Sale of church’s historic items sparks worries for National Trust

ALARM BELLS are ringing in the National Trust as Dubbo Uniting Church moves forward with the controversial sale of historic St Andrew’s Uniting Church.

The decision to sell the landmark war memorial church has split the Uniting Church congregation and troubled many in the wider community.

Concerns are being expressed about the impending dispersal of the rich history of internal furnishings at St Andrew’s and the National Trust is set to intervene.

National Trust advocacy manager Graham Quint, a member of the NSW Heritage Council religious properties advisory panel, wants to ensure the historic value of St Andrew’s is not compromised.

Local families donated almost every item inside the church, including the communion table, offering plates, linen, vases, candle holders, seats and carpet.

Silver memorial plaques are a feature of every pew and the

baptismal font holds the original silver bowl given to the church in 1876 by the Baird family of Dundullimal.

Other items of special significance include the Reverend Jack Gowdie memorial cross on the front wall and the table holding the Christ candle.

The wooden lectern is a memorial to Helen Ramsey who was killed at the Old Dubbo Road railway crossing.

The lectern was made by Helen’s father who also made the Gowdie cross.

A small wooden cross on the communion table was donated to the church in memory of Robert Baxter who was tragically killed in the Northern Territory.

The National Trust asserts each interior item is part of the history of St Andrew’s.

“Argument could be put that disposal of any of these things would require local government consent,’’ Mr Quint said.

“A number of councils in NSW - including Marrickville and Ashfield - have certainly taken that view. There are precedents in place and I will be asking the NSW Heritage Council to explore the avenues available to stop the removal of historic pews, memorial plaques and other interior items.

“I would urge people in Dubbo concerned about what is happening with St Andrew’s church to express their views by writing to both the NSW Heritage Council and Dubbo City Council.

“Letters should be written quickly before any of the items are taken away.’’

Mr Quint said the St Andrew’s church and adjoining hall had been listed on the National Trust register and Dubbo City Council heritage register for many years.

“It seems peculiar that the Uniting Church in Dubbo has decided to dispose of its most prominent building,’’ he said.

“St Andrew’s has enormous value.’’

Former Dubbo resident Jill McCann raised the issue of St Andrew’s with Mr Quint just before Christmas.

Mrs McCann was a National Trust board member for 12 years and she maintains a special interest in historic Dundullimal homestead and the Dubbo-based Macquarie Regional Committee of the National Trust.

“What’s happening with St Andrew’s is insane,’’ she said.

“The church is a focal point of Dubbo’s central business district and stands in a group of heritage buildings, including the 1873 Dubbo Public School and the 1892 St Andrew’s hall.

“It seems incredible to sell a beautiful church with stunning stained glass windows. The church and its interior furnishings are part of Dubbo’s history,’’ she said.

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