Oh come, all ye faithful, and feast your eyes upon the impressive range of 19th century churches dotted throughout Tasmania’s Midlands. Whether or not you’re a true believer, the churches are beautiful to look at from an architectural perspective, and offer an interesting insight into colonial life. The graves of many early settlers can be found in the church cemeteries.
We’ve put together a list of 15 of our favourite churches (there are many more to be found in the towns along the Heritage Highway – these are just a few of our picks).
1. St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Evandale
St Andrew’s Uniting Church, in the Georgian village of Evandale, is a much admired example of Greek Revival architecture. The foundation stone was laid in 1838 by the Governor, Sir John Franklin, after Evandale’s Scottish community raised funds to pool together with a grant from the government. (Does this one remind anyone else of a giant gingerbread house?)
2. St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Evandale
St Andrew sure was popular in Evandale! The St Andrew’s Anglican Church that stands today was actually the third Church of England built in the town. The original was constructed with bricks from the abandoned works of the Evandale-Launceston Water Tunnel and opened in 1837. A new, larger, red brick church was completed around 1844, before being demolished in 1871 due to faulty foundations. The present church was built with many of the original bricks and consecrated in 1872.
3. Christ Church, Longford
Longford’s Christ Church was erected in 1839 and dedicated in 1844, and today hosts many community events. One of the Anglican Church’s most attractive features is the great east window, which was designed by colonial architect William Archer in 14th century ‘Perpendicular’ style, and executed by the famous stained glass artist William Wailes.
Grab a copy of Voices from the Graves from the Northern Midlands Council to learn more about the area’s history. The self-guided walk through the Christ Church graveyard reveals rich, moving and significant themes of the area’s colonial history.
4. Brickendon Chapel
This enchanting gothic chapel is part of Brickendon Estate’s historic 1820s Farm Village. With its steep pitched shingle roof, original stained glass windows, and mellow timbers of the Huon pine pews, this charming chapel is popular for weddings. The chapel is surrounded by a beautiful, intimate garden.
5. The Anglican Church of the Holy Nativity, Bishopsbourne
The little Anglican Church of the Holy Nativity was built by William Webb in 1845-46 at Bishopsbourne, a small farming community near Longford. The church graveyard is the final resting place of generations of locals.
6. St Mark’s Anglican Church, Pisa
St Mark’s Church and graveyard, near Cressy, is a quaint little weatherboard church that was consecrated in 1865. The first burial is thought to have taken place in 1863, and was that of stonemason Thomas Malpus. The church was formerly the Church of England, but is now Anglican.
7. Cleveland Union Chapel
The Cleveland Union Chapel (c. 1855) is another quaint little church. The town of Cleveland was initially established as a coaching station in the late 1820s. Epping Forrest, north of Cleveland, was a favourite haunt of bushrangers, so coaches waited for each other then set off in convoys hoping for safety in numbers. I wonder if people prayed for the bushrangers’ souls in this little chapel?
8. St Thomas’ Anglican Church, Avoca
St Thomas’ Anglican Church is perched up on a hill, and is said to have the highest pulpit in the southern hemisphere (now that’s reaching for the heavens). It was designed by colonial architect James Blackburn (who also designed the church at Port Arthur) in Romanesque Revival style, and was consecrated on 8 May 1842. Some of the pews still carry their original numbers. Interestingly, at the back of the church there is a large pew, which was built for a particularly large warden…
9. The Church, Campbell Town
This historic sandstone church (c. 1857), at Campbell Town, is currently being revamped as a café and function centre (the church’s hall will be available for functions from 9 March 2018). The church and surrounding areas have strong Scottish ties, which will be reflected in the cafe’s vision of a Scottish twist on fresh Tasmanian produce. When it opens, you’ll be able to sit at the bar made from the original church pews, learn about the history of The Church, and take a walk around the gardens. Check their website for updates on opening dates.
10. Ross Uniting Church
The Ross Uniting Church (c. 1885) sits grandly on the hilltop near the Ross Bridge, like something out of a fairytale. The traditional gothic church has hand-carved sandstone walls, Tasmanian blackwood pews, an oregon ceiling, an Italian marble font with carved cherubim, stained glass windows, and a modern French tapestry depicting the tree of life. Watch out for grazing sheep!
11. St Paul’s Catholic Church, Oatlands
This neo-Gothic style church, at Oatlands, was designed by renowned English architect Augustus Pugin – the very same man who designed the interior of the Palace of Westminster and the iconic Big Ben clock tower! The design dates from 1843, and the designs were brought to Tasmania by Pugin’s close friend, the English Catholic Bishop Wilson. St Paul’s was opened in 1851, just prior to Pugin’s death. It is a two-compartment church constructed from coursed sandstone, with a corrugated iron roof and scraped interior.
12. St James’ Anglican Church, Jericho
St James’ Anglican Church (c. 1888), at Jericho, is a modest sandstone Victorian gothic church designed by Henry Hunter. Architectural fittings and furnishings bear dedications to prominent early settlers. The stained-glass windows were added over time, and the window at the rear of the church (‘Crucifixion’) was executed by Augustus Fischer, who was renowned for his treatment of flowers.
The churchyard includes an Avenue of Honour dedicated to local men (and one woman) who served in WWI. John Hutton Bisdee, the first Australian-born Victoria Cross recipient, is buried in the cemetery. The church is open by appointment and incorporates the Jericho Cultural and Heritage Centre.
13. St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Colebrook
St Patrick’s Church, at Colebrook, is one of only two of Augustus Pugin’s buildings constructed from a highly detailed scale model (the other being St Paul’s Church at Oatlands). Construction began in 1855 and the church opened in 1857. St Patrick’s is a fine example of Pugin’s idea for the revival of a small medieval village church.
14. Old presbyterian church, Kempton
This adorable blue weatherboard building is the old Presbyterian Church in Kempton. It was built in 1886 on land donated by James Hadden, a man whose mother was a Presbyterian convict transported from Scotland. The building now serves as the town’s community hall.
15. St Mark’s Anglican Church, Pontville
St Mark’s Anglican Church, at Pontville, is a very unusual Romanesque church. It was designed by the colonial architect James Blackburn and built in 1839-41 with local Brighton stone. It features a central Norman doorway flanked by raking arcades and low towers. The interior includes elaborately carved furniture by Hobart woodcarver Ernest Osborne.
For more info, see A Guide to the Churches & Graveyards of the Norfolk Plains. You can also search the Northern Midland Council’s Cemeteries & Burials database.
A Bygone Era: Heritage Accommodation Along the Heritage Highway
Campbell Town: Convict Bricks, Chainsaw Sculptures & Colonial Charm
Eight Day Trip Ideas for the Southern Midlands
Take the Scenic Route: Six Spots to Camp Along the Heritage Highway
Ross Uniting Church | @ceciliazzzzzzzz/Instagram