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A historic new home for the National Trust

Cultural Heart

An iconic church in the centre of North Adelaide is the fitting new home for the National Trust of South Australia. 
The National Trust is dedicated to conserving natural and built places of heritage significance.

For many reasons, places of worship are often the most significant and most beloved heritage buildings in any community. It may be due to the spiritual symbolism they convey, the social aspect of bringing people together or the beautiful and often intricate designs that set them apart.

Known as the ‘City of Churches,’ Adelaide has its fair share of religious buildings that delight the masses. The North Adelaide Baptist Church on Tynte Street is no exception, with 2020 marking its 150th anniversary. 

Baptist church national trust

At the beginning of the year, the National Trust became the church’s new custodian through the gifting of the property by the church community. The main church building, hall and manse buildings sit on an intact original one-acre lot in the centre of picturesque North Adelaide.

“Adelaide’s built heritage tells a unique story about our city and who we are as a community.”

- Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor of Adelaide

“The quality and beauty of our historic architecture, exemplified by buildings such as the North Adelaide Baptist Church, is enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike.” says Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.

The North Adelaide Baptist Church congregation was first formed in 1848 and has a proud history as the ‘most liberal Baptist Church in Australia’, following a freethinking, non-conformist tradition. After building its first chapel on Lefevre Terrace in 1850, the rapidly growing congregation led to the building of the Tynte Street Church which was designed to accommodate 600 people.

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The Baptist Church, circa 1872

The style of the building has been described as “Venetian” or “Italianate”, in contrast to the neo-Gothic styles favoured for most of Adelaide’s major churches. The design may have been inspired by the London tabernacle of the famous Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon. The church houses one of the city’s finest pipe organs, with 2,456 pipes. The steeply sloping floor and seating in concentric rings around the pulpit create a perfect auditorium for preaching and musical performance.

The building uses the best local stone and slate materials and incorporates an innovative ventilation system to allow hot air to escape through a perforated ceiling, showing ingenious adaptation to local conditions by its architect James Cummings. In its 150th year, the church stands as a remarkable example of the exceptional nineteenth century architecture for which Adelaide is well known.

Baptist chruch entrance

The National Trust is working in partnership with a range of specialist stone masons, carpenters, plasterers and painters to undertake the conservation work and to document the skills and techniques involved. On-site events will be held through the National Trust’s Artisan Trades Academy for apprentices and the public to view the work in progress, complete with explanations from the tradespeople themselves.

“We are delighted that the North Adelaide Baptist Church community has decided to entrust their built heritage to the National Trust for its future preservation and public use,” says National Trust President Deborah Morgan.

“We are honoured and humbled by the generosity of this gift and excited by the possibilities for continuing its public use and preserving these magnificent buildings for future generations.”

- Deborah Morgan, National Trust President

Major conservation works to the roof timbers and ceiling of the main church building are already in progress and are set to be completed by November 2020. The current roof and ceiling works have been greatly assisted by $50k funding from the City of Adelaide’s Heritage Incentives Scheme and $10k funding from the State Government’s Heritage Grants Scheme. Aside from the ceiling, a range of other repairs are scheduled for the building’s walls and parapet which are assisted by further City of Adelaide’s Heritage Incentives Scheme funding. An expert team of engineers, architects and builders are conducting the works to ensure the roof is secured to last for another 150 years.

Baptist church pews

Interior of the church 2020

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The National Trust plan to honour the traditions of the church and activate it as a space for the community to enjoy through public events, particularly musical performance, but also as a public venue for workshops, lectures and debates.

Safe to say, Adelaide’s identity as a ‘City of Churches’ is secure thanks to this collaborative dedication to conservation.

Learn more information about heritage in the city of Adelaide.

About the National Trust of South Australia:

You can keep an eye on the National Trust website and social media, to find out about talks, workshops, how to donate funds towards the conservation works and other activities associated with the project.

Established in 1955, the National Trust of South Australia is the state’s leading community-based heritage conservation organisation, managing 125 built and natural heritage places across South Australia.

Their activities range from heritage property management to public advocacy, community engagement and fundraising, as well as skills training for heritage conservation. In the past three years alone, the Trust have raised more than $2.5 million for heritage conservation projects. The National Trust partners with dozens of community, government and business organisations to preserve, protect and promote our built, natural and cultural heritage.