St Johnís is an Anglican parish in the catholic tradition on the Balmain Peninsula. It was established in 1882 and since that time has served the people in Balmain and Birchgrove and the workers on the adjacent islands, Cockatoo, Spectacle and Snapper. This maritime involvement gave St Johnís, as the youngest Anglican church on the peninsula, a special character and role in Balmain. The rectors acted as honorary chaplains to the Biloela Gaol on Cockatoo Island and to the floating reform school ships, Vernon and Sobraon moored off the island.
The original building, which was licensed for use on 16th June 1882, extended to the present chancel steps and cost ?1,200. The idea of adding classrooms to the building for a school was abandoned when state aid was withdrawn from denominational schools from the end of 1882.
The St. Johnís hall was built in 1884 at a cost of 368 pounds. In 1911, Cyril Blacket submitted plans for a much more ambitious brick building complete with tower, but this was never pursued because of cost. A kitchen was added in 1934 and four years later the staircase to the lower hall was moved to the outside of the building to enlarge both the stage and the hall below which, during the 1931 Depression and since it had facilities, was used as a soup kitchen for the unemployed. In the 1960s, a further room was created under the main hall to be used as a meeting place and coffee shop for the younger folk after a service in the church.
The original function of the hall was to house the then very large Sunday School. We are happy to say that the present day Sunday School makes very good use of the lower hall. Today the timber hall is considered to be a place of some character, a point not lost on film companies, and we are pleased to say it is fully used by both the church and various community organisations.
St Johnís became independent of St Maryís when it became a separate parish on 30 August 1883. As the spiritual and social centre for its parishioners, St Johnís has faced many challenges. The depressions of the 1890s and 1930s and two world wars were testing times in which there was little government help and the church was a source of practical assistance. The post World War II era has seen rapid technological change and growing affluence and there has been a distinct shift in the demographic of the Balmain area.