No. 653 - Ross - St John's (1837-1868) - The Original Anglican Church

Ross is a well known historical town off the Midlands Highway approximately 120 kilometres north of Hobart. It was named by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1821 after the Seat of his friend H.M. Buchanan of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Of the five churches built at Ross, three remain. A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in 1838 and was replaced in 1885 by the now Uniting Church which dominates the town’s skyline. The town’s first Anglican church opened in 1837 and this too was replaced by a new church in 1869.

Construction of the original St John’s church began in 1835 on the eastern side of the town on the hill near the old Anglican cemetery.  It was designed by Charles Atkinson and was completed in 1837.  St John's was consecrated by Bishop Broughton on 11 May 1838, a year before St Luke's at nearby Campbell Town. St John's seems to have existed under the shadow of the Campbell Town church and for many years Ross had no resident Anglican clergyman. The church also had serious structural problems which first appeared in the 1840s and which contributed to its ongoing neglect. In July 1866, a correspondent to the Launceston Examiner complained:

“Many persons at Ross know well that within the last two years several funerals have taken place without any [Anglican] clergyman attending: and on many occasions clergymen of the Church of England have been sent for from a distance to perform this service, their expenses being defrayed by the persons applying. True there are clergymen of other denominations at no great distance who would attend; but does this argue that a resident clergyman is not wanted? …. it will be long before either a clergyman is obtained or the church (now tumbling to pieces) be rebuilt. The burial ground, which contains a large number of graves, is now a run for the town herd, there being no fence to protect the tombs and tombstones from being destroyed. Surely it is high time the members of the Church of England at Ross and its neighbourhood bestirred themselves in assisting a gentleman who takes such a lively interest in the welfare of their church. By doing so the numerous evils now existing will be removed”.

The church’s fortunes changed dramatically in 1867 when Ross was made a seperate parish under Reverend M. B. Brownrigg. Although Brownrigg moved to Launceston in the following year, his appointment appears to have been the catalyst for enabling a longstanding plan to demolish the old church. Therefore it was under Reverend J. Fletcher that the old building was finally demolished in 1868 and much of its stone was reused in the new church designed by Henry Hunter.

A single photograph of the original church exists which shows an imposing building standing amongst the headstones of the old cemetery. Little is known about the original building which stood for only 31 years but it is nevertheless a curious reminder of the early years of the historic town of Ross.


The original St John's (undated photograph) Source: 'Friends of St John's'


Sources:

The Hobart Town Courier, Friday 9 October 1835, page 2
The Hobart Town Courier, Friday 4 May 1838, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 19 July 1866, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 11 May 1938, page 6

http://friendsofstjohnschurchross.com.au/fosjrhistory.html

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


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