William Wardel

At Serendipity we continue to be inspired by the incredible architecture that can be viewed around the wonderful city of Melbourne. Since Federation the breathtaking buildings which make up the CBD have grown in number, as has the population. Today there are an abundance of striking architectural feats visible around the city, serving as perfect backdrops for wedding day photography. One of Melbourne’s most noted architects was the highly regarded William Wardell. Serendipity are pleased to share with you a new page focusing on some of Wardell’s most famous works: including St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Ignatius in Richmond and the ANZ Gothic Bank.

 William Wardell was born in 1823 in England, it was here he trained as an engineer. Following this he spent several years as a student under the famed Gothic architect Augustus Pugin. the master Pugin became an important mentor to Wardell, it was under his guidance that Wardell began to mix in the artistic and literary circles of 19th century London. Where the emphasis was centered around the philosophies of renowned universities Oxford and Cambridge, who believed that Gothic architecture (as illustrated in the grand medieval cathedrals), was the only style of architecture worthy of God. Inspired, Wardell made the monumental decision to convert to Catholicism, thus adopting this school of though for his personal and working life. It was this firm belief and religious inspiration that became the underpinnings for career long projects– most famously the awe-inspiring St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Wardell was married in 1847 to the love of his life: Lucy Ann Butler. The couple wed at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Moorfields, England, and raised a happy family whilst Wardell simultaneously built a successful career as an church architect throughout England and Scotland. He was highly prolific– designing well over 30 churches in these countries between 1846 and 1858.

Luckily for us, Wardell decided to emigrate in Australia in 1858. Once settled he went on to design many public buildings,as a newly appointed Government architect, working in both Gothic and Classical architectural styles.Most notable in Melbourne were: St Patrick’s Cathedral, Government House and the ANZ Bank. It was this journey and eventual success which is perhaps the best illustrator of Wardell’s preferred motto: “Inveni Quod Quaesivi”( “I have found that which I sought”).


St Patrick’s Cathedral

Situated on the fringe of the city grid, in East Melbourne, St Patrick’s is close enough to the centre to be a powerful presence yet and breathe with a life of its own. Since its design in December 1858 by Wardell, St Patrick’s continues to function as an inspiring and accommodating location for grand and classic ceremonies. Serendipity  love the stunning architecture of the cathedral’s exterior. The impressive combination of features such as the carved blue stone walls, large arched windows and central spires spanning almost 80 metres, add up to an exceptionally elegant backdrop for wedding day photography. As the bridal party make their way across the front grounds, through the wrought iron gates, and under the soft dappled light of the grand trees, the majestic ambi ence of the Cathed ral will be felt even before you are greeted by the interior. The austere façade gives little hint of the glorious interior with its ethereal golden light of mesmerising beauty. And whilst the striking exterior architecture is serves as a perfect backdrop for exquisite wedding day photography, it is not until you enter through the grand front doorway that you truly experience the full affect and aesthetic of this beautiful chapel. Inside the cathedral, details such as the exquisite marble floors, hand painted stained glass windows, and selection of historic chapels, offer an overall feeling of harmony and sacredness during service, and provide an array of picturesque details to heighten wedding day photographs.

St Patrick’s which can hold up to 2000 guests, is a wonderful choice for grand scale weddings. At Serendipity Photography we love the spacious interior of St Patrick’s, whilst atmospheric and regal from the outset, inside the light is natural and ethereal, simply perfection from a photographic perspective. The high ceilings, and the way the afternoon light falls through the stained glass windows, means there is much to marvel at with these historic walls. St. Patrick’s is both a living monument to the faith and generosity of Melbourne Catholics in the boom and bust years of the 19th cen tury, as well as a place of catholic worship, prayer and reflection in today’s busy world. The Cathedral’s proximity to a range of picturesque gardens, gorgeous reception centres and other interesting locations help to make your day truly memorable. 

This Melbourne Cathedral is one of the largest churches to have been commenced anywhere in the world in the 19th century. Construction of a church on the site began in 1850, commissioned by Bishop James Alipius Goold. Unfortunately building was initially delayed due the rise of the Victorian Gold Rush, and it wasn’t until 1858 that Goold laid the foundation stone for a second, larger, church on the site. It was for this project that Goold instructed the newly emigrated Wardell to design a cathedral on the site, and just a month later in December 1858 the new plans were accepted and work commenced.

St Patrick’s Cathedral became Wardell’s life’s work and his most notable commission. The original plans remained unaltered during construction. The nave and its aisles were completed just ten years later, and the building was finally consecrated for use in 1897. Follow the link here for our in depth page on the history of St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Ignatius

St Ignatius follows William Wardell’s French Gothic design. As in St Patrick’s Cathedral, the sanctuary is surrounded by an ambulatory, here with four chapels opening from it. Richmond parish began in 1853, with mass being celebrated at “Erindale”, Mr Joseph L’Estranges house set in a 9 acre paddock. Fr Joseph Madden then built St James at the corner of Bridge Rd and Coppin St on gifted government land. By the mid 60’s Richmond was home for 4000 Catholics — Dr Goold, Melbourne’s Bishop sent off for help, and the by 1866 the 5 Jesuits sent included Fr Dalton, the driving force and visionary for a larger central church. Shortly after Fr Dalton arranged the purchase of a one and half acre site on Richmond Hill for the incredible sum of 2,500 pounds. He set about fundraising for a truly splendid church, and was gifted by William Wardell’s (St Patrick Cathedral) sons a design that would bring about, when it was built, the third largest church in Australia. The foundation stone was laid in 1867, and the body of the church was built by 1870. The grand opening was attended by 1000 people inside and 2000 people outside. St Ignatius follows William Wardell’s French Gothic design. As in St Patrick’s Cathedral, the sanctuary is surrounded by an ambulatory, here with four chapels opening from it. 

Although in the middle of your wedding your will probably not look closely at the beautiful stained glass windows that are responsible for much of the atmosphere at St Ignatius, they are worth appreciating for their details and particular significance as well as their beauty. Inside and out this majestic cathedral is perfect as a backdrop for exquisite wedding day photography. Follow the link here, the a detailed look at the history of St Ignatius.

ANZ Gothic Bank

Wardell’s ANZ Gothic Bank is located on Collins Street in Melbourne and is considered by many to be the finest secular Neo-Gothic building in Australia. Construction commenced on the grand building in 1883, and when it opened to the public 1887  it was the largest and most expensive bank in Australia at the time. Sir George Verdon (who went on to be the bank manager) is responsible for commisioning the building’s exquisite design. The banking chamber is supported by teal columns with floral Crockett capitals, and the ceiling is hand painted in gold leaf. One attraction to the interior are the spectacular flying Gothic arches, which appear out of place on a secular building. One noteworthy aspect to the exterior is an octagonal turret. Supported by a ribbed corbel it rises into a small medieval spire, and is a perfect example of Wardell’s love of asymmetry. In 1987 The Age newspaper voted the ANZ Gothic back Victoria’s favourite building, quite an honour! Today the building is still a functioning bank, and whilst the interior is sadly not available for wedding ceremonies or receptions, the street façade of the building makes a striking backdrop for wedding day photography. The close proximity of the bank to numerous Collins Street churches and other city locations makes it a desirable and convenient option for a alternative photo shoot. Since 1985 the ground floor of the bank has accommodated a fascinating banking museum, recently refurbished in 2007, today the museum contains unique displays, which tell the story of Australia’s banking heritage, through an archive of banknotes and coins, uniforms, gold mining equipment, photographs and correspondence. Perhaps this interesting permanent exhibition warrants a detour during the planning stages of your wedding!


Serendipity recommend checking out our upcoming post on Melbourne architects for more wonderful photos of Wardell’s designs as well as comprehensive information on other gorgeous landmarks.



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