LYDIARD STREET, BALLARAT
Its graceful spire is one of only three in Ballarat.
This charming and unpretentious brick church on Soldiers Hill was built for the Presbyterians of North Ballarat in 1890 to a Gothic-inspired design by local architects Figgis & Molloy. Its spire, slender and graceful and visible from all over north Ballarat, is its most attractive feature. It is one of only three spires in the city: the others are on St Andrew’s Kirk and the former Congregationalist church in Mair Street, now the Pentecostal Ballarat Christian Fellowship.
Presbyterians outside Scotland often called one of their churches in big towns the Scots Church, usually with a possessive, instead of giving it one of the few saints’ names their robust protestantism permitted (St Andrew, St Giles, St George and a few others). This indicated the continuing attachment of Scottish migrants to their homeland and the traditions of the Church of Scotland in which they had grown up.
The foundation stone of Scots Church was laid on 5 July 1890 by Sir James MacBain, Scottish-born businessman and president of the Victorian Legislative Council.
The Scots Church spire rises from an octagonal drum on a square buttressed tower of two stages on the north-eastern corner of the building. It makes a handsome composition with the elaborate principal façade, of which the central feature is a large window with a brick central mullion and stone tracery in English Decorated Gothic. There are twin porches at the base of the façade and a chequered gable at the top in which is inserted a vescica piscis, a favourite motif of Gothic Revivalists that translates as, and supposedly resembles, a fish bladder.
The church is on a rectangular plan without transepts. The nave is of six bays, buttressed externally. The building remains incomplete and there is a concrete wall, intended to be temporary, across the end of the nave where a chancel or organ chamber was to be added. A single-storey vestry is beyond this.
While still open and functioning, the Scots Church has but a small and largely elderly congregation and one wonders how it can survive for many more years without new members. It is melancholy to think that, apart from the Presbyterian component in the numerically declining Uniting Church, only three Presbyterian congregations survive in Ballarat to represent the Scottish religious tradition that was once so influential in the city and throughout the Western District.