Speaking Stones: The Archaeological Study of Churches in Colonial NSW, Australia

21st April 2013

Charlotte Gardner

BArchPrac(Hons), School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, October 2012

The architecture of nineteenth century churches was affected by the interrelationship between the congregation, theology, legislation (both governmental and ecclesiastical), society and economy. For example, in England, the Oxford and Cambridge movements argued the outward and visible form of Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture signified something inward and spiritual. Essentially, these intellectual movements gave the ‘material fabric’ of the church the significance of the liturgy, rather than something that was dictated by it.

In this thesis, historical churches in southern New South Wales (NSW) are examined using Renfrew and Bahn’s (2008) archaeology of cult in order to investigate three issues: if the people of colonial NSW really did strive to replicate the cultural landscape and social life of England; if the religious function of the church remained the same; and if the socio-political environment of the colony changed social perspectives and influenced the architecture and spatial divisions in the church and the movement of people through the building. The methodology was designed to enable detailed recording of the external architecture of 25 churches and their surroundings in order to answer these questions. The interior structure and features were also detailed for some of them.

By comparing southern NSW churches with Gothic Revival regulations, it was concluded that the greatest influence on nineteenth century churches in NSW was a blend of tradition and adaption. Even congregations with limited resources were able to construct churches in the Gothic Revivalist style, surrounded by a boundary fence with a main gate, entrance porch and the basic internal nave-chancel division. Each feature was designed to control the movement and line of sight of the congregation and to transform their experience of the building into a mark of the holy mountain.

Charlotte Gardner
Speaking stones: The archaeological study of churches in colonial NSW, Australia
June 2013
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Thesis Abstracts
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