Kangaroo Point Churches

St Mary’s Anglican Church

St Mary’s Anglican Church on the cliffs at Kangaroo Point has become a well-known historic landmark of the area. This beautiful Gothic style church was built in 1872-73 of local Brisbane tuff stone to a design by diocesan architect Richard G. Suter.

St Mary’s Anglican, Kangaroo Point. (State Library of Queensland)
View of St.Mary’s on cliff top above the Naval Stores ca. 1913.

The cliff-top church replaced the first Anglican Church in Kangaroo Point, a small simple building which was opened in July 1849 and located in what was then Church Lane, later John Street and now Rotherham Street. By the late 1860s as the congregation grew it became clear that a new, larger church was needed.The current church was built on land granted by the Crown. The foundation stone was laid on 29 April 1872 by the then Governor of the colony of Queensland, the Marquis of Normanby. The completed building was consecrated on 5 November 1873 by Bishop Edward Tufnell who had strongly supported the parish in their efforts to get a new church.

Early light reveals the bell tower of St Mary’s Church.

The photo shows a small boy  standing at the stretch of the Brisbane River known as the Town Reach, looking over to the Naval Stores. The early morning light clearly shows the bell tower of St. Mary’s on top of the cliffs.

St Mary’s has always been the naval chapel in Queensland with governors attending services when they were in residence at Old Government House, using the original staircase which connected the Naval Stores at the bottom of the cliffs with the Church above.

A Warrior’s Chapel, dedicated in 1950, houses the Australian and British Ensigns and is a memorial to those who died in H.M.A.S. Voyager in 1964.

The cyclone-damaged church in 1892.

A severe cyclone on 2 April 1892  caused substantial damage to the western end of the building  and the belfry, the roof landed in the nave. The church was restored and re-dedicated on 25 February 1893.

In 1878 the old church in John Street was blown down and the land was sold to fund the building of a hall on the new site. The hall was opened on 30 November 1879. A rectory, designed by John. H. Buckeridge was completed in 1889.

The church also contains the oldest pipe organ in Queensland. It was imported from a London church in 1876 and dates back to at least 1823. It was built by H.C. Lincoln of London, Organ Builder to the King (George IV), and is believed to contain some pipes from the 1690s.

St Mary’s Church was entered on the Queensland State Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600244

History of St Mary’s

From humble timber church close to the river to iconic stone church on top of the cliffs.
The year 2022 marks two important anniversaries for St Mary’s.  It is the 175th anniversary of the establishment of the Anglican (then Church of England) Parish in Kangaroo Point. It is also the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for the current church.

The story of St Mary’s goes back to the very beginning of European settlement in Kangaroo Point, the land of the Jagera and Turrbal people and the early days of the Church of England in the new colony. In 1842 Moreton Bay was declared a free settlement and ceased to be a penal colony.

Captain John Wickham in Uniform, 1820. (Brisbane City Council)

A year later, in 1843,  Captain J.C. Wickham and the Reverend John Gregor arrived on the same ship to take up their positions as Police Magistrate and first resident priest of Moreton Bay. John Campbell established the first industry in Kangaroo Point, a boiling down works at the northern tip of the Point.  When local land sales began on 13 December that year Captain Wickham and surveyor James Warner were among the first buyers. In 1844 James Warner built the first house on the Point and the first ferry service between Kangaroo Point and Customs House began. More houses, hotels and industries quickly followed and soon Kangaroo Point became a busy industrial and residential suburb.

In November 1847 a small Church of England parish was established to meet the spiritual and social needs of local settlers/residents. The Reverend W. Bodenham arrived from Sydney in late 1848 and from February 1849 Sunday afternoon services were held on the verandah of his home. As numbers increased the parishioners realised that they needed their own building which could serve as a church and as a school. When Captain Wickham, a devout church member, donated two blocks of land in John Street (then Church Lane, now Rotherham Street) close to the river,  planning for a church began and construction on part of the land soon started.

Sketch of Kangaroo Point, ca.1860
Drawing of Kangaroo Point ca. 1860. (National Library of Australia). The first Anglican Church can be seen top left.

The first church was a small, simple wooden slab building 50 feet x 20 feet with a height of 15 feet. (15 m x 7 m x 4.5 m) with seating for about 45. It was built by Andrew Petrie for £80. The church was opened on 8 July 1849 and functioned as a school (initially run by Mrs Bodenham) during the week. In 1860 the Reverend James Robert Moffatt, first librarian of the Queensland Parliament, was appointed as the first rector of the Parish of St Mary’s.

By the late 1860s as  the congregation continued to grow and the small church was starting to show its age, the need for a new, larger and permanent church was needed. Considerations to re-build on the current site were dismissed due to concerns about flooding. When the Crown made more land available up on the western, highest part of the Point, Reverend Moffatt with the support of Archdeacon Glennie, worked hard to convince the congregation that this location well above flood level would be ideal for a new church. However, many parishioners opposed the plan as they thought the site was too far away from the township and ‘out in the bush’, but Reverend Moffatt persevered.

The Reverend Moffatt’s tenure expired in 1870 and a new rector, the Reverend Alexander Court was appointed. He strongly supported the move to build a new church on the high land with room for a rectory and parish hall which would meet the needs of the growing congregation well into the future. The proposal was finally approved at a parish meeting held in February 1871. It turned out to be the right decision as the old church was blown down in a hailstorm in 1878 and the whole site was swept away in the 1893 floods!

Plans were invited from Brisbane architects for a new stone church at a cost not exceeding £700. In September 1871 the tender of £688 by Alfred Grant was accepted for construction of a stone church to a design by diocesan architect G R Suter.  The Gothic style church would be built on the top ridge of the hill in Main Street with panoramic views of Brisbane and the River. It would be named St Mary of the Virgin.

Foundation Stone for St Mary the Virgin laid by the Governor of Queensland, the Marquis of Normanby on 29 April 1872. (supplied: C.Gerard)

On 29 April 1872 the Marquis of Normanby, then Governor of Queensland, laid the foundation stone  ‘in the name of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity’.
(sources: Trove articles/St Mary’s Parish records/)


The Warriors’ Chapel 

The chapel was dedicated on St George’s Day, 23 April 1950 by the Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend Reginald Charles Halse D.D.

The chapel commemorates armed service and navy personnel who died in both World Wars. It contains the British and Australian ensigns and also a memorial to those who died in HMAS Voyager in 1964, Australia’s worst peace time naval disaster. It is a reminder that St Mary’s was the Naval Chapel for Queensland. A Voyager memorial service is held every year at St. Mary’s.


Information about the Warriors’ Chapel on Monuments Australia .

Page image from the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program
Memorials to Dr Cooper

The Warriors’ Chapel also contains three significant memorials associated with Dr. Lilian Cooper, Queensland’s first female registered doctor. The altar made of silky oak was donated by Dr Cooper. Above the altar are two  memorial windows that were donated by Josephine Bedford to commemorate the life of Dr. Lilian Cooper. The windows  were  designed by Sydney artist  Norman  Carter.

On the wall below the windows is the framed St Sava medal which was awarded to Dr Cooper in 1917 by the King of Serbia in recognition of her service as a surgeon in World War I.

Enlarged text of the Order of St Sava.

Read more about Dr Lilian Cooper https://kangaroopointhistory.com.au/stories/people/dr-lilian-cooper/

St Mary’s 1914 Lloyd Rees. (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art)

Pencil sketch of St Mary’s Church of England (now St Mary’s Anglican Church), and tree in Kangaroo Point as it was ca. 1914, forty-one years after its official opening in November 1873. The church is often referred to as St Mary’s on the Cliffs, as shown in the sketch. The ‘pencil on paper’ sketch 34.2 x 24.8cm is the work of Brisbane artist Lloyd Rees, part of a collection at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.
St Mary’s is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, 2023.

Easter Sunday 1904

Brisbane Courier, 4 April 1904.
This article describing the Easter celebrations at St Mary’s 120 years ago features several  well-known and high profile people who were instrumental in establishing the strong traditions which continue to be an important part of the current life of the parish.

St Mary’s was always known as the Naval Chapel so the presence of 70 members of the Naval Brigade and their band under the leadership of Lieutenant Beresford (Joseph Arthur Hamilton) was fairly normal. The Warrior’s Chapel and Naval Centenary Memorial are permanent reminders of the church’s naval connection.

The service was conducted by the Reverend Maitland Woods who was rector at St Mary’s from 1903 to 1913. He was highly regarded and much loved by his parishioners, so much so that they erected a belfry and bell tower in his honour in 1929.

The organist was Charles S Snow, a successful city jeweller and founder of the Boy Scouts in Queensland. His home was the now heritage-listed elegant Leckhampton at 59 Shafston Avenue which was built for him in 1889-90 and remained in the Snow family until 1924 when it was sold and later converted into flats.

The strong emphasis on beautiful floral decorations and choral music continues today, although the size of the congregation has declined over the years. However, it’s wonderful to note that traditions established many years ago are still relevant and appreciated in this modern world.