No. 571 - Upper Castra - St Oswald's - 'A Beautiful Facsimile'

Upper Castra is a farming district on the Castra Road approximately 20 kilometres south of Ulverstone. It was once part of a thickly wooded area developed by Colonel Andrew Crawford after he retired from the Indian Army. Upper Castra once had three places of worship, these being Anglican, Methodist and Baptist churches. All of the churches have closed and have been either demolished or removed.’

The first mention of an Anglican Church at Upper Castra comes from 1895 when the North West Post’s correspondent revisited the area:

“After an absence of some years (writes our travelling representative), I again visited Upper Castra on Tuesday, and was struck with the great progress made on some of the properties. From the Barren Hill as far as Brook's farm the land has been getting opened up but slowly, but just beyond a considerable amount of clearing has been done and near the old homes of the late Messrs. Biddle and Stevens (two of the pioneers of the district), a small church has been erected, and in this is now held a State school, where some thirty boys and girls receive tuition at the hands of Miss Counsel, of Sprent…”.

The church mentioned in the report was the forerunner of St Oswald’s which was built 20 years later. The Anglican ‘church school’ which had opened in 1894 was built following a petition to the Education Department in 1893. In June of that year The Coastal News and North Western Advertiser reported:

“We hear a petition is being forwarded to the Minister of Education, by Mr C. F. Heathcote, which is signed by sixteen residents of upper Castra, and praying that a State School may be opened there. It appears there are twenty-eight children residing within a radius of 166 chains from the proposed site of the school, which is situated about five-and-a-half miles from the nearest school, Sprent. Several inhabitants have promised to contribute labour, timber, etc., for the building, and it is thought the Anglican Church will also assist. Practically, the Government is only asked to consent to the appointment of a teacher when suitable premises are erected…”.

By the following year a ‘church-school’ had been erected and was awaiting the appointment of a teacher. In September 1894 the Launceston Examiner’s correspondent for Upper Castra wrote:

“I was nearly omitting to say that Upper Castra can now boast of a school-house, if not a schoolmaster. The government, I understand, agreed to provide a teacher if the residents erected a school-room….The Church of England party use the building for the performance of their church services”.

Upper Castra was one of several church schools in the North West hinterland where churches were built by the community under the auspices of the Anglican Church and were rented to the Department of Education. Monies received were used for the building’s upkeep. As reported in 1898 the Upper Castra church and school was maintained by the Anglican community:

“Sports were held in the vicinity of the Anglican Church Building, Upper Castra, on Monday, followed by a tea and concert, the whole passed off very successfully. The profits are to be devoted to the work of clearing the timber-strewn land around the Church Building, a matter of necessity to preserve it from fire. The building, which is also used as a State school, is a very creditable one, considering that it was built by local effort, and the residents are neither rich nor numerous”.

While the building was creditable, as the community grew the school could no longer adequately meet the needs of the Anglicans. In 1914 preparations began for building a larger church on a new site. In July 1914 the North West Post reported:

“A men's working-bee was held in connection with the Church of England at Upper Castra on Wednesday last. Some twelve men came, and a full day's work was spent cleaning up the site for the new church. Part of the land has been given by Mr. L. Shaw, and much enthusiasm is being shown by both the ladies and the men in making it possible for a really handsome and fitting church to be erected".

It appears that savings were made on the cost of the new building by adapting the plans used for St Andrew’s Anglican Church at Sprent which had opened in 1890. By May 1915 Upper Castra’s new church had been completed. The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times announced:

“A new church has just been completed at Upper Castra and will be opened tomorrow, when three services will be held, the morning preacher will be the Ven. Archdeacon Beresford, and the afternoon and evening services will be conducted by the Rev. H. B. Atkinson, Devonport. The building reflects great credit on the inhabitants of that district, being a facsimile of the beautiful church at Sprent…”

The North West Post’s report on the opening provides some details about the building:

“…There was a large congregation, including - members of the choir of Trinity Church [Ulverstone]. The latter rendered the choral portion of the service ….The new church is a substantial weather-board structure, lined with blackwood and pine, with stained glass windows. The total cost was £200. The altar and many vessels were presented by a church society in England to the Rev. P. H. Martin, to be allocated at his discretion, and were handed over to this new church, which is to be known as St Oswald’s. The building was erected by Mr. A. Harman of Ulverstone”.

The subsequent history of the church is mostly uneventful. Services at St Oswald’s were held until the late 1960’s. The date of its closure and subsequent removal is not known. The building probably still exists but I have yet to determine its location.

St Oswald's at Upper Castra. (undated) Note the similarity with St Andrew's Anglican Church at Sprent upon which the design of the building is based. Source: Ulverstone History Museum

The Upper Castra State school and Anglican Church (1905) - Source: Weekly Courier September 1905

Public Notice - Opening of St Oswald's - The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times - May 1915

St Andrew's at Sprent on which St Oswald's is modelled.  Source: Weekly Courier

Sources:

Coastal News and North Western Advertiser, Friday 16 June 1893, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 26 September 1894, page 7
The Mercury, Tuesday 1 January 1895, page 3
North West Post, Thursday 20 June 1895, page 2
The North West Post, Thursday 9 June 1898, page 3
Weekly Courier, 30 September 1905
North West Post, Thursday 2 July 1914, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 29 May 1915, page 4
The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times, 29 May 1915, page 3
North West Post, Wednesday 2 June 1915, page 4

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