The story of St. Katherine’s Church begins on the Island of St Helena in the Atlantic ocean, where Anthony Beale was born on 3 November 1790. Anthony became Paymaster for the East India Company which then controlled the island on behalf of the British Crown. On 15 June 1814 he married Katherine Rose Young, niece of the Governor of St. Helena, and together they went on to produce 17 children, all but the last of whom were born on the island before the family migrated to Australia.
It was to the Island of St. Helena that the British exiled Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on 15 June 1815.
In 1836 the British Government took over the administration of the island when the East India Company’s charter expired, and Anthony Beale retired to England on a pension of 500 pounds a year. After three years in England he migrated with his family to the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, travelling via Van Dieman’s Land where his son Onesophorous drowned in the Tamar River. A granite tablet in memory of Onesophorous can be seen in the back wall of St. Katherine’s Church.
His first residence was on a three acre allotment purchased for 250 pounds in the suburb of Newtown (now known as Fitzroy). In 1841 he took a pastoral lease of an extensive area on the Plenty River where he built his cottage which he called St. Helena, and which ultimately gave the district its name.
The family appears to have lived quite happily at St. Helena until the death of Anthony’s wife, Katherine Rose, on 5 August 1856. To her memory Anthony erected in his front garden, this beautiful place of worship which he named “The Rose Chapel”. For some two years after her death he used the chapel for long periods of meditation and prayer, much of which he recorded in his diary, now in the State Library of Victoria. After his death on 4 September 1865 the chapel was willed, with three acres of land to the Church of England. It was consecrated St. Katherine’s in 1876 by Bishop Thornton of Ballarat.