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.
The foundation stone was laid on March 24, 1855.
The Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser reported on the laying of the foundation stone.
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.
Despite the church receiving a bell in 1864 from Stephen Henty, it was not until 1907 that the bell was hung.
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:
I wish I had read this article before I visited. I would have like to have seen Stephen Henty’s stained glass window.
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.
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.