Built in 1886, this church is today a captivating four-bedroom, two-bathroom Glenside residence, being sold by its custodians Jonathan Lewis and Treena Engel.
When Jonathan and Treena purchased the property in 2010, it had been out of commission as a church for five years.
The Knoxville Congregational Church’s roots go back to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, when it was built in a shape reminiscent of her crown to mark the celebration.
Residents of the area at the time referred to the church as “The Pepperbox” due to its shape. This nickname promptly caught on, with the local courthouse being named “Pepperbox Court” and after its removal, the road that replaced it inherited the name.
The first female minister to be ordained in Australia, Winnifred Kiek, was a pastor of the church between 1938 and 1946 and is well-known for championing gender equality and helping pioneer the women’s movement in South Australia.
In 2005, the congregational church gifted the building to the Baptist church, where it went unused for five years prior to being sold to Jonathan and Treena.
“A friend of ours told us about [the property] one night at their place and that same night we made a booking to go and see it,” Treena says. “As soon as we saw it, we loved it; we put an offer in that Sunday.”
With the help of architect David Brown, the couple set about transforming the church into a private residence while lovingly maintaining the historical elements of the building and staying true to its structure.
“It needed complete replumbing and rewiring, and all the rendering taken off of the outside,” Jonathan says.
“It needed painting and about 13,000 bricks as pavers in addition to a completely new garden.”
In 2013, the couple won an award from the Burnside Council for the restoration and conservation of the property and held an open day for previous members of the church and Sunday school to visit.
“The old congregation was pleased that we hadn’t changed anything majorly inside and had kept it to the original structure, shape and doors,” Treena says.
On that day, Winnifred Keik’s daughter, who was 99 years old at the time, also visited the home and even took some plants from the garden.
“We had many people drop off photographs from their grandparent’s weddings and we got videos from the 1930s to 1960s of church outings,” Jonathan says.
“The old church warden used to pop by for coffee all the time and was always curious to see what we were doing with the place,” Treena adds.
Happily, the home lends itself to entertaining, with a large open plan living area and separate courtyards.
“We have had cocktail parties and big parties out on the front lawn and smaller intimate gatherings in the back courtyard,” Treena says.
The garden has been manicured to perfection and planted with white flowers for a simple, classical ambience.
The living space, with six-metre tall ceilings and polished timber floors, is perfect for hosting large groups within the home.
The flexible open plan living and dining area is complemented by a JAG kitchen with ample cabinetry, Essa stone benchtops and a Miele dishwasher.
“It is great when you’re cooking because you see over the whole area and it is just a great gathering place,” Jonathan says.
Leading off from the main living space are five rooms, which can be purposed to suit the custodian’s needs, in addition to two en suites and a powder room.
Even with the modern renovations transforming the church into a home, original elements have been retained to pay homage to the building’s heritage.
All the doors within the home are from its days as a church, and three stained-glass windows overlook the main living space.
The church’s original signage remains above the archway to the kitchen, beneath which a stage was once positioned during services.
Jonathan and Treena are now selling the home to travel Australia in their retirement, and hope for a new family to take over looking after the historic building.
“We have simply been custodians of [the church] for the 13 years that we have been here,” Jonathan says.
“We are so proud of its history.”
The sale is being handled by Bronte Manuel and Jessica Crane of TOOP+TOOP.