The importance of St Luke’s Anglican Church to Toowoomba and surrounding districts was formally recognised in 2008.
That year St Luke’s was registered by the National Trust of Queensland as well as being acclaimed as a Queensland National Treasure. These tributes acknowledged just how far the church has progressed since the first services were conducted in 1852 in The Swamp, as Toowoomba was then known.
Two years later, Reverend Benjamin Glennie, a man of exceptional foresight, purchased the two acres (0.8ha) on which St Luke’s stands.
The cost was eight pounds and four shillings. Then in 1857, a concrete slab structure was erected at a cost of 120 pounds. Although described as being like a “second-rate English barn”, the construction was used initially as a school room and became a place of congregation for the next 40 years.
With the arrival of the railway from Ipswich in 1867, the town’s centre shifted towards the station. A new parish of St James was founded and this led to services at St Luke’s ceasing for a number of years.
However during the 1880s, there was a resurgence of interest among St Luke’s parishioners and with the need for a new church becoming evident, a foundation stone was laid on 13 March 1895. The first part of the new building, which is of 13th Century Gothic design, was dedicated on 14 February 1897 but St Luke’s remained incomplete for the next 61 years.
It was in 1945, under the leadership of Canon Shand, that the congregation banded together to complete the church as a War Memorial. This proved to be a massive undertaking and the extensions were not dedicated until 1959. While the building program took a long time to finish, there had been considerable activity in the earlier years of the 20th Century. Among the highlights of that era was the installation, in 1907, of a Norman and Beard organ at a cost of 1100 pounds. The organ was said to be “so mellow, so sweet in tone and so superior in quality that it was a delight to play”.
A distinctive church hall, designed by Toowoomba architect Harry Marks, was built in 1910 and soon became a popular meeting place.
With the hall being in urgent need of renovation, a ‘Centenary’ Funds appeal was launched in 2010 to finance maintenance on the hall, which like St Luke’s is listed on the register of the National Trust of Queensland and the Queensland Heritage Register.
In recent times, there has also been extensive restoration work on the church’s bell tower, the stone cross and the organ. A significant milestone in the church’s history was reached in 2007, which commemorated the 150th year since Reverend Glennie began conducting services. A stained glass depiction of St Peter and the Apostle of the Darling Downs Benjamin Glennie, which was costly to construct, was installed as a memorial. To mark the occasion the Primate of Australia Phillip Aspinall conducted a sesquicentenary service at St Luke’s.
Words by Graeme Kelly | Images supplied by St. Luke’s Church, Local History Library and Robinson Collection, Toowoomba City Library