No. 193 - Former Church of St Alban the Martyr at Pioneer - Now the "Leaning Church" at Lalla

‘St Alban the Martyr’ now known as the “Leaning Church”, was moved from Pioneer to a vineyard at Lalla near Lilydale about 20 years ago. The vineyard, originally called 'Lalla Gully' was established in the late 1980's and is now the ‘Leaning Church Vineyard’. Apart from providing an attractive feature, the church is used for weddings and functions. This blog entry provides short history of the church before it found its new home at Lalla. 

Pioneer was originally known as Bradshaw’s Creek, named after William Bradshaw who discovered tin in the area. The Pioneer Tin Mine was established in the 1870’s and its name eventually became that of the settlement. In 1904, the “Special Travelling Representative” for Launceston's Daily Telegraph described the settlement at Pioneer:

“The township itself consists of one long street, extending right round the Pioneer tailings dump, and continuing on from there as the road to Gladstone… There are a number of neat cottages and villas erected on building allotment sites that were sold not long ago by the Government, and several of these homes, which belong for the most part to steady employees at the mine, have been greatly improved in appearance by having added to them pretty little flower gardens, as well as fruit and vegetable patches. There is only one hotel, [and] two stores kept by Messrs. F.J. Wolfe and W. Mountney, respectively… Strange to say, there is no blacksmith’s shop to be seen in the town…The Post and Telegraph Office is in charge of Miss Bomford…. The public hall, a suitable building for the purposes to which it is applied, was erected with money raised by donations from the public, and held in trust by a committee. It is used for meetings, entertainments, and services are held in it by the Church of England and Methodist denominations”.

By 1910 efforts were well underway by local Anglicans to build a place of worship. In December of that year, Governor and Lady Barron opened a bazaar in aid of a church building fund. Rapid progress was made with fundraising enabling the building of a church by 1912. Archdeacon Beresford conducted the opening service on New Year’s Day. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, after a morning service in Derby, Archdeacon Beresford:

“Proceeded to Pioneer to open the new church recently erected. Services were held in the afternoon and evening, when large congregations attended. The Archdeacon delivered an able address, and congratulated the people of Pioneer for erecting a beautiful little church, which he named St. Alban, after St Alban, the English martyr”.

St Alban’s seems to have had a relatively short and uneventful history with local newspaper reports mostly concerned with news about the annual harvest festivals and Sunday school activities. However, a report on the unveiling of an ‘Honor Board’ at the church in September 1920 is of interest. According to the Launceston Daily Telegraph:

“The Rev. Moore (Derby) performed the ceremony, and delivered a most impressive and touching address suitable to the occasion. Out of the 43 men who had come from Pioneer to do their duty for the Empire, 17 had made the supreme sacrifice”.

When the church was removed to Lalla, the Honour Board was placed in the Pioneer Memorial Hall. (See photo below - link) There is a discrepancy in the number’s reported by the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and the information on the board but it is nevertheless a sobering reality that a small community like Pioneer lost almost 40% of the men who served in the Great War.

As Pioneer was so dependent on mining, it was inevitable that the church's fortunes would decline along with that of the town. Although St Alban’s is now situated in a very different environment, we should not forget its origins and the sacrifices made by the early settlers of Pioneer.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018
Source: - Original photograph by Arthur Garland (2014)

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 18 May 1904, page 6

North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 17 September 1920, page 3

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 3 January 1912, page 7

Daily Telegraph, Friday 31 January 1908, page 6

Examiner, Wednesday 29 February 1928, page 8

Examiner, Saturday 18 September 1820, page 8

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 14  December 1910, page 2

Henslowe, Dorothea I and Hurburgh, Isa Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania. Mercury-Walch, Moonah, Tas, 1978.


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