The first St Mary’s church was situated about 200 metres north of the present church, built and paid for by the pioneers of this district. John Wickham Daw who arrived in Adelaide on the “Winchester” on the 23rd September 1838 with his wife and six children gave one acre of land for the first church in 1841. He named it after his home parish, St Mary Abbots in Kensington England. It was described as both “simple and neat”, made of “stringybark” and shingles.
On July 4th 1841 St Mary’s-on-the-Sturt was opened for public worship by the Rev. Charles Beaumont Howard who together with the Rev. James Farrell commenced alternate Sunday services to about 40 regular worshippers, 12 of whom were communicants.
Existing records make it clear that the pioneers of the district never intended this church to be permanent and that funds were collected and grants obtained to rebuild. On 27th October 1846, Miss Fanny Conway laid the foundation stone ( the whereabouts now unknown) for a new stone church (on the present site), and the Rev. James Farrell read the appropriate service of the Church of England to a large gathering.
Building of the church began on a further acre of land donated by John Wickham Daw, with stone donated by the Ayliffe family, quarried, carted and constructed by the pioneers themselves. Moses Garlick was appointed architect and superintendent of the building project and Captain Ray Boucaut who arrived in South Australia in 1846 helped considerably towards the successful completion of the building. The roof was of stringybark shingles over heavy local hardwood roofing timbers held in place with hand-wrought nails. The floor was probably compacted earth, which in fact delayed the proposed opening date because it “remained damp longer than expected”.
Prior to the First World War, St Mary’s was considered a country parish church, but since that time suburbia has taken hold, and today the parish is in a semi-industrialised area.
On Sunday 12th September 1847 “the church was filled to over-flowing by a most respectable congregation amongst whom we noticed His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor (Major Robe) and a number of gentlemen from Adelaide and the neighbourhood” for the opening service conducted by the Rev. James Farrell and the Rev. WJ Woodcock.
At this time the church consisted of what is now the nave; the transepts, chancel, belltower, vestry and porch being added in 1849. The interior of the church today shows eight lancet windows, two of which have been blocked by the addition of the vestry and belltower, which was raised to a height of 18 feet at the time, and later completed to its present height of 36 feet in the 1870s.
Information from booklet “St Mary’s South Road”
By Robert Edwards