Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
B. Collection significance assessment
View of the nave of the Cathedral Church of St Saviour, Goulburn NSW, designed by Edmund Blacket. Blacket was deeply involved in the design of the interior and its fittings. The Cathedral is said to be his favourite work and a commission where he had a relatively free hand in its design.
Photo: Wesley Granger
Collection: illustrated step-by-step process
Movable Collections in the Cathedral Church of St Saviour, Goulburn, NSW
This is a highly edited edition summary of an assessment that was more than twenty pages long. All images reproduced courtesy of the Cathedral Church of St Saviour, Goulburn.
1. Collate records
As part of the assessment, Cathedral volunteers developed object files to document and research the history of key items in the collection, as well as searching the archives for information about the design and commissioning of particular works, and finding historic photos showing objects in use. The following notes are edited from a longer assessment.
2a. Research the history of the collection
The Cathedral interiors and the collection have evolved over its 125 years since the Cathedral was dedicated in 1884. Virtually all the items were gifts from people with particular associations with the Cathedral, the Diocese and the Anglican Church. The history of the movable collections and their provenance describe important relationships and connections between St Saviour's and its clergy, congregation, members of the Diocese and friends and supporters of the Cathedral. From the time of its dedication to the present, gifts of sculpture, furniture, metalwork and textiles have embellished the Cathedral, given expression to the liturgy and worship, and commemorated people's associations with the Cathedral and the Diocese.
Crucifix carved by Edmund Blacket in 1842 on board ship to Australia, presented by his granddaughter Gladys Blacket in 1935.
Photo: Wesley Granger
The addition of new furnishings and ornaments to the Cathedral is a considered decision that requires a written petition to the bishop for 'the granting of a Faculty', a process of formally granting authorisation or licence, with provision for objections to the application. In the Anglican Church, which encompasses 'high' and 'low' church practices, the addition of certain items, like the crucifix made by Edmund Blacket in 1842, can be contested, as some members may consider it too suggestive of Roman Catholicism. Over its 125 years, the design, location and iconography of all the objects, sculptures and decorative schemes in the Cathedral have been carefully considered and planned to communicate the beliefs and liturgy of the Anglican Church. Sensitivities around the appropriateness of items such as the crucifix underline the importance of movable heritage in the Cathedral in giving expression to shared beliefs, as well as representing the nuances of 'high' and 'low' church Anglicanism.
The magnificent baptismal font made by John Roddis in Birmingham in 1883. The font cover of Queensland maple was made later in Sydney by Frederick W Tod in 1920 and reflects a trend to Australian commissions in the twentieth-century.
Photo: Wesley Granger
2b. Review the scope and themes of the collection
The movable collections include altars, pulpit, baptismal font, lectern, choir stalls, chairs, organ, communion vessels, pews, vestments, textiles for use on the altar, kneelers, commemorative hangings, paintings and a model of the Cathedral possibly made by Blacket's daughter Edith. The impressive bishop's throne or cathedra was designed by Blacket, as was the organ. Two major pieces of sculpture, the font and pulpit, were made by John Roddis of Birmingham of white Caen stone, from the same quarries used for the great French and English cathedrals. The Gothic-inspired font canopy of Queensland maple was made later by the Sydney woodcarver Frederick Tod and was a gift from the Seaborn family in memory of Mary Foster and Harriet Marsden. The inscription records them as 'faithful workers in the original parish of Goulburn'.
3. Consult knowledgeable people
Comments in the Cathedral's visitors' book, and provided during community consultations, underline the importance and esteem the community feels for the Cathedral and its collections. The font, lectern, pulpit, reredos, High Altar and organ are particularly valued.
In response to a questionnaire about the Cathedral's collections and how they are valued by parishioners, some of the textiles were singled out for special mention, such as the kneelers and embroideries, valued because of the 'hours of love and devotion that must have gone into making them. They give warmth to the Cathedral.' Many women were involved in making these items. The textiles continue to give pleasure, to serve a practical purpose and to commemorate those involved in their creation.
Another parishioner writes: 'all the woodcarvings and textile items enchant me, firstly for their own beauty, and secondly as they represent such devoted commitment from a diverse range of worshippers'. Apart from the kneelers and cushions, the whole Cathedral is a place of remembrance and its walls and movable heritage are marked with the names of church figures, parishioners and loved ones. Many parishioners have long family associations with the Cathedral, volunteering in many capacities. The Cathedral is intertwined in the family histories of many local residents, and is the place for marking spiritual events and family milestones.
One of the vestments from the collection of the Cathedral Church of St Saviour
Photo: Kylie Winkworth
4. Explore the context of the collection
The movable heritage of St Saviour's is an integral part of the history and design of the Cathedral. It is the movable items that enable the Cathedral to fulfil its purpose as a place of worship. There is a high degree of consistency between the design (Gothic Revival) of the building and its contents. Key pieces acquired at the time the Cathedral was dedicated reflect the spirit and design principles of the Gothic Revival style of the building's design.
The building has evolved over 125 years with the creation of new chapels and the donation of furniture and new works of art. Changes and developments within the building, such as the creation of the Soldiers' Chapel after World War I, are in keeping with its original design. However, later changes also represent an evolution from the first phase of the building's development, where many items were designed and made in Britain. Over time, greater use has been made of Australian materials, local artists and craftspeople, and local imagery.
As the most visible symbol of the Diocese, the Cathedral Church of St Saviour is linked to the prestige and civic history of the city of Goulburn, and its role in the administration and development of the country south of Goulburn. The physical proximity of the civic and religious centres of Goulburn underlines this intertwined history.
5. Analyse and describe the condition of the collection
The movable items in the collection are generally in good, original condition. Furniture items retain their original finish and patina. The textiles generally need conservation assessment and would benefit from improved storage and regular monitoring. The most fragile textiles are the Sowerby memorial altar frontals, which show the wear and tear of nearly a century of active use. Unlike many collections in heritage buildings, the St Saviour's collection is remarkably intact.
6. Compare the collection with similar collections
The movable heritage of St Saviour's Cathedral is broadly comparable in its scope and content with collections in cathedrals in other Australian cities. The building itself is larger and more architecturally significant than other cathedrals in regional cities, and the movable collections mirror this, particularly the fine Blacket designed cathedra, the font and pulpit and many of the well provenanced textiles.
Some work was done in the course of the assessment to compare collections in other cathedrals, but a more detailed comparative assessment requires site visits and access to detailed catalogue information.
Blacket's original concept for Cathedral showing the yet to be completed spire
Photo: Wesley Granger
7. Identify related places and collections
The Diocese gave the original Blacket plans to the Mitchell Library in Sydney, which holds the Blacket family papers.
Many of the Diocesan records are on permanent loan to the National Library of Australia, which also has historic photographs of the Cathedral. St Mark's National Theological Centre Library also has historic photographs and records. See also other Blacket churches, such as St John's Anglican Church in Newcastle, NSW.
8. Assess significance against the criteria
Historically significant with many items linked to key figures in the history of the design and development of the Cathedral, and in the history of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. The collections have particular associations with the Cathedral's bishops and other clergy. There are also important associations with women and women's groups in the history of the Anglican Church.
The creation of the Diocese and development of the Cathedral is intertwined with the history and prestige of Goulburn as an important civic and religious centre.
Many items are of outstanding artistic significance for the quality of their design and craftsmanship.
The collection is of high spiritual significance to the parishioners of St Saviour's, to the people of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, to members of the Armed Services, and particularly those families with associations with the 7th Light Horse Regiment and HMAS Goulburn; and to the many visitors to the Cathedral.
Many items are well provenanced to known designers and makers and important historical figures.
The movable heritage of St Saviour's Cathedral is in many ways representative of items found in other Anglican cathedrals, given their shared heritage and common forms of worship and function, but it also has a number of rare and unique items.
The collection shows remarkable integrity and intactness and it has interpretive capacity, demonstrating the history and development of the building and its associations with key figures in its history, including bishops, clergy and laity, and its architect Edmund Blacket.
The extraordinary bishop's throne or 'cathedra' designed by Blacket and carved in oak. The chair symbolises the status of the Cathedral as the bishop's church. This remarkable example of Gothic Revival design with pointed arches, pinnacles, roof and spire is like a cathedral within the Cathedral. Above the seat of the throne is an embroidered hanging commemorating one hundred years of the Diocese, made in 1963 to a design by Mrs AB Turner of Goulburn.
Photo: Reverend Bill Wright
9. Write a statement of significance
The altar, pulpit, baptismal font, lectern, choir, organ, communion vessels, pews and many other items are integral to the design and artistic significance of the Cathedral, reinterpreting the Gothic Revival style of the building. The interior is one of Edmund Blacket's greatest achievements and his skills are seen in the extraordinary architecture of the bishop's seat, in the decorative details of the organ, and in his fine carving of the crucifix above the pulpit.
The 1863 Letters Patent from the Crown, which created the Diocese, are the foundation items in the Cathedral's collection and are of high significance for the history of the Anglican Church in Australia, for the Diocese and for the city of Goulburn. The creation of the Diocese and development of the Cathedral are intertwined with the history and prestige of the city of Goulburn as a civic and religious centre.
The history of the movable collections and their provenance describe important relationships and connections between St Saviour's and its clergy, congregation, members of the Diocese and friends and supporters of the Cathedral. From the time of its dedication in 1884 to the present, gifts of sculpture, furniture, metalwork and textiles have embellished the Cathedral, given expression to the liturgy and worship, and commemorated people's associations with the Cathedral and the Diocese. Such gifts demonstrate the historic strength of Anglican networks between Australia and Britain in the late nineteenth century, and continuing links with clergy, families and parishioners across the Diocese.
The Cathedral is a place of memory as well as worship. Many items were made and given in memory of the Cathedral's bishops, clergy, parishioners and friends. The guidon and the ensign in the Soldiers' Chapel underline the importance of the Cathedral as a war memorial for the Goulburn community and the wider Diocese.
Detail of one of the four Sowerby memorial altar frontals, designed for the High Altar for use at specific times in the liturgical calendar and in regular use for one hundred years. The frontals were made by the Ladies' Working Party of St Paul's, Geelong, for the Cathedral Parish of St Saviour in 1895. They were commissioned by the Parish through funds provided by the Very Rev'd William Sowerby, the first Dean of Goulburn and his wife Hannah. The commission reflected personal links between clergy at St Paul's Geelong and St Saviour's.
Photo: Don Wheeler
Many items are associated with key people in the history of the Cathedral. For example, the 1895 Sowerby memorial altar frontals are historically significant as the oldest textiles in the Cathedral, and for their associations with Dean William Sowerby and his wife Hannah. The vestments and altar frontals are of spiritual, historic and aesthetic significance, occupying a prominent place in the religious life of the Cathedral. The vestments as a group have important links with both the history of the Diocese and its clergy, and with the long history of ecclesiastical textiles in the church. Taking ancient forms and designs, and traditional materials, techniques and symbols, they represent a great continuum in the history of the church. Textile items created by women of the Diocese, and from Goulburn in particular, reflect centuries of Anglican tradition to beautify a place of worship through the creation of handmade items for use by the clergy and congregation. They also demonstrate the creativity of women in the congregation of St Saviour's and in the Diocese, and their regard for the place of St Saviour's in the spiritual and community life of the Diocese and Goulburn.
10. List recommendations and actions
Recommendations covered funding, conservation, storage, a database, volunteer training, commissioning new works for the collection, interpretation of the Cathedral and its collections and a conservation management plan for the Cathedral.