The Corner Tower of the Former Congregational Church – Corner Mair and Dawson Streets, Ballarat
The former Congregational Church on the corner of Mair and Dawson Streets, Ballarat was constructed between 1881 and 1882 to the designs of architects Charles Douglas Figgis and Henry Richards Caselli. The chancel and vestry were added in 1906 to the design of architects Molloy and Chandler. The Church hall was built in 1862. Designed as a school by architect J. A. Doane, it served the Congregational community as a chapel until the present church was officially opened in 1882. The Ballarat Congregational Church, now part of the Uniting Church of Australia, was sold to the Ballarat Christian Fellowship in 1981.
The design, massing and detail of the former Congregational Church demonstrate creative accomplishment in the history of architecture in Victoria and the church represents an extraordinary example of eclectic Gothic architecture. In particular, the foliated capitals of the internal and external columns, anticipating the Art Nouveau movement, are of major importance.
The former Congregational Church demonstrates outstanding craftsmanship in building construction and decoration through its elaborate and finely detailed corner tower, its richly decorated wheel window above an arcaded portico and its four free standing columns with superb Corinthian style capitals approaching Art Nouveau character supporting reduced hammer beam trusses and a boarded ceiling.
The church is of architectural significance for its association with the prominent Ballarat architects Charles Douglas Figgis and Henry Richards Caselli. Charles Douglas Figgis also designed the Ballarat Presbyterian church, the former Mining Exchange and the Geelong Club. Henry Richards Caselli also designed the East Ballarat fire station and the interior of the Ballarat Town Hall.
The complex has a strong association with the Congregational denomination, first established in England during the seventeenth century with the Puritan movement of dissent from the Church of England. The complex is significant as the centre of the Congregational community in Ballarat since 1862 when the hall (then the school/chapel) was opened for worship. The creative and eclectic style of the Church demonstrates the Congregationalists’ belief in the autonomy of each congregation.