A picture is worth a thousand words

Painting, St Thomas' Anglican Church, c1831

This small watercolour was painted by Samuel Augustus Perry [1791- 1854] who had been appointed deputy surveyor general of New South Wales in 1829. The life of our early surveyors was often a lonely one, working in remote places and away from home for long periods of time.

The painting was likely sketched during an excursion to Port Macquarie in late 1830 to check on the work of Ralfe and D’Arcy in surveying land grants for free settlers. Perry spent almost three months at the settlement due to a cyclonic low that brought flooding rains, restricted shipping and effectively isolated the settlement.

Perry kept a diary of his journey and on 19 December 1830 recorded his observations about St Thomas’ Church: ‘… Went to Church, which is large enough to hold five times the present congregation. It is substantially built and well proportioned, but very properly no attempt at Architectural display….’

The landscape appears to be sketched from the area known today as Windmill Hill, a short distance south of the Flagstaff. Perhaps Perry sketched it whilst waiting for a Sydney bound ship.

St. Thomas’ is the fifth oldest Anglican Church in New South Wales still in use in Australia and one of the few remaining, built by convict labour. It took 4 years to complete and was opened for worship on 24th February 1828 by Reverend John Cross. The foundation stone was laid on 8th December 1824 and services until 1825 were held in the open air on Church Hill.


How long did it take to build St. Thomas?

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