Anglican Church Newcastle, NSW

Anglican worship and witness in the Swansea area

Clergy 1957-2013

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  • PETERSEN, W.A.C. 1 September, 1957 to 17 February, 1963
  • JOHNSTONE, Tom J. 24 February, 1963 to 30 June, 1963 (Locum)
  • ONIONS, John V. 14 July, 1963 to 12 September, 1965
  • HAMONET, Noel C. 1 October, 1965 to 30 October, 1966
  • WEST, John H. 11 November, 1966 to 17 May, 1970
  • ALLAN, D. F. 12 June, 1970 to 20 January, 1974
  • SIMPSON, David S. 24 January, 1974 to 3 June, 1979
  • HARRIS, C. Fred 1 July, 1979 to 2 September, 1979   (Locum)
  • VARCOE, C.H. R. 7 September, 1979 to 11 March. 1984
  • WILSON, James D. 3 August, 1984- 1988
  • HESSEY, Stan (L.T.) 25.8.1988 3.11.1988
  • (also Hon. Gwandalan & Summerland Point          -2011)
  • BROOKER, John  1988 to 1994
  • HOWARD, Barbara 1995 to 2003
  • DORNAN Selwyn 2003 to 2010
  • GERARD, Clive 2010        (Intentional Locum)


Bishops of the Diocese

[row][span size=”6″]Diocesan

  1. TYRRELL, William 1848-1879
  2. PEARSON, Josiah Brown 1880-1889
  3. STANTON, George 1890-1905
  4. STRETCH, John Francis 1906-1919
  5. STEPHEN, Reginald 1919-1928
  6. LONG, George Merrick 1928-1930
  7. BATTY, Francis de Witt 1931-1958
  8. HOUSDEN, James Allan George 1958-1972
  9. SHEVILL, Ian Wotton Allnutt 1973-1977
  10. HOLLAND, Alfred Charles 1978-1992
  11. HERFT, Roger Adrian 1993-2005
  12. FARRAN, Brian 2005-2012

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Assistant Bishops

  1. DAVIES, Robert 1963
  2. STIBBARD, Leslie 1964-1974
  3. PARKER, Geoffrey 1974-1982
  4. APPLEBY, Richard 1983-1992
  5. RUTHERFORD, Graeme 2000-2008
  6. STUART, Peter  2009-


Early Days

[row][span size=”9″]The earliest account of church affairs in the Swansea area is from the year of 1856. According to Miss L Boon, the first Bishop of Newcastle, William Tyrrell, came to Galgabba on a pastoral visit. He gave a doll to a little girl who knew her prayers and this was Miss Boon’s grandmother.[/span]

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William Tyrrell, first Bishop of Newcastle, 1848.

William Tyrrell, first Bishop of Newcastle, 1848.


1884: The first Church

Swansea Anglican Church, firstThe original impetus for a permanent church building on the eastern side of the Lake lay with a group of Church of England people who met for worship in Swansea Public School, which was opened in 1875.

The Revd. Walter Tollis, Rector of Wallsend, gave leadership and direction to the wishes of Anglicans in Swansea to have a permanent church of their own. Mr Tollis would make periodic visits to lead in worship throughout the 1880s. Coming to Swansea via lake steamer from Cockle Creek,  he gathered the congregation to the point where the building of a church naturally emerged as a result of his visits.

The second Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Revd. Josiah B. Pearson, dedicated St. Peter’s Church of England building at Swansea on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1884.

A new Church built, 1958

The cornerstone of a new church was dedicated by the seventh Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Revd. Francis de Witt Batty, at his last public duty and appearance as bishop.

The new church building for St. Peter’s Swansea was dedicated on December 14, 1958 by the eighth Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Revd. James Housden.

The dedication of the new sanctuary was the climax of the work in Swansea begun by the first resident Priest-in-Charge, the Revd. W.A.C. Petersen. He was known to friends and parishioners as ‘Padre Bill’ and his wife, Olive Fellowes, was of a local family. He began his ministry in Swansea on the 1st of September 1957 when the Missionary District of Swansea, including Catherine Hill Bay, was separated from the Parish of Belmont.

The first order of business for the appointed priest was to plan for the moving of the ‘old church’ from its position on Main Road to its present position at the left-rear of the ‘new church’. Then plans were made for obtaining other land in Josephson Street and a house which would serve as a Rectory.

Holy Trinity, Catherine Hill Bay

Records of worship services in Catherine Hill Bay’s Holy Trinity Church go back to 1906. Oversight for the work at the Bay was provided at various times by the Parishes of Toronto, Belmont and Adamstown.

In the service record for the monthly service of November/December 1921, the celebrant’s name is that of the Revd. Gerard Tucker. Before the subdivision of the parish, on a typical Sunday Tucker would hold early church at Adamstown, go by train to Belmont for another service, then to Swansea by bicycle for an afternoon service and on by bicycle to Catherine Hill Bay. Sometimes he bicycled all the way back to Adamstown on the same day, arriving home in the early hours of the morning in an exhausted state!

The Revd. Canon Milton Williams recalls making a journey on push-bike to arrive for an afternoon service at Catherine Hill Bay in 1926. The entire community of some 80 persons would turn out for the service to be followed by a Parish Supper. Mr. Williams would then remount his bicycle and return to Adamstown — more often than not it would be close to midnight before he was at home.

The church in Catherine Hill Bay, unlike the church in Swansea, where the initiative was from the local citizens, was started by the urging of the Coal Company at the Bay.

1960s: Part of Belmont

In July of 1963, the Revd John Onions and his family came to Swansea. Under an arrangement with the Rector of Belmont, he was to be assistant at Belmont with special duties for the work at Swansea. This arrangement was kept until the Rector, the Revd. Blaxall, left Belmont and the Revd. John was made Priest-in-Charge at Swansea.

During the time of the Revd. John Onions, the work at Pelican advanced from a Sunday School provision to a place of monthly worship. In November of 1963, a monthly service was begun.

In 1965 St Peter’s welcomed the Revd. Noel Hamonet as the third Priest-in-Charge. He moved quickly to assess the needs of the parish and ways in which to move ahead. By November, a survey of the district was completed — it gave an estimate of some 700 ‘Anglican’ residents.

The Vestry Minutes of January in 1966 began to show some light at the end of the financial tunnel. Total debts on the ‘new church’ were reduced to 1,200 pounds and at about 1,000 pounds for the purchase of the ‘old rectory’. The Vestry decided to explore the possibility of gaining autonomy from oversight by the Parish of Belmont.

Provisional District

A formal request for autonomy was made to the Diocese and Bishop Stibbard visited the parish. His review indicated that Swansea ‘has autonomy in all but name’. Actual autonomy came later when Swansea became a Provisional District.

Although the Revd. Hamonet’s time at Swansea was relatively short, he was known as a strong and concerned pastor. The budget at the end of his tenure showed a greatly improved position. He moved to  Clarencetown in November 1966.

The Revd. John West and family was welcomed as Priest-in-Charge (the fourth) on November 13, 1966. The Revd. West was a Newcastle man, having grown-up under the inspiring rectorship of the Revd. Leslie Stibbard at St. Peter’s Church, Hamilton. During his ministry, Swansea knew a period of growth and consolidation.

The Revd West took a lead in the meetings of the Ministers’ Fraternal at Swansea and records show that a number of ecumenical services were hosted at St Peter’s Church. An Inter-Church Council of lay representatives and clergy formed to improve relationships and promote fellowship among Christians of varying views. Social service and outreach received special emphasis in the Revd. West’s tenure. A local Meals on Wheels group was organised with St Peter’s being most active.

Experiments in modern language worship services began. A ‘Modern Liturgy’ was introduced on a trial basis in June of 1968. This was the beginning of a long process in the Anglican Church of Australia that would finally result in the appearance in 1978 of An Australian Prayer Book.


The Revd  Don Allan who came from the Parish of Toronto, was installed on June 12, 1970. He is remembered with great affection by many parishioners, especially some from the Gwandalan Centre. His gifts and interests lay in the areas of counselling and Christian education. He moved to strengthen training for lay ministry in the parish.

The high point of parish growth during the his tenure was the development of St. Paul’s Centre at Pelican. Various proposals for building a church there were studied. A decision was made to erect a permanent church-hall building beside the ‘shed’ used for Sunday School. The building was dedicated on May 13, 1972.

The story of Pelican is an example of faith, persistence and work. However, in mid-1971, St. Peter’s began to experience some financial difficulty. Two years later, matters had not improved and the Parochial Council had to face the matter of perhaps losing a resident priest. The Revd. Allan resigned his charge in January of 1974.

1974: St Peter’s Church consecrated

The ‘new St. Peter’s Church’ was consecrated with great joy in an impressive service on April 21, 1974  by Bishop Ian Shevill.  

Another of the permanent contributions at this time was the building of the present  Rectory. As early as the time of ‘Padre Bill’ there had been reservations about the building that served as the ‘old rectory’, although the land was right.

By 1976, the financial position at St. Peter’s had some stability so that plans could be made for the building of a new Rectory. The story is told that the ‘old one’ was demolished with gusto in just one day by a working-bee. The modern ‘new Rectory’ was blessed by Bishop Parker on July 31, 1977.

1977: Proclaimed a Parish

Swansea was proclaimed a parish on 11th December 1977. The Revd David Simpson was to become known as ‘the builder’, maybe in reference to his trade skills previously acquired in the building industry. With his young family, he endured the first months while ‘camping in the church’ as the old rectory was dismantled.

Early in his ministry, the Revd David Simpson gave his energy to two projects that have endured. One was the building of a Memorial Garden at the rear of the Church where ashes of deceased parishioners and friends could be suitably interned. The Garden has become a permanent and much visited addition to the life of the parish and ministry in community.

The second project was the establishment of an Annual Parish Art Show. The first Children’s Art and Craft Show was the dream of Mrs. Olive Peterson, the wife of the first Priest-in-Charge. By 1974, however, the idea of an annual event was established.

Following the departure of David Simpson the parish enjoyed the loving and tranquil assistance of the Revd Fred Harris, a retired priest, from 1.7.1979 to 2.9.1979.

Closing of St Paul’s, Pelican 

The Parochial Council Minutes of March 1980 indicate that the debt accrued to the Parish stood at $33,000. Due to the sale of the Pelican property and the resultant transfer of the St. Paul’s Hall to Swansea, this debt was liquidated, for which the Parish will be for ever most grateful.

St Paul’s Centre had begun as a Sunday School in 1961 and grown into a very strong part of the Parish. A small but dedicated laity had worked to raise funds to lease land, to build a church with hall and, eventually to buy the land. The Annual Budget for 1967 shows that St Paul’s parishioners had raised $15,000! By the end of 1981, however, with a loss of parishioners from Pelican, it was decided that St. Paul’s Centre be closed. This proposal was a very painful subject for all those closely involved with the history of the Centre.

St Paul’s Hall was moved to Swansea for use as the main Parish Hall and, with the construction of its frontal, made a most attractive addition to the Swansea property. It was opened for its new purpose on May 8, 1983.


In regard to organisations, it is noted that the Girls’ Friendly Society was reactivated  in May of 1980 with Norma Skillicorn as Chapter Leader. Mrs. Una Jerome became President of the Swansea Chapter of Mothers’ Union, which has continued to play a real part in the spiritual lives of families.


A priest from the Episcopal Anglican Church of the U.S.A., who was resident in Sydney, the Revd. James Douglass Wilson, was appointed for one year as Priest-in-Charge. He was installed on August 3, 1984. One year later, at the Centenary Commemorative Service on June 9, 1985, he was made Rector by mutual agreement of Bishop and people.

In his first year, the Revd Wilson stressed the idea of ‘shared ministry’ — using the gifts and talents of the priest and each member to strengthen the body of Christian people. Much emphasis was placed on working together and the role of the Wardens, Parochial Council and priest clarified.

The parish endeavoured to recognize the unity of worship, prayer and Bible study, service activity and social fellowship. The introduction of a Healing Eucharist added to the goals of developing reconciliation and commitment. The Centenary Year program was an example of priest and people planning and working together.

(Extracts from ‘Swansea Anglicans’ to mark the Centenary of Anglican Witness and Worship,  by James  D Wilson & Margaret Guild-Wilson, 1986)

Fr Stan Willey is currently working on an update, 1986-2013.