The little church on the hill

For years and years I’ve driven past this little tiny church perched up on the top of a hill and always wanted to visit. With a cemetery spilling down the hill behind the church you could just imagine the stories that were held within the church and the graveyard itself.

As with many churches, this one comes with it’s own special history. In 1838 William Lawson called for tenders to build the church and it was subsequently built by James Atkinson, opening in 1841. St Bartholomew’s Church was the first church to open in Prospect.

Some of you may think that the name William Lawson sounds familiar and you would be right …… Back in 1813, William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, along with their servants, horses and dogs, set off on an exploration which would ultimately create history. These three explorers would undertake the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains by European settlers.

Many fellow Sydney-siders would know that all three now have towns named after them. William Lawson lived very close to the site of St Bartholomew’s church, his home which he named Veteran Hill was located at what is now the Prospect reservoir.

William Lawson passed away in 1850 and is buried in the St Bartholomew’s Church graveyard. The family vault (along with numerous other graves) has been restored with help from Blacktown City Council and the hard working people of The Friends of St Bartholomew’s.

The first burial to occur at St Bartholomew’s Church was in 1841, for Ann Goodin, aged 15. Her grave still stands today.

One of the great things about exploring this cemetery is that you can read about the people buried here, which gives you an insight and connection into their lives.

In 1967 the church was closed due to continuing vandalism, decay and a declining congregation. The last church service was held on Christmas Eve 1967.

By 1891, 360 burials had been recorded. Although the sale of burial plots ceased many years ago, burials can still occur on the site in previously purchased plots.

For over 30 years the church and cemetery stood on top of the hill overlooking the highway, slowly deteriorating. In 1989 part of the church was destroyed by fire, including the roof the 1850’s organ.

This important historical site is now owned by Blacktown City Council and they have, over the years, undertaken extensive restoration work, which is very important to keep the history alive.

The Friends of St Bartholomew’s group, who consist of an amazing group of volunteers, also assist the council to protect and conserve the integrity of the church and cemetery. Not only do they undertake restoration work, but they run tours, Ghost Tours and open days to help raise much needed funds.

This church and cemetery is one of the most historic sites in the Blacktown area and one of a few visible reminders of the former Prospect Village. By continuing the preservation and upkeep of the church and surrounds, it’s helping to keep alive the reminders of the local colonial past and the personalities which helped shape our history. The church is now listed on the State Heritage Register.

We both love learning about the history and stories behind the places we visit, but when we find something like this that is so close to home it is really special. This little church sits on top of a hill, surrounded on both sides by the M4 motorway and the Great Western Highway, thousands of people drive past every single day and wouldn’t have any idea of the history that is contained within.

Reading one of the brochures we thought that this sums up this church perfectly “St Bartholomew’s stands on its hill at Prospect, a quite oasis in the middle of a sea of development. It’s a testament to the pioneering families of the locality and the later individuals and organisations who recognise the importance of preserving this iconic site.

St Bartholomew’s Church & Cemetery is located in Ponds Road, Prospect, NSW.

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