All Saints Anglican Church – Ainslie
Those who have read my Sydney review – Rookwood Cemetery – Train Stations – will be aware that there is more than a passing resemblance between Rookwood Cemetery’s Gothic Ecclesiastic style Mortuary Receiving Station No. 1 and All Saints Anglican Church here in the Canberra suburb of Ainslie.
The two buildings are one in the same.
Mortuary Receiving Station No. 1 closed in 1948 and was put up for sale by the New South Wales rail authorities in the mid 1950s.
As it happened, the god fearing Anglican people of the leafy Canberra suburb of Ainsile, as represented by the Reverend Buckle, had need for a new church and in 1957 bought the former railway station (minus its roof which was lost in a fire in 1952) for the princely sum of GBP100. It was subsequently dismantled stone by stone (with every stone numbered), loaded onto 80 semi trailers (trucks/lorries) and moved to Canberra where it was reassembled under the supervision of builder Stan Taunton who gave a year of his services for free.
During it reconstruction a couple of key changes were made – the bell tower was moved for the left hand side, facing the main entrance, to the right hand side and two sandstone angels, previously on the entrance arch to the station, were moved inside and installed on the rear end station arch which now became to entrance to the church’s altar. The altar itself took the place of waiting rooms which had been removed from the station in 1897 to let trains pass through to other new stations within the Cemetery.
The churches beautiful east end stain glass window (dating from 1917 and saved from a church in Sheffield, England, which was otherwise destroyed in a WWI bombing) and even more beautiful Tasmanian Mountain Ash roof were added and the church was dedicated on All Saints Day (1 November) 1959. The absence of stained glass in the aisle windows gives the church a most wonderful light and airy disposition.
The current church bell is not the original from Rookwood. That was stolen before the former station was moved to Canberra. The current bell was presented to the church by the Australian Railway Historical Society in 1958 and is from a shay locomotive which ran on the former Wolgan Valley Railway in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney.
By the time the church was completed the GBP100 cost of the masonry component ex Sydney had become GBP24,000, due in no small part to the cost of the roof timber. Money very well spent in my opinion. A refurbishment of the stain glass window I referred to earlier cost the better part of A$100,000 in 2013.
Knowing the above, I found it very easy (I hope you can too by looking at pictures attached – or better still visiting the church) when I visited to envisage a train entering via the large west door, pulling up the aisle, stopping just in front of the altar and passengers disembarking the train though the original station arches on either side of the aisle.
I actually spent a couple of hours in this small church (I am not suggesting you need to!) as I got talking to a most wonderful parishioner/volunteer caretaker who was as interested into the history of the church as me. We spent quite some time in the vestry pouring over old photographs and documents and then looking at and pondering the significance of/reason for numerous small though delightful sandstone sculptures within the church. These included a sweet looking (not in the tasty sense!) little lamb (the Lamb of God, no doubt) and a rather angry looking canine of some sort with vicious teeth protruding, located on either side of the arch much lower down than the angels depicted in the picture above.
Whether you visit All Saints to ponder its history, to view it is a delightful church or to spend some time in prayer you will not be disappointed. I simply cannot understand why it took 14 years for me to stop and go inside this church, located within a kilometre of my home!
Entrance fee – Free. Donations are appreciated and a small booklet on the history of the church can be purchased for A$5.
Opening hours – Around 9am to 4pm
Address: 9-15 Cowper St, Ainslie