Early Churches in Woolgoolga

Most of the material below has been gathered from Yeates, Neil; Woolgoolga, The history of a village, North Coast, N.S.W., 1982 or The Light on the Hill, The story of the Woolgoolga Uniting Church 1906-2006, compiled by the Centenary Committee of the Congregation.

Sikh Temples

Refer panels 1 and 4.

St Augustine's Anglican Church

The first service in Woolgoolga took place in 1889.

An important addition to the village in the late 1890s was St Augustine's Anglican Church. Although 1902 is given elsewhere as its date of construction church documents suggest a slightly earlier origin. Describing the parish of South Grafton, Archdeacon Moxon mentioned the Rev J.L. Bosworth as minister in 1884 and continued: ... in 1900 a new district, with Coramba as its centre, and including Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga as well as the Orara settlements was formed … Young as it is, it boasts of four churches, three of which (at Coramba, Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga) were built before it was established ...

News Summary (1900, July 24), The Clarence River Advocate (NSW : 1898 - 1949), p. 2. Retrieved September 8, 2013. i.e.  Bishop Green opened the new Anglican Church at Woogoolga in July 1900.

Farewelling at Woolgoolga (1907, November 9). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915), p. 10. Retrieved December 17, 2012

Mr. Treadwell, who has filled the position of post and telegraph master at Woolgoolga during the past fifteen years, has been removed to the Grafton office ... He has held the position of war- den of St. Augustine's Church from its dedication, was trustee and treasurer of the School of Arts for ten years ...

When Mrs. Treadwell arrived in Woolgoolga she at once inaugurated a Church of England Sunday School, and since that time —fourteen years—has acted as superintendent, never missing a Sunday except in a few cases of serious illness ... She also initiated a movement to build the first church in Woolgoolga, and organised a series of concerts, by means of which funds were raised, and St. Augustine's Church was built and paid for solely through Mrs. Treadwell's efforts. 

St. Augustine's Church
St. Augustine's Church of England, Scarborough Street, Woolgoolga in the 1920s

The original St Augustine's was built on the site of the present Rectory and Church. The land was said to have been given for the purpose by a Woolgoolga citizen. One account states that the donor was Mr Pullen, but another belief is that Police Officer Buckland gave it. Both men lived in Woolgoolga at the time and both owned village allotments. However, as old Parish maps show the name on Lot 10 as the Rt Rev A.V. Green, it would seem that the Church probably bought the land. Perhaps one of the two gentlemen named as donors gave the money for the land, and the other donated the money for building the church.

A recent search of newspaper archives yielded: WOOGOOLGA. (1896, October 3). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915), p. 4
A Crown land sale of Woogoolga town lots is announced for the 28th instant. The land was originally a reserve, and adjoins the police quarters on the south. It is understood one lot will be purchased as a site for the Church of England.

An Anglican minister visited all outlying districts (including Woolgoolga) long before St Augustine's was built. However, the erection of the church was certainly a milestone in the life of the Village generally and of the Church of England in particular. Prior to the building of St Augustine's, visiting clergy used the School of Arts (see below) for services, and William Pullen's youngest daughter, Jessie, is said to have married Daniel Shea there in 1899.

Catholic Church

Extracts from 
ST AUGUSTINE' S PARISH COFFS HARBOUR  1906-2006
Written and researched by Rosemary Doherty
Published in 2006 for St Augustine's Parish Centenary Committee
© Rosemary Doherty

COFFS HARBOUR PARISH

The Parish of Coffs Harbour, Diocese of Lismore, was formed on December 9, 1906. The original parish embraced a stretch of country skirting the coast including the townships of Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga, as well as the districts of Moonee and Corindi.  …

Father O'Gallagher was the first Parish Priest. During 1907 Sunday Masses were celebrated at various areas in the new parish including the School of Arts in Coffs Harbour, the Church at Karangi, Mr Reedy's at Bonville, the School of Arts at Woolgoolga, the Pier Hall at Coffs Jetty, and parishioners' homes at Coramba and Glenreagh.

Looking east down Hastings Street
Photo: Looking east down Hastings Street from River Street in the early 1900s. In the background, L to R, along Scarborough St, are the schoolteacher’s residence, the School of Arts and the original police station. (Yeates Fig 6.6)

In 1918 Father Van Riel also visited Woolgoolga irregularly. In his early years in the parish, Mass was celebrated at the home of Mr and Mrs Michael Cunningham. Father undertook the arduous journey astride his faithful steed. From Woolgoolga Father Van Riel would proceed to Bucca Creek to celebrate Mass at a local home. On those roads into the scrub he was always armed with an axe, a tomahawk and any other tool which could assist him to cut his way to his destination. He continued to ride the horse until he managed to secure a high-backed sulky.

In 1975 Father John Bartley of St Mary's Presbytery, Crookwell, wrote a manuscript of his recollections of boyhood, days in Woolgoolga in the 1920s. This manuscript was included in Neil Yeates' book.

"We used to have Mass in the old School of Arts. It was a sad old unpainted structure with a decided lean, propped up by saplings. There weren't many Catholics... One day Bishop Carroll of Lismore called at the school. I was chosen to show him round his flock, and being barefooted found no trouble in crossing the swamps while the old man followed as best he could. At the houses of some fairly nominal believers he went to the front door and went to the back to cut off any quick retreat to the nearby scrub. We had a record congregation next morning in the School of Arts. The Bishop had breakfast at our place and before leaving he lined up all the children and gave them a shilling each.

“Every now and then someone would start a Sunday school... A young Miss Slater who had had a year or two in the Convent at Grafton undertook to teach us. We bought new boots and Bible Histories and set off for Slater's on the Coffs Harbour Road. Eventually our wooden-headedness was too much for our young teacher and the school lapsed.”

Father Vincent Ryan 1931-1947 and Father Raymond Smith 1947-1954: 

In the 1940s Father Ryan celebrated Mass in a hall in River Street which also catered for the movies. It was situated on the site next to the present day Seaview Tavern. During Father Smith's time Mass was celebrated in the RSL Hall in Beach Street. Each Sunday morning, Snow Hedwards collected large blocks from under the hall, placed them in position for the plank of timber so Mrs Nellie McConnon could set the `altar' for Mass. During the Christmas holidays the altar boys, Len Woldseth, Ronnie McConnon and John McGarrigle, would carry extra seats from the RSL to cater for the larger congregation.

Methodist Church

Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915) 

The opening (16 June 1906) of the new Methodist Church at Woolgoolga passed off successfully. A   tea-meeting and concert were held in the School of Arts on Saturday evening, and the opening service in the new church was conducted on Sunday morning by the Hon. J. Ward Harrison. The tea-meeting was heartily patronised, and the concert well attended, the large hall being uncomfortably crowded ... The hall had been prettily decorated with ferns and appropriate mottoes, and at 7.30 p.m. the Rev. J. Ward Harrison stated that he had great pleasure in calling upon Mr. W. H. Shaw to take the chair. In doing so, he stated that it was well known to all that had it not been for Mr. Shaw's zeal and energy the church would not have been erected, and all felt inclined to honour one who had proved himself such a faithful worker. 

When the new organ for the new church did not arrive from Sydney in time for the opening, Mr. Shaw pulled a window out of his house to afford ready access and willing hands carried his piano to the church.

Photo: Yeates Fig 10.6 (1928)

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Mrs. Treadwell acted as accompanist all through, and Mr. Greenwood as conductor.

During the evening a financial statement was presented, showing income and expen-   diture up to date, as follows :—Income :   Subscriptons, £18 12s 6d; proceeds Rev,   J. Ward Harrison's lecture on Japan (half) £14s advance from Methodist Church Loan Fund, free of interest, £30; proceeds   tea and concert (estimate), £8; total, £58 6s 6d. Expenditure : Land, £9 8s ; material and erection, £46 ; outstanding account for windows, etc., about £2 10s ; total £57 18s. A few other items of income are expected to meet the expenditure on other accessories. Arrangements have been made for volunteer labour for the seats, Mr. J. J. Taylor providing the beech logs, and about £4 has been promised towards the organ, Mrs. McLennan, having that matter in hand. 

Mr. Harrison, explained that the Presbyterians had joined with the Methodists at the erection of the church, and would have the right to use it on two Sundays in each month until increase of population rendered necessary the erection of a church of their own.

The opening service was held at 10.30 a.m. on Sunday morning, when the church was crowded. The Rev. J. Ward Harrison preached an appropriate sermon from Matt, v., 16, and Miss Milligan sang the sacred solo "Entreat Me Not to Leave Thee," and Miss Mackney "A Dream of Paradise."

The church, which has been built upon designs prepared by Mr. W. M. Shaw, reflects great credit on the contractor, Mr. M. Auld, of South Grafton. It is a neat weatherboard structure, 18 x 28, with a 6 x 6 porch, and stands upon an eminence in full view of passing vessels. The ground   has been cleared by willing hands, and substantial blocks provided before the builder began operations, and the whole appearance reflects great credit upon the band of willing workers which has assisted Mr Harrison in bringing about this splendid result in about seven months from the reopening of services at Woolgoolga.

A new church was built in 1957. It became redundant following church union (as part of the Uniting Church) in 1977.

Following a severe storm during Christmas week of 1955, damage to the church built in 1906 brought urgent action to erect a new church building. Using a timber truck and winch workers moved the old church on logs to the rear of the block of land. It was jacked up and lowered onto cement piers. A new church was built. It was opened and dedicated on 14th September 1957.

On 20th February 1971 the opening and dedication of the Woolgoolga Methodist Hall took place.

The Uniting Church in Australia was formally established on 22 June 1977 when most congregations of the Methodist Church of Australasia, the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Congregational Union of Australia joined together. In Woolgoolga the Presbyterian Church did not venture into union and there was no Congregational Church.

A new hall and alterations to the porch at the front of the church occurred in November 2006.

Presbyterian Church 

As mentioned above, the Presbyterians had joined with the Methodists at the erection of the Methodist Church in 1906, and had the right to use it on two Sundays in each month.

According to Yeates, Woolgoolga, The history of a village, North Coast, N.S.W,  prior to union of the denominations which constituted the Uniting Church (22 June 1977), Woolgoolga possessed a Presbyterian Church Hall named St Stephens. Named after St Stephens Church in Macquarie St Sydney, it was dedicated by the Rev Neil Macleod on 2 October 1965. It became redundant following church union (as part of the Uniting Church).

Photo?????        **************

Yeates adds:  ... (in the late 1970s) an almost panic rush occurred to obtain more land on which to place demountable classrooms for the Central School which was rapidly increasing in enrolment. In record time two blocks of land were acquired from the Uniting Church, conveniently placed on the N-W corner of Scarborough and Short Streets, immediately opposite the existing school. The land was purchased in 1979 and six demountables were installed on it in time for use in 1980. The existing old Presbyterian Church Hall on the land was also used for teaching.

A new Presbyterian Church was built in 1992. It closed around 2008 and is now leased by the All Nations Church (see below).  

Later Churches in Woolgoolga

All Nations Church

Members started meeting in 1992, firstly in the Scout Hall, then in the Volunteer Sea Rescue building. Moved to Mullaway Primary School in 1994, to Hawke Drive in 1996, then, in 2010 to the disused Presbyterian Church (long lease).

Baptist Church

Church built at Sandy Beach in 1994.

Uniting Church

Formed in 1977. Current church building was originally ******** built in ****

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Earliest gatherings in Woolgoolga in the 1980s. Kingdom Hall built at Sandy Beach in 1989.