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Sofala churches

The Sofala Convent opened in 1872 and closed in 1909 as a convent and in 1970 as a church. The building is double brick situated close to the public school.

A post inside Christ Church Sofala has a plaque stating 'This post which formed part of the original Church on this site, was placed there by the Right Reverend Bishop Broughton on November 5, 1851'. Bishop Broughton was the first Church of England Bishop of Australia. The Bishop visited Sofala and determined to build a church there.

The bishop, then 64 years old and lame, held a public meeting at 6am the morning after his arrival at Sofala. He seized a pick-axe and dug a hole in the ground where the north-east corner post was to be. The miners followed suit and before breakfast, all the post holes were ready for the builders. Meanwhile, others had gone into the bush to fell trees and carried the posts back to the building site. After breakfast the Bishop and the miners placed the posts in the ground then set to work on the wall-plates, joints and roof. The Bishop had already arranged a shipment of white canvas, and soon the white canvas church shone in the sun, a total of four days being spent in the erection of the building. The new church measured 64 by 21 feet, the old bishop directing and taking part in the building until its finish.

Temporary seating accommodated more than 200 people while another hundred waited outside for the first service. The prayers were read by Rev. HA Palmer, who was put in charge of the new church. The bishop preached the first sermon. The canvas church had its own communion table and purple cover, chancel rails, font and pulpit. Further attendance disappointed the bishop, but the church remained, ministering to who it could.

Bishop Frederick Barker's wife visited Sofala in 1855. She stayed behind while her husband toured to Wallaby Rocks with two gold commissioners and the rector, making a sketch of some diggers rocking their gold cradle all day long. Three men approached her to compliment the bishop and gave her some gold, not for the bishop, but for herself. There were two or three small nuggets from different places in the area.

'Our service in the evening was well attended by diggers and others to the text Romans VIII 32,' she wrote in her diary.

The oldest headstone still stands in the church: Sacred to the memory of Henry Robinson, who was drowned by the sudden rising of the waters of Oakey Creek on the 18th December 1851, Aged 51 years.



Another headstone is in memory of Robert McDougall, who died 23rd September 1853, aged 37 years.

Information from: https://www.australianpolice.com.au/robert-lovell-mcdougall/

Corporal McDougall met his death in 1853 when returning to Sofala from Wattle Flat, where he had been inspecting gold licences and executing a warrant with another policeman possibly named Johnson.  As McDougall rode along the road over Whalan’s Hill his horse took fright going down a steep incline and he was thrown. It would appear that one of his feet became caught in a stirrup and he was dragged along, inflicting fatal injuries. When his riderless horse returned to town late that night a search was immediately launched and the corporal was found about 2am. He died shortly after being taken home. He left a widow, Mary Ann McDougall and five children, one just born. The young  family was left destitute by his death, so the Assistant Gold commissioner of Bathurst, W Johnson AGC wrote to his superiors:

He has left a wife and five children the youngest being only just born and who by this sudden bereavement are left almost destitute. I would therefore urge whether taking into considerations the good character and efficient service of the deceased a gratuity, or pension may not be bestowed upon his widow.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Wednesday 5 October, 1853, p3,  commented in their account of the incident.

 A magisterial enquiry was held by Mr Commissioner Johnson, when a verdict of accidental death was returned. He was a most efficient officer of the police, and the respect in which he was held by the inhabitants of Sofala was fully testified by the large concourse of all classes and denominations which last Sunday followed his remains to their last resting place. He was in the 27th year of his age, and has left a wife and five children.”



Sofala church records date back to 1861. The first child baptised was Anne, daughter of William and Matilda Quinn of Hargraves on 24th March, 1861. Anne was born 10th January, 1861.

The first death recorded is Caroline Amelia Watson of Sofala, who died 14th April 1861 aged 17, daughter of Frances Nathaniel and Alice Watson. Watson was a carpenter.


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