The first white settler to arrive in Young was the aptly named James White an ex-convict who arrived in 1832. Having befriended Cobborn Jackie, a chief of the Waradjeri Aboriginal tribe, he secured a homestead site at Burrangong Creek, Young. White and his family lived here pretty much undisturbed until June 1860 when gold was found at one of his sheep camps – Lambing Flat.
Within months the population of the area was in excess of 20,000.
My separate review on the Reading of the Riot Act provides details of how Lambing Flat (later to be renamed Young) degenerated into a “wild west” where violence, theft, armed robbery and general lawlessness was the norm.
Troops lead by Captain John Wilkie arrived to restore order after the worst of a series of riots in June 1861. Wilkie’s wife, Margaret, joined her husband in Lambing Flat. Margaret set about ‘Christianising’ the barbaric miners (my term, not her’s!). A timber church was opened in November 1861 and visiting clergy were supported, accommodated and entertained by Captain and Mrs Wilkie.
On 1 February, 1862 Captain Wilkie suffered a fit of apoplexy, fell of his horse and died. Margaret returned to her home in England where she trained as a nursing sister under Florence Nightingale at St Thomas Hospital. All the time she was collecting money to build a church in far off Young, and a good thing this was too, as when the Rev’d W H Pownall was finally persuaded to become a resident priest in Young he arrived on 8 August 1864 to find that the temporary church had been sold for thirty shillings.
Margaret Wilkie returned to Young and construction of the Memorial Church of St John the Evangelist commenced on 21 March 1865. The church, substantially financed by Wilkie and other private contributions, was completed and consecrated by the first Bishop of Goulburn, Bishop Thomas, on 11 August 1865.
The church is in Early Decorated Gothic style, fashionable in England in the 13th century, and is constructed in local Bluestone, a type of slate, and was the first permanent church of any denomination in the goldfields. It was extended in 1893 and again in 1913 and 1928. The 1928 west end extension envisaged a tall bell tower, which never eventuated. As a pamphlet on the church states, “as the west end arose the Great Depression descended, and the Parish to its astonishment could not afford the tower”. The stunted bell tower in my main picture above had to suffice.
Internally the church is rather plain though pleasant and certainly worth a look.
Address: Cloete Street