No. 196 - Launceston Church Grammar School Chapel - 'Sermons in the Stones'

Founded in 1846, Launceston Church Grammar School is the longest continuously operating independent school in Australia. The School began in temporary premises on the corner of George and Elizabeth Streets, but soon after moved to a site behind St John's Church. By 1920 the School had outgrown this site and moved to a new 25-acre site at Stephenson's Farm in Mowbray in 1924.

Eight years after the move to Mowbray Heights, the foundation stone for the school’s chapel was laid in a ceremony led by the Bishop of Tasmania, Dr Snowden Hay. Speaking at the ceremony Bishop Hay observed that:

“Education without religion was incomplete. Religion must be the superstructure upon which character was built”.

The chapel was completed and dedicated in December 1934 by Bishop Hay. Established in the mould of an English public school, Hay’s words at the dedication ceremony reflect Anglican and societal values and attitudes of the time:

“The old stones inset into these walls will serve as a challenge to the boys of the school to emulate the spirit which made the old public schools of England so famous. These schools have turned out the very best types of English manhood. Our church schools set out to give not only secular education, but definite instruction in the faith of our fathers…”

Pointing to the to the stone plaques on the northern wall Bishop Hay remarked:

 “If there are sermons in stones…. then I am sure there is inspiration here”.

The Bishop's remark about the "old stones" were in fact a direct reference to one of the chapels most unique and interesting features. Stones were received from eight of the leading public schools of England and were placed in the northern wall of the building. They were engraved with the names of the schools from which they came, and the date of the foundation of each school: Winchester (1387); Eton (1440); Shrewsbury (1551); Westminster (1560); Merchant Taylors’ (1561); Rugby (1567); Harrow (1571); Charterhouse (1611), as well as a stone from St Mary’s Anglican Church in Launceston Cornwall.

Other emblems in the chapel include a piece of wood from St Paul’s School, England; mosaics from Jerusalem and a bell, which was formerly in the Launceston Gaol. The bell was first used in 1843, three years before the Grammar School was founded, and was constructed by the convicts, having the broad arrow clearly visible. The western wall houses an honour roll containing the names of 500 old boys who enlisted in the Great War, 96 of whom did not return.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

The Examiner Friday 20 May 1932, page 9
The Examiner Saturday 16 July 1932, page 9
The Mercury Saturday 16 July 1932, page 7
The Examiner Monday 1 August 1932, page 5
The Mercury Monday 1 August 1932, page 5
The Mercury Tuesday 13 March 1934, page 5
The Examiner Friday 15 April 1932, page 9
The Mercury Monday 10 December 1934, page 5


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