No. 435 - St Paul's Launceston - "An Architectural and Historical Curiosity"

St Paul’s Anglican church on Cleveland Street in Launceston was demolished in 1975 to make way for the redevelopment of the Launceston General Hospital. The history of this church was covered in the previous post [No. 434]. This blog entry is about a historical curiosity - one of histories “what ifs?”. When researching the history of St Paul’s I had no idea that there was a proposal in the late 1920’s to replace the wooden church with a large and impressive brick and stone structure. This got me thinking: if the proposed church has been erected, would the the Launceston General Hospital have been built on the Cleveland Road site 40 years later?

I have included an article from the Daily Telegraph which contains considerable detail about the proposed building. Two locations for the new church were considered, the Cleveland Road site and an alternative site on the corner of Charles and Frankland Streets. If the building had gone ahead it would have been a landmark dominating the skyline. In many respects the ambition of its proponents are fanciful but from the present perspective it is a remarkable project which, if had been successful, may have changed the way South Launceston developed.

“In view of the somewhat dilapidated condition of St. Paul's Anglican Church in Cleveland street, coupled with the fact that the accommodation has been for some time taxed to its utmost capacity, it is proposed to erect a new and more imposing edifice to take the place of the building which has been in use for well over half a century. The parishioners have had this idea under consideration for a considerable time, and although no definite action has been decided upon yet, there is a strong feeling in the parish in favour of the proposal, as it is realised that the old church is fast outliving its usefulness".

"Constructed for the greater part of wood, the old church has a wonderful record of service extending over a period of between 60 and 70 years, and should the proposal be carried into effect, it will mean that South Launceston will be provided with one of the most commodious and imposing places of worship in the State. When the proposal was first mooted, it was suggested that a vacant block of land situated on the corner of Frankland and Charles-street should be purchased by the parish as a site for the new church. The site would have been a particularly attractive one being on rising ground and in a very pleasant neighbourhood. A church built on this corner would have greatly enhanced the street and would have been a landmark visible from many miles down the river".

Unfortunately the proposal did not materialise as some of the older church authorities were loath to leave the old site to which they had become attached through the years. It was not that they were against the erection of a new place of worship, but simply that they had a sentimental regard for the place in which they had worshipped as boys and, possibly, their parents before them".

"The new site having been abandoned for the time being, the proposition was advanced that the old site might be made use of and a larger, more substantial and commodious church erected. It was realised that considerable time must elapse before the church was an accomplished fact, but with modern , methods of building construction brought into operation it was found that the new structure could be erected, over the old one without in any way interfering with the usual church work, and when the new building was completed externally, the old church could be removed. This has been done repeatedly in the past and has proved quite effective. The parish possesses a fair amount of additional ground in Cleveland street, so that there should be no trouble as regards the extension of the accommodation, and there seems every reason to believe that a definite move will be made in the near future".

"The rector of the parish (Rev. G. Rowe, B. A.) has shown a most progressive spirit since accepting the living some seven years ago, and, it was mainly due to his untiring efforts that the fine Mission Hall at the Sandhill tram terminus was erected. When approached by a representative of The Daily Telegraph yesterday as regards the new church the rector was not inclined to discuss the matter at the present time nor until something concrete had been decided upon".

"When the proposal was first brought forward that a new church should be erected, Mr. H. S. East, the well-known Launceston architect, was good enough to lend valuable and voluntary assistance in preparing preliminary plans for the proposed edifice. His action was greatly appreciated by the parishioners and a scale drawing showing the elevation of the new church is at present in possession of the church officials. A photograph of the drawing was taken by Mr. S. Spurling and this was reproduced a few weeks ago in 'Building, a publication devoted to constructional work. Mr East provided for a building 140 feet long, 68 feet wide and having a height to the tip of the spire of 70 feet. The material provided for in the construction was red brick, and based on modern decorated Gothic design. The present proposal is to complete the chancel and part of the nave, which would cost approximately £4500 and be capable of seating 420 persons. The completed plans would provide accommodation for 700 people and would cost in the neighbourhood of £10,000".

"The parish is not a wealthy one and whilst the new church will be substantially built, the utmost economy must be observed; consequently the design is of a very simple nature. Owing to the position of the site, and the correct orientation, the usual west-end entrances have to be abandoned and the entrance porches planned where they will be most accessible from the principal street and at the same time comply with the public health regulations. The nave has been planned without piers, so that practically all the congregation will be able to see the pulpit and altar.  The general walling will be of multi-coloured red brick (with diaper pattern that may be left out with out loss of effect) with dark purple brick piers and buttresses externally and simple dado and bands internally: the windows, coping, etc., in cast artificial stone. The existing church has some rather good stained glass and the chancel and west window. have been designed to incorporate these. The roof internally will be open timbered, lined and panelled in Tasmanian hardwood, and it is proposed to cover them externally with Tasmanian slates".

"Gothic architecture lends itself to adaptation, as the first feature in this style is the way it developed as times and customs changed through the various stages from Early English to Perpendicular. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott supplied us. in Liverpool Cathedral, with an object lesson of how this is the case. As there are no columns or clerestory, the span of the nave roof is considerable, but being on the lines of the later Gothic, this roof will be kept flat. Partly for reasons of economy and partly to keep the walls dry and shaded the usual parapet is omitted, and shadow is obtained by overhanging eaves. The effect is unusual but pleasing”.

The reason for the project not being undertaken is unknown. The cost to a parish which “was not a wealthy one” combined with the intervention of the Great Depression, are the most likely reason for it remaining a dream and an historical and architectural curiosity.

Building : Vol. 39 No. 233

St Paul's Cleveland Street. Source Libraries Tasmania - LPIC 3-4-34

St Paul's Chapel in Launceston General Hospital. Photoraph: Duncan Grant 2018


Building : the magazine for the architect, builder, property owner and merchant.Vol. 39 No. 233, (12 January, 1927), pages 37 and 45

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 13 April 1927, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 28 April 1927, page 3


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