(FORMERLY PRESBYTERIAN, NOW UNITING)
BALACLAVA ROAD, CAULFIELD NORTH
A church design of great originality in Caulfield, once Presbyterian, now Uniting and home to an Indonesian congregation. For how long?
Christian churches in Caulfield are in a parlous state, since the district, once solidly Anglo in character, became predominantly Jewish after the second world war. The Caulfield Indonesian Uniting church was built in 1926 as St Stephen’s Presbyterian church. The architects were the firm of Haddon & Henderson. It is one of three Melbourne churches that Robert Haddon (1866–1929), a specialist in Arts and Crafts work, designed for the Presbyterians; the others are at Malvern, extravagantly monumental and apparently not at risk, and at Oakleigh, now the Archangel Michael and St Anthony’s Coptic Orthodox church. The Presbyterians made an inspired choice in commissioning Haddon; an architect of great originality who knew how to incorporate the Arts and Craftsism that was contemporary to his time into a traditionally planned building that “looked like a church”. Haddon put many of his ideas into his own house, “Anselm”, not far away from St Stephen’s in North Caulfield and well worth a discreet peer over the front gate.
St Stephen’s is built of brick with cement dressings. The façade stands out for its cross motif formed by a central buttress with tall traceried single-light windows under the arms and flanking buttresses, all terminating in freestanding table-top pillars. The central column carries a pillar resembling a blind bellcote. There is no principal door in the façade; entrance to the church is through side doors with cottage-style porches. The interior contains some fine joinery.
St Stephen’s, already much reduced in congregation, became a parish of the Uniting Church in 1977. Since 2016 it has been the Caulfield Indonesian Uniting Church. Though still fully functioning it would be vulnerable to demographic changes such as its congregation moving to other suburbs and an absence of younger people as its congregation ages. It has already introduced English-language services for a “second-generation congregation” not fluent in Indonesian.