No. 483 - St Stephen's at Underwood

Underwood is a rural settlement approximately 20 kilometres northeast of Launceston. Underwood was established as a site for a timber workers camp and the Grubb and Tyson’s sawmill which operated in the 1860’s. An 8-mile long wooden track was built from Underwood to Mowbray to carry sawn timber to Launceston. Falling prices and problems with timber supply forced the mill to close in 1869.

A Wesleyan Methodist church was established in the village in 1882. A little over twenty years later the Anglicans' built a parish hall, called St Stephen’s, on a site directly opposite the the Methodist church.[see map below] Although a place of worship, St Stephen's also served as a community hall until a public hall, the Coronation Hall, opened in 1911.

In 1905 the Launceston Examiner carried an article describing the opening of St Stephen’s:

“The new parish hall was opened on the 28th November with a concert and coffee supper, which turned out a great success. The building was prettily decorated by the Church of England ladies who worked hard to make it the success it proved to be. The audience was a large one consisting of people from all parts of the district, who came to witness the long-talked of event. The opening ceremony was performed by Bishop Mercer who congratulated the Rev. S. P. H Martin and the building committee on their very fine effort in building the hall, and also mentioned the various ways in which the community would be benefited by the hall, which is a much-needed want supplied. The Bishop made some very interesting remarks on music, singing, reciting, and debating, which was highly appreciated; they being both amusing and edifying. The programme was a long one, and some very good pieces were rendered….The piano was kindly lent by Mrs. Harrison, and the crockery by the Methodist Church committee, who cannot be too highly thanked for their assistance in many ways. The proceedings closed by singing the national Anthem”.

According to newspaper reports St Stephen’s parish hall continued to be used for community and social events, particularly for concerts and dances. The date which services ceased at St Stephen’s in not know although reports of church activities no longer appear after the 1930’s. The building gradually deteriorated and became considered unsafe. In 1952 material from St Stephen’s was incorporated into an extension built onto Coronation Hall. This hall burnt down in 1965, taking with it the last vestiges of St Stephen’s parish hall. No image or photograph of St Stephen’s is known to exist.


An article on the Underwood Methodist church can be found on this LINK

A detail of a map of Underwood (c.1900) showing the location of St Stephen's opposite the Methodist Church. Source Libraries Tasmania AF819-1-356

Sources:

Examiner,  Thursday 7 December 1905, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 25 April 1911, page 7
Examiner,Tuesday 15 April 1952,  page 10

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



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