The church building in Mell Road, Spearwood, was built in 1916 by local residents with the support of the Anglican parish at Beaconsfield. It was variously known as the Parish Hall, Mission Hall, Anglican Church, and often just the Spearwood Hall.
Early Anglicans in Spearwood
The Anglican community in Spearwood in the early twentieth century were vibrant and active, much like the Spearwood community as a whole. The Spearwood district was growing stronger even as other parts of Cockburn faded away - Coogee as the Naval Base land resumptions impacted settlers, and Jandakot as the longed-for railway failed to develop the district as hoped. Residents in Spearwood’s early days were overwhelmingly of British origin, and most of them were members of the Church of England.
Need for a hall
A growing area had needs that were not met by the halls and churches at Hamilton Hill, Coogee, Bibra Lake and Jandakot. Many would-be churchgoers were meeting in their own homes to worship, and as the district was able to support financial loans, it was decided in 1909 to purchase a block of land for a future church.
Buying the land
In 1913 William Watson
, successful bacon and butter businessman and local philanthropist, offered the Spearwood Anglicans the donation of a 5 acre block - as he would do for local causes several times over the course of his life - but the Trustees of the Church of England had already purchased a block on Mell Road in 1909.
On this block, in August 1914, church members at Spearwood agreed to begin construction on a Parish Hall. This was quickly set aside as the First World War broke out, but was picked back up again in 1915 and this time succeeded in getting off the ground.
A hall, not a church
It is interesting to note that this hall was never intended to be a church, and was in fact only the first part of the grand plans for Spearwood’s Anglican parish. The land purchased by the church fronted onto Hamilton Road and stretched around the corner onto Mell Road. It seems likely that the Spearwood committee intended the hall to be used for social gatherings and meetings (a great need in the district, eventually filled by the Spearwood Agricultural Hall
) and thought they would build a church and rectory later on Hamilton Road.
Building the hall
By the end of 1915 Coogee lime burners Briggs & Rowland
had offered to donate the stone from their local quarry to build the hall. Several local market gardeners, business owners, and lime burners stood as guarantors for the loan from the Anglican diocese trustees, and in March 1916 the foundation stone was laid.
A large group gathered to witness Archbishop C.O.L. Riley lay the first stone, and his comments that he felt sure that they would ‘one day witness the laying of a foundation stone for a church and rectory of their own’ demonstrated that this was only the first step in a larger plan for Anglican buildings in Spearwood.
Opening the Parish Hall, 1916
In two months the hall was completed, and became a centre for social activity in the district. It was officially dedicated and granted a license by the Archbishop of Perth, but it was never consecrated, since the hope was that soon a full church would be built to house religious services. This never came to pass, however, and services began to be held once a month in the hall instead - whether Spearwood families travelled to St Pauls in Beaconsfield for other services, or continued worshipping at home is not recorded.
Throughout the next few decades the hall remained a social meeting space, a place for Sunday Schools, dances, political rallies, birthdays, and the meetings of many local clubs and societies. The loan from the Diocese was paid off in 1933, by which time the Spearwood Fruitgrowers and Market Gardeners Association had successfully raised the funds to build the Agricultural Hall
, which took over many of these social duties.
Decline of the Anglican parish
The 1930s and 40s saw a decline in membership in the Anglican parish at Spearwood as older members died and the area’s demographic shifted. After the Second World War many of the new migrants to the Cockburn area were Italian and Croatian, and the vast majority of them followed the Catholic faith.
In 1947 the lands that had once been intended for a church and rectory were sold off to local market gardeners, and in 1953 the Parish Hall, condemned as unfit for habitation, was sold to George Brenzi, who used it for storage.
Vacant parish hall
For over 30 years the hall lay vacant and in poor condition. George Brenzi’s wife, Elvi, and her daughter, had lived next door to it all that time, and had become known as the guardians of the building, despite the Brenzis having sold it on to local plumbers Messrs Murphy and Dobie some years previously.
Reformed Baptist Church restores the hall
In 1987 members of the Reformed Baptist Church of Western Australia (Spearwood) were seeking a place to hold their services, and on tracking down Murphy and Dobie they made a successful offer of purchase on the building. A church member recalls that, upon gaining entry to the building, ‘the floorboards were missing, the roofing barely there, and cobwebs decorated the walls.’
The church was granted permission to restore the building to heritage standards, and this was completed in 1990.
The Baptist Church held services there for three years, but their membership was dwindling and they eventually sold the church back to the Anglican Diocese in 1993, where they have worshipped ever since.
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