No. 577 - Somerset - St Barnabas' - 'From The Cam to The Derwent'

 Somerset is located on the estuary of the western bank of the Cam River midway between the township of Wynyard and the city of Burnie. At one time it was a town in its own right but it is now a satellite town of the city of Burnie. In 1856 it was renamed after the Earl of Somerset. In earlier times the area was also known as ‘Port Maldon’ and ‘The Cam’, with the latter name being used well into the 20th century. Somerset has had a broad range of religious denominations represented in the town including Baptist, Anglican, Methodist (Uniting Church), the Church of Christ and Catholic churches. 

There have been two Anglican churches built at Somerset. The first church was built in 1862 by Thomas Wragg and this has already been the subject of an article in Churches of Tasmania. [ see No. 552 ]

Thomas Wragg’s chapel was replaced by St Barnabas’ in 1883. The new church was a small building with dimension of only 19ft by 24ft but it was deemed to be “quite large enough for the present congregations”. The Launceston Examiner has a brief report on the opening service which took place on 13 May 1883:

“The Church of St. Barnabas was opened on Sunday the 18th inst., the Venerable Archdeacon Hales and the Rev. B. K. Bourdillon officiating. There was a very large congregation, several persons from Emu Bay and other places being interested in the opening service. 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 themselves for divine worship. A presentation was made to Mrs. Wragg of a handsome tea service, accompanied with an address conveying the thanks of the inhabitants for the use of the building above-mentioned for so many years. Also a handsome book was presented to Miss Lucy Wragg for her services as organist”.

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

The church was dedicated in 1884 and consecrated in 1895 when, when it was enlarged by twenty-eight feet. St Barnabas’ celebrated its centenary in 1983 but sadly the last service was held only a few years later. The building was subsequently sold and in recent years it was relocated to Bridgewater on the River Derwent, in the south of the State. It has been placed alongside the former St Mary’s Anglican church as an annex to that building, which is being converted into a house. I have yet to find a photograph of St Barnabas’ in its original location and the photograph’s below show the somewhat altered building at its new location at Bridgewater.

St Barnabas' - now at Bridgewater - Photograph: Duncan Grant (2019)

St Barnabas' - now at Bridgewater - Photograph: Duncan Grant (2019)

St Mary's at Bridgewater with St Barnabas in the background. Photograph: Duncan Grant (2018)

St Barnabas Hall located on Wragg Street, Somerset. The hall has been recently demolished to make way for housing units. Photograph from Google Street View (2010)


Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 15 May 1883, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 29 May 1883 p 3
The 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

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


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