Christ Church and the flanking residences known as Bishop’s Court and the Rectory form perhaps the best-known and most revered group of heritage items in Adelaide. Together they provide a unique record of working ecclesiastical buildings of the late 1840s and early 1850s, and are South Australia’s most significant evidence of the development and consolidation of the Anglican Church.
Bishop Short brought plans for such buildings from England, although reports from the time they were built credit their design to Henry Stuckey and William Weir. Goodhugh in 1852 credited Weir with the design of the church and Stuckey with that of the two residences.
Weir published a tender notice in the South Australian Register of May 6, 1848, for the building of a church at North Adelaide. That church was Christ Church, so he must have at least had a supervisory capacity. While this suggests that Stuckey was not the architect, the South Australian Register of January 2,1850 described the interior fittings of Christ Church as “executed by our local artists and mechanics in accordance with the tasteful designs of Mr H. Stuckey, the architect”.
The church is built of Adelaide limestone, as indicated in the South Australian Register of March 22, 1848, which carried a tender notice to source stone from the quarry under Government House with cartage to Town Acre 745, “near the residence of Wm. James Esq., North Adelaide, Christ Church, North Adelaide”.
In two subsequent tender notices for the same work, W. Weir was recorded as the architect.
The foundation stone of the church was laid on June, 1848, and it was consecrated in December 1849. The plan of the first part of the church was roughly cruciform. The first incumbent was the Reverend W.J. Woodcock, who was shortly afterwards created a canon when Bishop Short founded the dean and chapter, and in 1856 Woodcock was appointed archdeacon of Adelaide.
The nave was completed to the design of Edmund Wright in 1855, and in 1860 the apse was erected. The apse contains a disciplined and impressive combination of limestone rubble walling and sandstone dressings with brick quoins, strings and corbel table.
In 1872 Daniel Garlick designed and supervised alterations to the church. The building then took its present basic form with a new boarded ceiling, porches, and a turret at the crossing for ventilation.
The original design had intended two squat towers to be erected east of the transepts with a peal of bells, but this was not carried out. If not for the financial assistance of Bishop Short (by 1868 he had contributed £1000), Christ Church may not have been completed to its present high level. Short’s commitment to the building and its fittings was probably due to his use of it as a pro-Cathedral before the erection of St Peters Cathedral. One of the few major alterations was the replacement of slates with corrugated galvanised iron roof cladding.
The building is in very good order and is one of the most prominent elements of this area of special character. It is one of the most distinctive and attractive of Adelaide’s heritage items.