Shady Grove Unitarian Church Cemetery


Data and Photos gathered and compiled by Faithe Jones


History of Shady Grove Unitarian Church

John Monks, his brother in law Francis Duffield and sister Alice Duffield, wife of Francis, arrived in South Australia in 1839.  They had come from Lancashire, England, where they were members of Unitarian congregations.  Francis had been a home missionary in the Salford Church.  John, who was from the Croft Unitarian congregation and whose wife had died a short time earlier, vowed that if God prospered him in the new country to which they were sailing, he would build a church.

In 1845 John took up land in the Mount Barker district between Balhannah and Littlehampton.  He named his property Shady Grove Farm, and Francis and Alice, who came to the district several years later, called their property, which adjoined John's, Cobden Grange after the British champion of Free Trade, Richard Cobden,  MP.

 By about 1856 they had set about building a school on the Shady Grove property.  John had married Priscilla Appleton on 29 May 1850 and their first child was born the following year.  Around 1856 a tutor from England was engaged to teach the children of the two families, now of school age, and others of the district.  The schoolhouse was completed on 4 October 1858, and was henceforth used for Unitarian Church services on Sundays, with Francis Duffield as leader.

When a government school was built in Balhannah the little school was no longer needed, so it was decided to officially open the Shady Grove building as The Shady Grove Unitarian Church.  The Rev. J. Crawford Woods, from the Adelaide Unitarian Church, officiated at the opening ceremony which took place on 24 Dec 1865.  Shady Grove then officially became the second Unitarian Meeting House in the colony of South Australia, although at the opening service Mr. Woods stated that in pleasantly calling Shady Grove the 'Mother Church' he did so from learning that Mr. Francis Duffield had held services for his own family and that of Mr. John Monks, his brother-in-law, and other neighbors at first in his own house (from the early 1850s) and afterwards in the school house (from 1858).

From 1865 to 1881 Francis Duffield was the official lay leader of the Shady Grove congregation.  Services were held at 2.30 p.m. each Sunday until 1877 when they were held each fortnight at Mount Barker.  Shady Grove services were altered to 10.30 a.m. on those days.  Around this time many of Francis Duffield's addresses were published and circulated in the Mount Barker district as another means of attracting followers.

The Shady Grove congregation consisted of three families - Monks, Duffield and Crompton (Mary Duffield had married John Crompton, a farmer from the area), with occasional visits from neighbors - in all 20 to 25 people.  Settlement in the area did not greatly expand, so in Francis' opinion there was little chance to gain additional attendance at weekly services unless arrangements for lectures were made and well publicized beforehand.

In 1877 the Trust Deeds were completed and John Monks transferred ownership of the building, land and cemetery to the Church.

A brief report in 1880 was Francis' last.  In 1881 he moved to Clare to live with his daughter and son-in-law Fred. W. Smith.  The responsibility for continuing Unitarian services fell to the Rev. Frederick C. Smith of Mount Barker, who was Fred W. Smith's father.  He conducted regular services at Shady Grove and Mount Barker for the next 25 years.

Today the church stands much the same as it did when it was originally built, except that stucco has been placed over the stonework and a new iron roof replaces the original.  The church is now classified by the National Trust as a building of historical interest.

October 2008 will mark the 150th anniversary of Unitarian services in the former Shady Grove Schoolhouse.


These pages were produced by P.Applebee for Faithe Jones ©2008