History of the Parish

History of St Paul’s Anglican Church 1847

The following history was compiled by Marion French

Little did the handful of anglicans amongst the seven families settled on the shores of Brisbane Water at Kincumber in the 1830’s realize, a little stone church already in planning would stand testimony to their efforts, a place of worship still being used 167 years later.

St Pauls Church is the oldest Anglican Church in the Brisbane Water district and is still being used today. The Church is important for its age in relation to the early settlement of Brisbane Water and is evidence of an organized community at Kincumber many years before the development of Gosford.

In the 1830s the first Anglicans in Kincumber held services in private homes as there was no church in which to worship. A decision was made to build a church at Kincumber in 1838, and at the request of Bishop Broughton, the Colonial government in 1840 granted three acres of land for this purpose. However it wasn’t until 1841 that building on St Paul’s actually began. In the meantime in December 1842 the Reverend Edward Rogers was licensed to conduct services in the Anglican Schoolhouse already erected on this site. The church was finally completed by 1847 and cost 636 pounds.

The stone used in building the church was quarried from the property of William Pickett of South Kincumber who also supplied the stone for Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Kincumber which was begun that same year 1841. St Paul’s Church was built entirely by free labor, in a time of severe recession. This would account for the delay in the completion of the building due to lack of funding. The simple unpretentious design of the building reflects the severe economic strictures of the 1840s and that of the districts inhabitants, mostly poor, consisting mainly of farmers, fishermen, timber cutters and boat builders.

Due to its location at the head of the Broadwater, the village of Kincumber soon became the center of the shipbuilding industry, with four main shipbuilders clustered around the estuary of Kincumber Creek and alongside St Paul’s church grounds. The grave yard is the resting place of many pioneers connected with ships and the sea, the tombstones telling their own story and St Paul’s became known as the shipwright’s church.

In 1912 St Paul’s became one of the centres of the newly formed Parochial District of Woy Woy. Later it became a centre of the new Parochial District of Terrigal in 1922. In 1960 the Mission District of Brisbane Water was formed with St Paul’s at the centre. The first rectory was built on land opposite St Paul’s Church in 1967. In 1971 Brisbane Water Mission District became a Parish, but in 1975 it was given the name of Kincumber.

The Parish Ministry Centre was built in 1981 on land behind the rectory, which formed part of the original land granted to the church by Governor Bourke. By 1986 the regular worshipping congregation had become too large to regularly worship in St Paul’s Church and the Sunday services were moved to the Ministry Centre.

A new Rectory was built in Kincumber in 2000 and the original Rectory became the Vicar’s home and Parish Office. Within the church grounds of St Paul’s a flagpole was dedicated in memory of the Davis Family in 1998 and an external vestry was built and dedicated in 2001.December 1992 was celebrated with the Sesquicentenary of the granting of the licence to conduct worship on this historic site in Kincumber.


The original clear diamond shaped Tudor style leaded windows have all but been replaced with stained-glass.

The size and location of the alter window makes it the outstanding stained-glass feature. Designed by John Adams and dedicated in December 1954 it consists of three panels and cost 266 pounds. The central panel, picturing the Risen Christ was bought from money raised entirely by parishioners and friends. The northern panel of Jesus the Sower is a memorial to John Dunlop and The Good Shepherd southern panel was given in memory of the Frost family.

The beautifully coloured stained-glass of the north eastern window depicts the shepherds visiting the birthplace of Jesus, a memorial to Thomas Palmer and Family, while the south eastern window shows the Risen Christ with Mary Magdalene and commemorates Ruby Isabel and Gordon Beattie.

Some original clear diamond leaded glass windows still remain on the south eastern and south western section of the building. The top panels only are in stained glass, a more recent inclusion installed in 1990, the result of the collaboration of the artists Vivienne Nelson and Catherine Sheumack.

These windows depict both past, present and the future in their simple contemporary design and intense colours and form a link to the local area with its waterways and fish as a christian symbol. The rainbow and the dove express peace and joy, influenced in the case of the rainbow by the Curcillo movement and dove for peace.


The first furnishings are said to have been made by James Taylor and his stepson William Hastings from cedar supplied by Thomas Humphries. It would seem the pair most likely made some form of seating used in those first early years of the church.

However it is not until the Rev Alfred Glennie wrote in his journals some seven years later in 1855 that we have mention of the pews which remain in the church today. April 1855, Sunday the 13th …..”I was delighted to find on the occasion that Davis had brought up some of the new seats he has been making…and which proved a very great improvement to the little church….he has made them very well and they really are a neat and comfortable seat…”.

Then again ….May 1855….”went to Kincumber this morning where I found George Davis waiting for me according to appointment. He brought up the last of the church seats, so they are complete now, sixteen altogether and a very good satisfactory job he has made of it. I paid him ……”

George Davis fashioned these pews from a log containing at least 750 feet (228 metres). The timber was purchased from Dan Berry for 1 pound per foot.

Kincumber’s First School 1839-1872

In 1839 the returns of the colony, record a Church of England School in the Brisbane Water, although no further details are given. We do know that by 1841 Bishop Broughton had arranged for the erection of a schoolhouse at Kincumber adjoining the site of the church at Kincumber; a wooden slab and shingle building which functioned as a C of E Denominational School for 30 years; built by immigrant teacher and chaplain William Davis.

NOTE ……. The school site was approximately at top left corner near Flagpole. Some stone footings, now covered by soil and grass are probably part of the old school. Pick marks in the stonework of the church are evident, and remains of burned cockle shells, used in the early cement may be seen in mortar joints of the church.


The graveyard of St Paul’s is also listed on the National Register, having national historic significance as an important early burial ground associated with the settlement and development of the Kincumber district. It contains the graves of early settlers and many associated with the local shipbuilding industry, many of them renowned mariners, shipwrights and sail makers. It has scientific significance for its potential to provide the information for research.

The first burial recorded in the Anglican Register was in March 1838 by the Rev Edward Rogers while he was still a deacon. The next marked grave, however, is not indicated until 1840 with the death of 17year old John Davis….son of William Davis who would have still been teaching in the original School which was also being used as the church. Remember the church building was not begun until 1841.

The south-eastern corner of the graveyard and along the southern boundary are some of the earliest dates. The families of William Davis, Kincumber’s first school teacher, Frosts, Normans, MacMaster, Master mariner Jonathon Piper, the Beaties, the Woodwards, Settries and Henderson a sail maker, the Wards and Scaysbrooks. Some headstones show country of origin by use of Thistle or Shamrock.

Sir Russell Drysdale the well known artist is buried here. In 1969 he was knighted for his services to Australian art.

Perhaps the most significant early grave is that of James Dunlop who died in 1848. He was a Member of the French Institute and Australia’s first Astronomer Royal of NSW at Parramatta Observatory.

His original headstone was broken and replaced with another at the gravesite. The damaged stone was relocated and placed in the portico of the church. It required a certain amount of persuasion to move the Bishop of Newcastle for this to be allowed; due to the fact James was a Presbyterian!

An interesting observation is that of the 54 graves dated before 1900, 35 per cent of the people died before their 20th birthday and only 22 per cent were over 70. After 1900 fewer than eight per cent died between birth and 20 years of age and more than 53 per cent lived to more than 70 years of age.

Some Tales from Old

It is obvious water played a major part in our history here, poignantly so, with inscriptions bearing testimony to many drownings. Many tales of extraordinary courage and endurance emerge through this early history of the area.

Such as that of Thomas Davis a shipbuilder and timber miller of Davistown. In 1863 whilst away in Sydney Thomas & Susannah’s third son fell from the wharf in front of their house and drowned. When news of this reached the distraught father, he found no steamer due to leave for Brisbane Water until the next day and he was compelled to walk from Manly to Barrenjoey. Here he borrowed a boat and rowed across the water of Broken Bay to Lobster Beach and walked the remaining distance through the bush to his home at Davistown to be with his wife at this sad time.

Settrie Alfred William family of mariners and shipbuilders. Walter eloped with Mary to marry in C of E church in Botany because Mary’s parents did not wish her to marry a non catholic.

William (Scottie) son was a postman for 26 years. He carried mail from Kincumber to Blackwall, and later when the railway came through, to Woy Woy. He had an excellent reputation for reliability.

Scottie would ride his pony from his home at Davistown, around the waterfront to Kincumber Post Office (Boora Boora) pick up the mail at six am, gallop back home where he would leave his horse and transfer to a dinghy and row to Woy Woy. Then in reverse, picking up the mail from Sydney and back to Kincumber then home to Davistown in time for lunch.

This is a recent story from the 1980’s. Allan Ward whilst assisting with the clean up and restoration of the graveyard had a ‘strange happening’ He was working around the grave of Rock Davis while others beside him struck something hard beneath the ground. It was a huge ledger stone which was lying buried beneath the ground surface. This stone was found to be the original one belonging to his grandfather William Ward who died in 1870. Evidently it had been replaced with the present headstone at the time of Catherine Wards burial in 1898.

Jonathon Piper Master Mariner, There are two errors on his headstone. He was born in 1813 not 1810 and he was 66 years not 69 years when he died. Ann his wife is buried at Rookwood.

During my early involvement in history of the area I had the opportunity to assist with the indexing of the Rev Alfred Glennie Journals. This was to be a wealth of information in regard to St Paul’s Kincumber, and early years of Gosford in general. Rev Glennie was a dutiful pastor doing his very best and in his opinion, not making much headway.

Francis Piper Jonathon’s father gets considerable mention in Rev Glennie’s diaries. Glennie was forever moving around his large parish, calling on his flock, at the most. inopportune moments I’m sure, He was not backward in admonishing them for their sins, he was big on repentance. Francis Piper was sullen and disposed to find fault. At one stage ‘refusing to pray with Glennie as long as he lived’ and did not wish to see him again. ‘I fear he has sullenly resigned himself into the hands of the wicked one’ says Glennie. The bitter, malignant, almost fiendish manner in which he spoke to his poor wife Sarah who was sitting at the table with him, that I was obliged to leave him. Poor Francis died, and the inscription on the headstone reads in much pain.

An interesting observation is that of the 54 graves dated before 1900, thirty five per cent of the people died before their 20th birthday and only 22per cent were over 70, …..but after 1900 approximately less than eight per cent died between birth and 20 years of age and more than 53 per cent over 70 years of age.

Agnes Beattie

“Remember me as you pass by As you are now, so once was I As I am now, so you must be Therefore prepare to follow me “


Clergy who have served this Church

Rectors of The Parish of Kincumber

2012-          The Rev Allan Bate

1998-2011: The Rev Arthur Copeman

1990-1997: The Rev Melbourne Nelson

1988-1990: The Rev John Freeman

1982-1988: The Rev Colvin Ford

1975-1982: The Rev Campbell Brown

1971-1974: The Rev John Kerr

Mission District of Brisbane Water

1965-1971: The Rev John Kerr

1959-1964: The Rev Kieth Brodie

The Parish of Gosford

1922-1959: Clergy from Terrigal 

1912-1922: Clergy from Woy Woy

1911-1912: The Rev Ernest R E Gribble

1907-1911: The Rev Arthur Renwick

1905-1907: The Rev F Perkins

1889-1905: The Rev J King Brown

1879-1889: The Rev George H J Stone

1878-1879: The Rev W Lund

1877-1878: The Rev Alfred C Thomas

1870-1876: The Rev Charles D Newman

1865-1870: The Rev John Shaw

1850-1865: The Rev Alfred Glennie

District of Brisbane Water

1848-1850: The Rev Arthur Douglas

1838-1848: The Rev Edward Rogers (chaplain)