St John the Baptist Church, Reid

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St Matthew's Anglican Church
Exterior of St John the Baptist Church Reid April 2017.jpg
The exterior of St John the Baptist Church, pictured in 2017
St Matthew's Anglican Church is located in Australian Capital Territory
St Matthew's Anglican Church
St Matthew's Anglican Church
35°17′16″S 149°08′26″E / 35.28778°S 149.14056°E / -35.28778; 149.14056Coordinates: 35°17′16″S 149°08′26″E / 35.28778°S 149.14056°E / -35.28778; 149.14056
LocationCorner of Anzac Parade and Constitution Avenue, Reid, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
DedicationSaint John the Baptist
Consecrated12 March 1845 (1845-03-12) by Bishop William Broughton
Functional statusActive
Architectural typeChurch
Years built1841–1873
Number of spires1 (in 1878)
Bells8 (2m., 16 sp. st., 3c., tr.)
RectorRev’d Canon Paul Black
Canon PastorRev'd Canon Kevin Stone
Assistant priest(s)Rev'd Jonathan Cole
Honorary priest(s)Rev’d Vicky Cullen
Official name
  • St Johns Church and Churchyard
  • St Johns Schoolhouse Museum
  • St Johns Church Precinct
TypeDefunct register
Designated21 October 1980
Reference no.13263, 13264, 13265
BuildersRonald Sharp (1980; organ)

St John the Baptist Church is an Anglican church at the corner of Anzac Parade and Constitution Avenue in the Canberra suburb of Reid, in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia. The church is the oldest building within Canberra's city precinct[citation needed] and the church and associated schoolhouse museum were added to the (now defunct) Australian Register of the National Estate on 21 October 1980.[1][2][3]


St John's is oriented east-west, with the nave to the west and the main entrance (with choir loft and organ above) to the east. The foundation stone was laid in 1841, with the church being consecrated on 12 March 1845 by William Grant Broughton, the first and only Bishop of Australia.

The building was constructed over a period of several years[4] and was completed in three stages in the Victorian Free Medieval and Victorian Gothic Revival styles:

Sandstone for the church was sourced from quarries located at the base of Black Mountain and Quarry Hill (located in the suburb of Yarralumla).[5] The original 6-metre (20 ft) church tower was erected in 1845 but developed a one-metre (two-foot) lean, was deemed unsafe and was dismantled in 1864. The present tower was designed by Edmund Blacket and erected during the period 1865-1870. Sandstone for the tower’s window mouldings was hauled by bullock from the Camden-Bargo district, a distance of a 161 kilometres (100 mi).[4] The spire was added in 1878.

The peal of eight church bells were donated by Governor-General William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle and mark his term of office (1961–65).[6]

A practice hall for the Canberra Boys' Choir is also housed within the church complex.


The church's pipe organ, built by Ronald Sharp, is the builder's last major instrument. Sharp built many other significant Australian pipe organs including the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall organ and organs at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, the Canberra School of Music, the Perth Concert Hall, and Knox Grammar School amongst others.[7]

Church hall[edit]

The church hall has a mural painting at its southern end, depicting people and events from the life of the church and the region. Rendered in a simplistic style, the mural depicts subjects as diverse as: a theodolite, a microscope, an Australian aborigine man, Bogong moths, Merino sheep, liturgical symbols, the Guides Australia logo and a girl in the uniform, a Boy Scout, Old Parliament House, Canberra, early ministers of the church and settlers including Robert Campbell and his nearby house "Duntroon" (also shown) that is now part of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.


St John's picturesque churchyard contains Canberra's original cemetery and was also the location of Canberra's first school, which now houses the Schoolhouse Museum. The burials in St John's churchyard date from 1844 onwards.

The mortal remains of many pioneers of the Canberra district are interred at St John's. They include the church's long-serving 19th-century rector, the Revd Pierce Galliard Smith, and Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes, who occupied Yarralumla homestead from 1859 until his death 14 years later. Gibbes was reputed to be the illegitimate son of a royal duke. Coincidentally, lying close to Gibbes' grave is the final resting place of another person with a link to the British throne, albeit one greatly separated in time and circumstance from that of the colonel. That person is Viscount Dunrossil, a former Governor-General of Australia, who died in office in 1961.

Also interred in the churchyard are the remains of Colonel Gibbes' wife, Elizabeth, his son Augustus Gibbes (Yarralumla's proprietor from 1859 to 1881), his grandson Henry Edmund Gibbes, and his great-grandson, the Australian air ace Bobby Gibbes DSO, DFC and bar — as well as St Christopher Battye and members of the pioneering McDonald, Guise, Shumack and Campbell families. The McDonalds are of Cranachan, Inverness Shire, Scotland, the same lineage as Flora Hannah McKillop (McDonald), mother of the Australian Saint Mary McKillop. This information is drawn inter alia from the definitive guide to all known burials at the site, Jean Salisbury's St John's Churchyard Canberra.[8]

Contemporary references[edit]

Former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd,[9] and his wife, Thérèse Rein, regularly attended the church during 2009-2010. Rudd took the opportunity to address the assembled media and television cameras after Sunday services and field and answer questions on topics of the day.

2011 visit of Queen Elizabeth II[edit]

During the visit of the Queen of Australia in October 2011, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended St John's for the 11.15am service on 23 October 2011. She was welcomed by the rector, the Revd Paul Black, and the Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Rt Revd Stuart Robinson. The service was also attended by Kevin Rudd, Thérèse Rein and Sir Zelman Cowen.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "St Johns Church and Churchyard, 1 Anzac Park West, Reid, ACT, Australia (Place ID 13265)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 21 October 1980. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  2. ^ "St Johns Schoolhouse Museum, 45 Constitution Av, Reid, ACT, Australia (Place ID 13264)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 21 October 1980. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  3. ^ "St Johns Church Precinct, 1 Anzac Park West, Reid, ACT, Australia (Place ID 13263)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 21 October 1980. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b Body, A. H. (1986). Firm Still You Stand. St John's Parish Council.
  5. ^ Robinson F. W. (1924). Canberra’s First Hundred Years. WC Penfold & Co Limited.
  6. ^ "The Bells of St John's". St John's Canberra. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  7. ^ "St John's Anglican Church, Reid, Canberra". Organ Historical Trust of Australia. 2006. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  8. ^ Salisbury, Jean (2000). St John's Churchyard Canberra. Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc.
  9. ^ Uhlmann, Chris. "Rudd squanders chance to practise what he preaches". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 22 October 2009.

External links[edit]

Media related to St John the Baptist Church, Reid at Wikimedia Commons