No. 468 - St Augustine's at Latour - "Wives Churched and their Children Christened"

Longford’s historical Christ Church is in fact the third Anglican church built at the town. The first church which built in the late 1820’s and was no more than a temporary wooden hut which served as a place of worship until a more substantial church could be built. The second church, St Augustine’s, was used for less than a decade before it was torn down.

At the time when St Augustine’s was built, Longford was known as Latour and was at the centre of the Norfolk Plains, a region which derived its name from the Norfolk Islanders who had been relocated to Tasmania and encouraged settle in the area. The Islanders by and large did not remain at Norfolk Plains and farms were purchased by other British settlers as well as by corporate landholders such as the Cressy Company. 

The settlement of Latour was named after Major-General Latour, Chief Director of the Van Dieman’s Land Establishment, later known as the Cressy Company, which began operations in 1826-27. The ‘founder’ of Longford is believed to be Newman Williat, a retired postmaster, who owned a house near the first church. A plan for Latour was drawn up in 1833 but by this time it had been renamed Longford.

The first clergyman to visit Latour was Reverend James Norman of St John’s Launceston, who held an outdoor service in September 1827. By 1829 a clergyman was assigned to the district and a temporary church was built in the grounds of what is now Christ Church. 

In 1830, Reverend Rowland Robert Davies was appointed as chaplain to the district and services continued to be held in the small temporary wooden structure until a more substantial brick church could be built. The first service in the temporary church was very small with only five individuals attending.

The foundation stone for St Augustine’s was laid in April 1830 with Lieutenant Governor Arthur in attendance. The labourers who built the new church were convicts supplied by the government.

In June 1830 the Launceston Advertiser commented:

“We are happy to congratulate the inhabitants of Norfolk Plains, that a Church is in rapid progress and that the present Christian Governor, has also appointed a clergyman to officiate regularly therein. This, will do much to repress all such gross violations of Religion, and of morality; and we firmly believe that the Rev. Mr. Davies will find his parishioners as devout and as attentive to their religious duties as in any other part of the Colony”.

By late 1830 the exterior of the building was approaching completion and residents of the district donated fittings and furnishings which included a seraphine (an early keyed wind instrument), which was placed in a gallery, and screened off by red curtains. Prisoners were restricted to the gallery during services. A block of stone outside the church was used for the removal of the prisoners’ shackles before they entered the church.

In January 1831 the Launceston Advertiser announced that “an elegant little chapel is now nearly finished” at Norfolk Plains. The date of the church’s opening is not known however in June 1831 an advertisement was placed in the Launceston newspaper, ‘The Independent’, which indicates “St Augustine’s” was now open for business:

“Those persons who are desirous of, and intend having their Wives Churched, and their Children Christened at Norfolk Plains, and are willing to enter into a Subscription for the hire of a van for their conveyance, are requested to leave their names, stating the amount they mean to give, at the Office of The Independent….”

Little is know about the church’s activities but within a few years of opening it was evident that the building had serious structural problems and would have to be replaced. In 1839 the Cornwall Chronicle reported:

“At Longford, the church, erected some years since, has become much too small for the accomodation of the congregation, whilst at the same time, from some defect in the construction, it was not likely to stand long; the inhabitants therefore, determined upon having an entirely new and handsome building, the foundation of which is now completed, the first stone having been laid by the Lieutenant Governor…”

St Augustine’s was pulled down in 1842 before Christ Church was completed two years later. The only surviving image of St Augustine’s is in a drawing by Marianne Astley Paton. In this image St Augustine’s can be seen propped up with stays and minus its tower. An unfinished Christ Church is situated to the right of St Augustine’s and in front of the original wooden chapel which was still standing.

While St Augustine’s is now little more than a curiosity, it was the sixth Anglican church to be built in the colony and for a few years was at the centre of enormous parish extending from Ross to the Bass Strait.


Detail of a drawing by Marianne Astley Paton-  https://eheritage.libraries.tas.gov.au/resources/detail05c9.html?ID=LFH_18881

Drawing by Marianne Astley Patonhttps://eheritage.libraries.tas.gov.au/resources/detail05c9.html?ID=LFH_18881

The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 1 May 1830

The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 12 September 1829

The Independent, Saturday 11 June 1831

Sources:

The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 12 September 1829, page 2
The Launceston Advertiser, Monday 17 January 1831, page 24
The Tasmanian, Friday 9 April 1830, page 6
The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 1 May 1830, page 2
Launceston Advertiser, Monday 14 June 1830, page 2
Launceston Advertiser, Monday 27 December 1830, page 4
The Independent, Saturday 11 June 1831, page 1
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 28 September 1839, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 30 July 1921, page 13
Examiner , Wednesday 27 September 1944, page 6

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




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