St James Church (Before the Fire)

St James Church in North Rd, Brighton dates back to 1892 and was destroyed in a suspected arson attack in March 2015. The fire gutted the historical and beautiful church, destroying its roof and everything inside, including mosaics, stained glass windows, the altar, organ, and pews. The flames licked the belltower and smoke billowed across Melbourne.

The building was heritage listed as of state significance in 1984.

The photos below were taken in 2011 before the fire.

Photos © 2011 Matthew Price: Transformation by Design

From the Victorian Heritage Database

The St James Church Complex stands on a site which has great importance in the early history of Catholicism in Victoria as the place where the mission to Brighton was established circa 1854. The mission covered a vast territory extending from Gippsland in one direction to Mornington Peninsula in the other.

It is a fine complex of Roman Catholic church, rectory and church close, mostly dating from the last century but with additions made in 1908 and in the 1920s. The church was built in two stages. The nave was built in 1891 to the design of the architect Edgar J Henderson followed by the transepts and chancel in 1924, designed by Schreiber and Jorgensen. The nave is of interest for its facade, with traceried window, comparable to Henderson's earlier design for St Mary's Cathedral, Sale and the large sexfoil clerestory windows.

Also of architectural importance is the unusually elaborate 1934 decoration of the chancel with Roman mosaic flooring, opus sectile tiling and marble altars and rails. The pipe organ by Alfred Fuller of Kew, placed centrally in the rear gallery, is a rare example of his work.

[Source: Report to the Minister]

St James Church, Gardenvale, built in two stages in 1891 and 1924, stands on a site which has importance in the early history of Catholicism in Victoria as the place where the mission to Brighton was established circa 1854. (Criterion a.4)

The church is of architectural importance for the unusually elaborate 1934 decoration of the chancel with Roman mosaic flooring, opus sectile tiling and marble altars and rails. (Criterion f.1)

The pipe organ, placed centrally in the rear gallery, is a rare example of the work of Alfred Fuller of Kew. (Criterion b.2)

[Source: Melbourne Backlog Study. Prepared for the Australian Heritage]