St Mark’s History

St Mark’s History

In 1853 the Rev. George Pollard was appointed to care for Anglicans for the whole of the Bellarine district, the initial church being the school at Pt. Henry.

Then another school was established at Kensington (today’s Leopold) in 1853/54. A timber classroom 10 x 18 feet was built and opened on April Fools Day 1854 with 19 boys and 14 girls. In 1869, Thomas Sutterby as School Correspondent applied for land for the building of a common school (located on present school grounds). 2 acres east of the old school was granted and the foundation stone was laid on March 22nd 1872.

The original school, like that at Pt. Henry, was used as a church but the need for a separate building was obvious. A building committee was established in 1858 and in December Bishop Perry laid the foundation stone at St. Mark’s which was a commodious village church seating from 250 to 300 people. (The foundation stone has not been found.)

It had been partly completed by May 1858 when a bazaar was held in the Geelong Town Hall to raise funds with various ladies having stalls, but work was still going on in 1861.

St. Mark’s designed by Edward Prowse was consecrated by Dean Macartney in March 1863.
In mid 1872 the church was closed for 5 weeks while extensive improvements, external and internal, were carried out (much the same problems that are faced today). Further improvements were made in 1882/83 by the architects Watt’s and Jackson. These improvements were partly financed by an old man who lived in a “miserably small dilapidated house in the bush” with an aged wife (we must remember that most of the area was under wattle and gum), and by living frugally he saved enough to buy a ticket in the Sandhurst Masonic Art Union. He won £50 and gave £30 to build a porch at the entrance to St. Mark’s.

The parsonage continued to be at Moolap until 1895 when a house was erected beside the Church at a cost of £490, £200 of which was donated by Mrs H.S. Wills, widow of the pioneer of “belle Vue”, Pt. Henry, Mr. Horatio Spencer Wills. He had been killed by aborigines in Queensland in 1861 and his children had already placed a plaque to his memory in the church in 1878.
The church originally only came to the archway and the plaque was on one side, but when the vestry and present chancel with it’s memorial window (to the men of district who enlisted in the Great War of 1914/18) was completed in 1919, it was moved to the rear of the church.

The memorial window on the west wall was presented by Mrs. Edward Byrne whose only child died as a prisoner of war in the Second World War. There are other memorials that are self explanatory. The nave has been panelled and lights – a gift from the McWilliams family – were installed.

St. Mark’s was the mother church for the Anglicans of the district and extended to St. Albans in the west and Barwon Heads & Ocean Grove to the east. Today the church serves the every growing population of Leopold.