No. 447 - St Michael and All Angels' at Bothwell - 'An Unfinished Gift'

Bothwell is one of the oldest settlements in Tasmania. It is situated on the Clyde River, about 75km miles north of Hobart. The majority of the first settlers were from Scotland. Bothwell once had four churches of which the Anglican, Uniting (Presbyterian) and Catholic churches remain.

Before the construction of St Michael’s, Anglican and Presbyterian congregations worshipped in one building; now St Luke's Uniting Church. A dispute between the two congregations led to the Anglicans breaking away and building their own church in 1891. The new church was designed by Alexander North whose architectural vision was never fully realised. Unfavourable economic conditions and the collapse of the Van Diemen’s Land Bank, resulting in the loss of £200, meant that the building could only be partly completed.

The last service in the old church was held on 30 August 1891 before the new church was consecrated two weeks later. The opening ceremony was reported by the Hobart Mercury:
“The opening and consecration of the Anglican Church of St. Michael and All Angels’, Bothwell, took place on the 15th inst. In the early morning a celebration of Holy Communion was held, at which the Dean of St David's gave a helpful and apt address to those attending. The foundation stone of this handsome edifice was laid about four years ago by Mrs. William Nicholas, late of Nant, in the presence of Bishop Sandford and a large concourse of people. During his speech upon that occasion the late Bishop of Tasmania remarked, "That with such a talented architect as Mr. Alex. North we might reliably expect a beautiful building, and with such an experienced builder as Mr. Thomas Lewis we could rest assured of a solid and enduring structure," observations which have been most fully realised”.

“Upon arrival of the coach at 1 p.m. a luncheon was given to the clerical visitors by the leading churchmen of the parish….By 10 minutes to 3 some 500 people had assembled in the church, or about it, to take part in the ceremony…..”.

"The church is built throughout with a warm-tinted sandstone of first-class quality. This stone was the gift of Mr. J. D. Wood. The plan of the church is cruciform, the transepts being each double arched, so that from the interior they appear as aisles.… A dwarf stone wall divides the chancel from the nave, which at one end runs out so as to form the pulpit, the front of which is decorated by a large and costly mosaic figure of our Lord. This is the gift of the architect. The central feature in the church is doubtless the altar table, which was resplendent with gold and crimson hangings. The altar, and indeed almost all the chancel furniture, are gifts from the communicants. The prayer desk and chair, splendid pieces of work, are the gift of Mrs. William Nicholas. About half of the seats were presented by individual parishioners. The font is a unique and attractive piece of stone work. There are no less than five memorial windows which cost in the aggregate upwards of £300….The seats are provided with kneeling boards. These are from drawings by the well-known architect, Mr. Butterfield, The design of the church reflects the highest credit upon Mr. Alex. North, of Launceston, the architect. And the solid, honest, splendid stonework is the highest possible commendation that Mr Thomas Lewis, the builder, can wish for his future contracts”.

The shortfall in funds meant that the stone tower and spire could not be built. Instead a low temporary wooden structure was erected to house the church bell. Alexander North’s tower was completed in 1921 and ‘opened’ in a ceremony in August attended by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir William Allardyce. As an interesting aside, Allardyce had also served as Governor of Fiji, the Falkland Islands, the Bahamas and Newfoundland in his governing career!

The church has still not fully realised North’s vision with the north transept incomplete and finished with a ‘temporary’ wooden structure. The spire which featured in the original design was never added to the tower when it was completed in 1921. One of the church’s many interesting features is the fireplace on the west wall which is an unusual but a necessary addition, given Bothwell’s freezing winters. The original plan provided for another fireplace near the pulpit.

In 2018 St Michael and All Angel’s was earmarked for sale to meet the Anglican Church’s obligations under the national redress scheme. Fortunately the church was later removed from the list due to community pressure and as a consequence of donations and fundraising to prevent its disposal.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

A wooden building takes the place of the uncompleted north transept. Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

The uncompleted north transept.  Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

A mosaic on the pulpit, a gift of the architect Alexander North

The church in 1920 before the addition of the stone tower. Photograph from signage on the site.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


A small selection of headstones from the cemetery shared with St Luke's and St Michael and All Angels'










Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 31 October 1891, page 2
Mercury, Thursday 22 October 1891, page 4
Mercury, Wednesday 8 April 1931, page 3

Saint Michael and All Angels - A Short History and Guide - a booklet printed by the Church (undated)

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

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