No. 586 - Baden - St Mary's Anglican Church - 'Forlorn...and Missing'

Baden is farming community close to Tunnack and approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Oatlands. The area was originally was known as Rumney's Hut, after William Rumney, one of the first free settler in the area. For many years the only building which existed here was Rumney’s hut but this changed in 1860 with the establishment of a police station which formed an out-station of the Oatlands Municipal Police. A township grew around the police station which included a hotel, post office and store. In 1902 a community hall was built but many years were to pass before a church was established. Around the time that the hall was built Rumney’s Hut was renamed Baden, after Lord Baden-Powell, in honour of three men from the district who served in the Boer War under Colonel Baden-Powell, hero of the siege of Mafeking and founder of the Boy Scouts movement.

From at least 1910 Anglican services were held in the Baden Hall. Typically religious services in rural areas were held in public halls and school rooms before a church could be built. At Baden this arrangement persisted for well over half a century. Fundraising for a church began in the mid 1930’s and an attempt to build a church in 1955 came to nothing. Another 15 years were to pass before Baden finally got its church in 1970.

The origins of the church are unusual as it was not a new building. It originated from the University of Tasmania’s Jane Franklin Hall in South Hobart. Jane Franklin Hall was founded by the Tasmanian Council of Churches in 1950 as a residential non-denominational Christian College for female students. The College was supported by chaplains of various Christian traditions and was the only college in the Oxbridge style attached to the university. A chapel was built at the Hall in the 1950’s and was designed by architect, artist, physician and linguist Dr Edith Emery. Possibly, this would make it the only church ever designed by a female architect in Tasmania.

In March 1970 Jane Franklin Hall’s chapel reopened at Baden and dedicated as St Mary’s in May of that year. After such a long struggle by the Anglican community to acquire a church, sadly it only remained open for little over 30 years.

In March 2012 the chapel was put up for sale. An article in the South Hobart Progress Association’s newsletter records the chapel’s demise:

“Recently advertised for sale has been St. Mary's Anglican Chapel at Baden, but in another era it served as the chapel at Jane Franklin Hall in Elboden Street…. A former student resident from the 1960s recalls having worshipped in it, and remembers it was a lovely unpainted wooden building with a Scandinavian look.… It was painted after being moved to Baden in 1970. An SHPA member visited Baden to see the Chapel as it looks now, and it's forlorn in its setting. A local said it had not been used for some time (it has been part of the Southern Midlands Anglican Parish). This local man, who helped in moving it to the site, said it had been obtained for Baden through the determined efforts to the late Rev Nat Sonners…”.

The chapel was still at Baden in 2018 but when I visited the area in mid 2019 it had gone. A local farmer confirmed that it had been recently removed but did not know where. The photographs used for this article where taken by Colin Chick in 2015 who noted that the church had fallen into a state of serious disrepair with notices on the windows posted by the Church authorities declaring the building unsafe to enter.

Hopefully the chapel, wherever it is now, will be restored and preserved. In November 2018 a report by the Southern Midland’s Council listed the chapel as a ‘local heritage place’. Although not particularly old, the building is unique as is its story which forms a part of the history of Jane Franklin Hall and the settlement of Baden.

St Mary's at Baden in 2015 - Photograph reproduced with the permission of Colin Chick

St Mary's at Baden in 2015 - Photograph reproduced with the permission of Colin Chick

St Mary's at Baden in 2015 - Photograph reproduced with the permission of Colin Chick

St Mary's at Baden in 2015 - Photograph reproduced with the permission of Colin Chick

The Baden Public Hall where Anglican services were held for over half a century.  Photograph -Duncan Grant (2019)

The Baden Public Hall where Anglican services were held for over half a century.  Photograph -Duncan Grant (2019
Baden's location in the Midlands - placenames.gov.tas.au


Sources:

The Mercury, Monday 19 December 1910, page 3
The Mercury, Wednesday 10 April 1935, page 2

https://www.southernmidlands.tas.gov.au/towns-villages-areas-baden-mtseymour/

https://shpa-inc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/March-Newsletter-2012-No.-292.pdf

Southern Midlands Council, Public copy attachments, ordinary council meeting. Wednesday 28 November 2018

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

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