On the 5th of February 1884, Thomas Chirnside laid the foundation stone of the Werribee Presbyterian Church, to be known as St. Thomas the Apostle, now known as Crossroads Uniting Church. The church was erected on his own land and the entire cost of the construction of the Church and Manse was ₤3500 paid by Mr Chirnside.
Together with the old manse nearby, the church was placed on the Register of Historic Buildings (no.628) in 1986.
The building is constructed of bluestone with Barrabool sandstone used for quoins and detailing.
Messrs Harding and Holyoak of Geelong built the church and manse designed by the eminent Geelong and western district architect Alexander Davidson.
The church is the last of a small number of churches designed by Davidson and his partner George Henderson in the French Gothic mode which they favoured. It features a distinctive octagonal tower with engaged colonettes and a stone spire. The initials TC form part of the design of an iron weathervane at the top of the spire. The interior of the church is notable for its timber ceiling and roof trusses decorated with carved eagles, the Chirnside family emblem. In this respect the interior resembles the billiard room addition built in 1883 at Werribee Park and also designed by Davidson.
In 1897 George Chirnside (a nephew of Thomas Chirnside) had a family pew made for the church. Originally containing six seats the elaborately carved English oak pew was raised and enlarged in 1956 to accommodate the choir. The pew is still in use.
The bluestone manse is a highly intact single storey domestic building with double gable ends and fretwork bargeboards to the street elevation. The front veranda features the distinctive patent case iron details that were characteristic of the work of Davidson and Henderson.
St Thomas’s church and manse are together an important part of the built evidence of the Chirnside association with the Werribee area, Werribee Park and Point Cook. These two buildings and the land are illustrative of the patronage by which Thomas Chirnside sought to recreate in Werribee the way of life of an English country gentleman.
Following its formation in 1977 the Uniting Church in Australia conducted worship services in both the St Thomas’ Presbyterian Church as it was then known, and the St Luke’s Methodist Church, which was situated further along Synnot Street.
In 1989 a rationalisation of church property resulted in the sale of St Luke’s and the subsequent redevelopment of that site for commercial use.
Restoration and redevelopment works completed in 1991 resulted in the Crossroads church being linked to the hall, providing the integrated complex that is now used for multiple purposes by the Crossroads congregation and community groups.
Stained Glass Windows at Crossroads
The Main Window
Artist/Studio: Ferguson & Urie, Melbourne, c.1896.
Memorial: The Last Supper
Believing himself to be bankrupt, Thomas Chirnside shot himself in the laundry of Werribee Mansion in 1887 and his brother Andrew died three years later in 1890.
In August 1895 Andrew’s widow, Mary (nee Begby), commissioned Ferguson & Urie, of Franklin-street Melbourne, to create a three light stained glass window to be erected in their memory at the east end of the church. The window was erected ten months later, in June 1896, and depicts the Last Supper.
The following articles appeared in the Bacchus Marsh Express following the installation of the windows (1896);
The Infant Chirnside
Artist/Studio: Ferguson & Urie, Melbourne, c.1899.
Memorial: The Last Supper
This stained glass memorial window was installed in one of the east side windows of the church in memory of the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. George T Chirnside.
Stained Glass photos and images are the work and research of Ray Brown who has more information about other historic stained glass windows on his web sites; (Colonial Victoria’s Historic Stained Glass Craftsmen 1853-1899)