|The Children's Chapel (of St Mary and the Angels)|
The Children's Chapel is located in one of the bays of the Crypt. In 1929 the parish decided to convert this area into a chapel for young children and the eighth rector of St James', Dr Philip Micklem, invited Ethel Anderson and the members of the Turramurra Wallpainters Union group of painters to decorate it. The work was completed in time for Christmas and the first service was held on 22 December 1929.
The murals depict the English carol ‘I saw three ships’ in which the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, sail into Bethlehem with Saint Michael and Saint John as their boatmen.
The painters moved the setting of the carol to Sydney Harbour, bringing the reality of the Christmas story into a setting with which the children were very familiar. Other features in the murals were also very much of the period. Pictures of children and of yachts on the harbour taken by the well-known photographer Harold Cazneaux were used by the artists to help with details of the scene, as were also photographs of the harbour bridge, then under construction and of harbour landmarks. Some of the faces were modelled on family and friends, or well-known society figures. St John, complete with moustache, painted by Bethia Anderson was modelled on Alan Foott whom she later married.
The technique adopted was that of the painters of old illuminated manuscripts in which much was shown in a very small space.
Ethel Anderson wrote: "It is our aim to give the tiny room the brilliance of a page from the Book of Kells, or the Duc de Berry’s “Book of Hours“. That is why we have used so much gold, and why we are allowing a slight archaic touch to show in the drawing and in our choice and arrangement of colour."
Mrs Anderson suggested that the Chapel might be called The Chapel of St Mary and the Angels but it has become better known simply as ‘The Children's Chapel'.