No. 361 - St Patrick's at Scottsdale - 'Twice Sanctified, Once Removed, Once Demolished, Once Burnt'

Scottsdale is the largest town in north-east Tasmania. It is named after the Government Surveyor, James Scott, who explored the region in the 1850’s. The town was initially planned around Ellesmere but it developed about a kilometre south of the original site and was officially called Scottsdale after 1893.

The story of St Patrick’s begins around 1878. In that year a correspondent to the Examiner wrote:

“The Rev. Mr Gleeson, Catholic missionary for Selby, on his last visit to Scottsdale, in conjunction with his small but faithful flock has decided to erect a church here, when the most suitable site to build upon has been fixed. There are already two churches in Scottsdale, which speak volumes for the social and moral principles of the inhabitants…”

On the issue of morality, the correspondent went on to make an even bolder claim:

“Crime of any description in Scottsdale is as scarce as diamonds…”

Six years passed before further progress was made. In 1884 an advertisement for tenders appeared in the Daily Telegraph: "Mr Henry Evans, architect, invites tenders for the erection of a new Catholic Church at Scottsdale…”

In November of that year the Daily Telegraph reported:

“The Roman Catholic Church is rapidly progressing in the hands of the contractors…. It is built on land donated by Mr. D. Smith owner of the Scottsdale Hotel… but owing to a slight declivity from the road and a rather low foundation it is not seen to full advantage”.

Although the church appears to have been completed by end of 1884 there was an unexplained delay in its official opening and consecration. In May 1885 the Launceston Examiner reported:

“The Roman Catholic church has been completed for some months, but is not used yet. The ladies are working very hard in anticipation of a bazaar, which it is to be hoped will realise sufficient funds to pay off the debts”.

However, another year was to pass before the church was officially opened [14 June 1886] and its consecration only took place in February 1887. The consecration ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Hobart and Rev. Dr. Murray, Lord Bishop of Maitland who were supported by the Dean of Launceston, Rev. M.J. Beechinor. The event was covered by the Daily Telegraph:

“The preparations in connection with the opening of the…church commenced early on Saturday morning. To see the number of people about the usually quiet township, and the cart loads of evergreens, ferns, and flowers arriving from all quarters, gave ample evidence that something quite out of the common was going to take place, …. The church itself is a plain structure, though substantially and neatly built, and stands upon an acre of land in the centre of the township, … Leading from the street entrance to the church door, and on either aide of the pathway, a row of tree ferns had been planted by willing hands, forming an imposing and pleasant avenue. Immediately over the gateway was an arch composed of fern fronds, evergreens, and flowers, and showing amongst the rich foliage the crown, the words in red letters ' Welcome.’… At 11 a.m. the church was taxed to its utmost capacity to seat the large number who had assembled to witness and take part in the ceremonies. The first ceremony, that of opening and blessing the church, was performed in a solemn manner by His Lordship the Bishop of Maitland, after which Solemn High Mass was celebrated, the Very Rev. Dean Beechinor being celebrant… At the evening service, the congregation was even larger than in the morning, very many being unable to gain admission. It is estimated that there were 300 persons within the building. The vespers were chanted by the choir of the Church of the Apostles in their usual efficient style: and being the first time that vespers were chanted in Scottsdale according to the Roman ritual, created a profound impression”.

It is surprising to learn that in 1909, a little over two decades after its consecration, plans were afoot to remove St Patrick’s to a new site to the north of the town. The reason for this is unclear and the Daily Mail reported that this move was not fully supported:

“One of the old landmarks of early Scottsdale disappeared on Tuesday. The Roman Catholic church, which has hitherto occupied a prominent position within the town, has been removed to a site outside the town on the Bridport road. The Dean secured an acre of land from Mr T. D. Heazlewood, of Launceston, some time ago, for the purpose of placing the church in a better position, but this favourable view regarding the position, is not shared by a majority of the people….”

The removal of the church was not without incident according to the Examiner:

“After taking out the window sashes, and all movable effects from inside, and bracing up the building with chains, with the aid of screw jacks the building was raised, and putting a framework underneath, two teams of bullocks, numbering 60 in all, engineered by the redoubtable James Millwood, and half a dozen drivers, began to do the hauling. After a considerable amount of navigation the structure was shifted on to the street as far as Northbourne House, when the underneath framework broke down. Operations had to be suspended to repair damages, and it was left on the roadside awaiting developments. Another start was made, and getting permission to take it through private grass land, it was an easy matter to take it to its final destination. The building is about 45ft. by 20ft. by 13ft. and represents a fair weight”.

On 30 January 1910 St Patrick's was reopened. The building and its new site had to rededicated as the removal meant it had lost its sanctity. The Examiner reported:

“The ceremony of opening, blessing and dedicating St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church was performed on Sunday by the Right Rev. Monsignor Beechinor assisted by Father Barry. The church, which recently had been removed from its original to a new site, has been practically made a new building, hence the opening being of a special character. After the congregation had gathered together in the building, the Monsignor explained why and how it had to be rededicated, and for that purpose he, accompanied by Father Barry, and attended by the congregation, marched round the exterior of the building, repeating the solemn office of blessing and dedication. The whole ceremony was very impressive….The present appearance of St. Patrick's is certainly an improvement on its original condition, both in side and out….”

Scottsdale became an important regional centre in the north-east following the decline of Derby and other tin-mining towns from the 1920’s. With the increase of population at Scottsdale, St Patrick’s church was outgrown and demolished in 1978 and replaced by the “Log Cabin” church which opened in December of that year. The altar and other items from the old church were moved to the new building.

In December 1992 disaster struck when Advent candles accidentally left alight resulted in a fire that engulfed and destroyed the building. Mass was held in Scottsdale’s C.W.A. Hall until a new church was built and opened in September 1994. The original altar and other historical items were destroyed in the fire but these were replaced from other Catholic churches from across the north-east which had been closed or demolished.

St Patrick’s celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012 and continues to serve the greater Scottsdale area.

St Patricks at its original site: The Tasmanian Mail 1906   

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019
Removal of churches and other buildings using bullock teams was not unusual - this is an example of the Cressy Methodist Church in Victoria - source: Knight, Gabriel [Moving the Methodist Church, Cressy, with a bullock team]. , 1909.   A photo of the Scottsdale church's removal does exist but I have yet to secure an original source copy of this.


Weekly Examiner, Saturday 15 June 1878, page 15
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 16 April 1884, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 5 August 1884, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 19 May 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 8 June 1886, page3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 22 February 1887, page 3
The Mercury, Wednesday 23 February 1887, page2
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 18 October 1890, page 3
Tasmanian Mail, 21 July 1906
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 2 December 1909, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 14 December 1909, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 1 February 1910, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 3 February 1910, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 16 February 1909, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 4 February 1910, page 3

Southerwood, W. T Planting a faith in Tasmania. Southerwood, Hobart, 1970.

Fairburn, Margaret E and McKay, John T. (Father) The flickering flame : Catholicism in north-east Tasmania, 1877-2011. Father John McKay, Tasmania, 2011.


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