No. 445 - St Luke's at Red Hills - "Worked Like Horses"

Red Hills is a small settlement and farming district 5 kilometres west of Deloraine on the Mole Creek Road. The name is derived from "Red Hills Farm" and the Red Hills Inn established by James Bennett in 1851. 

 St Luke’s Anglican church closed in February 1977 and was sold and converted into a house. Four decades on the building has been substantially altered over the years so that only locals would now remember that it was once a church.

St Luke’s was in fact the second Anglican built church at Red Hills. The first church was established in 1864 on land donated by James Bennett and the building served the dual purpose of a church and school. The old church school was deemed no longer adequate by the late 1880’s and fundraising began to build a new place of worship. The foundation stone for the new church was laid in October 1894 in a ceremony led by Bishop Montgomery. It was on a site adjacent to the Red Hills State School grounds which was described as being “most suitable, being the centre of a populous locality”. The building was designed by Mr Freeman of Deloraine. The Daily Telegraph provides an account of the occasion:

“Wednesday, the 17th, was quite a red letter day in the annals of church matters. His Lordship the Bishop of Tasmania, accompanied by Revs. L. T. Tarleton and Sharland, arrived about 12.45 p.m. After they had lunched, the ceremony of laying the foundation stone was performed. During the afternoon chopping and horse jumping contests were held in Mr George Bennett’s paddock, which was kindly lent for the occasion by that gentleman. When it is mentioned that tea was on the table from four until 7.30, the ladies being fully employed the whole time, one can imagine the large crowd present. The proceedings were enlivened during the afternoon by Walker’s band, who so generously gave their services gratuitously for the benefit of the church”.

“In the evening the school-room was packed with an appreciative audience, who appeared to thoroughly enjoy the different items, especially the comic songs of Messrs. Ives and Donovan, the former gentleman fairly bringing down the house in his songs “Good night” and “Medicine Jack.” A Bruce auction of the remnants of the tea finished off the day, which was the most successful ever held here. The total sum taken was £22 10s 3d. This satisfactory amount must have been very gratifying to Messrs. G. Clark and C.Bester who worked like horses for days to make the affair a success. The ladies deserve the greatest praise for the most excellent tea they provided”.

The building was completed in the following year and officially opened on Wednesday 9 May. The ceremony and the celebration which followed were again described by the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph:

“The old building, which has served the dual purpose of a church and school for the last 31 years was built by Mr J. Keogh in 1864. The architect of the new Anglican church, which was opened on Wednesday last, was Mr Freeman, of Deloraine. The contractor was Mr John Flicks, of Latrobe, who, by-the-bye, has completed his work in a thoroughly honest and efficient manner, which reflects great credit upon him as a skilled mechanic. The total cost, inclusive of painting, is £109 9s, and the knowledge that it was opened yesterday free of debt must be very gratifying to those who had worked so hard…. Divine service was held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the Revs. L. Tarleton, W. Hogg. J. G. Moiling, and S. H. Hughes taking part. The music and singing were under the leadership of Mr Allison, assisted by the Deloraine choir… During the afternoon a cricket match was held between teams representing Deloraine and Needles, victory resting with the latter. There were also some horse jumping contests. In the evening a concert was held in the public school-room, which was densely packed, almost to suffocation….”

Red Hills is no longer the “populous locality” that it was in the late 19th century and it is now hard to imagine the once thriving settlement described in the two reports. St Luke’s celebrated its centenary on 24 April 1965 in a ceremony led by Robert Davies, the Bishop of Tasmania. In little over a decade, services ceased, mainly as a consequence of a decline in population. Along with St Luke’s, other Anglican country churches in the parish of Deloraine, including Chudleigh, Bengeo and Mole Creek have closed or disappeared. The story of St Luke’s is a reminder of a long vanished world and of a community and way of life which centred on the country church.

Adapted Google street view image (2010)

St Luke's in 2019 - now mostly hidden from view. Photo: Duncan Grant 

St Luke's in 2019 - now mostly hidden from view. Photo: Duncan Grant 


Daily Telegraph, Friday 19 October 1894, page 4
Tasmanian, Saturday 20 October 1894, page 31
Tasmanian, Saturday 2 March 1895, page 20
Daily Telegraph, Friday 10 May 1895, page 4
Tasmanian, Saturday 18 May 1895, page 30

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


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