St Luke's Anglican Church and Rectory

St Luke's Anglican Church and Rectory

With the need for immediate accommodation pressing, given the expansion of Anglicanism in the city, both St Luke’s Church and Holy Trinity Church were initially proposed to be built of prefabricated materials. In neither case was the prefabricated church fully erected, although some of the imported materials were incorporated into the earliest parts of them.

Prefabrication was important to the expansion and consolidation of British colonial outposts and St Luke’s, although a late example of prefabricated building construction, is historically significant as it represents this important tool of colonisation used by the Anglican Church.

The need for a church in the south-western corner of the city was recognised by 1853. During Reverend James Pollitt’s term it was decided to erect a church to seat 450 persons on the present site which was provided by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The Bishop of Adelaide, Dr Short, then in England, purchased an iron church on behalf of the Building Committee. However, when the committee was notified that the cost would be £2000, it was decided to erect a cheaper stone structure designed by Edmund Wright. In the meantime, however, the bishop had ordered an iron church to be fabricated and forwarded to South Australia.

In September 1854 it was stated that an iron church “expected soon to arrive” had been purchased for £750. With the cost of erection and other disbursements, that figure would effectively double.

Little more was reported on the erection of the church until June 30, 1855, when the following somewhat optimistic report appeared in the Observer, hinting at the lack of co-ordination between the efforts of the Building Committee in Adelaide and those of the bishop in England: “It may be added for the satisfaction of those who take a special interest in the ministrations connected with the intended edifice, that a sufficiency of stone for the foundations having already been placed on the ground, that portion of the work will be proceeded with immediately after the arrival of the Madawaska. In order to obviate the possibility of delay consequent upon any want of experience, a skilful artisan, fully acquainted with all the details, and who is a passenger on board the expected ship, has been engaged to superintend the erection. The materials for completion of the interior comprise sittings for more than 450 persons.”

The Building Committee attempted to press on with a stone church and in 1855 resolved “to retain, for the present, the site in Whitmore Square” and to sell portions of the iron church, now landed at the port. However, parts of the iron church were so damaged by saltwater that it was condemned as unfit for erection and unused portions were sold by public auction to Charles Farr for the benefit of the underwriters. Not to be deterred, the foundation stone of the church, the basis of which remains today, was laid on September 11, 1855, by the Governor Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, assisted by the bishop. The new bluestone church was constructed, incorporating sound timber and much of the ironwork from the imported iron church. The new church was consecrated on February 14, 1856, the building having been erected under the superintendence of Thomas Hall.

An iron rectory was constructed in Sturt Street and rebuilt in 1860 after a fire in 1857. In 1874, this rectory was sold and the present residence erected next to the church. The new rectory was designed by E.J. Woods, who was responsible for the design and execution of many ecclesiastical buildings. Of rather standard form, however, it is representative of many of the asymmetrical bay-windowed villas erected during these prosperous years. The Smith Survey of 1880 shows a simple villa. It has since been extended, most notably to the rear and the Sturt Street frontage, where a rectangular bay has been added.

St Luke’s Church served a parish that was mainly residential and working class. In the 1920s and 1930s, when the economic depression created much hardship, the church involved itself in local missionary work, as did St. Mary Magdalene’s Church on the western fringes of the Young Ward, which was built as a mission church. Mission work at St Luke’s continued after the Depression in the form of various social services. One of the early services was the setting up of Grey Ward Boys’ Institute by the Reverend D.J. Knox. Now owned by Anglicare SA, the former rectory has been a night shelter for homeless youths and is currently a boarding house for low income tenants.

In the mid-1860s a schoolroom was erected, and in 1868 a pipe organ was installed in the church. In 1878 a new organ was purchased and the gallery enlarged, and in 1880 the church was renovated and redecorated. In 1884 a new hall was built and in 1890 the organ chamber was erected. Because of decay a new chancel was built in 1899 to E.J. Woods’ design. It was consecrated by Bishop Harmer on 27 July 1899. In the 1920s damage by white ants was remedied, and because of fretting to the stonework the exterior was cement rendered.

Although little is now visible of obviously imported materials, the clerestory structure can be seen quite clearly, and the attenuated columns and naively detailed timber Gothic arches also allude to a structure other than masonry. The building is dominated by constructional compromises and naive detailing, although internally it is remarkably cohesive and reminiscent of timber mission churches where the visual weight of materials is lighter than those buildings of masonry construction. Externally the rendering of surfaces has reduced the impact of the building.


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St Luke’s Church, together with the adjacent rectory, remains significant due to the dominance of the church building over the traditional, single-storey 19th-century housing on the western side of Whitmore Square.

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Images of St Luke's Anglican Church and Rectory

  • St Luke's Church and Former Rectory, 2014
Edward Woods, Edmund Wright
Thomas Hall
Building materials
Render, Stucco, Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890), 2.9 Italianate, 2.12 Free Gothic
1855 - 1856 

Additional Works

Schoolroom added

Construction commenced
c. 10/4/1865
Construction completed

Pipe organ installed

Construction commenced
Construction completed

Rectory Built

Construction commenced
Construction completed

Gallery enlarged

Construction commenced
Construction completed


Construction commenced
Construction completed

New hall added

Construction commenced
Construction completed

New chapel

Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
Edward Woods, Edmund Wright, Bay window, timber bracket
Engineering features
South West Corner
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Anglican Church
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Religious, Church, Rectory/Manse
AS2482 classification
15500 - Religious Building
Public Access
Private residence
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5416/151 F27058 A102
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
6.3 Worshipping
6.3.1 Places of worship/Churches
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Assessments 1873-76, Digest of
  • Proceedings, 6 August 1883, 28 November
  • 1883, 7 May 1884, 12 January 1891, Smith
  • Survey 1880; Adelaide Church Guardian, 1
  • October 1941; Church News, 5 June 1896;Jensen, E. & R., Colonial architecture in South Australia,1980, p. 191; Jose, G.H., The
  • Church of England in South Australia, Vol. 1.; Observer, 10 June 1854, 30 June 1855, 11
  • August 1855, 15 September 1855, 24 November 1855, 16 February 1856, 23 February 1856; Register, 3 November 1925; St Luke's Church, Historical photographs; St Luke's Church centenary booklet, 1855-1955, 1955; St Luke's Church, Whitmore Square, Adelaide (pamph,),
  • 1906; South Australian Register, 30 September 1854, 12 September 1855, 2 January 1856, 15
  • February 1856; Woods Bagot, Ledger of Commissions.

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