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Belgrave Heights Convention

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The Belgrave Heights Convention is a regular Christian convention or conference held at Belgrave Heights in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. As described by Paproth,[1], "The convention expresses evangelical concern for scriptural holiness, missions, biblical exposition, interdenominational unity and lay initiative and leadership."



Flyer for Eltham convention

The Convention was a development of a series of Christian conventions held in and near Melbourne from late in the 19th century. Rev. George C. Grubb, an English evangelist, had conducted a mission tour of Australia in 1891–1892 and arranged a Convention in Geelong in September 1891,[2] modelled after the Keswick Convention held each year in the town of Keswick in England. This Convention included a missionary meeting, addressed by missionaries from China, India, and Fiji.[3] The Geelong convention became an annual event, and other conventions were held in other places, such as at Eltham on four days between Christmas Day 1909 and 3rd January 1910.[4]

Many more evangelists came to Melbourne in the 1890 and early 1900s, among them being Reuben Torrey in 1902, accompanied by Charles Alexander who led the singing.[5][6] It was under Torrey's preaching that the manager of the Federal Coffee Palace, H. P. Smith was converted.[5] Smith became involved with evangelistic work himself, including help organise the 1909-10 Eltham convention,[4] the first of several such conventions. He later began the Melbourne Gospel Crusade.[7]

Newspaper advertisement for the first Convention, in 1918.

The first of what became the current Belgrave Heights Conventions was held in Upwey, then a holiday town on the southern slopes of the Dandenong Ranges, between Christmas 1918 and the new year. It was instigated by H. P. Smith and his Melbourne Gospel Crusade.[1] Smith later aligned the Convention with the Keswick Convention.

The Convention was initially held in the Upwey Union Church hall, then five years later in a marquee (large tent) erected behind the church. Not all meetings were held here; some were also held at the Belgrave Union Church and the Upwey Church of England.

In 1927 the decision was made to support a missionary to China, and to acquire their own property. Special offerings towards these two goals at the Christmas 1927 convention raised ₤350 and ₤250 respectively.:[8]

The Convention marquee and crowd in January 1931.

In 1930 the Convention moved to its new five-acre property about 300 metres984.252 feet
328.083 yards
656.169 cubits
14.913 chains
east of the Union Church, and in 1932 into their new specially-built auditorium seating 1,000 people.[9][10][11]

In 1946, the Convention was notified that the Education Department wanted to acquire their property so that the adjacent Upwey Higher Elementary School (now Upwey High School) could be enlarged, so it bought a new 30 acre site at Belgrave Heights, being the former Lockwood golf links.[12][13][note 1] The auditorium at Upwey was dismantled and re-erected at Belgrave Heights for the Christmas 1950 Convention.

Following the move to Belgrave Heights, an Easter convention was added to the Christmas conventions, commencing in 1952, and in the 21st century single-day or weekend conventions have been added at other times of the year specialising in men, women, and youth respectively.


The Convention caters for people visiting for the day and people staying on-site. There is currently no provision for live-in accommodation except for camping, but the Convention has plans to provide it in the future. Day visitors are catered for by providing parking spaces and some basic facilities, and there is a a shuttle bus service from Belgrave station. For people wishing to stay in tents or caravans the Convention provides powered and unpowered sites, and also some "kitchens", small buildings with kitchen facilities to ease the burden of cooking in a tent.

Following the move to Belgrave Heights, many churches and para-church groups set up their own campsites in the vicinity, and regularly held camps in conjunction with the Convention. Some of the main ones were the Methodist and Churches of Christ churches, the Church Missionary Society associated with the Anglican church, the Evangelisation Society of Australia, Campaigners for Christ, the Gospel and Missionary Fellowship, Ivanhoe Christian Fellowship, and Diamond Valley churches.

However, with increasing urbanisation and the need to increase the standard of accommodation, these campsites were eventually sold or turned to other uses, so none now remain to provide accommodation in conjunction with the Convention, except the Ivanhoe and Diamond Valley sites which are now owned by the Convention itself. The CMS campsite was partly destroyed by the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 and not rebuilt.


The Convention's unique auditorium has been the focal point of the Convention since it was built in 1932. It has been extended several times, and moved from Upwey to Belgrave Heights, but is still in use, although it is virtually unrecognisable from the outside.

The first building used by the Convention was the Upwey Union Church hall, but after five years meetings were moved into a marquee erected on the church property. In 1930 the Convention bought their own property, and two years later moved meetings into their new auditorium.

The auditorium was designed by the Convention's honorary architect and Council member, Alex Eggleston.[15] The building seated about 1,000 people, and cost about £2,500.[10]

Because of increasing attendances, the capacity of the auditorium was increased to 1,200 in 1933[16] and to 1,400 for the 1934 convention, when attendances reached 2,000.[17][11]

In 1950 the auditorium was dismantled and re-erected on the new site at Belgrave Heights, with some modifications.[12] Then in 1957, the auditorium was widened, increasing its seating capacity to 1,925.

The 1990s saw the Convention Council concerned with the suitability of the Convention facilities for modern visitors, and a number of plans were drawn up for redevelopment. Improvements to the auditorium in the following decade saw the earthen floor concreted and the slope reduced, the sides pushed out further and enclosed with glass doors and full-height windows, and fans and heaters installed to compensate for the weather. A new foyer was built onto the front housing display areas, a small kitchen and servery, and toilets. Externally, the only reminder of the original building was the distinctive roof line, but internally the exposed timber and metal beams supporting the roof were retained.

The original auditorium.
Probably the 1933/1934 Convention.


  • "Rivers of His Grace: the Jubilee Story of Belgrave Heights", Belgrave Heights Convention, 1967.

See also

External link


  1. The property at this time was said to be 7½ acres and the capacity of the auditorium was put at 1,450.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Paproth, D., Belgrave Heights Convention in the Encyclopedia of Melbourne Online.
  2. Christian Convention in Geelong, The Argus, 17 September 1891.
  3. Millard, Edward C., The same Lord, 1893, pp.158–165
  4. 4.0 4.1 Flyer for convention
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Rivers of His Grace", p.3
  6. Piggin, Stuart, The Challenging but Glorious Heritage, Difficult but Joyful birth, and Troubled but Triumphant Childhood of the Melbourne University Evangelical Union, 1930 to 1940, 14 May 2005, p.7.
  7. Renshaw, Will F., SMITH, Hervey Perceval (1869-1947), Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, 2004.
  8. Christian Endeavour: Record Attendances at Convention., The Argus, 6 January 1928, p.11.
  9. Coulson, Helen, The Story of the Dandenongs, Longman Cheshire, 1959, p.306, ISBN 0 582 71479 6
  10. 10.0 10.1 Church Convention., The Argus, 31 December 1932, p.14.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Christian Convention: Gathering at Upwey, The Argus, 28 December 1934, p.11.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Rivers of His Grace", p. 7.
  13. Coulson, 1959, p.271.
  14. 3000 Expected at Upwey Convention, The Age, 15 December 1949.
  15. "Rivers of His Grace, p. 6.
  16. Holiday Resorts: Upwey, The Argus, 30 December 1933, p.17.
  17. Christian Convention: Session at Upwey, The Argus, 26 December 1934, p.6.
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