Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

Charles May Yelland

c. 1848-1891


Personal Photo 1

The Reverend Charles Yelland was minister at St Saviour’s Church in Oxford Street from its opening until his death in 1891; he was an untiring worker for the poor and noted as a persuasive speaker, although unostentatious in personality.

The foundation stone of St Saviour’s was laid 18 November 1874 and the church was opened 27 August 1875, following concern within the Church of England that many working-class people in Fitzroy and Collingwood were not attending church. In response to these concerns, mission churches were established to cater for the poorer class who were unable to afford pew rents and collections, nor a suitable standard of dress compared to wealthier parishioners. St Saviour’s was one such mission church, although it would become a parish church in 1880.

Yelland was the first minister. After a childhood spent in Ballarat and Creswick and studies in Tasmania and at Scotch College in Melbourne, his first career was as a teacher under the Denominational system. He had been very religious since childhood and decided on a change of vocation, being ordained a deacon in 1873. At each of the schools where he taught, and in his first parishes, he was highly praised.

Yelland worked through the district street by street and house by house. He urged those who were not attending services to attend their own church, or if they would not do that, to attend St Saviour’s. Attendance quickly rose from 40 people to 300, necessitating extensions (designed by noted architects Terry and Oakden), which were started in late 1878 and opened 8 March 1879. Second stage extensions were carried out in 1882 when a chancel and vestry room were built, with a hall under the chancel. With the draw card of Yelland’s preaching, the church became so popular that there were complaints from other parishes that their members were deserting to attend St Saviour’s. St Philip’s in Hoddle Street seemed particularly put out; there was even a ridiculous squabble regarding which group should have had precedence in a march of Sunday School scholars to the town hall. Apparently initiated by the Rev Caton of St Philip’s, the unseemly disagreement was played out in the pages of The Mercury. Complaints were aired that well-dressed parishioners were going to St Saviour’s to save money, and that it was in the wrong area for a mission church because the surrounding district was home to comfortably-off residents in large houses.

Yelland combined with Dr Singleton in 1879 to establish the Collingwood Relief Fund to assist the poor. Even this was beset by criticism. There were those who maintained there were no poor in Collingwood, others that there were far fewer than described by Yelland, or that the Fund was the subject of spurious claims.

He and his growing family lived very near the church in Cambridge Street, then Derby Street, finally moving to Smith Street where the parish bought a large parsonage in March 1880. As well as preaching, running the parish, and visiting the poor, he was much in demand as a lecturer, talking on such topics as the Eureka Stockade, illustrated with mementoes from his Ballarat childhood. He was also a member of the Field Naturalists Club. His wife Mary was kept busy running the household as well as organising fund-raising bazaars and playing the piano, but was sometimes driven to difficult straits because of his generous alms giving. Yelland was a keen reader and managed to find the money to buy books.

Yelland died young of an abscess on the liver. His worldly possessions were few, mainly his library valued at £271.8.6. Luckily he had taken out a life insurance policy worth £1,000. The books were sold, and a committee managed to raise an additional £1,000 to support his widow and children. Yelland would have been amazed to see what happened to his church in later years. Eventually, with declining Anglican attendances, it became a Russian Orthodox Church; more recently it has been adapted for occupation as a single residence.

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
4 October 1848 Adelaide
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Mary Susan Newman 1869 6 sons and 5 daughters born between 1870 and 1890; ten survived
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
Cambridge Street east side between Victoria Parade and Derby Street Collingwood Not identified
1 Derby Street Collingwood Extant
25 Smith Street Fitzroy Demolished
Work Addresses
Work Street Work City Status of Building
Oxford Street corner Mason Street Collingwood Extant
Church Lodge
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
10 May 1891 Fitzroy MGC

Mission work in Collingwood: life of the late C M Yelland and the history of St Saviour’s Church, Collingwood; Teacher Record No 2699; The ArgusMercury and Weekly Courier; The Australasian; The Australasian SketcherAlexandra and Yea Standard.

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