No. 552 - Cam River - Thomas Wragg's Chapel

Somerset is located on the estuary of the western bank of the Cam River midway between the town of Wynyard and the city of Burnie. The origin of the town dates back to the mid 19th century when the area was settled by Thomas Wragg. It continued to be known as Cam River or the ‘Cam’ long after it was renamed Somerset.

Little is known about the first church built at Somerset by Thomas Wragg. He was the eldest son of a solicitor and was born and educated in London. Wragg was an engraver on wood and also a draughtsman and artist employed by the Illustrated London News. He came to Tasmania in the early 1860’s and settled in the vicinity of the Cam River which was covered with dense forest at the time. Wragg built several houses at the Cam as well as a general store and his own residence. In 1862 he built a chapel for Church of England services where he acted as reader and Sunday School teacher.

The chapel was replaced by St Barnabas church in 1883. At the time it appears that their was some discussion as to whether a new church was needed:

“The building of the place of worship has long been talked of, and though not actually a case of necessity (the Church of England service having been conducted for the past 21 years in a small building originally erected for that purpose by Mr Wragg, but since used also as a school-room), undoubtedly it is an advantage to have a building set apart and built by the people for divine worship”.

The chapel survived until 1921 when it was pulled down due to its dilapidated condition. In October of that year the Launceston Examiner reported:

“The little building which was erected by the late Mr. Thomas Wragg on his own property at Somerset to be used as a place of worship for Church of England services has been recently taken down, as it was showing signs of collapse. The structure, which was the first and only public place of worship for over 20 years, did duty on week days as a meeting hall, and was also used as a schoolroom and Sunday school besides for fully 30 years".

Thomas Wragg died tragically in 1901 at the age of 79. He appears to have lost his way in the dark after locking up St Barnabas Church following the Sunday evening service. He fell into the River Cam where he drowned. His body was recovered the following morning near the bridge at low tide. Accompanying the body was the church keys, a prayer book and his pocket watch which had stopped at 8:38pm.

The Cam Rive Chapel - (1921) - Photograph courtesy of Tom Wragg

The Cam River Chapel - The Weekly Courier 

An engraving by Thomas Wragg of the Hellyer River goldfield - Published in The Weekly Examiner, November 1872.  The Examiner made the claim that this was the first engraving in wood made in Tasmania.


Launceston Examiner, Saturday 11 July 1868, page 3
Tasmanian, Saturday 2 June 1883,
The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 20 Jun 1901, page 4 
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 27 June 1901, page 4
Examiner, Wednesday 19 October 1921, page 2


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