No. 489 - St Mary Magdalene at Liffey

Liffey is a rural area surrounded by rainforest in the shadow of the Great Western Tiers. The settlement lies about 40 kilometres south-west of Launceston. Three churches were built at Liffey including Baptist and Methodist chapels and the Anglican church, St Mary Magdalene.
In October 1917 Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported on progress made towards establishing a church at Liffey: 

“For many years past services in connection with the Church of England have been held in this picturesque little settlement. Lately classes of instruction have been conducted by Rev. Canon Finnis and students from St Wilfred’s College. Now a step forward is about to be taken. A building committee has been formed, and it has been decided to build a church. It will be dedicated to St Mary Magdalene…”.

It would appear that Reverend Herbert Finnis was the driving force behind the establishment of a church at Liffey. As Warden of St Wilfred’s Theological College at Cressy, rural churches and schools provided opportunities for experience for the college’s students. As Warden, Reverend Finnis worked closely with Bishop Mercer which explains why the Governor of Tasmania was prevailed upon to lay the foundation stone of this small and insignificant Liffey church.

The ceremonial laying of the foundation stone was reported in the Daily Telegraph in December 1917:

“Yesterday his Excellency the Governor (Sir Francis Newdegate), ….motored to the Upper Liffey to lay the foundation stone of the Anglican Church at that settlement…..An impressive service was rendered, and His Excellency on laying the foundation stone, said he was glad to have the opportunity of visiting such a beautiful part of Tasmania….His Excellency also spoke of the effect of religion in this time of war and stress…”

The church was designed by Mr Heyward (architect) of Launceston. It was described as “a very pretty church nestling in a grove of peppermints, blue gum, and yellow wattle, and presents a striking little picture”. The church was dedicated on 7 October 1918 by the Bishop of Tasmania.

News about activities of the church are very limited and even the destruction of the church in a fire in 1934 barely received a mention in the local press. The Examiner reported:

“On Wednesday morning the English Church was destroyed by a fire. Log fires were burning in the adjoining paddock some distance from the church, and a strong wind was blowing at the time. It is believed that sparks were carried by the wind to the building, the shingles on the roof of which were very dry. Only a short time ago a working bee was engaged at the church, when grass and rubbish was cleared for some distance from the building”.

The church was never replaced. Cannon Finnis returned to England in 1926 and he probably did not learn of the fate of his church at Liffey, two years before his death in 1936.


Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 30 October 1917, page 8
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 12 December 1917, page 6
Examiner, Friday 20 September 1918, page 8
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 30 June 1934, page 5
The Hobart Mercury, Saturday 30 June 1934, page 7
The Mercury,  Friday 14 February 1936,  page 2

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


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