Saturday, January 21, 2012

What lies beneath

On the corner of Copland Drive and Moynihan Street, Evatt, is what seems to be a vacant block of land. There's not much there - a few poplar trees, some more established than others, a few young eucalypts around the fence, and a lot of sparse, tussocky, weedy grass with a few blue and pink patches of tiny flowers. The only thing that you might find intriguing is the 'Historic Cemetery' sign along the Copland Drive edge.

I've been meaning to find out about it for ages, and I finally had the chance this weekend.

On 12 May 1861, St Paul's Church of England was opened on this site. At the time, it was part of Ginninderra Station, owned by the Campbell family. If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember a park - Glebe Park - in the city, which was previously land donated to the Church of England to help support the rector of St John's, Reid. Well, there were three such parcels of land donated by the Campbells as glebes, and this what remains of one of them. The glebe consisted of 200 acres - 1 acre for a church, 2 acres for a burial ground, and the remainder to be leased to tenant farmers to provide an income for the church for maintenance and support.

St Paul's was a small rural church - 5m x 9m, with a tiny porch and a bell-cote. It was partly built in slab and weatherboard, and partly in lath and plaster, with a shingle roof and Gothic windows. The type of construction meant it needed constant maintenance.

From April 1862, the building also functioned as a school. The school attendance fluctuated, as was often the case in rural communities when children were required to help on the farm at times, and it could also be difficult to cross Ginninderra Creek in times of heavy rain. By 1870, the numbers had fallen to below 7, and the school closed.

In 1882, the village of Hall was established and became much more important to the local community than Ginninderra. St Paul's was still used until 1900, but in 1904 it was severely damaged  in a storm and left to deteriorate.

The suburb of Evatt was established in the 1970s, and part of the old burial ground was lost under newly constructed roads. Many of the old grave markers were made of timber, and had deteriorated and disappeared, and there was no record of the actual plots. This space was used as a construction parking area during the suburb's development.

A new parish of St Paul's Ginninderra was established in 1981, and the block was designated for a new church building. however, the parishioners decided not to go ahead with this, and initially met in the primary school at Melba, and more recently in the Spence primary school (which is no longer used as a school, and has a number of tenants apart from the church).

Reference: Most of the historical information given here is from the ACT Heritage Register.

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