All Saints Anglican Church, Blackwood.

The History of Blackwood – ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH.

By Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. 


On Sunday 8th December  2013, All Saints Church in Blackwood is celebrating 150 years with a special service.  To commemorate this occasion this I have been asked for some history on the church. 

In 2013 All Saints Blackwood joined the Parish of Bacchus Marsh in the Diocese of Melbourne.

The Lands Department files show that one acre of land was surveyed by Mr. E.G. Magnus, Mining Surveyor, by June 18 1864.  On the 11th August 1864 the Bishop of Melbourne, Dean Macartney applied to reserve the area, and  in September of that year  the area was gazetted.  By  May 1865, the following were appointed as Trustees; – Rev. George Oakley Vance, Matthew Henry Ashe, Charles Appleton,  Henry Walker and Charles Gray)  (Information acknowledged to Mick Livy)

This historic Church, dedicated on 29   October in 1865, is one of the few remaining Churches dedicated by Bishop Charles Perry, the first Bishop of Melbourne. ‘The Church Gazette’, the Church of England Newspaper of the time spoke of an “exceedingly neat, well-constructed building which stands on a hill commanding an extensive prospect.  The scattered character of the   population and its isolated position render it very difficult to maintain there the ministry of the Church and due pastoral visitation of its people.Early services  were held in the newly opened Anglican school in Golden Point in 1855.  Initially the officiating clergy came from Kyneton. At the height of gold-mining activity in the area around 1855 the local population was estimated to be about 30,000. By 1864 services were being held in schoolhouses at Golden Point and Simmons Reef. The Revd. Matthew Henry Ashe became the first Rector of Blackwood in 1866 and remained there until 1873. rev-matthew-ashe Revd. Matthew Henry Ashe courtesy of his descendant Judy Auld.The second Rector was Rev. Frederick Smith who arrived in July 1873 and remained until 1876.  He also looked after Christ Church Myrniong, and the Sunday School at Simmons Reef, and in 1874 he conducted church services in the school house in Barrys Reef, Blackwood.  This was before Barrys Reef had their own church, St. Stephens built.  During his stay in Blackwood is the first mention of the Chinese Mission at Golden Point, Blackwood, with the first Chinese Catechist being Peter Back Soo.  Since 1857 there had been a Chinese congregation at Golden Point. In 1874 there was still a congregation of some 35 Chinese people, and the Chinese Catechist, Peter Back Soo, was known to   preach sermons that went on for a couple of hours.

Sometimes services at Blackwood were taken by the priest and lay-reader at Bacchus Marsh, which was the neighbouring parish. In the 1860’s there was a lay-reader in Bacchus Marsh, George Andrew Scott, the son of an Anglican priest, who was later jailed for holding up the   Bank at Egerton. He became known as “Captain Moonlight” and on his release from jail in 1879 was involved in a siege in NSW in which he shot and killed a policeman. He was hanged in 1880. It has been said that he may have taken a service at All Saints.


Captain Moonlight courtesy Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S.

The third Rector, Archibald Turnball, appointed in 1877 was kept busy with three Churches (Blackwood, Simmons Reef,  and Barry’s Reef), four Sunday Schools, baptisms, marriage services, burials, confirmation classes and the Chinese mission and was away from home a great   deal. In his absence, a local Bank Clerk, Frederick Horne, was a frequent visitor to the Rectory and he began an affair with the Rector’s wife.  Eventually Frederick Horne and Archibald’s wife Harriet Turnball, went off together.  Archibald was granted a divorce in 1878.   This would have been a scandalous event in those days.

The Church gained further notoriety when a   lay reader, Harold Robinson, was shot and killed in 1908 by a mentally disturbed man, who lived opposite, while walking on his verandah reading a theological book. The   bullet passed through the book. Many years later this book “On Faith and the   Creed” by C.A. Heurtley complete with bullet hole, was found at a Church fete, and presented to All Saints Blackwood where it may now been seen on request. (Margot Hitchcock has written a book on this incident but as yet it is unpublished. – entitled  “The Billy Pincombe Tragedy – Murder, Madness and Mania. – The tragic shootings of a minister and Billy Pincombe at Blackwood.” )       

The Revd. Robert Buchanan was the last   priest to live in the Rectory, leaving in 1898.

In 1889 Blackwood became part of Trentham parish. Lay readers lived in the Rectory until 1915, when it was renovated and leased, and then finally sold in the 1950s. Although Blackwood is within the   boundaries of the Diocese of Melbourne, when the Diocese of Bendigo was formed in 1902, Trentham became part of that Diocese, so Blackwood has been looked after by clergy from the Diocese of Bendigo since that time. In 1942 Trentham, and with it, Blackwood, became part of the Parish of Woodend. Over the years there has always been at least two services a month at All Saints, which was the current pattern.

The blue of the windows and the cross   pattern on the frosted glass, were added in  1993 when the Church was used for both a wedding and a funeral in the TV series, “The Man from Snowy   River.” During the film the Church was “burnt down”.

All Saints Church was first recorded in the Register of the National Trust on 9 July 1959. In 1997 the Trust reviewed   its status and upgraded it to Classified. A further review by the Trust in   1977 resulted in the following citation:

“A charming naïve timber Church in primitive Gothic style with classicising details, dated from 1865. The windows have Gothic glazing bars and the roof is capped by a square bell cote. In 1990 the Church was included in the National Trust’s Register.”

It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Blackwood, and the only Church in the town to have remained in continuous use.

In 1889 All Saints Blackwood became part of the Parish of Trentham.

In 1902 St George’s Trentham, with All Saints Blackwood, came under the care of the newly formed Diocese of Bendigo.

In 1942 St George’s Trentham, with All Saints Blackwood, and St Mary’s Woodend, formed the Parish of Woodend.

In 2013 All Saints Blackwood joined the Parish of Bacchus Marsh in the Diocese of Melbourne.  ©

With grateful   acknowledgement to the notes of Penny Garnett, May 1978,  and  A   History of the Diocese of Bendigo, 1902 – 1976 by Dr Keith Cole, “Aspects of   early Blackwood” by Alan Buckingham and Margot Hitchcock, and Archdeacon   N.D.Herring’s Manuscript History, the major sources for this brief history.




All Saints Anglican Church, Blackwood. Courtesy – Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S. 2009.

Researched   by Margot Hitchcock from her forthcoming book ‘The History and Pioneers of   Blackwood’, hopefully to be published soon. For help with information on  Blackwood ancestors contact Margot Hitchcock – email –