Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

Original St. Mary's Cathedral (see also the current St. Mary's Cathedral)

architect

James Dempsey

location

On Hyde Park- College and Cathedral Streets

date

Built- 1843  Demolished- (burnt down) 1865

style

Victorian Free Gothic

construction

Rendered brick Stone

type

Church
Summary Few people realise that the present St Mary's Cathedral, an ornate Gothic building designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, is the second cathedral to occupy the site on the eastern side of Sydney's Hyde Park. The first St Mary's, which was burnt to the ground in 1865, may not have been as grand as its successor, but was nevertheless a remarkable example of ecclesiastical architecture. Its Gothic bulk, facing the Anglican respectability of St. James' Church across Hyde Park, also demonstrated by its very existence the resilience of the colony's Roman Catholic population.
 
 
 
The original St Mary's Cathedral

Few people realise that the present St Mary's Cathedral, an ornate Gothic building designed by William Wilkinson Wardell, is the second cathedral to occupy the site on the eastern side of Sydney's Hyde Park. The first St Mary's, which was burnt to the ground in 1865, may not have been as grand as its successor, but was nevertheless a remarkable example of ecclesiastical architecture. Its Gothic bulk, facing the Anglican respectability of St. James' Church across Hyde Park, also demonstrated by its very existence the resilience of the colony's Roman Catholic population.

It is doubtful whether the cathedral would ever have reached its final form without the perseverance of two men John Joseph Therry, one of the first official chaplains to the colony of New South Wales, and John Bede Polding, the first Roman Catholic archbishop of Australia. Therry, aided by Philip Conolly, is credited with the first attempts to establish a central place of worship for Catholics in Sydney. To Polding fell the task of taking Therry's dream and raising St Mary's from a chapel to a cathedral.

Australia's first accredited Roman Catholic priests, Fathers Therry and Conolly, arrived in New South Wales in May 1820. Up to that time Catholic worship in the colony was largely practised in concealment. Father Jeremiah Francis O'Flynn, an Irish priest, had arrived in November 1817 aboard the Duke of Wellington . He had been appointed prefect-apostolic and was anxious to secure an official appointment to New South Wales. Despite the strong support of Catholic authorities in Rome and Ireland, the Colonial Office refused to issue the necessary credentials. Among the reasons given were O'Flynn's poor education and command of English; to this could be added the official suspicion of Catholics.

Presenting himself to Governor Macquarie, O'Flynn claimed he had permission from Lord Bathurst himself. Unable to verify this and faced with instant deportation, he persuaded the governor not to take action until word came from England .In return, O'Flynn promised not to carry out any secular duties. Being the only Catholic priest among large numbers of unrepresented Catholics, however, proved too much of a challenge. Word of O'Flynn's transgressions reached Macquarie and O'Flynn was duly arrested and deported aboard the .David Shaw in May 1818.

Reaching England, he again pleaded his case to the Colonial Office but to no avail. He made certain, however, that this experiences did not go unnoticed. The growing pressure this produced led the British Government to appoint Therry and Conolly to New South Wales.

The early masses conducted by the two priests were held in various premises, including the hotel known as the Harp Without The Crown in Pitt Street. There was a pressing need for better accommodation; it was difficult enough to minister to the far-flung Catholic community without so much as a Chaplin which to conduct services.

For this purpose a public meeting was convened on15 June 1820 at the home of the late John Reddington. Chaired by Conolly, the following resolution, as reported in the Sydney Gazette of 17 June, was passed:

That, having no convenient Place to celebrate the Rites of our Religion, and confiding in the benevolent Dispositions of our fellow Colonists in the different Districts of New South Wales, to join with us in erecting a House of Worship, we earnestly request those who feel interested in so desirable an Undertaking, to assemble with us at a Meeting, to be held at 12 o'clock, on the 30th Instant, at the Court-House, Sydney, for the Purpose of considering and determining on the most effectual Mode of opening a Subscription to build a Roman Catholic Chapel in Sydney.

The second meeting brought together Catholics and Protestants and was again chaired by Conolly. The first resolution carried was "That it is the indispensable duty of the Catholics of this Colony to unite in their efforts with their Clergy to build a House of Divine worship in the Town of Sydney". The meeting then passed resolutions expressing gratitude to the colonial authorities in England and to Governor Macquarie for their assistance. The meeting also authorised the formation of a committee to raise ,funds within the Catholic community. The members were Therry, Conolly, James Meehan, William Davis, James Dempsey, Edward Redmond, Patrick Moore, Michael Hayes and Michael Short. lq addition it was proposed that John Piper, Robert Jenkins and Francis Williams be authorised to collect subscriptions from the Protestant citizens. John Thomas Campbell, former secretary to Macquarie and newly installed provost marshal, was appointed treasurer. In the Sydney Gazette of 2 September 1820, he called on the population to note that "an Account is opened at the Bank for the Purpose of receiving Subscriptions accordingly; and he requests that Persons of every Religious Persuasion disposed to contribute to this laudable Object, will make their Subscriptions there as soon as possible, in Order to the Committee being hence enabled to commence on the proposed Building". Campbell was referring to the Bank of New South Wales, which he took an active part in establishing. Campbell himself contributed £20to the building fund.



Therry's vote of thanks appeared in the Sydney Gazette on 3 November 1821:

He derives great pleasure from being enabled, with great truth, to assure him, and the Protestant Gentlemen of this Country in general, that the Liberality recently manifested by them, in generously contributing to erecta Temple for the Service of the Living God, according to Roman Catholic Forms of Worship, has excited, in the minds of his Roman Catholic Brethren, Gratitude as sincere as it is utterable.

Having organised the machinery to raise funds, it was now necessary to obtain land. Therry must have hoped for a better position than the one Macquarie finally granted him. The centre of Sydney was at that time located closer to the docks, along the western ridge and the central thoroughfares including George Street. The grant was separated from the community by the untamed expanse of Hyde Park. Immediately to the north were Greenway's convict barracks, while the brick kilns and the Woolloomooloo market gardens lay to the east. Accounts suggest that Therry clashed with a Catholic member of the Survey Office-possibly James Meehan, the deputy surveyor-who frustrated Therry's attempts to gain a more advantageous position. One hundred and sixty years later, the wisdom of this unknown bureaucrat's choice is unquestionable, but at that time Therry felt hostile and not a little betrayed.

The site granted by Governor Macquarie was a square block measuring 2 acres 11 roods and 5 perches (almost three hectares). Enough money was in hand to begin construction and a date was fixed for the laying of the foundation stone. Therry considered it advisable that Macquarie should set the stone and suggested the Feast of All Saints in early November as a suitable date. Macquarie replied that that particular day would find him commencing the journey to the Northern Settlements, a tour of inspection scheduled to last more than three weeks. The date was then brought forward to Monday, 29 October 1821.On that day, before a large number of the colony's leading citizens, with numerous convicts and ticket-of-leave men swelling the crowd, Therry stood before the governor holding an ornate silver trowel fashioned by Samuel Clayton, an engraver and silversmith of 23 Pitt Street. The speech he delivered clearly conveyed his hopes and convictions.

In presenting Your Excellency this humble Instrument (which, undervalued as it may be by the supercilious and unscientific, will not be condemned by any who have studied and patronised, as Your Excellency has done, the sciences and useful arts), We, the Catholics of this Colony, cannot refrain, on so auspicious an occasion, from expressing our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Your Excellency, for having deigned to honour us, by personally laying the First Stone of the First Roman Catholic Chapel attempted to be erected in this Territory.

As a worthy Representative of a benevolent King, you, by this art of condescension, give an illustrious example, ''which will prove to be not less beneficial to society than meritorious to Your Excellency.You will have the merit of laying the firm foundation of a moral Edifice of unanimity, mutual confidence, and fraternal love, and of more strongly cementing the respect and affection of all persuasions and parties in this Country, to our Sovereign, to yourself and to each other.

In the Temple which you now commence, prayers shall be frequently offered to the Throne of God, to invoke upon yourself, and your amiable Family, the richest blessings of Heaven; and we venture to predict, that, whilst it shall continue to be appropriated to the sacred use for which it was intended, neither the Name, nor the Virtues of Your Excellency, shall at any time be -forgotten.

Therry handed Macquarie the trowel. The governor surveyed the crowd, stretched across Hyde Park and the rocky, scrub dotted ground around the foundation site, and his reply carried out across the still spring afternoon:

The sentiments you have addressed. to me, are congenial with my own, in the beneficial result to be derived from the erection of the proposed Edifice.

It has been a great gratification to me to witness and assist at the ceremony now performed; And I have every hope, that the consideration of the British Government, in supplying the Roman Catholics of this Colony with established Clergymen, will be the means of strengthening and augmenting (if that be possible) the attachment of the Catholics of New South Wales to the British Government, and will prove an inducement to them to continue, as I have ever found them to be, loyal and faithful Subjects to the Crown. The church began to take shape. Its architect is unknown, although there are reasons to believe that Therry himself was responsible, if not for the final design , at least for the overall concept. Like other architectural mysteries of the early colonial period, the answer may well lie in imported pattern books. It is difficult to imagine either Greenway or Kitchen exercising such restrained Gothic formality. From the numerous extant exterior and interior views, St Mary's was a remarkable architectural and engineering feat and the ability to design sucha building surely originated in England.

Building was carried out in stages. When the available money was exhausted, work stopped until a new fund had been successful. Up to the end of 1821, over £630 had been raised. In addition, a large quantity of building material and labour had been donated. Within a year funds were low, and Therry was petitioning Sir Thomas Brisbane, Macquarie's successor, for government assistance.

Writing to Brisbane's colonial secretary, Frederick Goulburn, on 3 December 1822, Therry begged for help: The well-known benevolence of our Government, the moral and political importance of the undertaking for which its patronage is now solicited, and the written recommendation of one of the Judges and twenty-six Magistrates of the Territory (which I, some time since, held the honour of submitting to you,· and a copy of which, to prevent the trouble of having reference to the original, I beg leave to enclose), give me the greatest confidence that my humble prayer will, on this occasion, be attended to with the happiest result.

The attached copy contained signatures from Barron Field of the Supreme Court, and such magistrates as Captain Piper, D'Arcy Wentworth, Edward Wollstonecraft, Hannibal Macarthur, John Oxley (the surveyor general), James Bowman(the surgeon general), John Jamison and John Blaxland.

The governor sent his reply the following day:

The GOVERNOR feels sorry you find yourself unable to perfect the Roman Catholic Chapel, in this town, on the grand scale on which you have commenced it. His EXCELLENCY experiences no small gratification, however, at the interest which seems to have been excited respecting its completion in the breasts of one of the Judges and twenty-six Magistrates of the territory, as manifest by their written recommendation of assistance; a copy of which you have done me the honour to enclose.After an anxiety so generally felt, the propriety of opening a fresh subscription for the consummation of that religious, political and elegant undertaking, naturally suggests itself: and in any list that may be opened, I am directed by the GOVERNOR to enter the name of this Government for a sum equal to the sum total of all such additional donations.

Despite the grand gestures and faintly mocking entreaties, the government's pound-for-pound funding did not commence for two years. By that time, in August 1824, Therry had cause to publish another notice in the Sydney Gazette: The ROMAN CATHOLIC CHAPLAIN exceedingly regrets having to inform the AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC , that , notwithstanding the Liberality they have already evinced in the Formation of Funds, for the Erection of a CATHOLIC CHAPEL, he cannot complete or even advantageously continue that Work, without further and liberal pecuniary Assistance.

And when it shall be considered, that a great Part of the exiled Inhabitants of the Colony is of the Catholic Persuasion, and that the Discipline of their Religion, as well as the Feelings of their conscience (the Freedom of which when it clashes not with social Order or established Law; is a natural and absolute Right; and with which, especially under existing circumstances it would not be humane 2oercively to interfere), prohibiting their Attendance at Forms of Worship different from their own, and having no Church or Chapel, in any Part of the country to assemble in on the Lord's Day, they are precluded from the best, if not the only Opportunity of being instructed on those Religious and Moral Duties, which in their Performance promote Peace and protect Property; and of which the most Virtuous require occasionally to be reminded; the Beneficence of a paternal Government, emulated by that of a generous People, will, he doubts not, enable him not only to complete the Church at Hyde Park, but also to erecta temporary Chapel, or Schoolhouse, in each of the different Townships of the Territory.

Until that time over £2600 had been collected, and it appeared that the · government subsidy would allow the church to be completed with little delay. Therry, however, fell out with the authorities. The subsidy was cancelled in 1827 and work ceased. But private support was notable. The newspapers of the period contained numerous references to gifts of money or goods. In the Sydney Gazette on 1 February 1822 Therry expressed" his Thanks to Captain MACKAY, of the 48th Regt, for a Set of Chandeliers, and to Captain P. DILLON, of Calcutta for twelve very handsome Lamps, presented by those Gentlemen to the Sydney R.C. Chapel". Discounts from outstanding debts were also welcomed, as on 10 June 1824: "The R.C . Chaplain has thus publicly to express his Thanks to MRJAMES DEMSEY [Dempsey], Kent Street, for having allowed £100 to be deducted from a Debt, recently contracted with him on Account of the Catholic chapel, now erecting at Hyde Park, as an additional Donation in Aid of the reduced Funds of that Building". In December the following year Brisbane donated £400, the chief justice ten guineas and Captain Rossi, superintendant of police,£6. In 1826James Dempsey was empowered by Therry to travel to India to raise funds. He carried with him documents prepared by Captain Piper, John Thomas Campbell and Simeon Lord attesting to his good character. The journey, however, was wasted . Although he was made welcome in many quarters, Dempsey returned to Sydney with little in the way of financial assistance.

In 1827 Governor Darling removed Therry from the chaplaincy. The two had never been close and Therry's dismissal was just one in a series of reversals. Convict labour was discontinued and the supply of the original Domain stone ceased. Therry's place was taken by Father Francis Power in January1827.

About this period a Dr Roger Oldfield recorded his impressions of St Mary's:

Eastward of this Park (Hyde) without trees is the Catholic Chapel and a view of Port Jackson, with its numerous bays and woody shores. The Gothic edifice, though a plain structure without the usual architraves, fretwork, moulding and sculpture, is a surprising piece of work, standing where it does . . . This building, begun in 1820, and now roofing in, is. in the form of a cross having at each corner octagonal buttresses rising above the roof with high-pointed caps, ornamented with turrets. These, a circular projection in the transept for the altar, constitute the principal decorations, yet thewhole has a fine effect, and by moonlight, but that the stone is fresh, you might fancy it as some old abbey. Therry continued to be highly critical of the colonial administration and of his successor, Power, and progress was further delayed by an economic recession. Therry's grand dream was appearing more and more unobtainable. Despite Oldfield's romantic description of St Mary's as a "fine old abbey", in truth it had more the appearance of a ruined one. The roof was in danger of collapse and the interior was regularly swept by rain during storms.

Power died in 1830 and Therry returned to his official dealings with the government. He found the situation much brighter, particularly after the arrival of Governor Bourke in December 1831. Matters improved further after the arrival of the Sir Thomas Munro on 18 January 1833. Aboard was William Bernard Ullathorne, at that time twenty-seven years old and newly appointed vicar-general. Therry regarded Ullathorne as something of a puppy, but the young man soon showed his forceful, authoritative character. He healed the rift between" the Catholic factions, improved relations with the colonial authorities, and in so doing attracted funds which allowed a new phase of construction on the cathedral. The first Mass was celebrated by Therry in the half-completed building on 5 December 1833.Ullathorne considered that New South Wales needed its own resident bishop, a cause supported by many others in the community. This led to the appointment of john Bede Polding, a former teacher of Ullathorne in his days at the English Benedictine school at Doonside, England.

By the end of 1834 the first stage of St Mary's was complete and when Polding arrived in September 1835 he took possession of the most handsome church in Australia. On Sunday20 September Polding was installed at St Mary's. In a ceremony never before witnessed in Australia, Polding was met at the great door at the west end of the building by the clergy. He donned his episcopal robes and received the crosier and mitre, joining the clergy in their solemn parade to the foot of the high altar. The organ, played by Mr Cavendish, swelled through the lofty expanse as the Te Deum was chanted.

According to a report of the ceremony in the Australian two days later, Ullathorne read the bulls of consecration, after which "the Reverend Vicar-General delivered an appropriate discourse, during the delivery of which, the Bishop appeared to be deeply affected". Polding took the pulpit, then High Mass was celebrated. The Australian considered that from "what we have heard of Dr Polding, we are led to anticipate the best results, both in a religious and moral point of view, and hail his arrival amongst us with great satisfaction".

Under Polding, Catholic schools held great importance. An ecclesiastical seminary, initially opened at Polding's residence at Woolloomooloo, was transferred to St Mary's. On 1 February1838, St Felician's, a lay school, opened in the grounds of St Mary's; it later became a side chapel of the cathedral. Building funds continued to attract support, for while St Mary's was suitable for occupation, there was still much to be done. When the congregation began to show signs of growing blase about the more traditional approaches, more inventive methods were called for. On the evening of Wednesday, 21September 1836, 700 people were present at St Mary's for the performance of an oratorio, the proceeds of which were used to purchase an organ. "The Church", the Australian commented," even in its unfinished state, had an imposing and impressive appearance. The long row of pillars, on both sides, were interlined with variegated lamps, hung in graceful festoonery; and by a judicious distribution of lamps in the windows, and other portions of the building, a 'dim religious light' was shed over the whole edifice ... "

Another oratorio performed at St Mary's some five years later was notable for the involvement of lsaac Nathan, one of the more interesting artistic personalities of early Sydney. Born in Canterbury, England, in 1790, Nathan had gained considerable repute by producing the Hebrew Melodies in partnership with Lord Byron, and was later appointed musical librarian to George IV. After a disagreement with Lord Melbourne, he brought his family to Australia in 1841. He opened an academy of music and became choirmaster of St Mary's.

Nathan composed several of the pieces performed at St Mary's that June evening, and it was also the first time that the pipe organ, built by Bevington and Sons of London, was used.

However impressive the services within St Mary's walls, the problem of completing the church remained. In early January1839, when Polding officiated at a meeting to investigate methods by which more finance could be arranged, the whole of the roof was complete. Over £2000 had been paid to the contractors, Messrs Brodie and Craig, but there remained an outstanding balance of several hundred pounds and the system of regular donations, whereby subscribers contributed sixpence a week, had broken down. The new system proposed, subscriptions of half a crown each month, must have helped, however, and when Polding went to Rome early in 1843, he was created an archbishop and St Mary’s obtained recognition as a cathedral. Polding returned in March to await the arrival of St Mary's bells. There were eight in all, ranging in weight from seven hundredweight (355 kilograms) to thirty-three hundredweight (1680 kilograms). A temporary tower was built,7 metres square with walls 76 centimetres thick. In late December Polding blessed the bells and watched as they were raised the 9 metres to the tower. To operate the bells, eleven men were brought from Gloucester, England.

On the afternoon of Sunday, 31 December 1843, a crowd of over 3000 gathered to hear the bells sound for the first time. The Australian dared to suggest that "The City will, no doubt, often be enlivened by such a remembrance of bygone days at home, as will be afforded by this additional step towards(we trust) the general adoption of the manners and customs of the Fatherland".

At that time St Mary's was 37 metres long, 29 metres wide across the transept and 13 metres across the nave. The exterior walls were 13 metres high. It held 2000 people, but with the proposed extensions, bringing the total length to more than fifty metres, a further 1000 people could be accommodated. The New South Wales Magazine of July 1843 gave the following description:

The situation of St Mary's in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park, and on which the sun darts his first, and lingers with his latest rays, seems quite unrivalled in the city ...The interior of the cathedral far surpasses the exterior in beauty; the pillars, 40 feet [about twelve metres] in height, are slender and graceful. The groined ceiling, with its broad moulded and arched ribs, its vaulted compartments and intersections, with their ornamented caps and bosses or corbels, which are all enriched with foliage, figures, and shields emblazoned, is executed in a very superior style, and has a very pleasing effect. It will remain as an enduring specimen of the mechanical skill and talent in the colony. The entire height of the interior from the floor to the apex of the groining, is 50 feet [15 metres]. That portion of the roof which is over the sanctuary is more carefully decorated, and consists of three canopies, and the elaborateness of their design may be seen in the symmetry of their vaulted ceiling; that in the centre, differs from the other two, in being larger, and was constructed with a view to the reception of the altar, at the back of which are three lofty and slender lancet windows of stained glass; in connection with these, but in the arch formed over the pillars, is a circular window, with an intricate pattern, and of the most brilliant description of coloured glass; the arches forming these canopies, are, moreover, ornamented with spandrels enclosing quatrefoils, which are also illuminated with stained glass. Altogether it would have been calculated to afford a pleasing mellowness, were not this effect interrupted by the flood of light which is admitted on every other side by the double row of windows. This added also to the reflection of the whitened walls creates rather a strong contrast with the sombre pillars and cedar panellings.

The altar, donated by Therry, was over three metres long and "of a monumental shape". Niches at the front and sides contained painted figures from the Old Testament, while the tabernacle was decorated with "slender turrets, pinnacles with appropriate fleurons, deep cornices, and borders formed by rows of panels with quatrefoil at regular distances. Its pyramidal appearance, and the tout ensemble strike the beholder on first entering the church, as exceedingly light and elegant".

Plans to enlarge St Mary's were made in the early 1850s. At a meeting held on 17 August 1851 to discuss fundraising, it was recorded that the extensions would include a chapel, a baptistery and a new bell-tower, topped by a broach spire, over sixty metres high. The works commenced but, as usual, were hampered by lack of money and by the early 1860sthe tower had risen to barely half its proposed height and the temporary belfry was still in use. While Polding, the clergy and congregation may have wished for immediate completion, the construction work that seemed always to be in progress was oddly comforting and familiar. In 1865 St Mary's Cathedral was entering its forty-fourth year, approaching its half-centenary, which in many ways would also be the half-centenary of Catholicism in Australia.

On 29 June 1865 the evening service for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul began at 7.00 p.m. and concluded an hour later. When the congregation dispersed, the gas lights were carefully extinguished and the supply turned off at the meter. Only a suspended lamp above the sanctuary was left a light. At 9.00 p.m. Mr Grogan, a passer-by on College Street, noticed a strange glow through the stained glass and rushed to the priests' residence. All the clergy were at St Benedict's Church, Parramatta, except Reverend Garavel, who rushed to a side entrance and pulled open the door. The interior was full of smoke and a roaring blaze appeared to be centred around the high altar. The Sydney Morning Herald told the whole story in dramatic detail:

By half-past nine the whole of the roof of the building was covered with flame. Most of the roof was covered with shingles, which were quickly burnt through, but the rafters and other timbers burnt for a while longer; and, as the outlines of the stately structure were vividly defined and skirted with flame, the sight was one of unsurpassed but terrible grandeur. Myriads of sparks ascended high into the air and fell in showers in the direction of Woolloomooloo Bay, whither, for a considerable distance, they were driven by the wind. From the top of the cathedral clouds of yellow flame and smoke issued, which shed a vivid lustre all around; and at times so bright was the glare that the minute objects in the remotest part of Hyde Park could be seen almost as distinctly as by daylight, and the reflection in the sky must have been visible for miles around ... The cold, frosty air, blowing on the rafters, caused them to glitter with resplendent brilliancy; and the flames, like innumerable serpents of fire, hissed and cracked along every part of the building and, as they swept from one interior fitting to another, assumed most singular shapes. The interior of the cathedral was a vast furnace of fire, which glowed with intense heat; and the wind and flame roaring through the sacred pile, and the timbers crashing from above made a noise which somewhat resembled the waves beating along the seashore . . .

Within a few minutes after the fire broke out every thoroughfare was thronged with spectators, and there was also a densely packed crowd assembled on Hyde Park, opposite the cathedral. So dreadful a sight seemed to impress the beholders with awe. There was not only an absence of anything like levity, but the countenances of most of the on-lookers were indicative of sadness and solemnity. Many persons seemed dismayed, and not a few showed their grief and consternation by bewailing in tears the ruin of an edifice which was to them a cherished object of veneration. The cathedral was completely destroyed. Estimates of the loss went as high as £200,000. The chalices in the sacristy were recovered before the fire took hold, as were the major vestments, the relics of St Felician and the archbishop's papers. The nearby church residences were stripped of furniture, as it was feared that the fire would spread. Fire engines of the Insurance Fire Brigade and the two Volunteer Fire Companies were on hand early but had difficulty finding a water supply with adequate pressure. It was not until some time later that a hydrant was discovered in the garden of the cathedral.

The items rescued from the blaze were few. The contents of storerooms under the cathedral were destroyed, although a blind retired sacristan, Anthony Brady, 102 years old, was led to safety from the same area. The salvaged articles were guarded by a detachment of police and the plate and valuables were locked in the belfry. The opportunity of obtaining a possibly valuable souvenir of the event proved irresistible for certain individuals and several arrests were made. The only part of the building to escape the inferno was a memorial window, erected in memory of the wreck of the Dunbar. An engine of the Volunteer Fire Company hosed the ruins throughout the night. Morning arrived and the carnage was painfully apparent. For several days the fire smouldered. Polding, who had been on a tour of the western districts, returned quickly to Sydney.

The cathedral had not been insured and it was a matter of beginning all over again. A temporary wooden chapel was built, but on 6 January 1869 this too burnt down. The present St Mary's was gradually erected from the 1870s and completed to its present state in the 1930s.

Thankfully it is an example of nineteenth century architecture that will never feel the demolisher's hammer.

Source
Lost Glories: A Memorial to Forgotten Australian Buildings
David Latta, Angus & Robertson, 1986

 

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