St Mary Magdalene's Anglican Church

St Mary Magdalene's Anglican Church

This was built in 1887 as a mission church of St John’s in an area deemed to be a spiritual “no man’s land”. When St John’s (1887) in Halifax Street was rebuilt, the Reverend Frederic Slaney Poole decided to put any superfluous materials and fittings to good use by building a mission church. He explained in a pastoral letter to his parishioners in 1886 that it was only because of the “circumstances of the colony” at the time that the Mission Church was rebuilt from the old St John’s Church. South Australia was then caught in a depression that continued almost to the end of the 19th century.

Two days after the formal opening of the church, the South Australian Register of March 14, 1887, claimed that “the material used in its construction is for the most part composed of the stones and bricks … taken from … St John”. The design of the church was described throughout as simple but “unmistakably an Anglican Church”.

For a short time, between 1906 and 1907, Mary Magdalene’s was run in conjunction with the North Adelaide church of St Cyprian by the Reverend E.H. Bleby. When he could no longer continue the work, St Mary Magdalene’s went back to being run by the parish of St John, for four months. It was then handed over to the bishop for five years, from January 1908. In the same year C.S. Hornabrook became missioner. In 1919 St Mary Magdalene’s was given full parish status.

Until the 1920s the congregation consisted of working-class people who lived nearby. After the 1920s worshippers were coming from the inner suburbs, using motorised transport. Describing congregations in the 1970s, David Hilliard wrote: “From the late 1970s a few inner-urban parishes, despite their depleted population, took on a new lease of life. St. Mary Magdalene’s in the city and St. Oswald’s Parkside, for example, developed distinctive styles of worship which attracted congregations from many parts of the metropolitan area.” (Godliness and Good Order, 1986)

The church’s architect, R. Garlick Holwell, also prepared the plans for the rebuilding - of St John’s Church.

Because the church was inseparably linked with the adjacent, it had ties to St Peter’s College. These are eulogised in a roll of honour containing 161 names of the boys of St Peter’s College who served in World War I.


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It is a severely detailed Gothic building, well built of brick, with the bell tower a notable feature. It seems a little anachronistic in its present setting, isolated from its historical context in an area of commercial uses. Built to serve a formerly poor, residential area, this building recalls the earlier residential nature and character of this part of the city.

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Images of St Mary Magdalene's Anglican Church

  • St Mary Magdalene's Anglican Church
R G Holwell
Building materials
Architectural styles
1.3.1 Gothic Picturesque
1886/12/18 - 1887/03/12
Architecture and design features
Bell Tower, Porch, Buttress, Gothic Style
Engineering features
South East Corner
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
CBAPA13 - Central Business Policy Area 13
Original owners
Parish of St. John's Halifax Street
Original occupant
Synod of the Church of England
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Religious, Church
AS2482 classification
15500 - Religious Building
Public Access
Opening hours only
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5907/626 F182504 A852
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
NTSA registered
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.2.1 Early Colonial Settlement
3.1.6 Mid-1880s Recession
6.3 Worshipping
6.3.1 Places of worship/Churches
Social Life, Religion, Church Mission
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies
SCOT thesaurus tags
Religious building, Heritage building


  • Hilliard, D., Godliness and good order, 1986, p. 139; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 448), ‘A pastoral letter’ in Financial statements of St John’s Church, SRG 94/9/4; South Australian Register, 14 March 1887.

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