St Margaret’s Church of England was officially opened on December 12, 1861. It is the oldest intact church building in Eltham. At the time it was known as Christ Church until its consecration in 1871, when it was completely free of debt (£1,700 for the church and parsonage) despite the district’s poverty. This was largely due to the free labour and materials, including locally made bricks donated by local artisans and others.
The church is historically significant because it is the oldest church in the former Shire of Eltham and has associations with the philanthropist and founder of Brighton, Henry Dendy (who donated the land on which the church is built), the architect Nathaniel Billing and the prominent local builder, George Stebbing. The church is architecturally and aesthetically significant because it is constructed in the Gothic Revival style with several stained-glass windows of various dates and is also a very early use of polychromatic brickwork in Victoria. Billing was one of the first Melbourne architects to employ polychromatic brickwork and an important early architect. The rear wall was intended to be temporary. A major feature of the design is the large buttresses with long, steeply graded upper faces. The overall design is well proportioned with the surface brick patterns relieving an otherwise austere design. The church is spiritually and socially significant because it has been an important place of worship for the people of Eltham for almost 150 years.
The land on which the buildings stand was donated by Henry Dendy. Dendy arrived in Melbourne in 1841 after purchasing in England eight square miles at Brighton under the system of "special surveys". After this land passed out of his hands, Dendy moved about Victoria, visited England, then returned to settle in Eltham where he purchased a flour mill.
Dendy chaired the meeting held in 1860 “for the purpose of devising such means as may be expedient for the establishment of a Church of England in the township of Eltham”. He became chairman and treasurer of the church committee. Unlike the establishment of many early churches in Victoria where a vicar was appointed to a parish and later a permanent church was constructed, the population at Eltham initiated action to build a church.
The nearest church at that time was at Heidelberg and the Eltham settlement was part of the parish of St Johns Heidelberg. Isolation and the tedious, time consuming journey between Heidelberg and Eltham resulted in the Eltham community taking its own action.
The original vicarage (Dendy House) at the rear of the church is also an important part of the cultural significance of this place because it is connected to the church and the development of the Eltham area. Together, the church and the vicarage are aesthetically significant because they form a significant streetscape feature.
The mud-brick community hall designed by Robert Marshall was added in 1978.
In 2014 the original temporary rear wall was removed as part of a modern extension designed by Architects Atelier Wagner and constructed by Conrad Construction and Management.
Covered under Heritage Overlay, Nillumbik Planning Scheme.
National Trust of Australia (Victoria) State significance
Published: Nillumbik Now and Then / Marguerite Marshall 2008; photographs Alan King with Marguerite Marshall.; p67
This collection of almost 130 photos about places and people within the Shire of Nillumbik, an urban and rural municipality in Melbourne's north, contributes to an understanding of the history of the Shire. Published in 2008 immediately prior to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, it documents sites that were impacted, and in some cases destroyed by the fires. It includes photographs taken especially for the publication, creating a unique time capsule representing the Shire in the early 21st century. It remains the most recent comprehenesive publication devoted to the Shire's history connecting local residents to the past.
Born digital image file