The Rise and Demise of
All Saints Anglican Church,
Rosella Rd, Empire Bay
For 95 years, 47 Rosella Road, Empire Bay, was the local Christian centre for Empire Bay. Prior to 1974, there was no Rip Bridge and the nearest churches were at Woy Woy and Kincumber, with the Catholic Church at South Kincumber.
In 1912-13 five men of Protestant faiths, built the Empire Bay Union Church on land donated by the subdivision developer Arthur Rickard & Co. These local men included shipwrights Edward and Gordon Edgar Beattie, Edward Ramsey a farmer, William Cumming a dentist and Alexander Wheatley, the local school teacher. Funds were quickly raised resulting in the central building finished in basic shed form in May 2013.
The Church was to be used for “religious, charitable, educational and philanthropic purposes but no dancing”, as stated in the Empire Bay trust document. To prevent disputes, the Church of England had the first and third Sunday, the Methodists the second Sunday, and the Presbyterians the fourth Sunday. Sunday school was led by Mrs Wheatley (Methodist) and Miss Palmer of Palmers Lane (Church of England).
During 1913, fittings and bench seating were donated, as well as lamps, a water tank and fencing, which was erected to improve the church, plus apparently two organs were donated.
It was a quiet time for the church during WW1, but in 1925 women trustees took over including Miss Alice Palmer, Mrs J Settree (Pres), Mrs Macfadyn and Mrs Laughney with Gordon Beattie.
In the 1930s, as a child, Clarice Beatie whose family were at that time the local dairy farmers. remembered the Church being full of white ants and most side timbers, piers, capping and guttering had to be replaced. Motor launch from Woy Woy was the only means of transport for the Ministers.
WW11 caused another interlude in Church life. The Methodists left.
During the 1960s, devotees Harry Beattie and sister Clarice helped raise funds to build the front foyer, a back kitchen, and a sanitary pan toilet. Another organ was purchased, and Frank Vehyll ran a successful Sunday School.
With the growth of the Kincumber Parish in the 1970s and the completion of the Rip Bridge, making vehicle traffic possible between Woy Woy and Kincumber, regular services were held at the Church.
By 1988, devotee Harry Beattie had passed away, the Presbyterians had left, and the Church was in a sad state, with attendances down to nearly single figures.
In 1989, the Empire Bay Union Church had a new young priest, John Freeman. To increase the congregation, he formed a development group of parishioners including Geoff Melville, whose family were firm church supporters. Clarice Beattie kindly offered another 5 acres of her farm land on Empire Bay Rd (opposite Huntley Close) at Bensville for a “peppercorn” price. John Freeman graciously accepted Clarice Beattie’s kind offer and planned to consolidate the churches from Empire Bay, Kincumber and Saratoga onto this plot. Plans were submitted to Gosford Council to build the combined Anglican Church, with child minding and car parking facilities.
Rev Nelson then enthusiastically took over in 1992 and continued the planning for the combined church. Sometime in the mid 1990s, the Empire Bay Church changed its name from the Union Church to the All Saints Anglican Church.
1996-2000, discussions continued with Gosford Council, but again held up as the plot was zoned Conservation. Finally, with amended plans and many heated arguments with Gosford Council, approval was granted.
Sadly, by 2004, the Anglican Diocese lost its appetite for this idea of a combined church and the plans were dropped and the possible revival of the All Saints Anglican Church at Empire Bay was once again at risk.
Lastly, in 2006, the top end of Rosella Road was closed to vehicles, which sounded the death knell to the little All Saints Anglican Church. Clarice Beattie also passed away after a lifetime of faithful service.
With much anger by the residents, in 2008, the Anglican Diocese closed the Empire Bay All Saints Anglican Church, and sold the Empire Bay property, along with the Bensville 5 acres. The kids club survived a further 10 years at the Empire Bay Progress Association Hall until it, sadly, was closed for lack of assistance.
The Church property at Empire Bay was converted to a wonderful family home. We are grateful the same owners are still maintaining the building as part of Empire Bay history. The external features of the Church are heritage listed and the owners are limited to internal renovations and extensions attached to the back of the property.
by Robert Thompson
Sources: Express Advocate Feb 2008, Kincumber Anglican Parish; Ken Bergin, Andrew & Leah Cole and various past parishioners.