No. 120 - St John's Anglican Church Railton - 'Built by Goliath'

The Church of England’s presence in Railton can be dated to 1885. A report in that year reveals that the first meetings were:

“…Conducted by the respected minister of the district, the Rev. William Hogg. The room used was at one of the local stores; but this being somewhat inconvenient, the public school was applied for, and granted free of charge. Thus for two months the school building has been used; but the attendance has dwindled down to almost nil, in respect to adult worshippers”.

The building of a church began at the end of 1887 but there appear to have be delays in its opening. A letter to the Devon Herald dated 31 July 1888 under the pseudonym ‘CHURCHMAN’ of Railton enquired as to the progress of the ‘new church’:

“…I should like to know why services for a long time have been discontinued…and [that a] report circulated during last week that the new church would be open on Sunday morning, July 20th, ….for on reaching the so-called church I was disgusted to find no clergyman there, and the structure minus the windows, unfinished both inside and out, no seats, in fact in a state of muddle”.

There is no newspaper record of an opening ceremony but the church had opened for services by the end of 1888. It is described as being “built of wood” but I have set to find a photographic record of it. For the next half century, there is little out of the ordinary in the newspaper record concerning this church apart from one amusing anecdote. In 1898 there was another letter of complaint under the pseudonym “ONE WHO WAS THERE”, this time to the Formby Post:

“It is with regret I have to complain of the conduct of a certain member of the Railton Anglican Church, in allowing his dog to remain in church during divine service, as on more than one occasion the dog has barked and snapped at people when going to their seats. I think, out of common decency, people should leave their dogs at home when going to church, as it is not only a disgrace to the owner but an annoyance to the congregation, and an insult to the clergyman”.

While the church did not go to the dogs, records show that the building required ongoing fundraising for upkeep and that it was seen as a stopgap until a more substantial structure could be built.

Active planning for a second church began in 1946. In 1953 the construction of the new church began. It is of interest that the building of this church was literally a community effort with 6000 cement bricks being made by church members on the property of the Goliath Portland Cement Company. (This was the company supplied the cement for the Sydney Harbour Bridge). All foundation work, prior to the laying of the bricks, was completed by the voluntary labour of 24 men who laid four tons of cement and 27 yards of gravel within the space of a day.

Bishop Cranswick had attended the foundation stone laying ceremony in 1953 and he:

“Congratulated everyone connected with the work on the new church. He said it would be of great value to Railton and the surrounding districts. He mentioned specially the women who had worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the occasion”.

The building is described as a ‘fine Gothic design’ and the cement brickwork does give the church an eclectic appearance of the modern and functional contrasted with the classic form of pointed arched windows. And it is fitting that a town based on the Goliath cement has a church built by a titanic community effort.

A note on St John’s Church Cemetery

The cemetery is in an overgrown state but the headstones are in generally good condition. One stone of interest is that of Lance Corporal Arthur Stanley Hoodless and Private Cyril James Hoodless, brothers who both died within months of each on the Western Front in 1917. Photographs of the two brothers have been sourced from the Imperial War Museum’s Bonds of Sacrifice Collection.

A complete list of names of burial may be found HERE

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

The old church hall. Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

   Private Cyril James Hoodless - source Imperial War Museum (HU 115860)
Arthur Stanley Hoodless - Source Imperial War Museum IWM (HU 115859)

Devon Herald Friday 14 October 1887
Devon Herald Friday 19 February 1886
North west Post Tuesday 12 July 1898
Devon Herald Tuesday 31 July 1888
The Advocate Friday 20 March1953
The Advocate Tuesday 30 March1954
The advocate Friday 30 November 1953


  1. I have photos of all of the existing headstones

  2. I only took a few photos...that must have been a big job. Do you have them online?


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