No. 453 - St Chad's at Levendale - "A Sanctuary in the Forest"

Levendale is a small farming community in the southern midlands about 20 kilometres northwest of Buckland. The area was unnamed until 1901 when a new State school was called ‘Levendale’ after “Leven Banks”, a prominent farm in the district. The surrounding district soon after adopted the same name as the school.

Anglican services in the area first took place in local homes. Fundraising for a church began at the turn of the century. In 1904 the ‘travelling correspondent’ for the Hobart Mercury wrote:

“The only public building is the State School, but a movement is on foot to erect an Anglican Church in some central position. A substantial sum of money has already been raised for the object”.

By 1906 sufficient funds had been raised to build a church. The foundation stone for St Chad’s was laid in a ceremony in May 1906 led by Archdeacon Whitington. This was reported in some detail by the Hobart Mercury:

“At the laying of the foundation stone of the new Anglican Church of St. Chad here….most pleasant weather prevailed and sunshine fell upon smiling faces, gay dresses, and the Union Jack, which floated o'er the tripod, holding the foundation-stone ready to be lowered. To the right was a small clearing, with four-roomed house, which was used as a storeroom and shield against a north-westerly breeze for the dinner prepared for the occasion in the open air. A fairly large gathering of people witnessed the ceremony, and in a long and impressive address the Archdeacon trusted that the new church would speedily be completed, and concluded by calling upon those assembled to place their offerings upon the stone, which was generously responded to”.

“The ceremony was concluded by singing the doxology, after which all adjourned to partake of the good things provided by the ladies of the district. After the dinner, the Rev. T. Pitt, clergyman of the district, in the course of a long address, testified to the pleasure he felt in welcoming the Archdeacon to his parish, and to the hospitality of the residents of the district, especially referring to Messrs J. and W. Rowlands and their families in this respect. It had always given him great pleasure to visit Levendale, and his labour throughout that district was a very pleasant one. He (the Rev T Pitt) especially complimented the committee and their secretary for the good work they had undertaken so far with success, and trusted that the building of the church would soon be completed. He also referred to the good work done and interest taken in the district by Mrs Mace, of Malunnah, Orford. The secretary (Mr W J Rowlands) then tendered an address of welcome to the venerable Archdeacon, which, while expressive of great pleasure at welcoming him to Levendale, also deeply regretted the inability of Bishop Mercer to attend. Nevertheless, the people felt greatly honoured by his presence as his (the Bishop’s) representative, and earnestly trusted that the time was not far distant when they would again be favoured with his presence at the opening ceremony of the church, which their good clergyman, the Rev T Pitt, rightly designates a “sanctuary in the forest.” The 17th of May will be a day long to be remembered….”

Later in the year a county fair was organised to raise further funds for the completed building. The Hobart Mercury’s local correspondent captures the finer details of Levendale country society with a pleasing turn of phrase :

“Pleasantly ensconced among the hills, at a distance of 6½ miles from Runnymede and nicely situated on a small eminence by the roadside adjoining the well known property of Leven Banks, belonging to Mr. V. W. Hodgson, are the residence and outbuildings of Mr. K. Balsley, the scene of the holding of a fair in aid of the building expenses of St. Chad's Church on Wednesday, October 24. Here the largest scope of open country in the district is to be met with, and through which the Prosser's River wends its way. To the north-east the ground rises with undulating steps to a background of heavily-timbered country, which comprises the heart of Levendale”.

“About 300 yards from Mr. Balsley's, along the road towards Woodsdale in a northerly direction stands the new church building. The morning of the 24th broke fine and clear, but ere long it became apparent that a boisterous and showery day would ensue and such, unfortunately, proved the case. At noon a fair gathering of people had assembled, and the fair building presented a gay appearance. The Union Jack floated over it, and inside the walls and ceiling were decorated with shrubs and striped ribbon paper. The stalls were neatly arranged and were distinguishable by the name of each being stencilled on cardboard. There was a good display of wares and the stallholders and those interested in the good work take this opportunity of thanking one and all for kindly contributions”.

“Under the existing unpleasant state of the weather the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Hodgman was warmly commented upon, and it is this devotion to the interests and welfare of the people of his constituency that makes Mr. Hodgman so universally liked. Mr, and Mrs, Hodgman were shown through the church building, and were greatly pleased with it's prettily designed, neat and attractive appearance. Shortly after 2 o'clock, Mr. Hodgman opened the fair and commented appreciatively on the energy and interest the people of the district had shown in the good work they had undertaken of building an Anglican church, which he averred, would do credit to any township. Continuing, he feelingly referred to the sad and irreparable loss the Venerable Archdeacon Whitington had sustained through the death by accident of his only son* a short time previous, and as a fitting tribute to the memory of the Archdeacon's first visit amongst us, he (Mr. Hodgman) hoped the deficit of building expenses of the church would be speedily wiped off”.

“….Brisk business was then done, the stalls soon presenting an empty appearance….Many thanks are due to Mr. Balsley for having gratuitously lent the building for the occasion and also to those ladies and gentlemen who contributed to the success of the undertaking. The proceeds amounted to £21 8s. 9½d. By 9 p.m. only a few articles remained unsold, and it was then decided to clear the room for dancing. Mr. A. J. Rowlands of Woodsdale, made an efficient M. C., and excellent music was provided. At midnight refreshments were much enjoyed, and the dance was kept up until day-break when all wended there way homewards, expressive of the pleasant evening they had spent”.


St Chad’s was officially opened in August in the following year by Bishop Mercer. Once again the Mercury’s correspondent provides the details:

“There was unsettled weather for the opening of St. Chad's Church on Tuesday last, the 13th inst., but the attendance was large. After heavy rain the morning broke dull and uninviting, a stormy sky, the highlands enveloped in fog, and a cold westerly wind. Towards midday the sun shone brilliantly from beneath an almost cloudless sky, only, however, to be followed by cold winds and showers during the afternoon The school children, who had been granted a holiday, marched from the State school to the church building under the teacher (Mrs. Hurst), and by noon over 100 persons had assembled. Mrs. Mace, of Orford, presided at the organ, and the choir was led by Mrs. Hurst. The Bishop, in the course of a lengthy address, complimented the people of the district upon the spirit that had prompted them to undertake such a good and pleasing work, the building of a beautiful little church. The service, which commenced at 12.30 p.m., concluded at 2 o clock, after which luncheon was held in an adjoining building. The Rev. Thos. Pitt on be half of the people of the district welcomed the Bishop. His Lordship responded, and referred to the great pleasure it had given him to visit them, and to see so many smiling faces….”

St Chad’s served the people of Levendale for a little over a hundred years before a dwindling congregation forced the church’s closure in 2010. The final service at St Chad’s was reported in the Tasmanian Anglican:

“Sunday 14 November saw the final service at St Chad’s, Levendale. First used in 1907, St Chad’s was finally closed after many years of extremely low attendance. MSO Helen Phillips read the Bishop’s sentence of closure to the twenty-eight worshippers who attended. The service was followed by afternoon tea. Most of the consecrated/dedicated items will find their place within St Matthias, Woodsdale or St John the Baptist, Buckland, while some will be placed in a special area in the Woodsdale Museum to help remember the significance of St Chad’s in the life of the Woodsdale/Levendale communities.”

Soon after the church’s closure the building was sold in 2011 and was later converted into a house.

                       +++++++++++++++++++++++++

* “A distressing accident happened at Brown's River yesterday morning, resulting in the' death of a boy named Alick Whitington, aged 14, son of the Venerable Archdeacon Whitington. The lad fell from the cliffs, and sustained fracture of the base of the skull. No one seems to have witnessed the accident.” [The Mercury, Saturday 6 October 1906 p 4]

Real Estate Photograph - Realestate.com.au


The church in 2019 - Photograph: Duncan Grant

The church in 2019 - Photograph: Duncan Grant

The church in 2019 - Photograph: Duncan Grant

Real Estate Photograph - Realestate.com.au

Real Estate Photograph - Realestate.com.au


Real Estate Photograph - Realestate.com.au

Real Estate Photograph - Realestate.com.au
Sources:

Mercury, Saturday 23 July 1904, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 19 May 1906, page 6
Mercury, Thursday 24 May 1906, page 2
The Mercury, Saturday 6 October 1906 p 4
Mercury, Wednesday 31 October 1906, page 8
Mercury, Tuesday 20 August 1907, page 2
Mercury, Saturday 5 September 1931, page 6
Mercury, Monday 15 August 1932, page 3


Tasmanian Anglican, December, 2010

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


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