St John’s Church Precinct Community Alert and Heritage Listing

11 July 2021. St John’s ministry announced that the Moran Group has not renewed the option to purchase the Glebe (horse paddock) and Rectory.  

The community remains alert to any other prospective potential sale. The Church’s sale ordinance has not been rescinded, its time frame was extended on 10 September 2019, it is  in force until 10 May 2023 and can be extended further. 

Background 

It has been a long road since CRAG first became aware of and alerted the community of the Church’s intention to sell the horse paddock and Rectory in November 2016.

St Johns Proposal 041216 

A sale ordinance, dated 4 December 2016, was prepared for the Rectory and land between it and St John’s Church (the Glebe or horse paddock) by St John’s Parish Council and approved by the Standing Committee of the Sydney Diocese on 1 May 2017. This approval provided the means for St John’s Parish Camden to proceed with selling these community icons. The community, including the Macarthur family, have not been consulted, and are determined that the Precinct will be conserved. It has been established by research of the original trust deeds and legal advice that the Macarthur family gifted the land used by the Church to the people of Camden “for ever”.  Our legal advice is that the Church is wrongly relying on an interpretation of a 1917 Act, passed during the first world war, to ignore the trusts. Usually trust terms can only be changed or broken through an order of the NSW Supreme Court.

Our legal advice is that the long held belief that the Precinct belongs to the community is correct. Sale and development of the land by a third party for other uses is in contravention of the trust deeds.

More information on what was proposed and how to object was gathered to alert the community

Information available at 8 December 2016

Objections were lodged with the Diocese by CRAG and others

14 December 2016 CRAG objection sale ordinance St John’s

7 March 2017 Follow up CRAG submission sale ordinance St John’s 

26 April 2017 Community issues raised Meeting with Rector: Community Issues

The 2004 Conservation Management Plan and 2010 Addendum for the Precinct was acquired and made public which provided indisputable evidence that it is of outstanding heritage significance.

CMP and Addendum

The community nominated St John’s Precinct for State heritage listing on 25 February 2017 and it was recommended and referred by the NSW Heritage Council to the Minister for listing on 6 December 2017.  Once the the Heritage Council published its intention to list, a petition with 628 signatures, most acquired at CRAG’s Light Up Camden booth on Saturday 18th November 2017, was presented to State member  who tabled them in NSW Parliament on 23 November 2017. The petition asked the House to recognise the State Heritage significance of the entire precinct, expedite the listing of the whole Precinct on the State Heritage Register and asked the Legislative Assembly to refer the petition to the Minister for Heritage.

On behalf of the community and future generations we thank everyone involved in expediting the state listing, particularly our tireless researcher who wrote up the nomination, thought through every possible avenue to increase its chances  corrected the previously accepted historical account of land ownership and kept in constant communication with the Office of Environment and Heritage.

The Precinct was placed on the State Heritage Register (No. 02006) on 24 August 2018,  a matter of days after an article in the Sydney Morning Herald questioned why the Minister had yet to sign off on its listing.  St John’s Ministry also announced it was considering offers from developers in the Macarthur Chronicle on 24 August 2018.

Heritage Council’s assessment of St John’s Precinct

St John’s Anglican Church Precinct is of state heritage significance as a group of ecclesiastical buildings set in a beautiful landscape setting comprised of mature and exotic tree plantings and open grassed slopes. The precinct’s centre and focal point is St John’s the Evangelist Anglican Church which is of state heritage significance as the first Gothic Revival church constructed in NSW that was correct in its medieval detail (‘archaeologically correct’). This status, along with its strong connection to the 1836 Church Act, renders it an important early forerunner of the Gothic Revival movement which was to dominate ecclesiastical architecture in the Colony throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century.

The church, and especially its tower and spire, is aesthetically significant to NSW as part of the regional Camden landscape created by the Macarthur family. St John’s as an important regional landmark is a significant element in the picturesque landscape planning used to create the Camden Park Estate, the seat of the Macarthur family.

As part of a triumvirate of significant points in the landscape, along with Camden Park House and the township of Camden, it also expresses the power structures the Macarthur family wished to instil in the local community they were creating in the early nineteenth century. This regional landscape design is of state heritage significance as an important example of early-mid nineteenth century landscape planning.

The entire church precinct has an important historical association with the Macarthur family of Camden. Each of the precinct allotments was donated to the Anglican Church by the Macarthurs and the family funded the construction of most of the buildings and patronised the operation of the church throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ultimately, St John’s Anglican church precinct is a remarkable, picturesquely located, and historic place of Anglican worship in a state context.

Although State listing does not prevent a sale, it does limit developer interest and inappropriate development. Advocacy for listing was maintained by the community including the National Trust through the media and by writing to the NSW Heritage Council and the Minister.

The NSW National Trust continues today in its advocacy for conservation of St John’s Precinct Camden.

2 July 2017 Open Community meeting  at 11.30 St John’s Church

QUESTIONS for Community Meeting

Media Report on community meeting: Jeff McGill 3 July 2017 OPINION | Church attempt to justify land sale falls flat Camden Advertiser at https://www.camdenadvertiser.com.au/story/4768098/opinion-church-attempt-to-justify-land-sale-falls-flat/

At Church services on 9th September 2018 the Ministry advised Parishioners that a vote would be held on 23rd September as to whether to proceed with a sale. For detail of the outcome of 80% YES  votes  from 332 Parishioners who voted see CRAG Media Release 30 Sept 2018

Other select media and fact checks available at https://www.stjohnscamden.info/Press