No. 456 - St Paul's at Bengeo - "Assurance of Our Affectionate Regard"

Approximately 7 kilometres west of Deloraine, near Red Hills, lies Bengeo Road, named after a large farm established in the area in the mid 19th century. Originally a 1200 acre land grant made to Colonel Schaw, the property was purchased by John Archer in 1840 and named Bengeo, after his native village in Hertfordshire, England.

A church once stood at a site on Coxs Road which once formed part of the Bengeo estate. Little of it now remains apart from stone walls which formed the church’s foundation and the remnants of a graveyard. The church would have been a simple wooden structure which stood at the site from the 1860’s to the 1890’s. It is possible that the building may have been removed to Bengeo farm and may still exist as one of many outbuildings on the property.

The church, called St Paul’s, was opened on Sunday 21 April 1861 by Archdeacon Thomas Reibey of Launceston. Very little information about the church exists although newspaper reports made regular reference to harvest festivals at Bengeo from the 1870’s through to the mid 1880’s. A report on the 1883 harvest festival published by the Examiner provides a small glimpse of the Bengeo church:

“In the afternoon the Very Rev. the Dean, with the Incumbent and a part of the choir, went to Bengeo, to celebrate there the Harvest Festival. The church being smaller than that at Deloraine, the decorations could not be of such an elaborate character, but they were equally beautiful, the altar railing covered with barley and berries being especially noticeable; all in keeping with Harvest Festival, which was earnest and sincere. At the conclusion of the service many of those present received fruit and flowers”.

Another source of information about the church comes from an 1886 report and advertisement in which the Bengeo congregation addressed public thanks to Reverend Johnathan Evans of Deloraine who faithfully conducted services at the church for a period of time and whose departure clearly worried the congregation. The address was published by the churchwardens; Thomas Twining, John Atkins and James Tuthill, on behalf the congregation “numbering 60 persons”:

“Reverend and Dear Sir - We, the undersigned inhabitants of Bengeo and neighbourhood, members of the Church of England, have heard with sincere regret that owing to ill-health you are about to go from among us. We are painfully aware that your position has not been one of ease, and that owing to bad roads at times has not been one of pleasure; but we hope it may be a source of comfort to you to have this assurance of our affectionate regard. We had hoped that you might have continued ministering among us for many years, but as it seems to be otherwise ordained we must submit, and conclude by wishing yourself, Mrs. Evans, and family all happiness and prosperity wherever you may please…”.

There may be a link between the church’s closure and Evans’ departure to St Peter’s Anglican church at St Leonards, outside Launceston. It is possible that the poor road and the distance of Bengeo from Deloraine may have conspired to make it difficult to secure the regular attendance of a minister. The opening of the new St Luke’s church at nearby Red Hills in 1894 probably contributed to the Begeo church’s demise if it in fact still existed by that time. I have found no reference to the church’s activities beyond 1891 although it may have continued for a while after this.  The small cemetery remained in use until 1915 when the last burial took place.

It quite probable that the building still exists in some form or other as small timber churches were typical removed and reused in various forms. Although there is now little physical trace left of the church its history leaves a faint echo of a rural community and way of life now long vanished.

Launceston Examiner April 1861

The location of the church and cemetery on Coxs' Road

One of the graves now closed off. Photograph - Duncan Grant - 2019

The remains of a wall, possibly the foundation of the church. Photograph- Duncan Grant - 2019

A few of several outbuildings on Bengeo farm which may contain rements of the old church - Photograph- Duncan Grant - 2019

Launceston Examiner February 1886

The location of Bengeo - source: placenames.gov.tas.au

Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 13 April 1861, page 5
The Tasmanian, Saturday 27 March 1875, page 11
The Tasmanian, Saturday 23 April 1881
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 10 April 1883, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 17 February 1886, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Friday 11 April 1884, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 17 February 1886, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 17 February 1886, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 15 April 1891, page 2

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





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