Historical information

St James Church, "Church of the Pioneers", was the first Church, first Anglican Church, and is the oldest building in Melbourne. The foundation stone was laid in 1839 by the Superintendent of the District of Bourke, Charles La Trobe, later Governor of the Colony of Victoria. The Church was opened in 1842 and the first Bishop Charles Perry was installed in the Cathedral in 1848 when its status changed to that of Cathedral. Its status changed back to that of a Parish church after 1891 when St Paul's Cathedral in Swanston Street was opened. St James is known as the "Church of the Pioneers" as it served as the place of worship, marriage, baptism and burial of many of the first families in the District of Bourke and the Colony of Victoria.


St James Old Cathedral is of the most important historic value to the community of Victoria and to the Australian nation as the first Anglican Church founded within 4 years of the settlement of Melbourne. It represents and conserves the very earliest history of white settlement in Victoria and preserves the church associated history of the Pioneer families of Victoria in its collection of original records and artefacts.

Physical description

Late Neo-Georgian style stone church building with bluestone footings. Octagonal upper one storey bell tower housing eight bells supported by two storey square towers. Body of church has sloping roof and 4 stained glass ornamental windows on each of west and east sides with decorative sanctuary window to the north. Decorative Portico with columns on the north outside elevation.

Inscriptions & markings

National Trust Commemorative plate on outside wall to right of east entry door.