No. 159 - St Paul's Chapel at Launceston General Hospital - 'Timber and Glass'

Inside Launceston General Hospital, near Cleveland Street, is St Paul’s Chapel. It is an ambiguous space, lined with warm Tasmanian timbers but enshrouded by the cold concrete edifice of the modern hospital. The chapel is a remnant of St Paul’s church which once stood on Cleveland Street. On 5 October 1975 the final service was conducted at St Paul’s prior to its demolition to make way for the redevelopment of the Launceston General Hospital. The demolition was agreed to on the condition that the hospital recycle the building as much as possible. This is the story of the former church and the promise that was fulfilled.

The history of St Paul’s Church is bound up with the growth of Launceston. The parish of St Paul’s was created as a result of Launceston's expansion southwards. The first church services in the new parish began in 1854 at the Frankland Street School, a weatherboard structure built in 1847. The parish was described as a “thickly-populated part of Launceston, principally inhabited by the working classes”.

In 1904, the Examiner outlined the development of the church on the occasion of the 50th jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the parish. It explained that the Frankland Street church was only a stopgap measure:

“It was not to be supposed that a congregation, especially a town one, would put up with such a miserable building as that which served the purpose of a church in Frankland Street”.

In 1860 a site was purchased and in November of that year, Archdeacon Reibey laid the foundation stone of St Paul’s Church. The building was completed within the space of 6 months and opened on May 12, 1861.

“The building is of wood, in the Gothic style of architecture, the dimensions being – Nave, 50ft. x 32ft.; height, 40ft.; and spire 55ft.; the chancel being 16ft. x 13ft. The whole of the seats are composed of low benches, which have a remarkably neat appearance under the loft nave. The church contains a very handsome font, a decorated Gothic altar rail and a prayer desk…”

After the opening of the church the old Frankland Street building continued to be used as a Sunday school until 1863 when a stone and brick building was built on land adjoining the church. The church was enlarged in 1871 with the addition of another aisle.

Over the years the church was beautified with numerous gifts and memorials. Amongst these were its stained glass windows. In 1882 two windows were presented to the church. One commemorating St Paul and the other St Peter. The beautiful chancel windows were also donated:

“It consists of three lights, the central one containing a representation of Christ as the ‘Good Shepherd’. Underneath the figure is the Lamb with banner and cross, and above this I.H.S., and Alpha and Omega in very rich colours. To the right is Christ as the “Light of the world”, above the symbol of St Mark, and below that of St John. To the left is Christ as the “Resurrection and the Life”, with the symbol of St Matthew above, and St Luke below”.

The beautiful stained glass windows described above have been preserved as promised. Much of the fabric and contents of the church, including windows, the organ and memorial tablets went to Low Head and were used in the construction of St Paul's Chapel by the Sea. St Paul’s by the Sea was built around 1980 as an interdenominational church, which was later incorporated into the Ainslie House Aged Care Complex at Low Head. St Paul's Chapel in the hospital has its own unique features including a pipe organ and furnishings made from Huon Pine salvaged from Lake Pedder. The ceiling is made from Celery Top Pine formed to give a wave effect.

Another point of interest is that located nearby the former church was the Charles Street non-denominational cemetery. It used to lie where Ockerby Gardens are today. It is a startling fact that over 6000 people were buried here between 1841 and 1945.

The Launceston General Hospital now overshadows South Launceston and it is hard to imagine the vanished streetscape that St Paul's would have once dominated or the sprawling cemetery nearby.  The salvaged timbers of the new chapel and the relocated stained glass windows of the old church are s subtle and curious reminder of a church and parish that have passed into history.

Links of interest:

Clarice Skirving Altar 

A recommended read for the history of the Charles Street Cemetery is: Charles Street General Cemetery 1841 to 1925 : Launceston's non-denominational burial ground - by Dianne Cassidy 

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

St Pauls Church and Hall , Cleveland St Launceston - Source - Tasmanian History Facebook Page - Photographer H. B. Fowler

QVM:1992:P:1571   View of the Launceston General Hospital and St Paul's Church, as seen from Cleveland Street, Launceston, Tasmania, during the 1870s 

QVM:1998:P:0840  View showing the interior of St Paul's Church, Cleveland Street, during the 1910s.

QVM:2002:P:0227   View looking west across Charles Street towards the hills of West Launceston, Tasmania, possibly during the 1860s. The frontage of the Mortuary building is on the left, and on the right can be seen St Paul's Church in Cleveland Street.
The Charles Street general cemetery in transition to becoming Saint Ockerby Gardens. St Paul's can be seen peering over the ridge.  Picture: Archives Office of Tasmania (sourced from The Examiner 10-12-16)

Windows at St Paul's by the Sea - Photos taken by Gavin Merrington of “Original Stained Glass“, South Hobart, dated 19th August 2014

Windows at St Paul's by the Sea - Photos taken by Gavin Merrington of “Original Stained Glass“, South Hobart, dated 19th August 2014

Windows at St Paul's by the Sea - Photos taken by Gavin Merrington of “Original Stained Glass“, South Hobart, dated 19th August 2014

St Paul's by the Sea-  Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Examiner  Saturday 3 November 1860, page 3
Examiner Tuesday 21 May 1861
Examiner  Wednesday 26 October 1904, page 7


  1. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

  2. Thank you Chris. I have been keeping my eyes open for Irish graves. Surprisingly few seen indicating born in Ireland...I think the earlier stones were of poor quality and have weathered or disappeared or wooden memorials used for the poor.

  3. Thanks, Duncan... sorry but the link above is incorrect...

    it should be..
    Thank you, Chris

  4. I was brought up in the St Pauls congregation. We emigrated from England in 1964, and our first home was the rectory at St Pauls, where we lived for a few months with my uncle, the Rev'd John Beaverstock. He was hospital chaplain, and the vicar at St Pauls at that time. My father immediately became organist and choirmaster there, which continued until the final service/deconsecration. I certainly remember the Reverends Booth, Cloudsdale and Johnston in terms of tenures aIso. I sang in the choir from a very young age, as did my mother and sister, and we sang at that final service. It was a terrible shame to see the buildings bulldozed, and to see the congregation evaporate, which I think it fairly much did. There didn't seem to be much of an ongoing congregational relationship into the new chapel when built, though my sister was married there, and my father (Alan Bynon) played there very periodically. Kind regards, and I have a few photos of the church and grounds if you ever need them. Jane Edwards

  5. Thank you Jane. Those are remarkable memories of its history. I only moved to Launceston in the late 1990's and it is hard to believe that it even existed. And it is typical that when a church is closed the congregations vanish. I will copy your information into my notes for a future update. The last service of church is significant for the historical record. Scans of photos are would be appreciated. My email is : Thank you for making contact. Regards Duncan.


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