No. 359 - The Brickendon Convict Chapel - 'An Agent of Reformation'

Brickendon Farm Village near Longford in northern Tasmania is one of 11 Australian convict sites listed by UNESCO as having global cultural and heritage value.

The farm village, of which the chapel is particularly significant, was part of Brickendon Estate, a 465 hectare grant taken up by William Archer in 1824 on land opposite his brother at Woolmers Estate. William Archer developed Brickendon into a mixed farming business and used a convict labour force of about 50 people who were housed in the small village. By the 1840's Brickendon was highly regarded as one of the best farms in the colony. The estate included a two-storey brick Georgian country house and numerous farm buildings and labourers cottages. The Chapel was built with the specific purpose of meeting the religious needs of convict workers.

Built in the mid 1850’s, the Chapel has a high pitched shingled gabled roof, bell tower and gabled foyer. The chapel is highly decorative with many neo-gothic features including brick buttresses and decorative fascias and stained glass windows.

By the 1970’s the historic site had deteriorated and had become a significant maintenance cost to a working farm. By this time the Chapel was used as a store and its stained glass windows had been removed to other sites including the chapel at Entally House at Hadspen.

In order to preserve the site tourism was explored as a means of both promoting its heritage values and assisting in meeting the cost of preserving and restoring the buildings. Around 2008 the chapel was restored and one of the stained glass windows was returned from Entally and reinstalled. According to the Brickendon Conservation Management Plan, the Chapel may have come from a pattern book or have been the work of an architect and “could possibly be the work of the Launceston architect, Peter Mills (1828 – 1886), who designed a similar building for the Archer family in the 1860s at another property, Saundridge, at Cressy”. [see No.107]

There were many private chapel built on colonial estates in Tasmania but the Brickendon Chapel is perhaps unique in that its sole purpose was that it was used specifically by convict workers and played an integral part in convict reformation. The Chapel is a reflection of the Archers’ religious devotion but also reflects a time when religion was viewed as an essential agent in the reformation of convicts and for the guidance of the working classes. It is also remarkable that such a fine building was provided for this purpose.

Source: Peripitus 2012 - Wiki Commons - detail of original image

Photograph courtesy of Ian Ramsay

Photograph courtesy of Ian Ramsay

Source: Libraries Tasmania - Item Number  NS2267/1/168

Source: Libraries Tasmania - Item Number  NS2267/1/169

The Chapel before restoration: Source: Libraries Tasmania - Item Number  LPIC33/2/121

            Scenes of Brickendon from the Weekly Courier 1904
Brickendon House

Old farm buildings in Brickendon village

Brickendon Chapel

The Gardener's Cottage

The original homestead Brickendon erected in 1824


Brickendon Longford, Tasmania Conservation Management Plan, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Clive Lucas, Stapleton and Partners Pty. Ltd. Issue: Revised 9th January 2008 [Last accessed 28-02-19]

The Weekly Courier, Saturday 10 December 1904, page 17

The Examiner, 24 September 2016


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