Since doors opened on the 10th of October 1886 at our first church in a semi-rural Glenferrie Road, Malvern Presbyterian has been a congregation that has sought to glorify God and to enjoy Him. It is our prayer that the good news of Jesus Christ be proclaimed by our speech and deeds as much as in our hearts, minds and praise. But especially in our welcome.
Below is a short history of God's people in this place over the last 130 years.
As the Latin motto of the Presbyterian Church says "nec tamen consumebatur" - "and yet it was not consumed". From Exodus 3:2, where Moses hears God's commands from a burning bush which glowed and burned with intensity, but remained and was not burned up. This symbol speaks to us even today of the Spirit of God and His enlivening of the church down through the years - and neither yet was it consumed.
Present day congregation.
After nearly 130 years of Christian witness, Malvern has seen great changes. From a semi-rural booming new suburb, to an old established inner-eastern hub of education, healthcare, fashion, shopping and cafes, our congregation has changed too.
Our approach is to maintain the simplicity and dignity of Presbyterian worship with the Word of God as central, and continuing the rich musical tradition of our congregation to sing out God's praise. We are a diverse collection of ages and backgrounds, and we love sharing a cup of tea, coffee or meal together as part of our fellowship.
Early days in Melbourne
As the gold rush of the 1850s and 60s brought great wealth to Melbourne, the burgeoning city spread north and east. The higher land to the east was prized and Malvern, set on an elevated plateau was known as good land for horse breeding. Grand mansions were built on large estates from Toorak to Caulfield and in 1853, John Gardiner built the Malvern Hotel (Glenferrie & Malvern Rds), ultimatley giving the name to the district. When the new Gippsland Railway was extended from South Yarra in 1879, houses and shops sprang up closer to the station bringing commercial activity to the Wattletree Road end of Glenferrie. Large grounds were subdivided into smaller house plots and the population grew in number and diversity.
Local Presbyterians petitioned the Presbytery of Melbourne to start the church at Toorak in 1874, their closest church being South Yarra, but by around 1883-4, Presbyterians were holding open-air worship near what is now called Grace Street in Malvern. The Toorak Presbyterian Church donated £100 to help purchase land for a new Malvern church, with their Elders acting as an interim Kirk Session, their members forming a large part of the founding families for Malvern. In 1886, the same year as the Malvern Town hall was built, a wooden structure was constructed for the new church in Glenferrie Road opposite what is now the Post Office (although the PO did not open until 1892).
Rapid subdivision of the surrounding area resulted in burgeoning numbers for the church and within 20 years larger accommodation was sought. In 1904, land was purchased in Wattletree Road and a celebrated Presbyterian architect - Robert Hadden, who lived in Caulfield, was commissioned to design a new structure.
While basically gothic in form, it shows English Arts & Crafts, and Flemish brickwork influence. Hadden is also noted for his sympathy and knowledge of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Glasgow, and his love of forms from nature. The interior shows a restrained use of vines and scotch thistles. Thistles and a St Andrew's cross feature at the apex of the main gable, with a wrought iron thistle lightening rod above. Most of the interior fittings were designed by Hadden.
Long time Elder and Secretary of the church, benefactor, Shire Councillor, Mayor and businessman Charles DuPlan LLoyd laid the foundation stone, while the wooden structure in Glenferrie Rd was moved to the rear site (facing Pine Grove), to be used as a hall.
Church services took place in the Malvern town hall during construction which was complete and opened for its first Sabbath day services on the 29th of July 1906. The new church sat 520 people and cost £4738 (about $650,000 in today's money) - raised from the congregation.
To see a copy of the Dedication Order of Service from 1906 - click here
The building also included a fine George Fincham organ to complement the musical tradition that had grown with the congregation and both choir and soloist singers have continued this tradition until the present.
In 1907, the membership roll was 368 people, by 1927, this had grown to 680.
In 1910, the No.5 Tram was extended along Wattletree Road and the former Royal Melbourne Golf Club site at Central Park was now almost entirely subdivided into houses.
The First and Second World Wars took their toll on the families of the congregation with most young men serving and an honour roll of the fallen numbering 38 men from the first war and 11 from the second world war. A large memorial of Buchan marble was erected to commemorate the sons who were lost and we still read out each name on remembrance day. It is a sobering thought to think of these men as once being boys in the Sunday school.
After the Second World War, the suburb changed and many families moved to the newer suburbs of Melbourne and beyond.
In 1984 the Chinese Presbyterian Congregation from Little Bourke Street in the city relocated to Malvern and have contributed significantly to the health and vitality of the church ever since.
A major refurbishment of the buildings took place in 2007 adding space, modernising the kitchen areas and creating an air-conditioned modern hall linking the church with the adjoining church house.
Our hope for years to come
It is our fervent prayer that this church will continue to nourish people in the word of God and raise up children of Chirst's Kingdom.