No. 575 - South Hobart - All Saints Chapel - "The poor little wooden chapel"

The landmark All Saints Anglican Church located on Macquarie Street South Hobart is in fact the second ‘All Saints’ built near this site. Following the creation of the All Saints parish in 1855, a ‘temporary church’, known as ‘All Saints Chapel’ was erected as a place of worship in South Hobart while a permanent church was built.

In early June 1855 the Hobart Courier reported on the progress made regarding the new parish:

“The Lord Bishop of Tasmania having formed a new Ecclesiastical District within the City of Hobart Town, bounded by Molle-street and the Cascades, the Hobart Town Creek and the Sandy Bay Rivulet, and having appointed the Rev. J. Tice Gellibrand to be the first Chaplain thereof, the Ven. Archdeacon Davies convened a meeting of all persons interested, at the School-house, Macquarie-street, commonly known as the Bethesda, at three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, to consider the best means of obtaining two rooms suitable for the performance of Divine worship, and other matters connected with the wellbeing of the parish”.

In fact the advertised meeting never took place at the Bethesda School but was switched to the Wesleyan Chapel on Davey Street. At the last moment, Reverend Dr. Fry, who owned the Bethesda school and conducted Anglican services in its chapel, prevented the meeting from taking place. An ongoing dispute between Reverend Fry and the Anglican Church over the debt on the Bethesda building as well as doctrinal matters are too complex to cover here. However, the consequence of the dispute was that the Bethesda school and chapel was closed for use as a temporary place of worship for the new All Saints parish while a church was built. Consequently, a temporary chapel was built opposite Bethesda until a permanent church was constructed. Thus, the short-lived All Saints Chapel, the subject of this article, was the product of an unholy row.

Events moved quickly following the appointment of a committee to establish an alternative place of worship in the new parish. On the 18 June 1855 the Courier reported:

“The Committee appointed to provide a Place of Worship for the new district of All Saints have been very successful in securing a most eligible site for the Church just in the centre of the parish. In Macquarie-street, directly opposite the “Bethesda," there is a waste piece of ground which seems to have been reserved for this good purpose, this is the spot which has been selected. The next step for the Committee is to collect subscriptions, and commence the building operations without delay. There is nothing like "striking the iron while it is hot.” Who can fail to see the benefit of having a Church and a resident clergyman in this neighbourhood of the city?”

Within the space of four months a place of worship, “The Chapel of All Saints” was formally opened on 30 September by the Bishop of Tasmania. The Courier reported:

“On Sunday last, the 30th ult., the new Chapel of All Saints, in Upper Macquarie-street, was opened for public worship. The sermon in the morning was preached by the Lord Bishop of Tasmania. Although it was a very wet day, there was a fair average congregation of the parishioners, who, by their very presence at such a time, showed their appreciation of the blessing provided for them in this new House of Prayer. This is the second time that the Bishop has taken an active part in the missionary duties of this new district. It was in a very humble cottage, and in a small borrowed room, that the first service was held: four months have elapsed, and the little band of worshippers have grown into a goodly company, and rejoice to welcome their bishop in a commodious room, which they have built in the fear and love of God. Now those who love to see a good substantial stone church must not find fault with the poor little wooden chapel of All Saints. If if has no pretension whatever to any ecclesiastical design, no blame can rest with those who had the responsibility of erecting it; they had but a very small sum of money to spend, and they were compelled to provide for the present exigency. As some of our readers at a distance may have felt a sympathy in this infant mission in its struggling course during the last four months, we give a few particulars of our little Missionary Chapel :-

"It is built of wood upon a stone foundation (pointing east and west), and is of the simplest possible structure: over the eastern gable is a plain wooden cross, which seems especially necessary on such a humble building, not only for its ordinary signification, but as giving a mark and character to point out to Christians the House of Prayer. The interior fittings, though very plain, are in ecclesiastical order. The approach to the Communion Table is well arranged. The pulpit stands on the north side. The prayers are said from a Lettern on the south side, and the Holy Bible is read from another Lettern in front. The benches are arranged on each side of the chapel; and under the window at the west end stands a small plain Font cut in stone. The building measures 40 feet by 20 feet inside, and will accommodate about 160 worshippers".

"In concluding this notice, it is gratifying, and only just, to say a word or two in acknowledgment of the good services which have been so willingly rendered to the work by Mr. Thomas Stansfield. To see a layman so active in the Church's work, is a treat we would long to rejoice over every day of our lives. We ought to have made mention before of the Bishop's very handsome present to the Parish of All Saints. The set of silver gilt Communion Plate, which had been placed at the Bishop's disposal by a good lady in England, and which is now the property of All Saints' Chapel, will ever remain as a token of affection, to remind the parishioners of one who has given the most hearty co-operation to this missionary work of the Church”.

Religious services at the All Saints Chapel continued until the completion the landmark Henry Hunter designed church which opened in August 1859. This church will be the subject of a further article but the humble chapel that preceded it ought not to be forgotten as it existed briefly a church in its own right. After the opening of All Saints the chapel was used as a Sunday school building and was later converted into the vergers cottage as depicted in the photograph below from the Tasmanian Mail.

The vergers cottage has now gone but the foundations of the chapel remain.  In 2001 the foundations were used as a site for a formal monastery garden. This was dedicated in November 2001 by Bishop Phillip Newell in memory of a former rector, Fr Bill Paton.

The All Saints Chapel - date of the original photograph is not known. Source: The Tasmanian Mail, 28 August 1909

Courier, Wednesday 18 July 1855, page 4

The 'new' All Saints in 1909 - The Tasmanian Mail

Founder of All Saints Chapel and All Saints church - The Tasmanian Mail, 28 August 1909


Courier, Monday 4 June 1855, page 2
Tasmanian Daily News, Monday 4 June 1855, page 2
Courier, Monday 18 June 1855, page 2
Courier, Friday 13 July 1855, page 2
Colonial Times, Friday 13 July 1855, page 3
Courier, Wednesday 18 July 1855, page 4 (advertising)
The Hobarton Mercury, Friday 10 August 1855, page 2
Courier, Saturday 6 October 1855, page 3
Colonial Times, Monday 31 December 1855, page 2
The Tasmanian Mail, 28 August 1909, page 20
The Mercury,  Saturday 1 November 1919,  page 6 [The Quiet Garden]


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