History of St Michael's Anglican Cathedral

Anglican Ministry has been occurring in Wollongong since the 1820s. Our site was established largely through the support of Charles Throsby Smith, Wollongong’s first European settler. We acknowledge that the land on which we meet as Christians was traditionally in the custodianship of the Wadi Wadi people of the Dharawal nation. (See Acts 17:26)

A History of the Building and Surrounds, by Joan Napper**

1826 Church of England came to the Illawarra with the establishment of a military detachment. Captain Bishop of the 40th Regiment and Charles Throsby Smith were authorised to conduct religious services
1828 Smith’s barn was used as a church—not only for Anglicans but for all denominations. Father Therry celebrated mass and Rev. Redhall took divine services for Anglicans
1834 The town of Wollongong was surveyed by Major Mitchell. Charles Throsby Smith had received a 300 acre land grant from Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1820. He gave a 2-acre block on one of the highest rises of his property to the Church of England—including a condition that the church block be approached by a street on each of its four sides. This caused Major Mitchell a good deal of mental anxiety! A plaque in the Northern Porch reads “To the glory of God and in memory of Charles Throsby Smith who gave the land on which these buildings stand.”
1847 First St Michael’s built in Corrimal Street. This church building was demolished in 1859.
1858 Bishop Barker laid the foundation stone for the new church building on its present site
1859 Bishop Barker consecrated the church building in the name of St Michael the Archangel. Psalm 24 was read as being appropriate for the ‘Church on the Hill’:

A Psalm of David.

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

St Michael’s was designed by Edmund Blacket, Australia’s greatest ecclesiastical architect. He also designed St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.

1877 Pipe organ installed. Built by Walker & Son, London, which with freight cost 300 pounds.
1884 Gas lighting replaced kerosene lamps and candles
1887 Bulli mine exploded. 81 miners died. Special services were held and the interior of St Michael’s was draped in black and the dead march was played on the organ
1893 Rectory foundation stone laid—completed in 1894.
1902 Mount Kembla mine disaster. The burial register of St Michael’s records the deaths of men and boys killed on that day.
1908 Small hall (now church offices) opened
1914 WWI. During these years St Michael’s bell rang each day at noon to summon people to pray for soldiers and for a “speedy termination of the war”
1919 A memorial tablet “to the Fallen” erected in church
1926 Main hall dedicated
1940 Stone fence erected to honour pioneers
1944 Laying up of the colours of the 34th Infantry Battalion. These flags are located in the Northern Transept
1946 St Michael’s Pre-school Kindergarten (the first pre-school in the Wollongong Area) began. Finished in 2005.
1967 Covered way built, connecting office hall to church building
1968 Extension of large hall
? Original baptismal font now located in Northern garden besides the church

* In early 2020, the AGM of St Michael’s unanimously agreed to adopt this ‘acknowledgement of country’. This followed advice from local indigenous leaders, and guidance of Reconciliation Australia.

** Joan Napper is the Great, great-granddaughter of Charles Throsby Smith. Smith was given a 300-acre land grant by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1820 (now Smiths Hill). The Wollongong township grew up on his land. He is often referred to as “The Father of Wollongong.” He gave 2 acres on the second-highest rise of his property to the Anglican Church. Seven generations of his family have attended St Michael’s Cathedral.