Stroud’s built heritage - a new ideal, a national treasure
When the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) was established in London in 1824. as a chartered company to raise fine wool in New South Wales, it was a first venture into corporate agriculture in Australia. The company is the oldest in Australia still trading under its original name.
Stroud, founded by AACo in 1826, is unique in being the oldest and best preserved surviving company town in Australia. and it was one of the first rural towns classified by the National Trust in 1976; planned bythe AACo, many of its original cottages and Stroud House survive and are in good condition. They date from the first 50 years of European settlement.
The company’s activities were social as well as economic. The St. John's Group of buildings together with the AACo headquarters and domestic buildings, represented a deliberate policy by the conventions of the time to promote religion, education and a balanced society. The plan was part of a grand design by the free enterprise AACo, which in part had been formed in counter to the convict origins of the Colony of NSW. Stroud's town plan pre-dates the founding of Melbourne.
The AACo laid out and designed Stroud in the English Georgian rural village tradition. It demonstrates the ideal of an early nineteenth century township with church, school and parsonage at its centre, a grand house (for the superintendent of the AACo), cottages dotted here and there together with a town common. Stroud has some of Australia’s oldest European heritage. It is a unique urban landscape that has not been contextually diluted in the way of Sydney. It is unique in that all have survived.
The St John the Evangelist Church, Parsonage, Parish Hall and Quambi form the highly significant group in the heart of this unique townscape. Historically, the group is significant for its links to AACo while the role of Quambi and the Parish Hall, as a school provide links to early education systems in New South Wales.
Inside the church:
The Church has been assessed as "perhaps the finest and certainly the most intact Anglican Church in Australia which pre-dates the influence of ecclesiology, It is comparable to anything of this scale surviving in England. Historic importance and architectural quality make it of outstanding importance.” -- Clive Lucas OBE, heritage architect.
Together, the buildings form an aesthetically significant Colonial Georgian group, virtually unaltered since construction. Socially, the three church buildings continue to remain a focus of religious and community life in Stroud; Quambi, now a museum, remains a place of education. Thus all fill their original roles. “Not to be found anywhere else in Australia” -- Damaris Bairstow, historian.
Today, these nationally important buildings at the heart of Stroud village are valued by architects, historians and townspeople. They form a precinct that is of utmost importance in Australian history. By attracting tourists they bring economic benefit to the surrounding region. Down the years they have relied on the slender and often inadequate resources of the village community for their upkeep. The Stroud Trust has come into being to bring certainty to their future.
In its endorsement, Regional Development Australia - Hunter has written that it “supports and recognises the importance of the SHCTrust as part of our region. The broad public benefits the SHCTrust provides, both social and economic, and the unique significance of what it seeks to preserve is important to the Hunter.”
St. John's church
Interior showing steps to Musicians gallery
Interior showing two balancing pulpits