As settlements grew up beside inland rivers after the crossing of the Liverpool Ranges, pioneering clergymen ventured forth to spread the gospel and support their scattered flocks.

The Church of England pioneered the Christian faith in the Gunnedah area with an itinerant minister Reverend Black, serving the small Woolshed community from the early 1850s. The first resident minister was Rev Thomas Head Shaw (1861-1866).

Gunnedah’s first church, a timber slab building, was erected by the Anglican community in 1864, on the corner of Marquis and Little Conadilly Streets. The building was completed just as the devastating floods of 1864 swept through the Namoi Valley and the building provided shelter for residents of the little township made homeless by the surging floodwaters.

English-born Frederick Gough came to Gunnedah in 1872 as the Anglican Vicar. He was born in Somersetshire UK in 1837 and studied for the church at St Aiden’s College, Liverpool. Ordained by the Bishop of Worcester in 1864, he was appointed to St Thomas Church, Coventry, in Warwickshire.

After arriving in Australia, he was appointed by the Bishop of Grafton and Armidale to Gunnedah and Liverpool Plains district. In the late 1870s he resigned his charge after a disagreement with the Bishop and in 1880 bought the property Ruvigne from James Rigney. He sold the property to THH Goodwin in 1890 and with his sons established a coach and buggy factory in Gunnedah, with one son Aubrey, also a photographer with a business in Maitland Street.

The partly demolished former Anglican Church which served as the RSL clubhouse before construction of the new club.

Frederick Gough died at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in May 1894, leaving a wife, five sons and a daughter.

The foundation stone for the new Christ Church Anglican Church was laid by Venerable Archdeacon White and the builder was Thomas Bowen senior. The spire was added later.

The new Anglican Church was dedicated on September 16, 1903, during the ministry of Reverend William Dalton.

During World War 2, RSL sub-branch members conceived the idea of establishing a servicemen’s club, which was opened on a small scale in 1943. In the early 1950s the sub-branch redirected its energies to establishing its own facilities, acquiring land in Marquis Street and using the original Anglican church on the site as the temporary club house until the completion of the RSL Club building in 1955. The historic building was demolished in 1959 to make way for the RSL bowling greens. The RSL Club closed its doors for good in 1999 and the former Anglican church site now serves as the Coles complex shopping centre.

A piece of Anglican history was written in 1976 when Gunnedah’s vicar, Archdeacon Peter Chiswell was elevated to the position of Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale – this was a great honour for the town and diocese as Rev. Chiswell was the first bishop to be chosen from minsters within the diocese.

During his stay in Gunnedah, Bishop Chiswell had progressed from the Rev Chriswell to Canon Chiswell, then to Archdeacon Chiswell and finally Bishop.

Other vicars to serve before Rev Chiswell were TH Shaw, C. Greenaway, T. Nash, TG Marshall, F. Gough, A. Duncan, F. Wetherby, S. Inge, AR Marshall, E. Heffernan, WH Foster, FJ Abe, W. Dalton, BW Miller, AR Peglar, T. May, H. Border, Canon Best, Archdeacon I. Stockdale, Canon RE Kirby and the Rev. KE Brassington.

In a remarkable repeat of Anglican church history, the son of Betty and Peter Chiswell, was elected the new Anglican Bishop of Armidale in 2020, after serving as a minister in the diocese for the previous 25 years.

Rod Chiswell spent his primary school years in Gunnedah when his father Rev. Peter Chiswell was the Vicar of Christ Church Anglican Church.

Born at Bingara, the youngest of three children, he completed his early school years in Gunnedah then went to high school in Armidale. After completing his university degree, he worked as an engineer for five years with Moree Plains Shire Council and it was during this time that he married his wife, Jenni. Searching for the answer to “how can I serve God best with the gifts he has entrusted to me”, Rod Chiswell returned to Sydney to study at Moore Theological College, where he completed a Bachelor of Theology degree.

Today, the Anglican church community is ministered by Rev Simon Waller and his wife Jenny, with assistant Rev. David Piper and his wife Joanne also helping to write the history of the Anglican church in Gunnedah.

The Anglican church community is ministered by Rev Simon Waller and his wife Jenny.

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