but its clientele embraced a far wider range than the eccentric, or seekers after the new and different, or those seeking anonymity. But down Fitzroy Street within five minutes' walk stood St Mary's Mission, built after the closure in 1920 of another inner-city church, St John's La Trobe Street. It was not so much a centre of nonconformity, as a mass of contradictions that were beyond a satisfactory resolution. Its first priest, Father Cyril Barclay, found a following in a group of former St John's parishioners. The new church continued to attract worshippers, but for the moment, largely from outside Fitzroy. Hughes, who largely financed the foundation, described the whole area as 'a self-contained and lawless territory'. In other correspondence, he expressed the hope that a religious community might run it – he was probably thinking of the Community of the Ascension, a commumty for men that had been founded in Goulburn at the end of World War I.

Neither Barclay, who inherited a private income from his mother, the author of religious novels, nor many of the congregation, were particularly well-suited to mission work in such a setting. Its governing body, created by Barclay, breached basic diocesan and legal regulations, and there were marked irregularities in its financial administration. An indication of the priorities of some of the congregation was the payment of a regular stipend to the music director, while at the same time failing to pay a stipend to Barclay's successor, Father Matthews, who sometimes relied on those outside the St Mary's congregation for regular meals. Its liturgy was designed ultimately to provide fulfilment for the needs of middle-class worshippers from outside Fitzroy, and Maynard was realistic in his assessment when he concluded that simpler ways of worship needed to be embraced, if Fitzroy people were to consider the church to be their own. James Murray described its interior as a highly theatrical one, reminiscent of an opera stage set; it functioned like a magnet to 'sinners of the unashamed variety. . .' When it did attract local people, it was not always in quite the way that Barclay and his supporters would have envisaged. Matthews wrote in April 1931 in the parish paper of the girl from a catechism class who brought her friends to the church one day, introducing them: 'This is Jim. He goes to St Pat's. And this is Alan. He don't go nowhere. We're teaching him to say the 'Ail Mary. He wanted to pinch one of Our Lady's candles, but I wouldn't let him'. There could be more substantial thefts than that of a votive candle. In March 1932, Matthews wrote: 'when the archbishop was out at the open-air services with us, trying to convert some of the Fitzroy people, one of them was actively engaged in removing the spare wheel from the episcopal limousine.' There were less peaceful presences. In November 1931 the marble font was smashed, not for the first time, by a mentally disturbed woman who threw it at one of the Sisters. A month later, 'some of our young'angels' ' poured the contents of a bottle of sanctuary oil on one of the regular drunks who frequented the church during the day.

Matthews was manipulated to resist any modification of the elaborate liturgical pattern established by Barclay. Frustration on Maynard's part at this point led to a decision that was to have a far-reaching impact on social service delivery for many Melburnians beyond Fitzroy: in 1933, he invited the Brotherhood of St Laurence, then working in Adamstown in Newcastle, to work at St Mary's on an experimental basis. Hughes' hope for a religious community at St Mary's was thus realized, though hardly in the way that he envisaged. The Brotherhood's stay was not a long one: in 1936 they were offered the charge of the parish of St Cuthbert's, East Brunswick. And it was not until they left that the kind of simplification that Maynard wanted in the liturgy was achieved. From this setting, teeming with contradictions, the Brotherhood expanded in its care for the marginalized and the impoverished, as well as for many who would not identify themselves as falling into such categories.

Meanwhile, St Mary's remained the centre that Murray remembered, its interior and congregation alike refusing to fulfil expectations of respectability and restraint. It embraced, too, the wider cultural concerns of St Peter's, as Maynard offered it to the Russian community as their centre for worship for two years before they made a more permanent home in the former St Saviour's church in Collingwood, founded from St Peter's during Handfield's incumbency. With their exit, St Mary's ceased to function as a church, but became a centre for another group associated with St Peter's, the Holy Name sisters, who eventually moved to a new location following the site's purchase by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. While the Brotherhood had long ceased to function as a religious community for men, the sisters became the inheritors of a long tradition – the heirs of the hopes of both Hughes and Maynard that an Anglican religious community should live a sacrificial lifestyle, close to those to whom they ministered. They too inherited the tradition of contradiction and nonconformity: by the 1970s, it was quite usual to see a sister in the most traditional of habits, astride a motor cycle, in a Fitzroy street, or in the corridors of a Melbourne University building.


Today, if the pedestrian walks from St Peter's downhill across the gardens into East Melbourne, he or she will be surrounded by 19th century buildings that still suggest the presence of a pattern of order and conformity, or at least of a comfortableness, an ease with the good things of this world. Something very different is to be encountered by walking along Brunswick Street or down Gertrude Street, a world in which eating places attract a clientele of the self-consciously contemporary from other suburbs, while within a stone's throw, a different group frequents the hotels. For such as these, Barry Dickens coined the phrase 'brain-dead in Brunswick Street'. The middle income earners from outside the area, and from within it, are in awkward proximity to those who are a new population of Fitzroy's marginaIized, the battlers, and those who will move out when other opportunities arise. Shades of St Mary's under Barclay, transferred to a street setting? While the congregation of St Peter's shows a much greater degree of uniformity in the backgrounds of its regular worshippers than in the time of Hughes or Maynard, it continues to stand in the midst of contradictions, and to straddle them, offering its own peculiar brand of nonconformity. It might even be that those whom Barry Dickens denoted as the 'brain-dead' are the conformists of the moment, and that the tradition represented by St Peter's – overtly religious, but with a strongly articulated element of social justice – has become a new and deeper kind of dissent.

Colin Holden, June 2000

Revised form of text for exhibition catalogue, A Not so Respectable Church in a Very Respectable City, to accompany the exhibition of the same name at The Old Treasury Building, Melbourne, October-November 1996, marking the 150th anniversary of the church.

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