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150-year-old church outside Orange could be yours, but you'll need to tip millions into the plate

April 8, 2023

By Peter Holmes

A lavishly updated 150-year-old former church on Icely Road is slated for auction on May 6.

The home in Emu Swamp, about 8km east of Orange, is set on a 3,300-square-metre block and contains many original features.

Its architectural style is described by the Historic Houses Association of Australia (HHA) as “modest colonial ecclesiastical”.

The foundation stone for the church was laid on October 11, 1871 by Parson William Tom, with 200 people in attendance. It was completed in 1873.

Emu Swamp Church was the first church to serve the Lewis Ponds, Fredericks Valley and Emu Swamp districts.

“The architect, Thomas Rowe (1829 - 1899) was responsible for the architectural plans for Prescott Hall and the Founders Wing at Newington College, Sydney Hospital, and Petersham Town Hall,” said the HHA.

"Rowe was born in Penzance, Cornwall and at 15 he became a draftsman in his father's building business before the family emigrated to Australia in 1848. From 1857 he practiced as an architect in Sydney, Bathurst, Orange, Newcastle and Goulburn.”

The Old Wesleyan/Methodist Church at Emu Swamp operated from 1873 to 1975.

The chapel stone is acid volcanic basalt rock, known as tuff.

“Tuff is a local stone and from a distance resembles yellow-block.” said HHA.

According to the Churches of Australia website: “Although the early days of Methodism in Emu Swamp are sketchy, it would appear that services were being held at least by the 1850s, in private homes or property, until the church was erected.

“Over the years the church building was renovated and altered to meet the needs of the congregation. When the Orange Methodist Circuit celebrated its centenary in 1960, Emu Swamp was the oldest preaching place in the Circuit.”

The listing for 933 Icely Road, Emu Swamp, states that the property “has undergone an architect-designed, award-winning renovation, to complement and utilise the natural surroundings”.

The church building retains many original features.

The custom kitchen includes stone benchtops, an Ilve stove and polished granite splashbacks.

There are four bedrooms, with walk-in robe and ensuite to the main, with French doors leading to a private courtyard; cathedral ceilings; two wood combustion fires; established gardens and stone walls.

Other features include partial underfloor heating, double garage, refurbished bore and circular driveway.

The property also comes with the original 1873 handwritten and wax sealed title deeds, an original Estey organ from the US, bibles, hymn books and prayer books from The Old Church.

Listing agent Ash Brown from One Agency said the price guide was in the $2.7 million to $2.9 million range.

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