No. 64 - St. John's Church White Hills - "Alleluiaed Most Uproariously"

The first ‘Anglican’ church at White Hills was dedicated to St. Paul and was opened in 1842 with the assistance of a government grant. It was a brick building situated at the top of the hill above the village. The diary of Reverend John Mereweather, the first rector at St. Paul’s described it as “pretty enough with its lancet windows” but he also noted its dampness and poor construction.

On his arrival in White Hills Mereweather wrote:

“I am told that I shall have some trouble with the people, who are very sore, after building a church, at having to remain so long without a minister. I do not at all despair, however, for I find that in nine cases out of ten, quarrels between clergymen and their parishioners arise from want of judgment, tact, and conciliatory manners on the part of the former”.

Commenting on his first service at White Hills, Mereweather recalled that:

“Unfortunately, the first service in the White Hills church was not quite so successful, as some of the congregation behaved as if they had never been in church before in their lives.” He continued…“It was a satisfactory congregation of forty-five and some singers from the neighbourhood volunteered their services as a choir, which I accepted . . . As a rule I dislike these amateur performers who, by their bellowing, destroy all congregational singing. However, they got on more subduedly than I had expected, except that they alleluiaed most uproariously”.

The church Mereweather described was indeed cheaply built and as a consequence it was demolished in 1882 and services were held in a nearby schoolroom as well as at private houses. In 1917, a new timber building was erected and was dedicated to St. John. Amongst those baptised at the White Hills church were Sir Hudson Fysh, founder of Qantas and Sir Eric von Bibra, Tasmanian Agent General in London.

St. John’s church was sold in 2008 and is being restored as part of a house that has been built on the site. It is interesting to see that a number of gravestones still surround the church.

St John's Church White Hills. Note the gravestones in the foreground. Others stones are found on the south side of the church. Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


K.R. von Stieglitz; A Short History of St Leonards, 1948.

Geoffrey Stephens, The Anglican church in Tasmania, 1991

John Davies Mereweather, Diary of a Working Clergyman in Australia and Tasmania : Kept During the Years 1850-1853


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