No. 323 - The Former St Andrew's Presbyterian Church at Sheffield - "Sturdy Scotchmen and Staunch Covenanters"

With the opening of St Andrew’s Presbyterian church at Sheffield in 1910, a message of congratulation and support was received from the Presbyterian community in Ulverstone, who had just started to build their own church. Neither congregation could possibly imagine that the connection between the two communities would become much closer when the Sheffield church was removed to Ulverstone in 1937.

Presbyterian services at Sheffield were held from the 1890’s and in the years before the church was built, at the Odd Fellows Hall with ministers attending from Devonport and Launceston. In 1906 the Daily Telegraph reported on a visit to Sheffield from Reverend William Beck:

“Rev. W. Beck of St Andrew’s Launceston, visited this town on Monday in connection with the local Presbyterian mission. The reverend gentleman cycled through from the city via Kimberley’s Ford, but must have had a hard ride owing to the rough state of the roads, the hilly country, and a stiff head wind most of the way…”

Reverend Beck’s epic cycle was apparently worth the effort as the Daily Telegraph noted that:

“Although there were two other functions upon the same evening a fair number gathered in the Odd Fellows Hall to meet Mr Beck – Methodists and others, besides Presbyterians”.

When the foundation stone for St Andrew’s Presbyterian church was laid on Wednesday 22 December 1909, Reverend Beck was invited to do the ceremonial honours along with the Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly, Rev. H. Livingstone. The church was built on land on High Street donated by Mr J. Morris of Sheffield.

The church was completed and opened for service on Thursday 14th April 1910 by reverend Beck and Reverend Stewart Byron from Devonport. Speaking at the dedication, Reverend Byron reflected:

“He could not help thinking of those sturdy Scotchmen and staunch covenanters who tackled the Kentish bush 40 or 50 years, and brought their religion with them, and the present generation were now reaping the reward of their arduous toil and marvellous faith”.

The cost of the church amounted to £250. A spire had been built and a bell had been promised from Launceston but had not arrived in time for the opening service. The North West Post provides a description of the building:

“[It] is one of the neatest and most compact of its class in Tasmania, and is a decided acquisition to the town’s architecture. It is of Gothic design, and is surmounted with a spire which can be seen for miles around. The building is of weatherboard, plastered inside with a wainscoting of kauri and hardwood doors… The seats call for special mention, being of a design rarely seen in a country church. They are very substantial and are constructed of Tasmanian hardwood…. The windows are of coloured glass of a chaste design…”.

For reasons unknown, St Andrew’s had a productive life of only two decades as the congregation waned to the point that by the early 1930’s services at the church had ceased. It was rented for use as a schoolroom and used by a teacher with a “couple of dozen children” as a temporary measure to take the overflow from the State school situated about a quarter of a mile away.

The next report of the church is that of its removal which is described by the Burnie Advocate:

“The pretty little Presbyterian Church, built in 1909 in High street, has been pulled down and a start was made on Tuesday with its removal to Ulverstone, where it will be erected alongside the Presbyterian Church and used as a Sunday school and church hall. A timber motor truck and a motor lorry were loaded with most of the framework but, as the former carried considerably over the regulation, a special permit had to be obtained, and this specified that the truck should not leave Sheffield until midnight and must travel all the way by the State highway. The church, which was of weatherboard and plastered walls, was exceptionally well built and in good condition…”

The purchase of the church by the Ulverstone community was made possible with a donation by Mr G. Wall for use as a Sunday school and as a “step forward in the social and spiritual life of the church”. The building was reassembled at its new site in early 1938 and as may be observed, without its spire. Apart from this absence and the addition of an extension at the rear of the building, the Ulverstone church hall appears very much the same, as it would have in Sheffield, chaste windows and all.

The history of the Ulverstone Presbyterian church and its hall wall be covered in a future blog entry.

The former Sheffield church now at Ulverstone - sans spire - Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

One of the 'chaste windows' Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


Sources:

Examiner, Friday 12 February 1904, page 7
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 3 May 1906, page 7
Examiner, Monday 27 December 1909, page 3
North West Post, Saturday 9 April 1910, page 2
North West Post, Wednesday 13 April 1910, page 3
North West Post, Saturday 16 April 1910, page 6
The Advocate, Saturday 25 July 1936, page 6
The Advocate, Monday 13 December 1937, page 6
The Advocate, Thursday 20 January 1938, page 6
The Advocate, Monday 29 January 1938, page 6.


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