image of St James', Brighton

St James' Brighton - May 2020 Update

St James' Brighton


The current work on the sandstone at St James' Brighton is to stabilize it and make it safe.

I have been in contact with the architect working on the restoration / rebuilding. The design for the rebuilding is not agreed on, so I expect it to be many more years before we can ring there again.

Stephen Young (Bendigo)
May 2020

St James', Brighton - June 2018 Update

St James', Brighton, June 2018

Driving around Brighton the other day, I passed St James' in Brighton. I was pleased to see the scaffolding around the church and obviously work is underway placing a new roof onto the old walls. It will probably be another few years before the bells are ringing again, but it is still progress in the right direction.

Stephen Young

St James', Brighton - Two Updates

Pat Cole, the Tower Captain at St James' Brighton, has provided two updates which will be of great interest to ANZAB members and the ringing community.

19 April 2015

Last night, 18th April, Archbishop Hart presided at a Mass in the Star of the Sea Chapel. He said he wanted to be with the parishioners at this time and letting them know that the insurances on the Church are such that they will cover the whole of the rebuilding back as close as possible to how it was prior to the fire. He also said that an architect and a structural engineer are to be appointed. An assessor has already been appointed. Archbishop Hart also mentioned that this work will take time, maybe longer than we would like, but it will be done properly.

When I had a look today I could see that tarps had been put over the bell tower and the pre-existing 1980s roof and spirette had been lifted off and seems to have been located inside the church walls at the east end. The spire and cross are visible and look to be in OK condition.

St James Brighton after the fire

As you may know, other parts of the church were not altogether destroyed and there are some fragments of the wall mosaics, sacristies and things like the nativity statues, baptismal font cap - but probably not the font itself - the small wooden statues of Mary Mackillop and St John and most of the priests vestments were not destroyed.

ST James Brighton after the fire

We understand that the first work will be on making the existing building safe. The whole of the building has to be made safe before any works can commence. Church services are basically back to normal, in the Star Chapel, with the choir and the weekly bulletin coming out. The Bulletin will keep everyone updated on the current state of the rebuild.

29 June 2015

The work of sifting through the debris is continuing and many mosaic tiles have been recovered. It looks promising that by reusing the tiles it will be possible to restore some, at least, of the mosaic work on the walls and floors of the Sanctuary.

Sifting through the rubble at St James Brighton

The fire debris is deep, and includes the ashes of all the church pews, fittings and furnishings. Burnt roof beams, twisted metal supports and struts and broken roof slates are littered on top of the ashes. Rain and winter weather is compacting the materials and ravens seem to be very attracted to the burnt out church precinct.

Inside St James Brighton

Shortly stonemasons will begin work to repair windows and gables. Following close behind the stonemasons will be the work to restore the bell tower, which was the least damaged. There is no time frame being mentioned as yet.

St James Brighton belltower

We have been told that the bells are still hanging. We don’t yet know what condition they, their fittings and mounts, or the interior of the tower is in. Because of the condition of the building there is very limited and restricted access to the site. We have been told that no one has access to or has been able to see inside the belltower yet. Everything is conjecture at this stage.

An architect and contractor have been appointed.

Fire Engulfs St James', Brighton (Melbourne)

Early on the morning of 30 March 2015 fire engulfed St James' Church, Brighton, Melbourne.

St James', Brighton, post-fire 30 March 2015

The burnt out tower is to the right centre of this image
(courtesy Neil McFarlane)

Matthew Sorell reports:

On April 22 I was able to visit the church of St James, Brighton, which was badly damaged by fire on March 30. The building has now been handed back by the Fire Brigade and it is clear that the external walls have survived. It is understood that some significant heritage items have been recovered, although the organ was completely destroyed, and all that remains of stained glass windows is evidence of lead which has dripped onto the walls.

I understand an insurance assessment has determined that the church can be restored, although the timing is not clear. This is good news for the parishioners, who are currently using the Star of the Sea chapel in the adjacent St James School.

The situation with the bells remains unclear, but the signs are promising that the bells may be intact and the tower appears to be structurally sound. Father Michel Corriveau is keen for the bells to ring out again as an early priority in the restoration of the building. I conveyed ANZAB’s commitment to assist in both getting the bells ringing again, and supporting the Brighton ringing community.

A quarter peal "to remember the Bells at St. James" was rung at West Heidelberg on 11 April 2015. The band included two ringers from St James' Brighton - Audrey Falconer and Leon Altoff - ringing their first quarter peal.

On 3 April, Audrey Falconer reported:

We went past St James Brighton today to try and get a copy of the church newsletter (alas, there wasn't one). Did talk to one of the regular volunteers (she may be the parish secretary, I'm not sure) who came over to us as soon as she saw us and told us excitedly that the bells had been saved.

Here is her story: during the fire when the fire brigade was pouring water through the roof of the tower the bells rang as they came down (and stopped the traffic) - she said that the bells turned over as they filled with water. The fire brigade put a lot of water into the tower since the tower at least looked savable. An engineer has been inside (above, I presume) and the floor underneath the bells is in reasonably good condition so there is hope that the sound chamber is intact, hopefully with the handbells.

It sounds as though the bells are still in the bellframe which I think sounds very hopeful. 

Other items are also being found in the ruins - the tabernacle was found intact, and the office and vestry survived. She described it as "daily small miracles". 

Given that services are being held in the chapel of the adjacent school, I am pondering making the suggestion that we temporarily become a hand-bell tower and keep ringing for Saturday service as we always have done. 

Work is proceeding on the burnt building - the burnt roof timbers have now been removed from the rest of the building and doors boarded up and windows boarded up. The tower door is there and closed with no boarding evident.

Neil McFarlane, Ringing Master at St James', took images and videos and sent the following brief report on 30 April:

The place seems to be completely gutted. While the tower is still standing, it looks burnt out. No one has access and it is still smouldering. I took photos from the ground across North Road and from Star of the Sea.

Matthew Sorell, ANZAB President said (on 30 April):

I have received a small number of photos from Neil McFarlane, Ringing Master at Brighton. This image shows that the fire has clearly reached the tower, and things are not looking good for the bells or other items in the tower, including records and the handbells. However we won't know more until the building is safe for inspection.

Brighton (or as I used to know it, Gardenvale) was home to a bright, light six cast by Eijsbouts and installed in 1988-1990 as a bicentennial project. The bells were cast from metal donated by ANZAB, the major donor for the project was Mrs Winifred Shaw, in memory of her husband Samuel Shaw. The bells were cast by Eijsbouts of Holland and installed by Eayre and Smith.

My thoughts go out to the Brighton ringers, who are an active and social community who very much enjoyed ringing these bright and tuneful bells.

Google account holders can view more of Neil McFarlane's images and videos at this link.

Here is a link to an ABC news report on the fire.

Brighton or Gardenvale?

Gardenvale became part of the Brighton local government area in March 2013. The church didn't move!

This page supplements the ANZAB Tower Directory, and records further information about the tower, its bells and ringers.

Some of this has been provided by local ringers, but most is historical and has been gathered by the ANZAB Webmaster since 2002.

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