The foundation of St. John’s Toorak can be traced back to a meeting hosted by Mr. H. W. Dauglish in his Heyington Place home (now part of St Catherine’s School) in November 1859. It was resolved at this meeting to appoint trustees and commence subscriptions for the building of a church in Toorak. Within months one of the six trustees appointed at that first meeting, Mr. Alfred Ross, had donated sufficient land from his property ‘Orrong’ for the site of the church and over £1500 had been raised.
The newly appointed government architect, William Wardell, was contracted to build the new church, on its present site, in the early English Gothic style. Wardell also designed and built St Patrick’s Roman Catholic cathedral in East Melbourne. In April 1860 the Governor of the colony of Victoria, Sir Henry Barkly, laid the foundation stone and building commenced.
Following a delay caused by some difficulty in seperating the new parish of Toorak from the existing parish of South Yarra, St. John’s Toorak was opened for worship, again by Sir Henry Barkly, in July 1862. As the first vicar, the Revd Walter Fellowes, was still in transit from England, the first service was led by Dr Bromby, the first Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School.