GLIMPSES FROM OUR PAST...
Did you know that?....Our first Rector, the Rev. Arthur Burnett came to S.A. in 1847....Bishop Short arrived in Adelaide, from England, on Holy Innocents Day, (Dec. 28) in 1847, and brought with him five priests for South Australia, among them being the Rev. Arthur Burnett, who left Adelaide in early January 1848, to travel to Willunga where he had been appointed as incumbent. "He is a zealous and devoted young man". He literally pitched his tent in Willunga, as being handy to Noarlunga, Yankalilla, The Meadows and Pt. Elliot, in all of which he took services. He later found accommodation in the home of a settler. His income in 1849 was 25 pounds pa and in 1850, 50 pounds pa.
In 1848, 2 acres of land was given to the Church by Richard Hill, for a Cemetery and Church building. This was 1 mile west of the town, so as to serve the Aldinga area as well. The Government gave a grant of 150 pounds each for the building of the Church and Parsonage. Arthur Burnett was Rector for 7 years and then returned to England. During his time here, he did much towards erecting the Parsonage (St. John's Terrace), and landscaping the grounds. He presented the Church with a Bell, the date On it indicating that it had been cast in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the 1st. The bell hung in a tree in the cemetery by the first church, it weighs 225lbs. At some stage it fell from the tree and was re-cast and now is in the tower of the present St. Stephens, and continues to announce the services.
In its early days the first St Stephens was the great marrying place of the south. Until the early 1850's it was the only Church south of St. Mary's Sturt,(South Road) and Arthur Burnett was surrogate for the districts of Willunga and Noarlunga, Pt Elliott, Goolwa and Yankalilla. (The surrogates were the only people authorised to issue marriage licences.) He was succeeded by the Rev. T.R.Neville in 1856
The Rev. T.R.Neville. Not a great deal is known about him.
He stayed till 1863, and his farewells at Willunga and Noarlunga, are recorded as follows.
4.2.1863 .. "Presentation to Rev T.R. Neville by the seat holders of St. Stephens, of a very handsome inkstand and beautifully wrought silver salver. An appropriate inscription was engraved on the inkstand and the Rev. gentleman's Cipher. He returned a touching speech, not only as regards himself, but also his good and kind lady Mrs Neville and mother-in-law Mrs Alexander, whose active zeal amongst our young in the cause of her Divine Master can never be surpassed,- we shall ever pray."
16.1.1863... "The Rev T.R.NeviIle was presented by a large number of members and seat holders of St Philip and St James, Noarlunga with a very handsomely bound and clasped Pulpit Bible, as a token of regard and best wishes from the donors. Mr. Mudge, Churchwarden, duly presented the gift, and the revered gentleman, in eloquent language, returned thanks. At the close of the proceedings, Mr Neville read the 103rd Psalm and engaged in Prayer. The congregation then gave him the farewell shake of the hand. He was succeeded by the Rev Edmund King Miller in 1863 ".
Excerpt from E.lCMiller's account of his time in Willunga Parish, SA. "On removing to Willunga in February 1863,1 found the Church had been built 1 mile west of the town, while the Parsonage was quite a mile south of it, with a somewhat difficult road owing to the hills. One result of this of misplacing of buildings , had been the erection of a R.C.Church tin the centre of the town, 4 Methodist Chapels and a Christian Disciples Chapel, all in the township.
The parsonage had never been finished...100 pounds needed to be spent to make it habitable and repair fences—The house being thatched, was often in danger from bushfires, and wind-blown embers were a constant threat from bushfires. Water had to be carried by bucket from a well on the lower corner of the property (still there.)
The Church was renovated, plastered and painted soon after my arrival. Not long after this the congregation became too large for the Church, and meetings were held to consider the best means For adding thereto it being deemed inadvisable to enlarge the Church, which had been very badly built oh a small scale, it was decided to erect a new one, when division at once arose to its position. The donor of the land wanted it to be a replacement oh the same location. Most worshippers Came from the township or north and east of it While this was going on, I received a notice cut from a newspaper that the residents of Aldinga were being invited to a public meeting to consider the advisability of erecting a church at Aldinga, and I was invited to this meeting. I was surprised at this, but complied and went and found 28 settlers there. I was asked if I would take services.As I had two Services, Willunga and Old Noarlunga, which was the original arrangement from the establishment of the district, I was able to say that, were a Church erected in Aldinga, I would undertake to supply an evening service every Sunday. On reporting to Willunga building committee, one plea for building a new Church on the site of the old one, was that it would convenience the church members in Aldinga; now that they plan to provide a Church for themselves, this plea would be done away with, and it would be impolite to undertake 2 such buildings at once, and Aldinga had already got the lead, so Willunga Church was put on hold.
In 1880, the long talked of project of building a new Church in Willunga township, assumed a definite shape. A ladies committee had conducted a successful bazaar and raised 180 pounds...A block of land in the town was purchased from Captain Atkinson for 30 pounds-. An architect was engaged. The Church completed in 1884 and was dedicated by Bishop Kennion who was accompanied by Archdeacon Bussell. The cost of the erection was 1,200 pounds, leaving a debt of 600 pounds., the interest of which necessitated continual effort.
The Church was endowed for 200 pounds and Church Attorneys offered to add 70 pounds to the endowment if the congregation subscribed 30 towards it. This was done and another 200 pounds was raised by subscriptions or borrowed from the bank, bringing the endowment to 500 pounds.
Edmund King Miller was Rector for 29 years, and rarely missed a service. He rode 25 miles on horse back for 8 years, from Noarlunga, Aldinga, Willunga, and down over Sellicks Hill. He would only do the trip over the old hill road on moonlit nights. In later years, a buggy was presented to him by friends in Noarlunga, and when he broke both wrists, his wife would drive the horses, and he would take the service with his hands in splints.
This information prepared by Margaret Cameron, and gleaned from various Local History Books and Newspaper cuttings.