No. 390 - St Andrew's at Sprent - 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'

The village of Sprent, on the Castra Road, lies about 12 kilometres south of Ulverstone. It is named after James Sprent, surveyor-general and commissioner of crown lands, who explored and surveyed 205 high points across Tasmania, including Federation Peak, then known as ‘Sprent’s Obelisk’.

In 1889, the year before St Andrew’s Anglican church was built, the local correspondent for The Examiner, described the small settlement at Sprent:

“The township of Sprent, which is situated nine miles from Ulverstone, is steadily advancing, although not at the rate your correspondent would like to see it. We have at the present time a post and telephone-office with money order and P.O. savings bank, and which shows really good returns. We have also a police station in charge of a very efficient officer, a general store and temperance hotel, a fine large public room, the Albert Hall, which is a great boon to the locality, and which is patronised frequently by the lovers of skating. We have also a blacksmith’s shop, lately opened by Mr. Fred. M'Laren, who is doing at good business; a private house in which our respected mail carrier resides, Mr. T. Burt, who carries the mail and passengers in a covered-in conveyance, and four other dwellings about commencing”.

At this time Sprent did not have a public school but it did have a place of worship, an Anglican ‘church’ erected in 1875. This building was also used as a day school and additional classes were held for adults in the evening. The first church service was conducted by Rev. C.B. Broome of Forth on the 3rd of January 1875.

Spent’s new church, St Andrew’s, was opened and dedicated on Friday the 31st of October 1890. The local (and possibly long-legged) correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and the Colonist describes the scene in great detail, as was common journalistic practice of that era. The report reproduced below provides a glimpse into the lives of the Anglicans of Sprent:
“Friday will long be remembered as a red-letter by residents of the township of Sprent and surrounding districts, as on that day they were favored by a visit from his Lordship the Bishop of Tasmania [Montgomery], which visit was in connection with a notable event, viz., the opening and consecrating of the new Anglican Church, … The building itself is perhaps one of the most complete and convenient country churches on the Coast, and in appearance and construction is a credit to the architect as well as to the contractor, Mr B. Eustace, of Ulverstone. It is 45ft in length by 19ft in width, having large stained-glass windows at either end, and six side windows, also of stained glass. These windows alone cost about £45. The frame of the building is hardwood, the lining tongued and grooved pine (varnished), the rafters and collar ties as well as the communion rails being polished blackwood. The reading desk, pulpit, and seats are kauri, the seats all having solid backs, and excepting for one cause would be very comfortable. The exception referred to is that the book ledge usually found on the top of the back of seats, is in this case fixed about halfway down, interfering somewhat with the knees of those occupying the seats especially of those possessed of long legs. At the bottom of the church is fixed the font. This I understand, is of New Zealand freestone, of good design, very substantial looking, and was the gift of Colonel and Mrs Crawford, on the occasion of the anniversary of their golden wedding. The cost of the building was about £325, but to this amount will have to be added some £50 for additional necessary furniture, and for varnishing the seats, pulpit, and desk”.

The consecration service was described in similar but it is the social events that follow which provide another snapshot of rural life:

“A dinner was provided by the ladies of the congregation, to which a very large number sat down. Following the dinner the Rev. W. Davis, in a good address… offered a hearty welcome to His Lordship the Bishop,…The Bishop, in a short, happy speech, replied, and an adjournment was made to the adjoining paddock; when a cricket match, chopping match, and other sports were indulged in. A bazaar was held in a tent erected for the occasion, and a very pleasant day was spent..”

The old church and schoolroom were retained for use as a Sunday-school as well as for social functions. Later, a vicarage was built and in 1903 a new bell was installed and dedicated. The Examiner’s report on dedication ceremony is interesting in that it confirms the crucial role that the women of the church played in fundraising and general organisation in the community:

“The dedication of the new bell at the Anglican Church, Sprent, was performed on Tuesday afternoon by the Ven. Archdeacon Whitington. …The Archdeacon preached an impressive sermon, which was listened to very attentively. At the conclusion the consecrated the bell which was tolled 12 times, each toll represented 1 year, and the 12 the number of years the church has been erected. Mr. Berry, in a few, well chosen remarks, stated that £10 odd had been collected in the district for the bell fund. The bell had cost more than they expected, but he thought it would be nearly free from debt to start with. He thanked those who had so willingly placed their names upon the subscription list. Miss Moore deserved special credit for her, kindness in undertaking the duties of collecting the amount, which was most satisfactory for the locality of Sprent. The reason why the bell had not been hung before was that the makers did not complete their contract until six months after receiving the order”.

Sadly, for all of the Sprent community’s sacrifice and dedication, St Andrew’s closed in 1998, a little over a century after it opened. There was an unsuccessful attempt by the Ulverstone Local History Museum to acquire the building but the church was instead purchased for conversion into a house at Sisters Beach. However, the font gifted by Colonel and Mrs Crawford in 1890 was donated to Ulverstone History Museum after the church’s closure. The fate of the church bell is not known, nor if it were rung for 108 tolls to mark final service?

Source: The Weekly Courier, 2 July 1914

Source: The Tasmanian Mail, 26 October 1911

Source: The Weekly Courier, 28 November 1903

The former Anglican Cemetery - The headstone of Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Crawford and his wife Matilda Crawford are in the Sprent cemetery  
Launceston Examiner,Thursday 14 March 1889, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Monday 3 November 1890, page 4
Colonist, Saturday 8 November 1890, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 20 June 1903, page 3
North West Post, Thursday 7 June 1906, page 3
Advocate, Friday 24 November 1950, page 4

Ellis, Bruce Ulverstone : an outline of its history. B. Ellis, Ulverstone, Tas, 1988.

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


  1. Further history can be found in the book by June Stones published 2012. "St Andrews Anglican Church Sprent - A monument to loyal devotion". copies are in some branches of the State library. It includes photos of the present location of the church as a private residence at Sisters Beach.


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