Cobbitty was developed around the pioneer ranch of Rowland and Elizabeth Hassall, missionaries who arrived in Australia in 1798. Their son, Rev Thomas Hassall (1794-1868), founded the first Sunday School in Australia when he was nineteen years old, was the first Australian-born Anglican priest and became the first rector of Cobbitty in 1827.
He built the Heber Chapel, a simple stone schoolroom dedicated in 1829 to the memory of the much-travelled Rt Rev Reginald Heber (1783-1826), who was Bishop of Calcutta at the time when the whole of Australia was one of its archdeaconries.
Known as the “galloping parson”, Thomas Hassall farmed sheep and acted as magistrate while serving a huge parish:
The later church, a simple Gothic building with a spire, was designed by John Verge (1782-1861), the English-born architect who is best-known for a series of fine villas in the Sydney suburbs, and was at least partly responsible for Elizabeth Bay House (1835-9).
It was completed in 1842. In the churchyard is the grave of Edward Wise, aged 21, who was struck by lightning while building the steeple.
Recent renovations have revealed, so I’m told, that the unusual shape, with a vestigial sanctuary and broad transepts, results from a decision during construction to extend and reorientate the church.
1827 – Rev. Thomas Hassall appointed minister of the district of Cowpastures.
1828 – Heber Chapel dedicated by the Rev. Samuel Marsden. The Chapel was named after Bishop Heber in whose diocese of Calcutta Australia then was. The chapel was the Church until 1842 and the school for the district until 1920.
1842 – St Paul’s Church completed and then consecrated by the Bishop of Australia, Rev. William Broughton, D.D.
1870 – The Rectory constructed.
1993 – Heber Chapel renovated and restored.
All the buildings have been in continuous use by the Anglican Church of Australia since the above dates.
Information on the Pipe Organ within St Paul’s can be found on the Sydney Organ website.