No. 327 - St James the Apostle at Northdown

Northdown is a fertile agricultural district 15km east of Devonport. In 1826 the area was settled by Captain Bartholomew Thomas, who established the Northdown estate. Captain Thomas met a violent death in 1831 when he and his overseer, Mr Parker, were speared to death by a group of men from the ‘Big River tribe’.

In 1845, St Thomas’, the first Anglican church in the district, was built at a site near Northdown Lane. Now only its cemetery remains, which includes the headstone of Captain Thomas [see illustration below]. Bishop Francis Nixon opened the church in May 1845. The Bishop’s visit to Northdown was not without incident. Nixon was due to visit Deloraine after the ceremony but this was marred by an armed holdup. The Hobart Courier reported:

“A constable, named Baldwin, …[was] stopped in the bush on Friday evening by two armed men. He was on his way from Port Sorell to Deloraine with despatches from Bishop Nixon, and was met by the men in question about eight miles from Deloraine. They stripped him of his coat, waistcoat, shirt, and boots, leaving nothing but his hat and trousers. The despatches were in the hat and arrived safe”.

By the 1870’s St Thomas’ was considered to be no longer adequate due to its location and poor state of repair. In 1877 the Launceston Examiner reported:

“Strenuous efforts are being made to erect a new Episcopalian Church at Northdown. The old one, nearly as old as Northdown settlement, built on Mr Thomas’s estate, is very much dilapidated, and the new one is to occupy a more central position near the Public School”.

In April 1877 the correspondent for the Launceston Examiner reported on a fundraiser dinner in aid of the new church:

“A large tent was erected for the purpose, capable of holding eighty persons. The tables were tastefully arranged, and covered with eatables of every description. The Torquay Brass Band kindly aided in the amusement of our visitors, cricket and other games going on. … At the conclusion of the dinner a Bruce auction took place… about £35 was collected. This success was owing in a great measure to the deserved popularity of our clergyman, the Rev. G. Archer, who was present….”

By August, the church was almost complete. The Examiner reported:

“The new Episcopalian Church, which for a time was at a standstill, is now approaching completion, and will be a credit to the settlement when finished…. The Rev. Archer, an earnest clergyman of the Evangelical type, has the cure of Northdown church, together with Torquay and Latrobe Churches”.

St James’ was opened in May 1878 and the church and burial ground were consecrated on 30 January 1879 by Bishop Charles Bromby.

In 1909 a Sunday-school and hall was opened by Bishop Mercer. A noteworthy feature of the church is an honour board with the names of 30 Northdown men who served in the Great War, nine of whom lost their lives, and who are commemorated with a memorial window.

After a history stretching back over 140 years, St James the Apostle, t
he successor to the first Anglican church in the greater Devonport region, is due to be sold by the Anglican Church to meet its commitment to the national redress scheme. 

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

The Sunday-school/Hall  Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

The Sunday-school/Hall  Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Foundation stone for the Hall. Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Inscription on Captain Bartholomew Thomas' headstone.  Thomas was buried in the Cypress Street Cemetery in Launceston. The headstone was moved to the family property at Northdown in the 1950's. Source: The Advocate, 25 March 1954. 

The Cemetery 


The Courier, Thursday 8 May 1845,  page 2
Weekly Examiner,Saturday 25 March 1876, page 13
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 28 April 1877, page 8
Weekly Examiner,Saturday 18 August 1877, page 4
Devon Herald, Wednesday 5 February 1879, page 3
North West Post, Friday 15 October 1909, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 26 July 1918, page 2
Advocate, Wednesday 22 September 1926, page 6
Advocate, Saturday 11 November 1933, page 7
Advocate, Monday 15 March 1954, page 4
Advocate, Thursday 25 March 1954, page 6

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

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