Discovering Faith
Building Community

Sharing Hope
Celebrating Our Story

The Historical Group is a self-funding body of dedicated parishioners
who meet bi-monthly to promote,  preserve and protect the history
of St. George’s Church and Cemetery.
You can contact us on – History Group



St George’s Church Magill claims the proud distinction of being the first Anglican Church consecrated in the colony of South Australia.

The land on which the Church was built was given by John Finlay Duff, Captain of the Barque Africaine. The foundation stone was laid on the 18th of January 1847 by the wife of Frederick Bayne Esq. of Stradbroke. The original building was completed in one year at a cost of 280 pounds, all from private subscription. Nearby creeks of Magill provided cobblestones to build its walls, and the beams and timbers for its roof are of pit sawn Blue Gum.

On the 30th of January 1848 His Lordship Bishop Augustus Short of Adelaide, consecrated St George’s, solemnly dedicating it for Christian worship before a crowded congregation far in excess of the two hundred and fifty people it was built to hold.

The earliest baptism was of the son of a butcher of Makgill (Magill’s original name) recorded on the 13th of February 1848. The earliest burial was recorded little more than a fortnight after the consecration of the Church. Only seven weeks after his arrival in South Australia, the infant daughter of Bishop Short was buried on the 16th of February. Her name was Caroline Phillippa Augusta Short. She was one year old. Following on were four more burials of children under three years of age.

The first marriage took place on the 21st of February 1849. We have third and fourth generations marrying in “the little country Church in the hamlet of Woodforde, Makgill”

Still calling the devoted to services each Sunday is the original bell inscribed “Pybus, Adelaide, February 9th 1847”. It is the earliest recorded casting of a bronze bell in South Australia.

Download  a 3 fold   brochure about St George’s church as a  PDF  here 



Lych Gate – English

Lych is derived from the late 15th century old English word ‘lich’, meaning corpse. They were meeting places and shelters for the party bringing a corpse for burial, and for the priest to receive the corpse.

Although it is thought that there were some constructions as far back as the 7th century, the 1549 Prayer Book required the priest to meet the corpse at the churchyard entrance.  So the lych gate was traditionally the place where the corpse bearers carried the body of a deceased person on a communal bier (cart) from the village to the church.  The priest would then carry out the first part of a burial ceremony under the shelter of the lych gate roof.  Over time, bench seats were added inside the shelter and this provided comfort for the arrival of the funeral party prior to the service in the church.

Lych gates were usually of made of timber and so were subject to decay. For that reason most lych gates are now modern reconstructions of much older timber styled covered gateways. They are traditionally roofed with wooden, slate or clay tiles, or thatch.

It is thought that the oldest surviving gate in England is the 13th century lych gate at St. George’s Parish Church in Beckenham, Kent.  Renovations had to be carried out on the base timber structure earlier in the 20th century, but the roof is 700 years old.


By comparison, the lych gate at St. George’s Magill is purely decorative. It was given to the Parish by the descendants of Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold, the founder of Penfolds Winery, as a memorial to him.    Dr. Penfold’s father had been a Rector at St. Andrew’s Church, Steyning Village for forty years.  The gate was built of wood, stone and slate and was blessed on 11th April, 1952.  It had been modelled on the one in the Churchyard at Steyning in Sussex, England. Originally, it had entrance gates but as they deteriorated over the years, they were removed and not replaced.

The church entrance prior to 1952

The church entrance 2017


References – National Churches Trust 2017
and St.George’s Church Vestry Records 1952
(PDF version about lych gate available here)




Self Guided Tours of the Cemetery commenced in April 2015 to replace the previous Guided Tours.  Pamphlets for a tour can be found in the holders on the Cemetery Entrance Board, located behind the Church by the main brick pathway.

Come and experience a sampling of the fascinating stories from an original tiny church and its cemetery and discover how it has evolved, its story ever changing into a larger tapestry of Christian living and history.

It has only been possible to include a small number of headstones in the tour, which should take approximately 45 minutes to an hour.  If you have the time, wander around further rows and discover other familiar names, some of which you will see on street signs in the surrounding suburbs.

Subject to availability, and for a small fee, groups using the self-guided pamphlets can arrange to have volunteers available to assist with questions and provide refreshments.

If you would like to do a little bit of investigative work in the Cemetery and would like to try our Observation Questionnaire (copy of the Self Guided Cemetery Tour Brochure would also be needed), then contact one of our members by email at the address listed below.

Enquiries can be directed to – history group,  or telephone the Church Office on 8364 4152. Church office hours are Monday to Thursday between 9.30 am and 2.30 pm.


If you would like a copy of the Historical Group’s booklet “Young Men For The Cause” which was launched on 26th April 2015 to commemorate the Anzac Centenary please email us here or telephone the Church Office on 0883644152






We would be pleased to undertake a search of our records on your behalf. Our marriage, baptism and burial registers date from 1848 to the present day. A search may provide recorded information of the event. In some instances families lived in this area for several generations and we may find information of other family members.

Please download the application form as a pdf file and return the completed copy to us by post at
St George’s Historical Group
43 St Bernards Road, Magill, SA 5072

or as email attachment to

%d bloggers like this: