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St James Old Cathedral
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Places of interest
St James Old Cathedral

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The White Hat Guide to

St. James’ Old Cathedral, Melbourne

St. James’ Old Cathedral

Cnr King & Batman Sts
West Melbourne

Service Times

Sunday: 10:00 am
Wednesday: 12:30 pm

St. James’ Old Cathedral


St. James’ Old Cathedral looks out of place and out of time.

It is both.

It looks out of time because it is one of the only major buildings in Melbourne that dates from before the 1850s gold rush. The church with its fortress mentality would look quite at home sitting amongst companions of its own age and attitude in The Rocks in Sydney. But it looks more like a lonely ancient relic in 'modern' (i.e. 1880s) Melbourne.

It is out of place because in 1914 it was moved several city blocks from its original location, rotated through 90 degrees and reconstructed stone-by-stone on its present site. It now sits next to a busy arterial traffic route well away from the peopled heart of Melbourne's CBD - exiled outside Robert Hoddle's mile by half-mile grid and opposite Burial Hill.

Wandering around inside St. James', you will be reminded of Melbourne's European pioneers. At pew No 10 you can almost hear the wheezing of the good councillor who rented the pew and had it redesigned to accommodate his corpulent frame. Look up at the galleries and you can sense the presence of Governor Latrobe and the Chief Justice, and Bishop Perry himself on the impressive Bishop's Throne.

If many of the grander of the buildings around Melbourne have the aura of a grand Victorian lady, St. James is more of a colonial wife and mother doing her best to maintain some dignity into a rather distant outpost.

It was designed by Robert Russell and originally stood near the corner of William and Little Collins Streets. A modern building on that site is now called the St. James Building. St James' opened in 1842, was completed in in 1847, and was consecrated as a cathedral in 1853. When St. Paul's Cathedral opened in 1891 it returned to its more humble status as a parish church.

In Melbourne's early days, William Street was in effect the main street, but with the building of Princes Bridge, the city's centre of gravity shifted towards Swanston Street. Congregations dwindled at St. James until it was decided to move it to its present site at the corner of King and Batman Streets.

The church is open most days, and the eight bells in the tower can usually be heard before the 10am service on a Sunday, or during bellringers practice at about 8pm on a Friday.


St James' School & St James' Cathedral

Selected forthcoming events at St. James’ Old Cathedral:

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