Free Church of England in Victoria

From Ada Ackerly:-

The Free Church of England & Ireland was an independent group.  At one time there were several such churches with lay preachers registered as ministers of religion, and able to perform marriages. Eventually there was only one... that at More St Fitzroy, under Rev Nathaniel Kinsman, who over the years, performed in excess of 10,000 marriages.

He advertised that he could supply witnesses and a ring.  He appeared to ask few questions.  In the 1850s and 1860s, many Roman Catholic and Protestant nuptials were performed there.  Widows and widowers with children declared themselves bachelors and spinsters with no offspring.

Nathaniel Kinsman made his living as an auctioneer and commission agent.  He would take off his apron, pass through into his parlour, perform the ceremony, farewell the couple, return to his shop and resume his work.

According to the Anglican Parish of Collingwood History:-

The first Anglican Church Building in Collingwood was erected in 1855 when it was still part of the Parish of St Mark's Fitzroy. It was a small stone school classroom known as Christ Church Hall "near the Collingwood baths".  This was on the corner of present day Nicholson St and Marine Parade.  The foundation stone was laid on 3rd November 1855,and a schoolmaster was appointed.

Presumably the first classes were held in a temporary building because it had been operating as a non-vested Denominational School from September 1855. In 1858 its average attendance was 101 pupils. In 1863 it became common school No 5 and lasted until 1882.  Because it was a denominational school, it did not receive Government funding. This meant that it could also be used for religious services. The first such service was held on the 27th June 1858 by a clergyman.  In the main though, the services were conducted by a layman.

Between 1858 and 1862 services were held in the schoolroom "near the Collingwood baths".  These were conducted by a layman, Nathaniel Kinsman, who was a Fitzroy second-hand furniture dealer.  When the Church of England decided to appoint an ordained minister to East Collingwood in 1862, Kinsman and his congregation objected to the appointment.  They seceded and erected this church nearby.  According to census reports there were 111 members of this new congregation in 1871 and about half that number ten years later.

Kinsman's church became part of a denomination known as the Victorian Free Church of England and Ireland or The Episcopal Free Church.  This depiction of it is a detail from a photograph taken in 1887. 

This church lasted for 20 years until 1907.  In 1895 it was known locally as the Victorian Free Church and in 1902 as the Victorian Free Church Mission Hall. it was probably demolished soon after 1912 and is now replaced by houses.

  3. Ada Ackerly, email 29 Nov 2011