No. 580 - Colebrook - St James of Jerusalem - "Subscriptions for the Holy Land"

Colebrook lies in the Coal River Valley in the southern midlands approximately 50 kilometres north of Hobart. It was previously known as Jerusalem and later as 'Colebrook Dale’. In 1839 Colebrook was developed as a site for the Jerusalem convict probation station. The convict church at the station was the subject of a recent article on ‘Churches of Tasmania’. [See No. 570]

Before St James was built the Anglican community used the “Old Prison Church” as a place of worship until the 1870’s. After this services were held in a small weatherboard building which had previously been used as a schoolhouse. It is believed that that an attempt was made to build a new church in the late 1850’s and that a foundation stone for a building was laid but no further progress was made.

In December 1882 the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for the new church was reported in the Hobart Mercury. This lengthy report is interesting as it explains in some detail the story of the church’s establishment going back to the days of the probation station:

“A very pleasing ceremony took place in Jerusalem yesterday, when the foundation stone of a Church of England which is being erected in the township, was laid by the Rev. Dean Bromby, in presence of about 70 people. Ever since the establishment of a Church of England in Jerusalem, until about four years ago, the congregation worshipped in the old church connected with the penal probation station in Jerusalem. This building is large and commodious, and when first handed over to the Church of England authorities was in good repair. It is a T-shaped church built of bricks, with a shingle roof. During the time prisoners were domiciled in the probation station the church was used by civilians as well as prisoners. The civilians occupied the body of the church, and the prisoners the two side wings. When the building was handed over to the Church of England, a number of people objected to worshipping in a place which had associations of a somewhat disagreeable character connected with it. For 20 years back many persons have advocated the building of a new church, and it is stated that the foundation stone of such a building was laid in the township very many years ago, but a search was made for the stone without finding it".

“It is related that a few days after the arrival of Bishop Bromby in Tasmania, a lady called at his residence, and asked to see him; but he being out she saw Mrs. Bromby. She then told Mrs. Bromby that she came to ask the Bishop to give a subscription towards the erection of a new Church of England at Jerusalem. Mrs. Bromby, not knowing of any Tasmanian sacred city, said, "Dear me, we have just came out from England, and do they follow us here asking for subscriptions for the Holy Land."

“About six years ago £30 was spent in repairing the roof of the old church, so as to prevent the rain coming in. About 18 months afterwards it was observed that the floor was very shaky, and therefore the joists were in many places propped up from underneath, but a few months afterwards the floor became so dangerous that worship in the church was abandoned, and a few weeks afterwards the floor fell in, the joists having been eaten away at the ends by dry rot. The use of a small cottage situated off the Campania road was secured. The two rooms of the cottage had previously been thrown into one, and the large room thus obtained used at times as a schoolroom, concert room, dancing saloon, etc. The interior having been repaired, and a small chancel made at the south end worship was held in it at regular periods. The Rev. Mr. Fookes, formerly incumbent at Richmond, which parish embraces Jerusalem, used to preach once a month, but since the present incumbent, the Rev. Mr. Hugill, came to reside in the parish, sermons have been delivered weekly”.

“About 10 years ago Mr. Basset Dickson left £60 to be spent in aiding to build a new Church of England. Since then there has been a sort of division in the camp, some members of the congregation wishing to proceed at once with the erection of the new church, others desiring that the old church should be put in a state of thorough repair, and made suitable for use. It was, however, clear that to do this would almost cost as much as the erection of a new church; so about three years ago it was decided to abandon the idea of repairing the old building, and the following gentlemen were appointed a building committee to make the necessary arrangements for proceeding with the erection of the new church :- Messrs, A. Nichols, A. Robertson, J. Brain, and W. Rumney. These gentlemen, for the sake of being as economical as possible, procured plans which had been prepared for churches already erected in the colony, and after carefully examining several of them, ultimately decided to adopt the plan of the North Bridgewater church”.

“This plan, with several improvements, was duly accepted, and tenders called for. The successful tenderer was Mr. Lennon, whose price was £545 for the stone work. Only a few weeks had elapsed when Mr. Lennon became ill, and had to go to the hospital to be treated. The building committee not wishing to do Mr. Lennon an injustice, waited nearly eight months, thinking he might recover sufficiently to recommence operations. But this he failed to do, and at last wrote to the committee telling them to give the tender to some one else. This was accordingly done, the tender being given to Mr. Joshua Fish, formerly of Oatlands. The site chosen is on a gently rising slope on the left hand side of the Campania-road from Jerusalem, and nearly opposite the street leading down to the residence of Mr. Rumney”.

“The stone is a soft grey sandstone, which is being taken from a quarry in the neighbourhood. The members of the congregation have been busily engaged raising subscriptions, and the amount in hand and promised is a little over £300. It is the intention of the committee to sell the old brick church, which they expect will fetch between £150 and £200. In March next a bazaar will be held in Oatlands, the proceeds of which will be handed over to the building fund. The ladies of Oatlands are preparing articles for the bazaar, and doubtless the ladies of Hobart will assist the Oatlands people in making their bazaar a success. The cottage in which public worship is conducted will, after the church is consecrated, be used for Sunday school purposes”.

“The morning yesterday was beautifully fine, and induced a number of country people to visit the township for the purpose of witnessing the laying of the foundation-stone, but during the afternoon the sky became overcast, and shortly after 5 o'clock a few drops of rain fell. Among those present were the Rev. Mr. and Mrs Hugill. Shortly after 3 o'clock the assembled worshippers were warned that the ceremony was about to commence by the tolling of the church bell. The church then filled rapidly till all the seats were occupied, about 70 persons being present….The usual form of service was then commenced in the church the Rev. Mr. Hugill officiating. After the first portion had been gone through, the Dean and Mr. Hugill, followed by the congregation, left the church and proceeded to where the foundation-stone was to be laid. After a further portion of the service had been disposed of, the Dean, smoothing down the lime with the trowel, repeated the usual formal words of the service as the stone was being lowered into its place, He then applied the level and tapped the stone two or three times with the mallet. The Dean then preached an eloquent and impressive sermon from the text, "The river of God is full of water.”… A collection was then taken up and £13.15s 6d. laid on the stone. A bottle was placed in a cavity under the stone containing the Mercury of the 27th and 28th December [and] a Tasmanian Mail of the 23rd December….”

Church was opened and consecrated on Thursday 13 March 1884. The Tasmanian News reported:

“Five-and-twenty years ago the foundation stone for a Church of England was laid, and nothing more was done until the latter end of 1882, when the same ceremony was performed, but this last time with more success, as to-day (March 6) the long-expected and wished-for event took place, namely, the formal opening and consecration of the Anglican Church. The people from all directions flocked to witness the ceremony. So great was their number that many were obliged to stand during the whole of the service, which lasted more than two hours. Bishop Sandford, with six other clergymen, proceeded from Mr. Nichols’s residence to the church door, where they were received by the Rev. Mr. Hugill, clergyman of the parish, who presented the Bishop with an address from the parishioners, stating the dimensions, etc., of the church, which was read by Archdeacon Davenport. The service being concluded, Mr. Robertson’s daughter .was christened ; then the sacrament was administered, after which those assembled proceeded to the schoolroom, where luncheon was provided on a grand scale by the inhabitants. Such a spread has not been seen in Jerusalem before…".

The Mercury’s report on the consecration provides additional information about the building:

“It stands on between two and three acres of land in the centre of. the township, and is a substantial free-stone structure, of no great architectural pretensions, but well adapted for its purpose. It has a chancel, vestry, and belfry complete, and, though the bell that hangs in the belfry at present tells its tale with much timidity, it will doubtless send forth a more certain voice when it becomes accustomed to its surroundings, and feels that it has a right to be heard. The interior of the church is neatly furnished and fitted up, and has altogether a very creditable appearance. The pulpit, reading desk, communion table, etc., are not highly ornamented, but are quite in keeping with the rest of the structure. The church will seat about 250 persons comfortably, and has been erected at a cost of about £800….”

In 2017 St James of Jerusalem was placed on a list of over 70 churches to be sold by the Anglican Church to meet its commitment to the National Redress Scheme to compensate victims of criminal sexual abuse by the clergy. While some churches have since been removed from the list, St James'  remains listed for sale.

All photographs below are my own (taken 2019)

The Anglican Cemetery at Colebrook. A few of the older headstones, some of which predate the church


Mercury, Friday 29 December 1882, page 3
Mercury, Friday 14 March 1884, page 3
Tasmanian News, Saturday 15 March 1884, page 3
Mercury, Tuesday 13 March 1934, page 10


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