Victoria Square site for cathedral blocked by supreme court in symbolic rebuff

St Peter's Cathedral on its present site on Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide.

The present site of St Peter’s Cathedral represents a rebuff to the authority of the Anglican Church in South Australia.

In 1848, governor Frederick Robe granted land in Victoria Square, marked in Colonel William Light’s plan for public use, to the Anglican church to build a cathedral.
The grant was registered in 1851 and from 1849 funds had been coming in to build on the cleared site.

But the legality of the grant of a public reserve began to be questioned. Anglican bishop Augustus Short, supported by his synod, took the matter to the Supreme Court. In 1855, the court confirmed the grant was invalid and the building couldn’t proceed.

In response, Bishop Short bought just over an acre on Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide, in 1862, and, with enough funds reported to the synod in 1868, construction of cathedral began.

Short had William Butterfield design the cathedral, but the communication gap between England and Adelaide led to disagreement. Butterfield's plans were given to Adelaide architect E. John Woods.

Women of the diocese raised £1200 to buy an organ in 1877 and the cathedral’s first part was consecrated in 1878. When Bishop Short retired in 1881, £18,000 received from many donors had been spent. Much of the furnishing was also donated, including stained glass windows, a marble font and an altar.

Work resumed in 1890 during the tenure of Bishop George Kennion. Governor, the Earl of Kintore, laid a foundation stone: 1.5 long tons of Monarto South granite. Woods was again contracted as architect and congregation raised more than £10,000 to start the two towers and the western part of the nave.

Work stopped in 1894 when funds ran out. It resumed with £4000 bequest from Thomas Elder in 1897, £1000 from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and, in 1900, £10,000 from Robert Barr Smith to complete the towers, spires and creation of an apse at the chancel end.

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