The Prospect Heritage Trust Inc.

St Bartholomew's Church & Cemetery

© Prospect Heritage Trust Inc.

St Bartholomew’s Church, which opened in 1841, was the first church to be built in the Prospect area. Before this date church services were held in the home of the schoolmaster. In 1836 William Lawson started to interest the community in building a church at Prospect. On 23 February 1837, the Sydney Herald published a list of subscription towards the erection of the Prospect church that totalled three hundred and seventy six pounds and three shillings and contained many names of well know people.  The list was marked ‘to be continued’.

In 1838 William Lawson, through the Australian and the Sydney Herald, called for tenders for the building of the Church. On 2 October 1838 a contract to complete the church and tower within fifteen months was signed with James Atkinson of Mulgoa as the builder and William Lawson as Senior Trustee and Nelson Simmons Lawson and Robert Crawford as Trustees. The witness was Lawson’s son-in-law, architect and civil engineer Edward Hallen. The building was not completed within the specified time. On 26 October 1840, the Trustees entered into another contract with James Atkinson to supply the furniture within six weeks. On 17 April 1841, the Sydney Herald stated ‘On Wednesday last the Bishop of Australia laid the foundation of a Parochial Church at Prospect’. There is no foundation stone in St Bartholomew’s; it is believed that this action of the Bishop signified the ‘foundation’ of the Church as a group of people.

The first baptisms recorded were of Margaret, Mary and James Goodin, on 2 May 1841. Sadly, Margaret’s elder sister, Ann, and Margaret herself were the first burials on 18 July 1841.

The Church operated until New Years Eve at the end of 1967, when, due to a second attack of vandalism, it was closed. In 1972 Blacktown Municipal Council took out a fifty-year lease on the property from the Church of England Property Trust, Diocese of Sydney. On 4 November 1989 fire gutted the Church, destroying the 1850s organ and the 1908 furniture.  During 2000 restoration work costing $1,374,000 began under the supervision of Graham Edds and Associates, Heritage Architects. This work was funded by Blacktown City Council and the Commonwealth and State governments. In January  2001 Blacktown City Council purchased the property from the Anglican Property Trust.  The building is now  available for hire for civil wedding services, concerts, exhibitions or any other event that Council considers appropriate.

The Church is of Colonial Georgian design, being a rectangular brick structure with a nave, chancel and two vestries, each vestry having an entrance door.  The main entrance is through the bell tower at the front of the building. The tower has a square base with an octagonal belfry. The bell has recently been reinstated to the tower

Heritage Significance - In December 1948, The National Trust of Australia (NSW) included St Bartholomew’s, Prospect, on its first list of buildings considered essential to our Heritage.

In 1973, it was Classified Potential ‘A’, amongst the top 70 buildings in NSW. In the 1970s, it was listed in ‘The Register of the National Estate’.On 19 February 1982, Permanent Conservation Order No 37 was placed on St Bartholomew’s on recommendation of The Heritage Council of NSW.

St Bartholomew’s Cemetery

St. Bartholomew’s cemetery is located on the same property as the Church. When the Blacktown City Council bought the Church property  in 2001 the sale included the cemetery. It was once known as the Prospect Cemetery. As the population of the area grew and churches other than Anglican were established in the area, burials from the Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist congregations were permitted. In recent years burials of people from the Orthodox faith have also been permitted. There will be no further sale of burial plots.

Former St Bartholomew’s Church Hall

The hall located on the St Bartholomew’s property at Prospect was originally the Public School and Chapel during the construction of Prospect Reservoir. It is believed that it was built c1882. The original site of the hall is marked on the Sydney Water Supply Map of 1893. After the completion of the Reservoir in1888, the hall continued as a school until the opening of Greystanes Public School in 1906. In 1908 it was transported to the St.  Bartholomew’s property by the horse teams of ‘Butty’ McMahon, grandfather of Sir William McMahon, to serve as Parish (later Church) Hall.

In 1969-70 the present brick foundations were put under the hall. This work was done by volunteers led by Robert Brown and a local scout group. The then Commissioner of Railways, who had an ancestor buried in the St. Bartholomew’s graveyard, organised the delivery of thirteen railway jacks to the property. These were used to jack up the hall to enable the brick foundations to be built. The jacks were there for approximately six months. The glass in the hall windows had been broken. Robert Brown replaced the wooden frames and put the metal covers on the windows. The intention was to replace the glass and remove the metal covers when the hall was in use, but the glass was never put back into the windows.

The Organ Historical Trust has written an article about the church organ. To find out more. Click here

Saint Bartholomew

Bartholomew was born in Galilee and died in Armenia, being flayed alive.

Bartholomew was one of the Twelves Apostles. He is believed to have been a close friend of Saint Philip and his name is always mentioned in the Gospels in connection with Philip.  It was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. It is said that he may have preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India and Armenia; some one did, leaving behind assorted writings, and local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

Of the many miracles performed by Bartholomew before and after his death, two very popular ones are known by the townsfolk of the small island of Lipari.

The people of Lipari celebrated his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town, it suddenly became very heavy and had to be set down. When the men carrying the statue regained their strength, they lifted it a second time. After another few seconds, it got even heavier. They set it down and attempted once more to pick it up. They managed to lift it but had to put it down one last time. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all the towns people would have been killed.

During World War II, the Fascist regime (German/Italian) looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of St Bartholomew and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only a few grams. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many kilograms of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down.

St Bartholomew is credited with many other miracles having to do with the weight of objects.

Christian tradition has three stories about Bartholomew's death: "One speaks of his being kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and cast into the sea to drown. Another account states that he was crucified upside down, and another says that he was skinned alive and beheaded in Albac or Albanopolis", near Başkale, Turkey.

The account of Bartholomew being skinned alive is the most represented in works of art, and consequently Bartholomew is often shown with a large knife, holding his own skin (as in Michelangelo's Last Judgment), or both.

Bartholomew is also the patron saint of tanners.

The 6th-century writer in Constantinople, Theodorus Lector, averred that in about 507 Emperor Anastasius gave the body of Bartholomew to the city of Dura-Europos, which he had recently re-founded. The existence of relics at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily, in the part of Italy controlled from Constantinople, was explained by Gregory of Tours by his body having miraculously washed up there: a large piece of his skin and many bones that were kept in the Cathedral of St Bartholomew the Apostle, Lipari, were translated to Beneventum in 803, and to Rome in 983 by Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, conserved at the basilica of San Bartolomeo all'Isola. In time, the church there inherited an old pagan medical centre. This association with medicine in course of time caused Bartholomew's name to become associated with medicine and hospitals. Some of Bartholomew's skull was transferred to the Frankfurt Cathedral, while an arm is venerated in Canterbury Cathedral today.