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The local church as a centre of place

A centre of place

In Camden the local non-going church community has resisted the sale by the Anglican Church of a horse paddock between St John’s Anglican Church and the former Rectory, all part of the St John’s Church precinct.

Community angst has been expressed at public meetings, protests, placards, and in articles in the press.

St Johns Church
St Johns Church Camden around 1900 (Camden Images)

 

The purpose of this blog post is to try and unravel some of the broader issues underpinning community angst around the sale of church property. The post will look at the case study of the sale of churches in Tasmania and the resultant community anxiety.

The local church in place

The local church is an important part of a local community. It has a host of meanings for both churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike.

The local church is a central part of the construction of place and people’s attachment to a cultural landscape and locality.

Place is about a sense of belonging and a sense of groundedness. It is expressed by cultural heritage, memory, nostalgia, customs, commemorations, traditions, celebrations, values, beliefs and lifestyles.

Belonging is central to placeness. It is home. A site where there is a sense of acceptance, safety and security. Home as a place is  an important source of stability in a time of chaos. Home is part of a community.

LM Miller from the University of Tasmania states that people are involved fundamentally with what constitutes place and places are involved fundamentally in the construction of persons. Place wraps around and envelopes a person. People are holders of place (Miller: 6-8)

There is a shared sense of belonging in a community where being understood is important and part of a beloved collection. A sense of belonging acts as an all encompassing set of beliefs and identity. . It enriches our identity and relationships and leads to acceptance and understanding.

A church is one of these communities.

Cobbitty St Pauls 1890s CKerry 'EnglishChurch' PHM
This Charles Kerry Image of St Paul’s Anglican Church at Cobbitty is labelled ‘English Church Cobbitty’. The image is likely to be around the 1890s and re-enforces the notion of Cobbity as an English-style pre-industriral village in the Cowpastures (PHM)

 

When a person’s sense of place is threatened then their sense of self, identity, safety, stability, and security are challenged. Where there is a loss of a person’s sense of place and belonging to a place they go through a grieving process.

The closure, sale and de-consecration of the local church are a threat to a person’s sense of place.

Local churches are part of a community’s cultural heritage.

Local churches are part of a community’s cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage consists of two parts. Firstly, tangible heritage which is made up, for example, buildings, art, objects and artefacts.

Secondly there is intangible cultural heritage which includes customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values.  This can be extended to include traditional skills and technologies, religious ceremonies, performing arts and storytelling.

 

Churchgoers and a sense of place

The link between local churches and a community’s sense of place  has been explored  by Graeme Davison in his book The Use and Abuse of Australian History. He says that churchgoers are often faced with unsustainable maintenance costs for a church. Eventually when churchgoers are forced to sell the property they:

often seemed less reluctant to give up their church than the rest of the community…and faced with the prospect of its loss, [the non-churchgoers] were often prepared to fight with surprising tenacity to save it.’ (Davision:149)

Enmore Church of Christ Tabernacle
The Enmore Church of Christ Tabernacle in the early 20th century where Frank and Ethel were married in 1925. (Jubilee Pictorial History of the Church of Christ)

 

These churches have a strong emotional attachment for their communities. These churches are loved places for their community and Davison suggests:

It is in losing loved places, as well as loved persons, that we come to recognise the nature and depth of our attachment to our past. (Davison: 150)

Davison argues that churchgoers often have a loyalty to their local place well beyond their sense of faith in Christianity.

Sale of churches in Tasmania

These issues came to the fore in Tasmania in 2018 when there was  public outrage around the sale of local churches in Tasmania.

The Hobart press ran a story with the headline ‘Emotions run high, communities vow to fight after Anglican Church votes to sell off 76 churches’. (Sunday Tasmanian, 3 June 2018)

tasmania st john's anglican church-ross-tasmania wikimedia lowres
St John’s Anglican Church Ross Tasmania (Wikimedia 2017)

The Anglican Church in Tasmania was attempting to fund the ‘redress commitment’ to the victims of clerical abuse by selling church property.

In response Central Tasmanian Highlands churchgoer Ron Sonners said that  ‘his ancestors [were] buried in the graveyard associated with St Peter’s Church at Hamilton’…and he ‘struggled with his emotions as he dealt with the fallout from his community church being listed for sale’.  (Sunday Tasmanian, 3 June 2018)

Tasmania Anglican Bishop Richard Condie says that most of opposition to the sale of churches

 is primarily people in the broader community who oppose the sales, with the potential loss of heritage and family history, including access to graveyards, their main concern. (The Mercury, 15 September 2018)

There have been protest meetings and some effected parishes started fundraising campaigns to keep their churches.  The Hobart Mercury reported that

The Parish of Holy Trinity Launceston, which wants to keep St Matthias’ Church at Windermere, has raised the funds, with the help of its local community, to meet its redress contribution. (The Mercury, 15 September 2018)

Cultural historian and churchgoer Dr Caroline Miley said that:

the churches are an important part of Australian history… It is unconscionable that such a massive number of buildings, artefacts and precincts should be lost to the National Estate in one fell swoop…These are buildings built and attended by convicts and their jailers. They were built on land donated by early state governors, notable pioneers and state politicians, with funds donated by these colonials and opened by the likes of Sir John Franklin…As well, she says, they contain the honour boards, memorials and graves of those who fought and died in conflicts from the 19th century onwards…Some are in the rare (in Australia) Georgian style or in idiosyncratic Tasmanian Carpenter Gothic. (The Mercury, 15 September 2018)

Amanda Ducker of the Hobart Mercury summarises of the whole fuss surrounding the sale of churches in Tasmania this way:

Condie’s use-it-or-lose-it approach clashes with the keep-it-at-all-costs mentality. But while some opponents of the bishop’s plan refuse to sell their church buildings, neither do they want to go to church regularly. They rather prefer just to gather on special occasions: baptisms, weddings, funerals and perhaps at Christmas and Easter if they are leaning towards piety. But the rest of the year? Well, a sleep-in, potter at home or cafe brunch of eggs benedict (but sans ministering) are pretty tempting on Sunday morning. (The Mercury, 15 September 2018)

Others Anglicans in Tasmania see the whole argument differently. Emeritus Professor and Anglican Peter Boyce AO see it as fight over the spiritual traditions linked to the low and high Anglican traditions in Tasmania.   (The Mercury, 15 September 2018)

All these arguments are characteristic of how people, their traditions, their values, their past, their memories are all rooted in a location and in particular a building like a church.

 

Other dimensions to the argument

The dualism expressed in the sale of church land and buildings can be likened to the difference between sacred and secular. These two polar opposites are explored in popular culture in the form of music by Nick Cave and others on The Conversation.

Another perspective on this area was aired on ABC Radio Local Sydney in December 2018 by Dr David Newheiser. In the discussion he examined  the differences between Christians and aethiests.  He maintained that there are strong sentiments in the community around tradition and ritual in the community and if you lose a church you lose all of this.

The binary position of churchgoers and non-churchgoers can also be expressed in ethical terms as the difference between good and evil, or right and wrong, or moral and immoral, just and unjust and so on. This dichotomy has ancient roots dating back to pre-Biblical times across many cultures.

So what does all this mean?

Churches have an important role to play in the construction of place in communities. This role is played out in different ways for different actors in the story.

As far as the dichotomy presented here in the story of the sale of church property and land, there is really no conclusion that satisfies all stakeholders.

There is no right or wrong position to the opposing views between churchgoers and non-churchgoers. The differences remain an unresolved ethical dilemma.

An iconic Camden image of St Johns Anglican Church in the 1890s.

Cover Pictorial History Camden District Ian Willis 2015
Front Cover of Ian Willis’s Pictorial History of Camden and District (Kingsclear, 2015)

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Camden · Fashion · Interwar · Local History · Modernism · sense of place · Weddings

A wedding and a little bit of 1920s modernism

Some photographs from the Camden Images Past and Present came the attention of the CHN blogger from the early 1920s. One from 1922 and, a second, the Duesbury-Burford wedding from 1925.

The images speak of the forces modernism and the fashions of the Interwar period. They illustrate how even the small country town of Camden did not escape the global transnational fashion trends of 1920s.

In 1925 the Adelaide News  reported on the wedding of 30 year old Frank Duesbury, the son of Lewis and Catherine Duesbury of Camden. Frank married 28 year old Ethel Burford who came from  Semaphore near the Port Adelaide district located on the St Vincent Gulf coastline.

Camden Ethel Muriel Burford, wedding to Frank Garnet Duesbury, 16 May, 1925, Enmore NSW CIPP[1]
The wedding of 28 year old  Ethel Muriel Burford to 30 year old Frank Garnet Duesbury, 16 May, 1925 at Enmore NSW (Camden Images Past and Present)
Frank was one of five children of Lewis and Catherine, the others being Esther, Ruebell, Jessie and Lewis. The family lived at 64 Harrington Street, Elderslie then by 1918 in Menangle Road Camden. The family later moved into Balmacarra at 35 Elizabeth Street. Lewis worked for CT Whiteman from 1893 after running general stores in Dungog, Kempsey and Sydney.

Elderslie 64 Harrington St[1]
The Duesbury family lived at 64 Harrington Street Elderslie in the years before the First World War. This cottage is a typical of the Edwardian style in the Camden district. There are a number in the Elderslie area built and owned by the Bruchhauser family who were local viticulturalists. (I Willis, 2017)
In June 1918 Frank volunteered for service during the First World War. At the time he was employed as an assessor with the Federal Taxation Department.

Frank and Ethel became engaged in 1922. Ethel embraced modernism and the fashions of the 1920s and all they represented to her. The image of her at her engagement says it all.

Ether Muriel Burford 1922 Engagement CIPP
This a lovely hand-tinted photograph of  25 year old Ether Muriel Burford in 1922 on her engagement to Camden fiance Frank Duesbury (Camden Images Past and Present)

An engagement is a betrothal and in most cultures is period before the marriage ceremony where the couple get to know each other and is considered a trial marriage. The engagement ring in European cultures dates back to the Roman period and more recently influenced by marriage practices of the middle ages.

In the tradition of British culture, including Australia, the wedding is one of the big days of a woman’s life, the others being baptism and funerals. The wedding was a big day in Ethel’s life.

The wedding day, according Elizabeth Davies on her website A Brief History of the Wedding Dress in Britain, is one of the great public occasions when the people involved can fully appreciate the glory of their central role. She maintains that the bride has always tried to make the wedding a special day, a fairy tale come true for many.

In the British Empire royal weddings were very influential on fashion trends and in times gone past were of great political importance. The young princess had to uphold the national prestige and present herself as a symbol of the power and wealth of the nation.

One of the most important in the modern period was the marriage of Prince Albert to the reigning Queen Victoria in 1840. Both 18 years old and smitten with each other. The marriage was of immense political importance to Great Britain and its position in the world at the time. It was the first wedding of a reigning English queen in 300 years.

The marriage of Victoria and Albert is currently the subject of the TV series called Victoria.

The Duesbury-Burford wedding in 1925 was of great importance to the families of those involved. The wedding was reported in the Adelaide News and took place in Sydney. The wedding took place at the Church of Christ Tabernacle at Enmore.

Enmore Church of Christ Tabernacle
The Enmore Church of Christ Tabernacle in the early 20th century where Frank and Ethel were married in 1925. (Jubilee Pictorial History of the Church of Christ)

The bride, Ethel, was dressed in ‘a charming tube frock of crepe stella’ reflecting the fashions. The 1920 flapper style was reflected in the wedding styles at a time and was a revolution in women’s clothing. The hemlines rose and the wedding dresses followed suit. The corset had disappeared and the sense of freedom for women was a rebellion against the excesses of the First World War. Ethel’s wedding gown reflected all of these notions.

Ethel’s outfit was described this way by the News:

The court train was lined with georgette, and was handsomely embroidered with pearls and orange blossom. Her veil of cut tulle was held in place with a wreath of orange blossom, and she carried a shower bouquet of roses and sweet peas.

The orange blossom in the wreath was a symbol of fertility, and was also used in 1840 by Queen Victoria.

Edith’s gown of georgette would have been quite expensive particularly as it was embroidered with pearls. Goergette fabric has been described this way on Utsavpedia:

Georgette is a light-weight, crinkled and sheer fabric, displaying an overall bouncy look. A strong absorbent, Georgette is easy to dye and has dull-rough texture. Georgette is woven in highly twisted yarns of S & Z, in both warp and weft. Georgette is woven in two forms: Pure and Faux. Pure Georgette is woven out of Silk yarns, while the Faux Georgette is woven from Rayon and Polyester.

The wedding party was dressed in marocain fabric which is described on the Sartor All About Silk website this way:

Silk crepe marocain (heavy silk) is a luxurious heavy silk fabric with a nice drape. It is similar to heavy satin but in contrary to super smooth and lustrous satins it has a somewhat grainy surface and dull finish. Silk crepe marocain wears very well and is a favorite fabric for women blouses, shirts, summer dresses, skirts, scarves and of course luxury lingerie, tops, evening and bridalwear. It combines well with airy semi-transparent and dull georgettes.

The press report of the wedding in the News stated:

Miss Edith Burford (niece of the bride) was bridesmaid. She was frocked in powder blue marocain, with flared tunic edged with silver lace. A silver bandeau was worn round her head, and a bouquet of pink carnations was carried. Little Marjory Dumbrill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dumbrill, formerly of Semaphore, was train bearer. and looked pretty in pleated pale pink georgette trimmed with pale pink and blue rosebuds. A wreath of silver leaves was worn round her head. The bridegroom was supported by Mr. Stanley Taylor.

At the reception the bride’s sister-in law received her guests in a smart gown of navy marocain with Oriental trimmings.  She carried a sheaf of autumn leaves and flowers. The bride travelled in a smart frock of penny brown jacquard marocain. with cloche hot to match. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Duesbury are residing at Gordon, New South Wales.

Gordon of the 1920s was an on the rural-urban fringe of Sydney and had a number of real estate subdivisions where young couple could buy a first home. The suburb was an expression of modernism. It was accessible to the city by the railway which had arrived in 1890 and encouraged the breaking up of local farms for housing. The Interwar period was a time of change and there was rapid housing growth.

Newly weds Frank and Ethel were an expression of modernism and they embraced it and all it stood for in their lifestyle and their family life.

Read more

(Adelaide) News 22 August 1925.

Camden · Cobbitty · Farming · festivals · Heritage · Local History · Modernism · Retailing · Uncategorized · Weddings

Camden Colonial Families Celebrate a Moderne Wedding at Cobbitty

In late August 1928 two Camden colonial families celebrated the marriage of Keith Whiteman to Alice Margaret (Marge) McIntosh. This was an important local wedding between two local families of some importance and social status. The McIntoshes conducted a very successful dairy operation on the family property of Denbigh at Cobbitty, while the Whiteman family were successful Camden retailers.

Wedding 1928 McIntosh Alice McIntosh Denbigh CIPP lowres
Marge McIntosh in her bridal gown photographed in the garden of her home at Denbigh Cobbitty for her wedding on 25 August 1928. The style in strongly influenced by the moderne from London and Paris (Camden Images Past and Present)

Both families had colonial origins. Members of the Whiteman family had immigrated to New South Wales in 1839 from Sussex to work on Camden Park Estate. While the McIntoshes had immigrated to New South Wales from the Inverness region of the Scottish Highlands in the 1860s.

Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony was a relatively small country wedding of 60 guests given the social profile and economic position of both families. The wedding ceremony was held in the historic setting of St Pauls Anglican Church at Cobbitty. St Pauls was the centre of village of Cobbitty and an expression of its Englishness, which was typical of a number of villages across the Camden District. The church was originally built under the direction of Galloping Parson Thomas Hassall in 1842 and adjacent to his 1828 Heber Chapel.

St Pauls Cobbitty 1910 CHS0669
Cobbity’s St Paul’s Anglican Church 1910 (Camden Images)

The church was decorated with a simple floral arrangement of white flowers and asparagus fern, according to the press reports (CN 20 Sept 1928). The white flowers for the  August wedding were likely to have been, according to Angela Wannet of Butterflies Florist in Camden, local calla lillies, oriental lillies, and carnations with trailing ivy. The floral displays in the church, while not elaborate,  indicated that the families did not spare any expense on this important family celebration.

Bride and Groom

Cobbitty born 33 year old bride Marge McIntosh was the fourth child of Andrew and Ada McIntosh of the colonial property of Denbigh at Cobbitty. Denbigh is one of the oldest gentry properties on the Cowpastures and listed on the state heritage register. It was originally an 1812 land grant to Charles Hook, then by the Galloping Parson Thomas Hassall (1826-1886) followed by the McIntosh family. The family first leased the property in 1868 and then purchased it off the Hassall family in 1886. The State Heritage Inventory States that the house and property ‘retains a curtilage and setting of exceptional historic and aesthetic significance’.

Camden Melrose 69 John St FCWhiteman CIPP
Melrose at 69 John Street Camden was a substantial Edwardian home of the Whiteman family. Demolished in the late 1970s. (Camden Images Past and Present)

Camden born 28 year old bridegroom Keith Whiteman was the second child of Fred and Edith Whiteman of Melrose at 69 John Street, Camden. Melrose was a significant Edwardian brick cottage on John Street Camden. The Whiteman family had significant business interests in Argyle Street Camden including a general store and  newsagency.  Keith and his brother Charles gained control of the general store 12 months after Keith’s wedding on the death of father Fred. The original Whiteman’s general  opened in Oxley Street in 1877, and later moved to Argyle Street. It was  according The Land Magazine ‘reminiscent of the traditional country department store’. (28 February 1991) and at the time of the report on the oldest family-owned department stores in Australia.

The fashionable bride

We are lucky to have a wonderful photograph of the bride Marge McIntosh in her wedding gown at Denbigh. It provide many clues to the importance of the wedding to both families and their no-nonsense approach to life. While not an extravagant wedding the bride’s outfit reflects that no expense was spared on the gown and floral decorations for the bouquet and the church decorations. The design of the outfits, as described in the press reports and in the photograph, reflect the influence of modernism and the fashions from Paris and London. This was a moderne wedding in the country between two individuals of some social status.

 

The fashions worn by the wedding party, according to the press reports of the day, were the height of modernism. The bride wore a classic 1920s design described as a ‘simple frock of ivory Mariette over crepe-de-chen’  of light weight silk crepe as a backing, which was quite expensive. The made-to-order gown was fitted and, according to one source, likely to be hand-made by a Sydney-based dressmaker. The Mariette style of wedding gown is still a popular choice in England for brides-to-be if wedding blogs are any indicator of trends. The bride’s gown was a fashionable length for 1928 with the hemline just below the knee.

 

The bride’s veil was white tulle, with a bouquet of pink and white carnations. The bride’s shoes have been described by one local source in the shoe industry as a hand-made white leather shoe, with a strap, and a three inch heel. They would have likely been hand-made by one of the four or five Sydney shoe firms of the day, some of which were located around Marrickville.

Cobbitty St Pauls Church Interior 1928 Wedding Marg McIntosh&Keith Whiteman CIPP
Interior of St Paul’s Anglican Church at Cobbitty with floral decorations for the wedding of Marge McIntosh and Keith Whiteman on 25 August 1928 (Camden Images Past and Present)

Marge McIntosh wore a headdress of a ‘clothe’ veil style, which was popular at the time. The veil was ‘white tulle mounted over pink, formed the train and held in place with a coronet of orange blossom and silver’. The elaborate wedding floral bouquet, according to press reports, were made up of white and pink carnations and according to Angela Wannet who viewed the brides wedding photo was complemented by lillies and fern.

The history of wedding robes as a part of the celebration of the wedding festivities dates back the ancient Chinese and Roman civilizations. The first recorded mention of the white wedding dress in European history is 1406 when the English Princess Philippa married Scandinavian King Eric. In the British Empire the Industrial Revolution and the marriage of Queen Victoria to her first cousin Prince Albert in 1840  changed all that.  The fitted wedding dress with a voluminous full skirt became the rage after their wedding. The British population romanticized their relationship and young women rushed to copy their Queen. The beauty of the bride was enhanced with the rise of wedding photography and did much to popularise the white-wedding dress trend.

Bridal Party

Our moderne bride at Cobbitty was attended by her sister Etta (Tottie) McIntosh in a frock of apricot georgette, and the bridegroom’s sister Muriel Whiteman who wore a blue georgette, with hats and bouquets toned with their frocks. Georgette is a sheer fabric with a good sheen that is difficult to work, and requires a good dressmaker. The fabric is difficult to cut out and sew, and according to one source is easy to snag. The dressmaker exhibited her skill and experience with her handcrafted sewing, if the wedding photo of the bride, Marge McIntosh, is anything to go by.

The groom had his brother Charles Whiteman act as best man, and an old school friend from Albury Mr T Hewish as groomsman.

The reception

The wedding guests retired to a reception at the McIntosh’s historic colonial property of Denbigh, where the bride and groom were honoured with the ‘usual toasts’ and many congratulatory telegrams. A master of ceremony would have stuck to a traditional wedding reception with introduction of the bride and groom, then toasts, with a response speech from the father of the bride, more toasts, responses by groom’s father, followed by the reading of telegrams. The McIntosh family household would have likely provided the catering for the wedding.

denbigh-2015-iwillis
Denbigh homestead has extensive gardens and is still owned by the McIntosh family at Cobbitty (Open Day 2015 IWillis)

Wedding gifts

Amongst the wedding gifts was a rose bowl from the Camden Tennis Club and a silver entre dish from the staff at FC Whiteman & Sons. These gifts reflect the interests and importance of the bride and groom in these organisations. Tennis was a popular pastime in the Camden area in the 1920s and some Camden tennis players did well at a state level in competitions. The entre dish would have been a plain design reflecting the influence of 1920s modern styling, rather than the ornate design typical of Victorian silverware.

Honeymoon

The bride’s going away outfit was ‘a smart model dress of navy blue and a small green hat’. This would likely have been a fitted design typical of the style typical of the period and the influence of modernism in fashions in London and Paris.

The bride and groom left for a motoring honeymoon spent touring after the wedding festivities. In the 1920s motor touring was just starting to gain popularity as cars became more common and roads improved. Coastal locations  and mountain retreats  with their crisp cool air at in August were popular touring destinations in the 1920s.

Camden Whitemans General Store 86-100 Argyle St. 1900s. CIPP
FC Whiteman & Sons General Store, 60-100 Argyle Street Camden, around 1900s was one of the oldest continuously family owned department stories in Australia (Camden Images Past and Present)

Historical images

The wedding photograph of Marge McIntosh in her bridal gown, like historical photographs in general, is a snapshot in time. The image provides a level of meaning that contemporary written reports in the Camden press does not contain. The photograph provides subtle detail that can fill out the story in great detail to the inquisitive researcher.

While the wedding reports did not make the social pages of the Sydney press it does not understate the importance of this union at a local level in the Camden community. It would be interesting to speculate if there were similar weddings between other Camden families.

The visual and written reports of the wedding give a new insight into life in Camden in the 1920s and how the community was subject to external transnational influences from all corners of the globe. Many claim that country towns like Camden were closed communities and in many respects that is true. For these two Camden families, they were subject to the forces of international fashion as well as those of maintaining the social sensibilities of their community.

Read more

Press reports of wedding  Camden News 20 September 1928 

View wedding photographs on Camden Images Past and Present

For something a little bit different here is the history of the wedding dress on JSTOR