The history of the Church of St. Martin’s Hawksburn began officially on April 20 1883 when a group of Parishioners from Christ Church Anglican Parish, South Yarra, met to consider the building of a ‘chapel of ease’ in Hawksburn. This was to enable those living in this area, especially the poorer working class and domestic staff of the wealthy in Toorak and South Yarra, to easily get to Church without spending too much time walking to and from Church, especially when such staff may be required to be home early to prepare the Sunday Dinner.
The Reverend William Kennedy Brodribb, an Australian originally from Western Victoria and now living in England as a Curate in the large Parish of Brighton, had agreed to come out and take charge of the new Parish. The Parish Church he came from as Curate was St. Martin’s Hove, near Brighton, so perhaps this is the reason why this church at Hawksburn was called St. Martin’s.
St. Martin of Tours (C. 316—397AD) was one of the major figures in 4th Century Christianity. He became a Christian in mid-life after a vision of Christ came to him at night to commend him when he had sacrificially helped a poor and freezing beggar earlier that day. He sought a life of prayer and began what was to become an influential Monastery at Ligugé in Gaul (France). As a result he became the founder of the great Monastic tradition in Western Europe. Later Martin was popularly acclaimed Bishop of Tours in 371AD. He was to have an immense influence on the growth and mission and scholarship of the Churches throughout the British Isles, France, Spain and Italy. He died in 397AD and his feast day is November 11 He was beatified for his zeal in sharing God’s love and truth with others in a compassionate, inclusive way and for his deep monastic spirituality and for his care and compassion to the poor and outcast.
In April/May 1882 the land where the Church now stands was bought and work commenced on the lovely brick Sanctuary and Chancel area. The original architect was Edmund George Ovey. During construction worship services were held in the Forresters’ Hall on the corner of Chapel and Wilson Streets and continued there from July to December 1883 until the first stage of the Church was completed.
On 14 December 1883 the Church of St. Martin’s Hawksburn was opened for divine services with the Foundation Stone being laid by Sir William Clarke, Governor of Victoria. At this stage the Church comprised the current Sanctuary and Chancel with the Chancel Arch being boarded up.
In 1884 a temporary wooden Nave was added and the beautiful main east window was installed. The Cartoons for the windows were drawn by Mr Chester Earls and the windows were made in England by Messrs Brooks, Robinson & Co. In November 1886 the present brick Nave was completed including the Schoolroom below the west end of the Church.
During 1886 the present Pipe Organ was made and purchased from Messrs. Fincham Brothers. It is a two manual pipe organ and was the first organ built in Australia with tubular pneumatic action.
The Rear / Lady Chapel
In 1911 the West End of the Church was curtained off as a Chapel and dedicated. It was used as a Lady Chapel until 2001. In December 1925 the wooden panelling on the rear wall in the Lady Chapel was dedicated, and in 1940 the Wooden Memorial Screen between the Chapel and Nave was built and dedicated. In 1976 the aumbry was installed. With the development of the new office facilities in 2004, the chancel area of the church was configured so that services which had previously happened in the Lady Chapel could happen there. The aumbry was refitted into the north wall of the Sanctuary at the High Altar.
In 1913 the beautiful High Altar Reredos was carved by the famous German—Australian woodcarver, Robert Prenzel.
In March 1921 the Church was finally fully paid, and was subsequently consecrated on September 4 1921 by Bishop Arthur Vincent Green, one time priest-in-charge of the Parish.
In July 1922 the Tower and its Tubular Bells and the attached Vestry were dedicated, and in 1943 the Narthex Screen between the Nave and Narthex was constructed and dedicated.
In 1945 the two beautiful Napier Wailer windows of St. Alfred and St. Edward the Confessor were installed on to the South Side of the Nave.
In 1952 the brick choir room on the south east corner of the Church was added.
In 1970 St. Martin’s Church was given a Classification “D” by the National Trust.
In 1988, the major interior alterations to install the Nave Altar and its platform were dedicated by the Rt Reverend Dr John Wilson. All have agreed that this is a splendid and aesthetically pleasing redevelopment of the nave/chancel area for modern styles of worship.
In 1988 a major crypt renovation occurred and the stairwell into the south west porch was completed. In 1993, the St. Martin’s and St. Alban’s windows, designed and made by Janusz Kuzbicki, were installed in the south wall of the Nave.
In 1994 the Pipe Organ was completely and beautifully restored and slightly enlarged. The restoration was carried out by Australian Pipe Organs.
In June 2000 the three clerestory windows above the Walsingham Chapel depicting St Gabriel, the Holy Spirit and St Raphael were installed. These were designed and made by Glen Mack.
In October 2005 the Bell Tower Porch was fitted out as a place to display the various plaques and other memorials whose original places were no longer in situ. It was renamed and dedicated as the Memorial Porch in November of that year.
The area now known as the Walsingham Chapel was originally the Baptistry, and then later was also adapted into a children’s corner. Finally in the 1960’s it was turned into a small prayer chapel, dedicated to our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham being a site in Norfolk, England, where there was an appearance of Mary. In 1981 the St. Martin’s Memorial Garden and the new wrought iron glass doors into the Garden from the prayer chapel of Our Lady of Walsingham were dedicated. Today it is used for morning prayer three mornings a week.
The land for the Vicarage was purchased by the first Vicar, William Kennedy Brodribb, in 1883, and he built the Vicarage with his own financial resources. When he returned to England in 1889 the parish was unable to afford to purchase the Vicarage, and it was sold to the Were family. A house further down Cromwell Road was rented as the Vicarage for the next 16 years. In 1915 Martinhurst, as it was known, was offered to the Parish for purchase and became the Vicarage once more.