The Anglican church of St. Denys, located at the former soldier settlement of Amiens, just to the north of the town of Stanthorpe, has a particular significance in terms of the strong bonds which were formed between Australia and France during and after the First World War.
The survival of the church and the care and reverence it receives, as well as the re-telling of its history almost a century after it was built, are also testament to the strength of these Australian-French bonds.
In 1922, the Church of England and the Soldiers Church of England Help Society assisted financially with the construction of the church, with the Reverend C.D. Gillman, himself a returned soldier, a leading figure in the project. The church was completed in 1923 at a cost of around 330 pounds. But the importance of the church, named St. Denys in honour of the patron saint of France, is enhanced by the provenance of the church’s altar and related furnishings and altar ornaments. It is said that the altar ornaments, including candlesticks, as well as a frontal cloth were gifted by Amiens Cathedral in France, having previously been in use in the small church or chapel at the Australian Military Base at Le Havre, France. As well, the altar itself is said to have been used at Le Havre, with many young soldiers attending services before it and later going into battle. This altar and a credence table came to St. Denys by way of donation from the Ladies Guild, Palmer Green, London, in 1923.
Further research will be needed to verify or document the precise background to these various gifts from France and England as well as the links to the Australian Military Base at Le Havre. However, the community holds these links in high regard and they have become an integral part of the history of St. Denys. As this research unfolds, we will provide further information through this blog.
St. Denys is a much loved church with its local community holding it in very high regard. Evidencing this is the effort made by the church community to preserve the church building, its history, as well as the important links to the Amiens Soldier Settlement and its wartime links to France and England. As a result of the community’s efforts, St. Denys has been listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.
This image shows St. Denys as it appears today.
Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.