St Stephen’s Church, Portland

During our recent trip to Portland, while the fish were biting, I managed to sneak away for a walk around the town of Portland.

One building I visited was St Stephen’s Anglican Church on the corner of  Julia and Percy Streets.

St Stephens Church Portland

The foundation stone was laid on March 24, 1855.

St Stephens Church Foundation Stone

The Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser reported on the laying of the foundation stone.

Local Intelligence. (1855, March 26). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

I wonder if the reporter still had a job after overlooking the lunch that followed the ceremony.

I was impressed that the organisers of the day were able to secure Lieutenant Governor of the Colony, Sir Charles Hotham for the event.  However, after reading some articles about Hotham at Trove, and fitting the Portland visit into his timeline, I realised then he probably was trying to get as far away from Melbourne as possible.  The heat was on.  I would also imagine the Henty brothers’ connection to the church may have also been a factor.  Incidentally, Hotham was dead by the year’s end, having caught a chill, which exacerbated his already failing health.  This extract was published in the Empire (Sydney 1850-1875) on the same day as the report on the foundation stone ceremony and the tone is similar to other reports on Hotham at the time.

VICTORIA,. (1855, March 26). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 5. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Despite the church receiving a bell in 1864 from Stephen Henty, it was not until 1907 that the bell was hung.

St. Stephens' Church Bell. (1907, July 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Some histories of the bell may tell a different story of the bell’s origins as local historian Noel F. Learmonth had to admit in his article of October 29, 1951.  After reconfirming the story from 1907 article, he went on to say:

ST. STEPHEN'S BELL. (1951, October 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: MIDDAY.. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Entrance of St Stephen's Church, Portland

A SHORT HISTORY OF ST STEPHEN'S CHURCH FROM 1869 TO THE PRESENT DAY. (1943, August 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

I wish I had read this article before I visited.  I would have like to have seen Stephen Henty’s stained glass window.

Interior of St Stephen's Church

The organ on the wall of the altar has been in place since 1882.

In 1953, the church celebrated its 97th anniversary.  The Portland Guardian of May 14, reported on the event and included an extract from one of Noel Learmonth’s books  “The Portland Bay Settlement”.  A nice touch was when the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to the church.

St. Stephen's Church 97th Anniversary celebrated. (1953, May 14). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: MIDDAY. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

If you are interested in more history of the St Stephen’s Church, an article from the Portland Guardian of August 30, 1943, “A Short History of St Stephen’s Church from 1869 to Present Day” is worth a look.  It also includes a list of the 1943 members of the Ladies Guild.

18 thoughts on “St Stephen’s Church, Portland

  1. My Gt Grandparents were married in the original St Stephens, Portland in 1853. My Gt Grandmother, Emma Sutherland, arrived on the “Ann Milne” in 1852 (along with her mother and sisters), while Gt Grandfather Henry Tissott, having finished his time in Van Diemen’s Land, had headed for Victoria and the goldfields in 1847.

      • Hi Merron, I’ve tagged any reference to the family in TROVE (Tissott is the tag). Henry migrated around the mining towns; Mailor’s Flat, Mount Taurus, Yarpturk, and the surrounding district. Some of his descendants made Winslow and Warrnambool their homes while my side of the family went off chasing gold north of Kalgoorlie in the Menzies area.

        If you happen to come across something in the local paper I would appreciate a quick note. Many thanks,

        Rosemary in Tulsa

  2. My Great Grandfather John Charles Rogers and his wife Elizabeth (nee Lelean) arrived in 1855 on the ‘MV Shand’ and moved to Portland. Most of his 13 children were born in Warrnambool 1855 to 1879, the names and DOBs of whom I have.
    If anyone can assist me linking the present day Rogers families in the area with JCR, please feel free to contact me.
    Dave Rogers

    • Hi Dave

      Thanks for your comment. Hopefully someone can come up with something for you. I will keep an eye out for you too. I do have Rogers on my tree, but I have checked and they are not linked to John Charles Rogers.


  3. Hi there Merron
    I have recently been given a box of variest documents photo’s and corrispondence my grandfather had in his unfinished work of our family tree (mothers side), Which i have slowly started going through , HENRY TISSOTT i beleive is my GRT GRANDMA HUGHES/ TISSOTT ‘s father . lots of marriage certificate ,convict log records ,birth n death registry could be of some help to you .
    contact me if you would think i can help on
    kind regards Justin bentley

    • Hi Justin,
      Henry TISSOTT is my great grandfather. I would absolutely love to share what I have with you. I’m descended from his son Harry TISSOTT who married Mary LINDSAY and then went west to the goldfields.
      I’ll send you an email.

  4. My 3rd great grandfather, Thomas BEST married Alice MAGUIRE in 1844 at St Stephen’s Church with the consent of the local guardian of minors, as Alice was underage.

  5. My Great Great Grandmother (I think), not sure how many greats, was the first and her groom, to be married in this church, her maiden name was SEABOURNE she was the first white child to be born in Adelaide,, she married a MALLETT, my father Tige Edgar Mallett STUCHBERY was born in the Portland Botanical Gardens, Tiges wife, was Norma HEDDITCH, daughter of “BOOKIE” Willaim Charlton HEDDITCH

  6. Hi. My Grt Grt Grandfather was Rev JY Wilson of St Stephens. I enjoyed this story immensely. Thanks and pls let me know if you have any other material as my genealogy interest is leading me on!
    Thanks Alan

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