"THE green spire of St James’s Anglican Church is not long for this world.

For decades, the copper spire has stood in colourful contrast to its concrete and glass neighbours on King Street in the city. Work is due to start within days to remove the striking green sheets and replace them with shiny brown metal as part of a $1 million upgrade.

More than a century of exposure to sun, rain and southerly busters has caused the copper to deteriorate where the sheets are fastened. The church archivist, Rosemary Annable, said it might take years for the new spire to acquire a green patina.

‘‘I’m rather sad to lose the green,’’ Dr Annable said. ‘‘It might take decades to get that wonderful colour. I probably won’t be around to see it.’’

This will be only the second time that the spire has been re-coppered since the church was built in the 1820s. When it was first replaced, in 1894, the new sheets were splashed with water from Bondi Beach to hasten the colour change. ‘‘They were aware people might say, ‘What have you done to our lovely spire?’ ’’ Dr Annable said.

There are no such plans this time, so it will be a while before the metal matches the original cross and orb, which are to be restored in place at the spire’s top.

The first spire was coppered by Nathan Ewer, an iron plate worker who was transported to Australia for stealing books and stationery from a cart. Twice caught trying to escape, he applied to Governor Thomas Brisbane for an early release from his sentence when he was chosen by the architect Francis Greenway to do the metalwork. He was freed seven weeks before his sentence was due to end.

The National Trust is co-ordinating a conservation appeal to raise the money for the work, which is expected to be finished by Christmas. This stage will also include repairs to stonework and the tower windows.

‘‘Sydneysiders will definitely notice,’’ the National Trust’s advocacy manager, Graham Quint, said. ‘‘It’s a big change.’’


I have not uncovered Nathaniel's ultimate fate. Perhaps he returned to England after the work was completed and he was freed?