No. 509 - Central Castra - The Church of Heavenly Rest - "Not Fit to Herd Pigs in"

Central Castra is small farming district on the Central Castra Road approximately 15 kilometres south of Ulverstone. It was an area that was part of the soldier settlement, organised by the government and Colonel Andrew Crawford in the late 1860's. Two Anglican churches were built in the Castra region, St Oswald’s at Upper Castra (1915) and The Church of Heavenly Rest (1900) at Central Castra.

The ‘foundation stone’ for the Central Castra church was laid in November 1899. In November of the following year Bishop Montgomery visited Upper Castra to ‘dedicate’ the church:

“On Monday the Bishop and rector were driven to Central Castra by Mr A. Crawford, and in the evening His Lordship held a confirmation in the new church. Five candidates were confirmed and the Bishop, by request, solemnly named the church ‘The Church of the Heavenly Rest’.”

In 1906 The North West Post reported that at Central Castra:

“The only public building is the neat little church, which is owned by the Anglican community, and is also used as a State School. Situated as it is, at the junction of two principal roads, it is very convenient”.

By 1910 the church was still being used as a schoolroom but by now residents at Upper Castra were agitating for a State school and a teacher’s residence to be built. The school had ongoing problems in retaining a teacher and was frequently closed as a result of this. In 1912 the Examiner reported on challenges faced by the departing teacher, Miss Martin:

“…who had to contend with, ….want of space, as the building was miserably small and inadequate. It is to be hoped that the Church of England, to which it belongs, will see their way to enlarging it soon…”

In 1918 the Anglicans were receiving £85 in annual rent for the building and although it continued to be used as a place of worship, the small congregation did not have the means to either enlarge or repair the church. In July 1918, further complaints were aired by the North West Post about the condition of the building:

“At the school, the state of affairs is discreditable to the Department…. round the building itself more often than not [is] a great pool of water, which is not conducive to good health among the children. Unfortunately for them the church authorities will not spend money, neither will the Education Department. It is a great pity those who are in authority do not come here to see for themselves the difference there is between their snug offices and this dilapidated shanty…”

In September 1918 Councillor Bingham of the Leven Council became involved. The North Western Advocate reported:

“Cr. Bingham would like to know if this matter has been referred to the church authorities? He understood that on account of the rector leaving, and as one was not likely to be appointed for some time, they were to suffer the inconvenience indefinitely. At present he had no hesitation in saying that the place was not fit to herd pigs in”.

In 1919 the Advocate reported that some progress was made with the church with the roof being repaired, windows replaced and the foundation made firm. However the saga of the schools use of the church was to drag on for another decade with frequent reports of its closure due to the resignation of teachers.

In 1931, the Education Department decided to build a school at Central Castra and in February 1932 the new building was officially opened. With the departure of the school new life was breathed into the Church of Heavenly Rest. In 1939 the first wedding held in the church since it opened in 1900 took place with the marriage of Isabella Yaxley and James Robertson. In 1940, a second wedding was celebrated with the marriage of Joy Robertson and Reginald Vernham of Central Castra.

The subsequent history of the Church of Heavenly Rest is difficult to trace as it disappears from the newspaper record by the late 1940’s. However, this little known church deserves to be remembered for the 30 years it housed Central Castra’s school and it is also is a reminder of the struggle which rural communities have had to overcome in seeking education and opportunities for their children.


The Church of Heavenly Peace in 1905. The Weekly Courier, 12 August 1905

The school at the Church of Heavenly Peace - Thanks to Fiona Elcock - posted in the Ulverstone and Surrounds Facebook Group April 2017.  (undated photo)


Sources:

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 22 November 1899, page 2
The Mercury, Saturday 10 February 1900, page 4
The North West Post, Thursday 29 November 1900, page 2
The Weekly Courier, 12 August 1905
The North West Post, Thursday 28 January 1906, page 2
Examiner, Tuesday 26 April 1910, page 3
The North West Post, Friday 29 April 1910, page 2
North West Post, Thursday 15 December 1910, page 2
North West Post, Thursday 1 June 1911, page 2
Examiner, Monday 8 April 1912, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Friday 9 January 1914, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 12 July 1918, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 12 August 1918, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 16 September 1918, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 4 October 1918, page 2
The Advocate, Monday 10 March 1919, page 4
The Advocate, Tuesday 30 June 1931, page 4
The Advocate, Monday 19 November 1931, page 4
Advocate, Friday 5 February 1932, page 7
Advocate, Tuesday 11 July 1939, page 4
Advocate, Friday 11 October 1940, page 7












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