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St James Cathedral

  • 600887
  • 36 Cleveland Terrace, Townsville


Also known as
St Jame's Cathedral; St James Anglican Cathedral
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Cathedral
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
8.2 Creating social and cultural institutions: Cultural activities
Blacket Bros/Blacket & Son
MacMahon & Cliffe
Construction period
1887–1960, St James Cathedral (1887 - 1960)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


36 Cleveland Terrace, Townsville
Townsville City Council
-19.2555285, 146.81670893


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

St James Cathedral, erected in two stages 1887-92 and 1959-60, is important in demonstrating the pattern of establishment and growth of the Anglican Church in North Queensland in the late 19th century.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

It is important in exhibiting a range of aesthetic characteristics valued by the Townsville community in general, and by the Townsville Anglican congregation in particular, namely the contribution of the building, in its scale, form and materials, to the Townsville landscape; its value as a major Townsville landmark; and the quality and craftsmanship of its interior and furnishings.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

It has had a strong and special association as a centre of Anglican worship and community life in Townsville for over a century, and as part of an historic church grouping which includes Synod Hall (1888) [600888].

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

It has a special association with the work of 19th century Sydney architect Arthur Blacket and with 20th century Melbourne architect Louis Williams, and their contributions to ecclesiastical architecture in Australia.


St James Cathedral was erected in two stages, 1887-1892 and 1959-60, for the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland. The first church on this site was a shingle-roofed, weatherboard building erected in 1871, and prior to its construction, Anglican services in Townsville were conducted at the court house.

When Townsville was established in the mid-1860s, its Anglican parishioners were part of the diocese of New South Wales. In 1878 the diocese of North Queensland was created, with the new bishop, George Henry Stanton, based at St James' Church in Townsville. Stanton initiated the cathedral project, and in 1885 architect Arthur Blacket of Blacket Brothers, Sydney - sons of Edmund Blacket, the New South Wales colonial architect - was commissioned to design a cathedral church, to be erected on the hill behind St James Church. The original design was for a church built in stone, with a low wide central tower which would act as a ventilation shaft, and a single tower at the northern door. It was to cost £24,000, but would be built in sections.

The first sod was turned on 27 June 1887, and the building was erected by Townsville contractors MacMahon & Cliffe. Subsequent financial constraints forced changes to the design, and the cathedral was constructed in brick, with concrete facings, a temporary roof and no towers.

Following protracted dispute between the Sydney architect and the church building committee, Arthur Blacket's services were dispensed with in 1890, prior to completion of the building. Complete supervision of the final stages of construction was entrusted to Townsville architect Walter Morris Eyre, who had been acting as supervising architect since the commencement of building. This first stage of the cathedral was consecrated on 27 October 1892.

The original cathedral organ was donated to the cathedral parish by SE Holland in 1884, and installed in St James Church in 1885. In 1892 it was moved to the cathedral. Between 1900 and 1902 a second organ was purchased from North Ward, and the two were coupled together until rebuilt as one instrument in 1958.

In 1903 cyclone Leonta demolished the 1871 St James Church, and the roof of the cathedral. The latter was rebuilt with higher walls and a permanent roof.

The second stage of the cathedral, the 1959-60 western extension and tower, was designed in 1955 by Melbourne architect Louis Williams, with Townsville architects Black and Paulsen responsible for its execution. The statue of St James was sculptured by German-born Brisbane sculptor, Erwin Guth.

The main western facade together with the statue of St James, part of the roof and a section of the eastern wall were severely damaged by cyclone Althea in 1972, and restored in the same year. The completed cathedral was consecrated in 1978. It also serves as a concert hall in the wider Townsville community.

The deanery adjacent to the cathedral was erected in 1959-60, replacing an earlier structure. It does not form part of this listing.


St James Anglican Cathedral, constructed in English Bond red brick with dressed sandstone trim, is located on a terraced site on Melton Hill between the Townsville central business district and Cleveland bay.

The Gothic Revival building was built in two stages, both of which are quite obvious, both in materials and design. The main roof is clad with slate and has a small spire over the nave and transept junction. The lower roof to the side aisles and ambulatory has ribbed metal cladding.

The chancel is surrounded by an ambulatory which contains the vestry and a Seaman's Chapel. The north transept has a large organ loft inserted and the roof features exposed trusses with a diagonally boarded ceiling. Cast iron columns with clerestory above separate the side aisles from the nave. The clerestory of the original section of the building contains stained glass windows.

The 1959 addition appears to be a Modernist interpretation of what was originally intended. It has amber glass hopper windows with external concrete screens to the nave. The west entry consists of a large recessed pointed arch with undistinguished mosaic artwork to both the interior and exterior. The floors are of concrete and the building features carved timber pews, reredos screen and pulpit. A large statue of St James is attached to a bell tower on the northern side of the entrance.

A 1950s Deanery is located to the northern side of the building, above an excavated stone embankment and facing Cleveland Terrace. This building is outside the listing boundary.

A single-storeyed timber Synod Hall [600888], on a separate site, is located to the east of the building beyond a large bitumen carpark.

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Location of St James Cathedral within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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