No. 31 - Chalmers Church Launceston - A Most A 'Peeling' Church

Chalmers Church is one of the most photographed and iconic churches in Launceston and my challenge was to find a couple of new angles. There is something appealing about its soaring tower, peeling paint and its grand design. Like so many beautiful churches they seem to shrouded in electricity wires and poles that stand slap bang in the middle of a potentially perfect shot. Chalmers Hall, which stands across the road from the church is usually overlooked by photographers and I have included a shot of this striking building too. I have also included some notes on the architect William Clayton and his source of inspiration for its unusual tower.

Built in 1859 as Free Church of Scotland, it became a Presbyterian Church in 1896. The opening services was held in 1860. It was designed by William Clayton was an established Tasmanian architect, responsible for designing more than 300 buildings including churches, homes and commercial buildings. The tower of Chalmers was inspired by that of Fonthill Abbey in Britain (see drawing below). Unfortunately the Abbey tower was structurally unsound and it eventually collapsed!  Chalmers Church contains about 600,000 convict made bricks, which, due to being highly porous, are the cause of the peeling paint which started to appear when it was erroneously repainted with an oil-based paint some 40 years ago.

Chalmers Church was named after Scottish Church Reformer and theologian Thomas Chalmers, a founder of the Free Church of Scotland.  After it became a Presbyterian Church in 1886, it was later incorporated into the Uniting Church in 1977 but soon ceased to operate as a church and was deconsecrated in 1981. It was sold with the intention of converting it into four town houses but fortunately this did not eventuate. In 1986, it was owned briefly by The Launceston Players and then in1990 the building was purchased as a residence. It is now owned by Walker Designs and has been internally renovated. I have put a link at the bottom of the page showing the innovative and sensitive manner in which this has been carried out.

William Clayton - The Architect of Chalmers Church

Born in Norfolk Plains (Longford region), Tasmania; Clayton trained as an architect in England and returned to design more than three hundred buildings in Tasmania.  He emigrated to New Zealand in 1863 where he designed many public buildings in Wellington, including the old Government House and Parliament buildings, but he is best known for designing the 'Old Government Buildings' in Wellington.  

The Chalmers Hall, across the road from the church and usually neglected by photographers.

W H Clayton in 1860 while living in Tasmania. (Photo in the public domain)

View of the west and north fronts from John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill (1823) - image in the public domain


Walker Designs 

The Examiner


  1. Oh dear! That sub-title ...
    I'm a-flayed it's just too terrible!

  2. My father was minister there in the very early 80's. He was first at what is now the Baptist church, which the Baptists bought in about 1980, then we moved next door to Chalmers while they renovated the Pilgrim church in town. We remained living in the Chalmers manse after the Church was deconsecrated. Nice to see these photos, it's looked liked that for as long as I recall!


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