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Paterson River history

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St. Pauls Church, Paterson

When large-scale settlement of the Paterson area began in 1822 the religious needs of those of the Church of England persuasion (and many others) were serviced by the Rev. George Middleton who was Chaplain to the penal settlement at Newcastle and the only resident pastor in the district at the time. When Middleton resigned in 1827 he was replaced by the Rev. Frederick Wilkinson who was suspended in 1830 and replaced by the Rev. Charles Wilton. (Middleton, Wilkinson and Wilton each served the Paterson area as part of their official role as Colonial Chaplain to Newcastle).

These early chaplains looked after large areas of the Hunter Valley but from 1834 the district gradually became subdivided and serviced by increasing numbers of Church of England clergy. In 1834 the Rev. G Rusden was appointed Chaplain of Maitland and a month after appointment 'he took baptisms at Paterson, where services were held in a lock-up house on the site of the intended town'.[1] He was followed in 1838 by the Rev. William Stack who was appointed to the Paterson and West Maitland districts. Rev. Stack held divine service at Paterson every Sunday afternoon.

The old schoolhouse Paterson, built in 1843

The schoolhouse in Paterson, built in the early 1840s and used as a church before St Paul's was built. The CBC B & B now stands on this block.

On 26 October 1839 Paterson finally gained its own resident minister, with the appointment of the Rev. John Jennings Smith. He had arrived in Sydney in September with his wife and 10 children. They travelled by boat from Sydney to Morpeth and then walked to Paterson.

Bishop Broughton was unhappy with the land allocated to the Church of England in the new town of Paterson so he purchased land in the centre of the town from Lieutenant Frederick Bedwell. The Church became the owner of all the land along the eastern side of Duke Street from the corner of King Street down the Prince Street. The Rev Jennings Smith erected a residence on the corner of Duke and Prince Streets but it was far too small for his large family. When Bishop Broughton visited he noted the cramped quarters as follows:

The parsonage-house, containing, however, but four rooms, is erected on the allotments which I purchased at the expense of the Society [for the Propagation of the Gospel]; and the Rev. J.J. Smith is therein resident, sustaining, I regret to observe, serious inconvenience from the residence of his numerous family in so contracted a space. Indeed, I felt so forcibly the disadvantages of Mr. Smith's position, that, on my own responsibility, I authorized him to contract for the erection of some additional rooms, and for enclosing and laying out a garden.[2]

In January 1836 local people had begun collecting donations for the erection of a church in Paterson, with over 50 people pledging money, including the Archdeacon himself who subscribed.[3] These funds were not used for several years.

Sometime after the Rev Jennings Smith arrived in 1839 he erected a small stone building on Church land at the corner of King and Duke streets to initially serve as both a church and school (see photo above). About 1892 this large corner block was sold to the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, and the proceeds used to build the Parish Hall (which still stands next to St. Paul's). In 1902 the CBC erected the two-storey building which served as a bank for many years and is now a Bed & Breakfast.

St. Paul's Church Paterson

St Paul's at Paterson

The construction of St. Paul's church began within a year or so after the arrival of the Rev. Jennings Smith but was not completed until 1845 due to a shortage of funds (there was a financial crisis in the colony in the early 1840s). St Paul's remained roofless for possibly two years or more, and Jennings-Smith provided the funds needed to complete the building out of his own pocket. Bishop Broughton opened and consecrated St. Paul's and the adjoining burial ground on 27 November 1845. The photo at right shows St. Paul's as it stands today.

In September 1846 the Rev. Jennings Smith was killed when he fell from his gig (buggy) on the Maitland-Hexham road. A plaque in the Church, erected by parishioners on this death, conveys the high esteem they held for him. There is also a more recent stained glass window donated by members of the Jennings Smith family to commemorate his role at Paterson.

St Paul's Paterson

St Paul's Paterson. (Photo by Jack Sullivan, Paterson Historical Society collection)


1. Elkin, AP. The Diocese of Newcastle, 1955 p.88. Was Elkin mistaken in his timing? Initially church services were held in the lock-up at Old Banks, Patersons Plains, as the new lock-up at Paterson township was not built and in use until 1835 (further research needed to resolve this).

2. Elkin, pp.107-108.

3. Sydney Herald, 21 January 1836 p1.


Clements, Pauline. History of St. Paul's Church Paterson NSW. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1993.

Elkin, AP. The Diocese of Newcastle. Australasian Medical Publishing Company, 1955.

Yimmang, RD. Parish of Paterson NSW: Centenary 1839-1939. Publisher not stated, c1939.