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St Ambrose Anglican Church, Gilgandra

St Ambrose Anglican Church, Gilgandra
St Ambrose Anglican Church, Gilgandra, exterior
St Ambrose Anglican Church, Gilgandra, close-up of foundation stone
St Ambrose Anglican Church, Gilgandra, close-up of Second World War plaque
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Description / Background

St Ambrose Anglican Church in Gilgandra was built to commemorate those who died in service or were killed in action in the First World War, and as a thanksgiving offering for peace. The foundation stone was laid by the Governor of NSW, Sir Walter Davidson, on 22 November 1920. The church was consecrated by His Lordship, the Bishop of Bathurst, the Right Reverend Dr Long on 26 July 1922. 

The church was named after St Ambrose Church in Bournemouth, England, in recognition of the gift of £1,200 given by that church to Gilgandra, as the parish in the British Empire with the best all round war record. For some time, the town of Moosejaw in Canada was considered the most eligible. However, Bishop Long was passing through London at the time, on his way to Australia, and heard about the gift. He nominated Gilgandra and asked the authorities not to give their decision until Gilgandra's war record was placed before them.

The consecration service was attended by people from all over the state. During his speech, Bishop Long referred to the gift, saying (The Bathurst Times, 28 July 1922):

"Honor and distinction had fallen upon Gilgandra, which had made excellent use of the prize they had won. The people were to be complimented upon using the initial gift in connection with the erection of something that was not only not tawdry and shabby, but was considered by many the finest church in the west of New South Wales.

The church was built by Mr J D Ryan, a contractor from Orange. It was designed by Louis Reginald Williams (1890–1980) of North and Williams, an ecclesiastical architect working in Australia. He designed churches throughout the country, particularly in Victoria, primarily Anglican but also Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Christian Scientist. He regarded St Andrew's Anglican Church in Brighton, Melbourne, as his greatest work.

St Ambrose is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register (listing number: 01853) and on the Gilgandra Shire Council's Local Environmental Plan. It is also known as the Cooee Church and the Church of St Ambrose. The property is owned by the Anglican Property Trust Diocese of Bathurst and maintained by the Parish of Gilgandra. 

Statement of Significance provided by Anthony Petch:

St Ambrose Church commemorates the town of Gilgandra's unique place in Australia's WWI history, as the place where Australia's first and largest 'snow balling' recruitment march began. The church was constructed using locally raised funds and a substantial peace and thanksgiving donation from the parishioners of St Ambrose Church in Bournemouth, England. The donation was awarded to Gilgandra (over other towns in the British dominions) due to the town's remarkable war service record, which included the 1915 Coo-ee March. Today, St Ambrose Church is a focal point for commemoration of the Coo-ee March. The annual memorial service for the Coo-ees is held in the church on the last day of the October Coo-ee Festival.

St Ambrose Church is historically important at a local level, as the Anglican parish church of Gilgandra and the surrounding district since 1922. The site has hosted Anglican services since 1903.

St Ambrose Church is of local significance, for its association with the work of the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd (otherwise known as the Bush Brothers). The Bush Brothers supervised worship at the church from its dedication in 1922 until the last Bush Brother left Gilgandra in 1963.

The substantial peace and thanksgiving donation given to Gilgandra for the construction of St Ambrose Church appears to be unique within NSW and Australia.


Foundation stone

To the glory of God

Nov, 22nd 1920

This foundation stone was laid by His Excellency

Sir Walter Davidson. K.C.M.G.

Governor of New South Wales, 

and blessed by the Lord Bishop of Bathurst, 

George Merrick Long. C.B.E., D.D., L.L.D.

A memorial to the fallen and a thank offering for peace.


+ A.M.D.G. [Ad maiorem Dei gloriam; For the greater glory of God]

In memory of those who died in World War I 1914-1918

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Cnr Wamboin and Myrtle Streets
Gilgandra NSW 2827
Local Government Area
Gilgandra Shire
Location status
Original location
Memorial type
Recorded by
Anthony Petch
Year of construction
Dedication date
26 July 1922
First World War, 1914–18