St Michael's Anglican Church site was established through the support of Charles Throsby Smith, Wollongong's first European settler.
The Wollongong township grew up around 'Smiths Hill'. Throsby Smith was given a 300 acre land grant by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and subsequently gave two acres on the second highest rise of his property to the Anglican Church.
"Today, we gladly acknowledge that the land on which we meet as Christians was traditionally in the custody of the Wadi Wadi people of the Dharawal nation, whom God placed as first residents here in the Illawarra," senior minister Rev Sandy Grant said.
Throsby Smith's barn was used as a church and school. Later, the first St Michael's was built in Corrimal Street (1847-1859) but it was too small, and in 1858, the foundation stone for a new church building was laid on the present site.
Wollongong locals wanted more than a standard rural church building so Blacket included a transept (i.e. cross-shape) in his Gothic design. Its simplicity and perfect symmetry is appreciated by colonial heritage buffs.
Consecrated by Bishop Barker on December 15, 1859, it brings the cathedral to their 160th anniversary this year. At 8am on the actual anniversary, December 15, 2019, they will have a traditional service of Morning Prayer.
It will come from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, that was used when St Michael's was first built, along with hymns on the organ.
Bishop Reg Piper, former Bishop of Wollongong, will lead the service, and Rev Sandy Grant will reflect on the same text Bishop Barker preached on at the opening: Haggai 2:9 - "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord Almighty."
During those 160 years, St Michael's has seen much suffering in the Illawarra. After 81 miners lost their lives in the 1887 Bulli mine explosion, the interior of St Michael's was draped in black.
The burial register records the names of those killed in the 1902 Mount Kembla mine disaster and during the First World War, St Michael's bell rang each day at noon to summon people to pray for soldiers and a "speedy termination of the war".
Fifty-five names mark the honour roll of those who made that ultimate sacrifice.
From 1946 to 2005, St Michael's also hosted Wollongong's first pre-school kindergarten until 2005.
"In 1969, St Michael's was designated a Cathedral for our region," Rev Sandy Grant said. "In recent years, the Marketview Residence for UOW students helps fund our heritage conservation.
"Our next big challenge is replacing the cathedral's slate roof! We also hope our landmark Cook Island pine tree might manage to survive a massive direct lightning strike earlier in 2019."