No. 144 - Holy Cross at Elizabeth Town - 'Down by the Rubicon'

When Holy Cross at Elizabeth Town opened in 1893, it was a weatherboard church, not the brick veneer building that now sits just above the busy Bass Highway. Before it was built, Anglicans had worshipped in a schoolroom until John Spicer, the local innkeeper, donated an acre of land to build a church.

In 1891, a travelling correspondent passing through Elizabeth Town noted:

“This delightful picturesque, rural village is just the place for the overworked or invalid to seek change and rest from the turmoil and bustle of busy life. The village Inn, having the old fashioned sign of ‘The Saddlery Arms’ has been kept for nearly 40 years by the veteran landlord, Mr John Spicer”.

As a young man Spicer had been transported from England in 1839 for the crime of robbery. Ironically, this was to be the making of him. Before he was forty, Spicer had established a saddlery and harness making business in Launceston and built the 'Saddlers Arms' at Elizabeth Town in 1852. The Inn became a popular stop for coaches and travellers.

In 1892 the stone laying ceremony of Holy Cross Church, was reported in the Daily Telegraph:

“Never since the first house was built in Elizabeth Town, which was in the early fifties, has that rural village presented such an animated scene as witnessed there…on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of a small Anglican Church, which when complete, will be the first place of worship built in this township”.

The event was a festive occasion and “there was a large attendance, many coming from a considerable distance”. At the conclusion of the ceremony:

“An adjournment was made across the road to the grassy flat by the side of the Rubicon, where, in a spacious tent, was laid a tea that reflected the greatest possible credit on the ladies who neither spared trouble or expense in providing it, and whom it is almost needless to say, Miss Alice Carr was the leading figure….”

Miss Alice Carr was the stepdaughter of the innkeeper John Spicer. In 1891, the same ‘Travelling Correspondent” who had described Elizabeth Town, wrote:

“I find that Miss Carr is deservedly popular in all the surrounding districts, for where sickness and sorrow are, there this good Samaritan is to be found. In cases of diphtheria Miss Carr has been especially successful in her treatment, and many who have been stricken with this dangerous disease have largely to thank her for their recovery” 

Near the large tent and alongside the Rubicon, afternoon sports were held:

“…Including horse jumping and foot racing, … all of which passed off with the greatest harmony. Mrs W. Aylett having made and presented a valuable opossum skin rug as the chief prize for hunters, and for which six horses contested. Mr Smith’s Wild Rose proving the winner… we all feel indebted for a pleasant day spent on the banks of the Rubicon, a spot dear to many of us from past associations, and where we hope to often again meet the friends of our youth”.

Today, motorists on the Bass Highway would find it hard to imagine the carnival scene at Holy Cross more than 100 years ago. Most hurrying past would probably not even recognise it as church, which shed it weatherboard for a veneer of brick about 50 years ago. In 2012, Holy Cross finally crossed its own Rubicon and now fades from memory, enshrouded by encroaching trees and shrubbery.

Notes on John Spicer and Alice Carr

Alice Carr was the first person to marry at Holy Cross Church. She is buried at St Mark's at Deloraine. (see wedding notice below)

John Spicer, died tragically in 1893 after his horse bolted resulting in him being thrown from his buggy. (see press report below)

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Elizabeth Town Main Road 1920 - Holy Cross can be seen in the centre left of the photograph (Weekly Courier 19th February 1920)

Photograph of Holy Cross in 2012 before its sale  (Photo Roberts Real Estate)

Photograph of Holy Cross in 2012 before its sale  (Photo Roberts Real Estate)

Photograph of Holy Cross in 2012 before its sale  (Photo Roberts Real Estate)

Daily Telegraph Monday 22 January 1894, page 3

Daily Telegraph  Monday 13 February 1893 


Daily Telegraph Thursday 23 July 1891 p2 
Daily Telegraph Wednesday 10 February 1892, page 4
The Tasmanian Saturday 4 February 1893, page 14
Launceston Examiner Friday 27 January 1893, page 5
The Advocate Wednesday 10 November 1954, page 12
Henslowe, Dorothea, Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania. Mercury-Walch, Moonah, Tas, 1978.


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