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Author: Graham Lupp
Date: Annual 2020
Publisher: Australian Catholic Historical Society
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,468 words
Lexile Measure: 1520L

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On 27 February 1858, a 649 ton merchant ship, The Centurion, left London for New South Wales. After a journey of just over three months the ship sailed into Sydney Harbour on 7 June. (1) Keeping each other company on the voyage were five passengers; Revd. J. Kinross, Mr and Mrs Pinnock, Mr. Hammond, and Mr Gell. We don't know why four of the passengers made the journey, but the fifth, the forty-year-old Edward Gell (1818-99) was taking up a special invitation that would shape the rest of his life.

As a newly-certified architect, Gell had been invited to the colony by the Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding (1794-1877), to supervise construction of a new church in Bathurst, then a remote town 125 miles west of Sydney. To understand why Polding would import an unknown and relatively inexperienced architect like Gell, we first need to briefly consider some aspects of the early development of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Ordained a bishop in London in 1834, Polding then became Vicar Apostolic of New Holland, Van Diemen's Land and adjoining islands. He arrived first in Hobart on 6 August 1835, but soon sailed for Sydney, arriving on 13 September. Polding's mission was to establish the Catholic faith throughout the huge region of NSW, which then comprised most of the eastern seaboard.

In this task Polding found invaluable assistance in another Benedictine monk, William Bernard Ullathorne (1806-89). Polding and Ullathorne had met in 1824 while the latter was training as a priest at the Benedictine monastery at Downside Priory, near Bath in England. Polding had been at the priory since 1814 and in his role as Prefect, and Novice-Master from 1823, he mentored the young monks such as Ullathorne. (2) With long careers that frequently overlapped, Ullathorne and Polding were among the founders of Catholic Australia.

When Polding arrived in Australia he was faced with an urgent need for ecclesiastical buildings of all kinds - churches, schools, presbyteries and convents. While the colony had a surprising number of well-qualified tradesmen, both convicts and free-settlers, there were few architects, so Polding began using plans sourced from England. Among his other duties at Downside, Polding had been responsible for raising loans and supervising the construction of new buildings. (3) In 1823, when new monastic buildings and a chapel were built, Polding became acquainted with the appointed architect, Henry Edmund Goodridge (c. 1800-63) of Bath.

Architectural historian Brian Andrews examines the nineteenthcentury use of English architects in Australia in great detail in his account, Polding's English Architects (4) Over a period of thirteen years from 1834, Polding purchased plans from three English architects: first Goodridge, the Downside architect, then the celebrated Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52) and, finally, a Coventry-based architect, Charles Francis Hansom (1817-88). (5)

When Polding returned to England in 1841 on his first trip home from Australia, he was drawn to the growing reputation of Pugin and, abandoning Goodridge, he purchased a number of Pugin's designs. As the recognised father of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A663595881