Christ Church, Geelong - Archival Records

The Significance of the Christ Church Archives

The Christ Church archives constitute a unique record of the early development of the social, cultural and community life in Geelong, at a time when the now City of Geelong was just being founded. The records are especially significant because so much of them have survived – the 2009 Significance Assessment notes that it is unusual for a parish church to have retained an almost-complete collection of its archives over such a long period of time [8]. The records predate those of the Melbourne Diocese, and incorporate baptismal, marriage and death (including burial) records not available elsewhere in Australia. Christ Church, Geelong is of historical, architectural and aesthetic significance to the City of Geelong and the State of Victoria; its records are of particular significance because of their association with the early history of the Anglican Church in Victoria, the Geelong region and its citizens. The 2009 Significance Assessment concludes in this regard -

“The archives of Christ Church, Geelong, have great integrity, are largely complete, and are currently well-managed and stored. The collection is of historic significance, and it also has social significance, both to the congregation and in the wider community.” [9]


The Parish records incorporate information, family details and evidence of contribution to colonial life of a number of significant Australians, including Sir Charles SLADEN (1816-1884) MLA, MLC lawyer, pastoralist and politician, and briefly Premier of Victoria[10].; Colin CAMPBELL (1817-1903) pastoralist, politician, educationalist and cleric; Archibald TURNBULL (1843-1901)  - Christian socialist clergyman; William KERNOT (1845-1909) -engineer and educationalist; Edith Latham KERNOT (1877 - 1967) MBE, community Worker [11]; Rev Clifford NASH (1866-1958) - Incumbent at Christ Church and founder of the Melbourne Bible Institute (now the Bible College of Victoria); Thomas Stange Heiss ASCHE (1871-1936) - actor manager; Hon T. HARWOOD MLC, Politician [12];

Canon George GOODMAN, the Parish incumbent for 51 years from1855-1906 [13]; Fanny Eileen BROWNBILL (1890-1948) Parliamentarian [13]; Marjorie Emily WALLER (1894-1954) Artist; and Marjorie Alice Walkowski (Taylor) (1920-2007) OA Nurse, Servicewoman, community worker [15].


The Australian Dictionary of Biography and Australian Women’s Biography of Australia entries for the early parishioners and supporters of Christ Church give a snapshot of the social and community issues and developments which were being lived out in the early years of the Geelong community. For Anglicans in the emerging city of Geelong Christ Church was significant as a place or worship and a centre of their social and community life, or became associated with their baptisms, marriages or burials.


The 2009 Significance Assessment details the significance of the records –

“The archives of Christ Church Geelong naturally have considerable local significance. They have been used by architectural historians, demographers, family historians, and social historians of Geelong. A careful reading of the archives also contributes to an understanding of a number of themes in Australian social history, and the history of the Anglican denomination in Australian society. Some of these include the development of social welfare, the influence of particular types of churchmanship, the education and mentoring of men, women and young people in leadership, the growth of an international perspective within a church community, and the place of the church in the cultural and civic life of the city.” [16]


For Victorians today, Christ Church remains a source of significant personal and family records (through baptism, marriage and death/burial records) and so a means of identifying and tracing significant personal history, but also a unique record of social and cultural life in the emerging city of Geelong.  As the 2009 Significance Assessment confirms –

“No other set of archives of an Anglican Church in Victoria held in a public collection comes near to the comprehensive archival record held by Christ Church. What is significant about the collection is that, as well as registers of marriages, burials and baptisms, the parish has been able to keep vestry minutes, administrative files, oral histories, service sheets, newsletters and the records of a wide range of organisations within the parish. So there is a good record of congregational life and thought over 170 years.” [17]


Once catalogued, preserved and made more accessible, the Christ Church records will contribute to understanding of the developing community life in Geelong, for the benefit of historians, scholars and everyday Victorians alike.


Sources -

[8] The 2009 Significance Assessment,  p 9.

[9] The 2009 Significance Assessment,  p 3.

[10]. source -

[11]. source -

[12]. source -

[13]. source -

[14]. source -

[15]. Source -

[16] The 2009 Significance Assessment, p 3.

[17] The 2009 Significance Assessment, pp 12, 22.