Em. Professor Alan Atkinson, Historian and Fellow of St
Paul’s College took COSHA members on a tour of this historic college.
St Paul’s College was founded in 1856 in connection with the Anglican church and is
the oldest university college in Australia. St Paul’s is home to nearly 200 men from
various cultural, social, geographic and religious backgrounds. The following is a brief extract from Alan’s extensive history of St Paul’s that will soon
be available on the internet. St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney
is Australia’s oldest university college. It is only a little older than St John’s, the Roman Catholic college at the same university, but it predates by a generation its other rivals at Sydney and at the University of Melbourne, while the bulk of Australian university colleges are foundations of the twentieth century. terms, with its own rare
complexities. St Paul’s survival since the 1850s is due to the fact that it was endowed at the beginning with a valuable site and expensive buildings. Thanks partly to these assets it has continued in the same home and with the same fundamental characteristics St Paul’s College itself was partly modelled, in both its buildings and its administrative structure, on an English foundation, At St Paul’s College the great object beyond (apart from the city of Sydney itself) was the adjoining University, reached across a small creek, or in flood-time via City Road.
According to the original vision, the students were to venture out each morning for lectures and were to return for their midday meal and for college classes in the afternoon. However, that pattern was hard to maintain as the University grew and diversified, and as the College became increasingly unsure of its individual purpose. The founders had very large views. Buoyed by the wealth forthcoming from the Australian gold-rushes, they divided their building timetable into four substantial contracts. By 1859 the gold-rush boom was over and potential donors were suddenly cautious and sceptical. Thus vision remained half-complete.. Hence Blacket’s two-way view, looking to the University tower in one direction and to St Paul’s church in the other was not completed. He had envisaged a network of buildings in which the secular would be caught up in the sacred.
But following World War One there was a fundamental rethinking of the purpose and layout of the University, and of the place of the Church in public life. New and contradictory demands entered into the mix of opinion as to how the College should develop the vision remained half-complete. As a custodian of secular learning, the University began to assert a more complete supremacy among its various constituent parts than it had done in pre-War days. A more coherent (or at least a more determined) vision of its intellectual life implied a similar vision of its buildings and grounds Early in 1946 Arthur Stephenson, senior partner of Stephenson and Turner, and the most distinguished Australian architect of his day, drew up plans for its completion. Stephenson was known world-wide as a designer of institutional buildings, especially hospitals. In appearance and personal style “the very model of double-breasted conservative”, he was nevertheless an ingenious moderniser. His buildings looked dynamic and yet were at ease with older neighbours.. Like Edmund Blacket, Stephenson attended to “the spirit of community life”, including its dependence on good architecture
NOTE: The complete history of St Paul’s will soon be available on the internet on the College website.