A single word falls from my mouth as I walk through one of two identical wooden doors on the lofty brick façade of an old church; ‘wow’. And I’m sure I’m not the first to utter it.
I’m met with a cavernous open space whose towering walls are lined with stunning original church windows comprised of delicate pastel squares of glass, linking the gleaming, luxurious marble floor to the ornate pressed tin ceiling far above. As the three most striking features of the building – walls, floor, roof – they were indeed all that remained of the 1911-built church when owners Guy and Andrea Littlejohn stumbled upon it in 2009, although the marble was installed by the couple, replacing the original wooden floorboards. Everything within has since been lovingly designed and created by the Gold Coast-based pair, for whom this project has been a true labour of love.
Their passion and personality is evident in every detail, from the custom-made pressed aluminum cupboards in the bedrooms and kitchen which match the original tin ceiling, to the portraits of Austrian castles hanging in the kitchen as an homage to Andrea’s homeland and the couple’s time living in Europe. Despite its grandeur and obvious luxury, the building never feels pretentious nor contrived, rather warm and personable – an important accomplishment in such a palatial space.
The church ceased its religious activities around 1970, a detail the Littlejohns discovered during a chance meeting with a Broken Hill local, who told them she was married there in 1969, “just before it closed down”. It had been in private hands from then on, but required considerable work from an engineering perspective once the Littlejohns acquired it as an empty shell. With the structure reinforced and a clever spray insulator-cum-dust sealer applied in the roof, it was time for the interior fun to begin.
A mezzanine level was been added to capitalise on the height of the building and is supported by striking hardwood pillars, which were rescued from a shed outside Canberra where they’d been collecting dust for more than 50 years. This miracle of eBay now supports the entire second level, which houses twin queen bedrooms with their own sophisticated ensuites. The rooms are private with no adjoining walls, rather are divided by a central landing with a sitting area overlooking the main living space below.
Back downstairs, the master bedroom is entered via an arched doorway with austere double wooden doors which lend a scriptural reverence to the warm and opulent suite – a contrast used to great effect throughout the house to convey both luxury and history, with the two themes tastefully understated. The master suite has a lavish ensuite with an enormous spa bathtub taking pride of place in the centre of the room. It’s all rather Roman in its aesthetic, with the marble floor and walls glowing in the light that filters through the stained glass church windows. If ever there was a reason to take a daytime bath, this is it.
In the main living space there’s seating for a crowd on a huge corner couch, an antique dining table positioned centrally between the pillars and beneath a stunning chandelier whose pastel hues tie in with those of the stained glass windows. The kitchen is sprawling and equipped with every modern appliance, plus seemingly acres of bench space including a huge central island-cum-breakfast bar, making the kitchen a social place indeed.
Off the back of the church is a self-contained flat, the ‘Presbytery Stay’, ideal for a couple with one bedroom and a bathroom. It has the original Baltic pine flooring and is set against a background of a century-old stonewall, and has a lovely rear deck overlooking the church grounds. The Presbytery can be rented alone, or the double doors leading to the church can be unlocked for larger groups. Similarly, you can opt to have access to any or all of the three bedrooms in the main church, with the rate sliding accordingly. With the Presbytery open, the Church can accommodate a total of eight people.
On the same compound as the church is the ‘Cottage Stay’, a recently renovated classic Broken Hill miner’s cottage with two bedrooms comprised of either two kings or a king and two singles, plus it’s own bathroom and kitchen. If you’re a small family, or two couples, the cottage is perfect.
With its ability to accommodate such a large number of people teamed with its incredibly unique beauty and luxurious fit-out, it’s little wonder the palatial Outback Church Stay has proven a popular option for bridal parties. What better place to ready oneself for marriage than the very building in which so many had married before? Plus, the pre-wedding photos would be amazing.
As the editor of Travel In I get to stay in some pretty amazing places, but the Outback Church Stay is hands down the most unique accommodation I have ever experienced. A true hidden gem of Outback NSW, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.
Outback Church Stay is located at 125 Patton St, Broken Hill, NSW. Book now to stay at Outback Church Stay.