Saving St. James
At one time the pews inside St. James Presbyterian Church at Carcoar were filled every Sunday but that was many years ago. Now the building sits idle, paint flaking from the walls and the air is filled with damp instead of prayer. Last week it was reported in the Blayney Chronicle that the Presbyterian congregation could no longer afford the costs involved in maintaining a building which it no longer uses. In the face of declining church attendance in smaller rural areas Reverend McKean said that the Blayney congregation was now faced with the difficult decision to either sell or lease the building for an alternative use.
St. James holds an important place in Carcoar's colonial history through its association with the charismatic Reverend James Adam ('The Apostle of the Saddle'). The foundation stone of St. James was laid by the Reverend James B. Laughton in May 1860 and the first service was held in the completed church 1861. In February 1862 the building was described in the Bathurst Free Press as being “neat and commodious, and the various parts are completed in a very satisfactory manner. It has been built to allow a gallery to be put in when required. The inside of the building is 36 by 20 feet. It has a porch at one end and a vestry at the other. The windows were executed by Mr Hansard and look very handsome; the two in the front are of Powell's patent glass, the others are of coloured and white glass. Two kerosene lanterns, suspended from the roof, give light during evening service, besides their utility they form very fine ornaments. The seats and pulpit are of cedar. The pulpit has been neatly ornamented with crimson velvet tassells and fringe....The expense has been greatly increased in consequence of the structure being upon the side of a hill. ”
With the exception of the windows which have been replaced with amber coloured glass the building is remarkably intact and still retains the original furnishings. It would be unfortunate if the sale or lease of the building led to it being stripped of its furniture and artefacts as it could be argued that these items have far more value historically within the context of the building, not to mention their social importance to the local community whose forebears raised the funds to build and furnish the church. Given the heritage guidelines which prevent any changes that would alter the exterior of the building the option to lease the building to a community/church/museum group whose responsibility would be to maintain the building seems the most appropriate. The church is already showing signs of disrepair with work needed to repair exterior brickwork and timber. Rev McKean would welcome discussions with any groups that may have an interest in helping preserve the building. Contact Reverend McKean on 6362 6304