Come with me on a leisurely meander up from Sergeant Major’s Row, where the sandstone rocks morph into ridges covered with Forest Red Gums, up the rise where stands the church of St Phillip. Turn and look back from whence we came, and to our left we see the ragged rows of tents, the already crumbling wattle’n’daub huts of the convicts, the soldiers and the few free settlers. Ahead lies the beauty of the cove where ships of many nations already ride at anchor. Survey with me a township barely 22 years in the making.
Now leap 200 years into the future with me, where the second church to bear the name St Phillip stands just across York Street from its namesake burnt to the ground in 1856. We stand on the green of Church Hill, surrounded by the houses of many Christian faiths. The foundation stone of that original St Phillip – ‘the ugliest church in all Christendom’ – rests on the southern wall proudly proclaiming its consecration in 1810.
Church Hill remains as a small handkerchief of park bounded by Grosvenor, York and Lang Streets, now renamed Lang Park to honour the memory of the fiery Presbyterian pastor, John Dunmore Lang. Many churches still grace its perimeter, but in this more godless age, not all performing their original purpose.
Church Hill is a forgotten nook within the city, mown down by the juggernaut of urban renewal.
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