Open Houses Melbourne 2013 - Mission to the Seafarers & St Peter the Mariner Chapel

From Damien, Editor Devotion News, Member Collingwood Masonic Centre

Melbourne Open House 2013Open House Melbourne (OHM) is a not-for-profit association that runs an annual event providing the public a free and rare opportunity to discover the hidden wealth of architectural, engineering and historic buildings nestled around the city.

The inaugural OHM 2008 event saw eight buildings open and more than 30,000 visits across the day. Since then, the event has grown in size and popularity. Over the weekend of 27/28 July 2013 107 of Melbourne's most significant and interesting buildings, including Flinders Street Ballroom for the first time, were opened and 126,000 visitors strolled through places you often can’t see. A small proportion of the buildings are accessed via a ballot, but most, you can simply visit.

Of the 107 buildings open, not a single Masonic Centre was included.. The Collingwood Masonic Centre has submitted an application for the building to be included in 2014 and we will keep you posted. Open House Melbourne 2014 will be held on the 26 and 27 July next year..

Mission to the Seafarers
717 Flinders St, Docklands VIC 3008, Australia


The Mission to the Seafarers in Flinders Street is another building which I am sure we have all pasted by.  Its dome is notable and covered what was a gymnasium, hooks still in the ceiling from which punching bags were strung. Today the dome house an art gallery and is also available for hire, as is most of the complex. At the  bar  you will find exchange rates posted - you can pay for your beer with US dollars and many other currencies. The main hall contains a stage and pool tables and the chapel and its stain glass and highly polished brass are very impressive – a hidden gem of Melbourne.

The main building is of the Arts and Crafts style, just as the Collingwood Masonic Centre is. Perhaps those renovating the Centre should inspect the Mission for inspiration ? The annex between the main building and chapel is of the Spanish Mission style – making the building an eclectic mix of architecture.

St Peter the Mariner Chapel

The chapel  is within the Melbourne Seafarers Mission and it filled with impressive stain glass windows and other artifacts. It was so busy on the day, I could not get a clear photo of it..

Below, the pulpit in the shape of a poop deck. In 1909, Assistant Chaplain Rev. Haire presented the Mission with an ‘uncommonly artistic pulpit’ in memory of his mother. The pulpit is a model of a stern and was built in Melbourne of Australian timbers.

Assistant Chaplain Rev. Haire presented the Mission with an ‘uncommonly artistic pulpit’

Chapel Window - On the Seas

The window was created  by Gerry Cummins in 1980, and was commissioned by the Sandringham Yacht Club in conjunction with a Maritime Masonic Lodge. The window highlights a Celtic Cross together with the Square and Compasses associated with Freemasonry. In the background is the S. S. Kanimbla built in Belfast in 1935. It was the last large passenger ship built specifically for Australian owners. At the outbreak of WWII, she was converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser.

S. S. Kanimbla built in Belfast in 1935

Abridged History from Mission to the Seafarers web site

In 1857 the Victorian Seaman’s Mission was founded in Melbourne. In 1906/07 it merged with the organisation that is now known worldwide as the Mission to Seafarers. The Victorian Mission was established on July 1, 1857 and began its work on a ex-prison hulk (The Emily) anchored in Hudson Bay at Williamstown. The hulk was painted with the title “The Bethel Sailors’ Church” but was known as the Bethel Floating Church. The Reverend Kerr Johnston conducted two services each Sunday until 1859 when a boathouse, was acquired at Port Melbourne and was used until 1878.

The first Mission building in Melbourne was at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). By the 1890s most ships were berthing along the Yarra River, and there was a need to establish a branch in the central Melbourne area. A site in Siddeley Street (close to the river) was leased from the Melbourne Harbour Trust, and construction of the first Mission building in central Melbourne commenced in 1907.

The site of the current buildings was allocated to the Mission in 1915. The building complex was designed by Walter Butler and was built in two stages between 1916 and 1919. The funds to build the complex came from fundraising by the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild (established in 1906), and a government grant. The current crown lease expired in 2007 leaving the MTSV with the challenge to propose cause for ownership of the title and the building.

The historical Mission complex is architecturally significant as being a fine urban example of the Arts and Crafts Style in Melbourne. Before coming to Australia, Walter Butler was greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement in his native England. He was a popular society architect in Melbourne, and designed many fine houses in Toorak.

Today the complex consists of the St Peter the Mariner Chapel, an extensive clubroom and administration area, the Chaplain’s house, a small cottage, and the Norla Dome.

Mission to the Seafarers is a building reflecting the same Arts and Crafts style seen at our Collingwood Masonic centre.. Note the light fitting above in a stair well at the Mission  – some inspiration for Gipps St ?