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Community & Business

11 February, 2023

St Ambrose set to be stabilised

For a currently-unavailable historical church that was founded from British gratitude to Gilgandra’s sacrifices in World War I, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.

By Emily Middleton

Services and celebrations have been unable to take place at Gilgandra’s Anglican St Ambrose Memorial Church for nearly six months now, due to continuing problems with the building’s structural integrity.

However, the town’s only state heritage-listed building is thankfully set to be reclaimed for parishioners, after the NSW government recently injected more than $137,000 towards the cause.

“It is such a significant building, especially to our community, but more so at a state level with it being heritagelisted,” parishioner Stuart Border said.

The building celebrated 100 years just last year, however, once it was detected that the building was moving laterally, it became unable to be occupied. Local topography and the building standards of the early 20th century, simply made the church unsafe for services.

“Most people in Gilgandra are aware of our black soil, and a building of this nature, with the weight of bricks on tiny foundations that would have been considered satisfactory 100 years ago, are just starting to let us down,” Mr Border explained.

The new funding will, however, ensure that the building can be stabilised before restoration works can begin.

“It won’t fix anything as such, but it will make it safe and be propped so we can now get back into the building. That will hopefully be by Easter,” Mr Border said.

A Conservation Management Plan (CMP) has also been created in partnership with Bendigo Bank and the Gilgandra Shire Council, to ensure that the much-loved church can eventually return to its former glory, if full funding is forthcoming.

“They have helped us find the funds of this project, and we are just so grateful,” Mr Border said.

“It gives you an idea of just how significant this is to our community,” he added.

“We have had so many people already who have wanted to be a partner in this, and they want to make sure we preserve, restore, and maintain this building so it’s there for future generations.”

Initial funds for initial work from the NSW government comprising $137,609, came via the Stronger Country Communities Fund with the announcement last month by the minister for regional transport and roads, Sam Farraway. “This enables us to leverage other grant applications,” Mr Border explained.

“We are just hoping to continue to raise the profile of the situation we are in, why our building needs this urgent restoration work, and to continue to get the wider community involved outside of Gilgandra, into the higher places of government, war memorial people, RSL, and all these different people,” he added.

Despite the Anglican Church of Australia owning the St Ambrose Church building, the people on the ground in Gilgandra, are the actual stewards responsible for its maintenance and to ensure that all work is carried-out correctly.

“So, running through 2023, I would like the whole community to be aware that there will be opportunities for them to actually support this fund-raising program, and I’m just really confident that I know that Gilgandra will get behind it, that they love this building,” Mr Border said.

“It’s so important as a faith journey, but also a significant thing to really bind this community together,” he enthused.

As an almost unique gift, St Ambrose Church was established after a £1200 “peace and thanks-giving donation” made by parishioners from St Ambrose Church in Bournemouth, England, a century ago.

The English church had judged Gilgandra as: “the town in the British dominions with the greatest record of achievements in the war,” happily passing on the donations.

In true Gilgandra spirit, locals then rallied to raise enough funds to add to the Bournemouth donation to rebuild the-then existing church. The foundation stone was laid in 1920 with the church consecrated on July 26, 1922.

The original dedication stone from 1920 states:

“To the Glory of God - Nov 22nd, 1920. This foundation stone was laid by His Excellency — Sir Walter Davidson KCMG — Governor of New South Wales — and blessed by The Lord Bishop of Bathurst — George Merrick — A memorial to the fallen and a thank offering for peace.”

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