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Little Glory Baptist Church, Smithfield
Nestled in the quiet back street of Smithfield on the corner of Samuel and Mary Streets one will find the Little Glory Baptist Church. This tiny stone built church has stood here for almost 160 years. Built in 1859, to a similar design to that of the Bible Christian Chapel in Virginia and constructed around the same time. The church may have been designed my prominent South Australian Architect and One Tree Hill resident Daniel Garlick.
The church opened on the 12 June 1859, however services were held some years before. Rev Samuel Keen and Rev James Rowe two Methodist missionaries sent to South Australia travelled through the Gawler Plains. The first service was held by Rev Samuel Keen under a tree and in the schoolroom at Smithfield in the evening in 1853. Presbyterian Minister, James Strachan Moir had already made inroads into establishing a local church. At that time one was considered sufficient for the immediate area. John Smith donated land for the Presbyterian Church opened in September, 1855. The church stood in Augusta Square only 500 metres away from the Little Glory. By the 1860’s Smithfield is credited as having two schools, two churches, a hotel, a butcher’s shop, agricultural workshops and a railway station. The first train passed through Smithfield on 1st June 1857.
Bible Christians were a Methodist denomination founded in 1815 in Cornwall. So called, because the early preachers referred to the Bible in all matters. They were keen evangelists and spread God’s word quickly through the Gawler Plains. Within ten years of the new colony they had 1000 members and erected 37 chapels[i]. The churches relied on dedicated lay preachers who were not constrained to one particular church.
The foundation stone was laid by Mrs S. Crittenden and Mrs Long on Monday 7th February 1859 (No stone with text has been found. The foundation stone referred to is probably a plain stone laid to celebrate the beginning of construction). A sermon was preached on the stone by James Rowe. The chapel cost £354 to erect and over £200 of this was borrowed. Rev Samuel Keen sold his goat and contributed the proceeds of £1 to the building fund. Further funds were raised by seat rents, teas and Sunday collections. The building loan took many years to repay.
Families connected with the church in the early days were Crittenden’s, Worden’s, Scott’s, Andrews’ and Frisby’s. The first trustees were Joseph Collins, James Sparshott, William Crittenden, John Worden, James Heaslip, William Long and John Patterson. Initially the congregation was not strong; the church only had one service on Sunday and no Sunday school.
The Williams Andrews Memorial Hall at the rear of the church was opened in 1934. The Andrews family had a strong connection with the church and local community. The suburb, Andrews Farm originated from this family. The new hall served as a Sunday school.
William Andrews senior, a farmer from County Cornwall was born in 1845. On completing his education, he began farming work with his father on the Gawler Plains. After his father died he made a start for himself. William was the local preacher, circuit stewart and Sunday School Superintendent and with his family exerted a strong influence. He had three sons and four daughters. One son William married Ellen Hillier in 1875. They first lived at Clover Glen and then at the Andrews Farm near the corner of Curtis and Stebonheath Roads.
William Andrews senior, died at his residence at Smithfield at the age of 84. He had lived in the district for over 70 years, and was a most respected resident. William junior attended a little Bible Christian Church on Gawler Blocks called Salem. Later he took up church work at Smithfield, where he was superintendent of the Sunday school for 44 years.
The Fatchen family was closely associated with the church. The Fatchen’s were a farming family and most well-known amongst them was Max Fatchen. Max was a journalist and author and a member of the Smithfield Methodist church. Max spoke of the local Methodist churches in an oral history interview conducted in 1985.
We had kerosene lamps in the church which at night gave it a lovely soft light. They would have rows of coppers which various people stoked up to keep the water boiling and carrying in for all those people. We stood to sing the Doxology. “Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, these creatures bless and grant that we may feast in Paradise with thee”. And we children would always sing and “may feast on sausage rolls for tea”. We’d always whip this in! It was a close knit community.
They were all local preachers. You know, Methodist is a preaching religion. The churches were square buildings. They had pulpit but they were fairly plain inside. Singing and preaching was the Methodist thing. Some of the local preachers were very good and very long winded.
The church busily prepared for its Centenary celebrations on April 19th 1959. In the previous months working bees were held to repair the church. Boyd Dawkins was asked to sing as was the Gawler Orpheus Choir with Twelftree as organist. Three services were organised, 11:00 am conducted by Rev Haynes, an afternoon service at 3:00pm conducted by Rev Andrew. Luncheon was held at 1pm in the Smithfield Institute where Len Roberts gave a talk on the early church history during luncheon.
The church saw a need to have a presence at the Smithfield Migrant Hostel, where they set up a Methodist Sunday school. The Smithfield Migrant Hostel was one of several hostels around Adelaide that were set up to accommodate the post WWII new arrivals on a temporary basis. At Smithfield plans were made to convert the former army storage buildings into living quarters for 100 people by the end of January 1949.
The church formed part of the Methodist Gawler circuit. In 1941 Smithfield was transferred to the Gawler West circuit. Gawler West and Gawler circuits amalgamated, again becoming the Gawler circuit. In 1963, the Smithfield church became part of the new Elizabeth circuit.
Declining members forced the church closed sometime in the 1970’s. Ownership of the property was transferred to the Methodist Property Trust in November 1975.
A new beginning
The first service of the Smithfield Plains Baptist Church was held in the music room of the Smithfield Plains High School on 9th April, 1971. The service was arranged by Rev. Les Leskie, Pastor of the Elizabeth Grove Baptist Church. Pastor Leskie gave pastoral oversight until he moved to Western Australia in 1977.
On 3rd July, 1977, the fellowship was constituted as a church with a founding membership of 41. The work continued to strengthen and on 28th April, 1988 the church was purchased from the Methodist Church. They requested that the name “Little Glory” be kept, a request with which the people were happy to comply. Then the church became known as “The Little Glory Baptist Church” with its own constitution being written on 19th November, 1988.
Just prior to that time in August, the church was visited by a team from Texas USA for a series of meetings. This was a great encouragement to the people and in the next month, the work of Dave & Penny Smith amongst the children of the district known as “Happy Time” was amalgamated with the Sunday School, bringing the attendance to around 60. The American visit is commemorated by a framed certificate & the state flag of Texas, both of which are found in the church.
Mission work began providing clothes, furniture and other assistance at minimal cost to the underprivileged people in the district. The Op Shop is open twice weekly for three hours. In November, 1990 the Crèche/Sunday School building was extended, providing better facilities for the children’s’ work.
At the front of the building, an entrance porch was constructed in 1993. Other improvements were made, most notably the garden entrance gate and archway and the addition of a bell which is rung at the beginning of each service. The bell, a donation is from a local locomotive train. By means of a donation a new roof was put on the church in May 1995.
The wooden pews built in 1902 and the communion chairs made in 1952 were purchased from the Elgin Uniting church, Kilkenny in 1996. These furnishings blend perfectly with the architectural style of the building and do much to restore the original style of the chapel. The refurbishment and rearrangement of the interior of the church allowed the centre aisle to be widened to its original dimensions whilst retaining the seating capacity.
The pulpit is from the original church, wooden panels held together by hand forged nails. Marks can still be seen where the silver candle sticks were placed. Directly behind the pulpit a wooden cross has been erected. Originally three were constructed from locally felled trees, placed in front of the church one Easter, 30 years ago. The crosses proved to be popular and one was kept with its woven thorns. The once straight cross has bent over time.
In Easter 2006, the church was fitted with specially designed hand-painted stained glass windows. These replaced the plain clear glass which had graced the windows since its construction. The arch top of each window has a red cross surrounded by facetted clear glass, all appearing on an amber hill. Each of the six window’s centre piece portrays a Biblical symbol;
Holy Bible Jesus as the Word of God
Lion Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Dove and Fire Jesus as the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit
Lamb Jesus as the Lamb of God
Grapes Jesus as the true vine
Bread and Wheat Jesus as the Bread of Heaven
The present pastor of the church, Jeff Barclay has been preaching here for over 20 years. Financially the church has not been able to support a full time paid pastor. The congregation although small are faithful, weekly donations support over 30 Baptist missionaries around the world. Sunday service begins with an adult Bible class, followed by the worship service at 10:30am. The day concludes with a prayer Bible study.
On the 5th April 2013 the Little Glory Baptist church Inc was formed by the amalgamation of New Hope Bible Church Inc and Little Glory Baptist church Inc. As an independent Baptist Church they are not a member of any union or fellowship.
The future of the church is safe hands. May it be a place of worship for many years to come.
[i] The Cornish overseas: a history of Cornwall’s great immigration
Roberts Len (1960) Methodism on the Gawler Plains (Adelaide)
Curnow Edwin A (2015) Bible Christian Methodists in South Australia 1850 – 1900; A biography of chapels and heir people. Uniting Church SA Historical Society