Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church Ultimo

The Presbyterians established the first church in Pyrmont in 1846, at 11 Mount Street, on the initiative of John Dunmore Lang who was appalled by the immorality of the early settlement. He attracted Scots tradesmen – especially stonemasons – to counterbalance Irish Catholic immigrants. He also recruited Scots, German and Northern Irish ministers for the new congregations. A school opened in a cottage in Mount Street: by 1860 it was accepted by the education department as a National School.

Pyrmont was badly affected by the schisms that split Scots Presbyterian churches, and the Mount Street building barred Lang from using its premises. In 1864 church members built a wooden chapel in Harris Street, between Miller Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road, but wanted a more substantial building. Meanwhile, John Harris bequeathed land for a church. However, the Pyrmont congregation wanted to sell the Ultimo land and expand in Pyrmont but this provoked a dispute with the Harris family, resolved in 1874 when Quarry Street got the nod and construction began. The new church, ‘Pyrmont Presbyterians in Ultimo’ was completed in 1883. The manse and the hall were added by 1902.

The church shrank as prospering people left. By 1936 the congregation could no longer support their own minister, so they were placed under the charge of St Luke’s Redfern.

After World War II Dutch immigrants in Sydney needed a Dutch-language Presbyterian church, so the Ultimo property was leased to them. As the newcomers prospered, they too moved away and the church again dwindled. Between 1960 and 1997 the congregation fell to a handful in a retirement village at Graystanes, leaving the premises vacant.

A bequest in 1972 from the estate of the late George Harris for welfare work in the area prompted the University of NSW School of Social Work to research the best use of the fund. As a result the Harris Community Centre began in the old manse, with State and Federal help. Anne MacCallum was the first social worker.

In 1977, after years of negotiations, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches came into Union as ‘The Uniting Church of Australia’. The Presbyterians let each church vote and the Dutch Ultimo church voted unanimously to join. The Harris Community Centre was passed to Uniting Care. Use of the church was given to the MustardSeed Faith Community in 1997.