No. 688 - Middleton - St Michael and All Angel's Anglican Church

Middleton is a small rural settlement on the Channel Highway approximately 40 kilometres south of Kingston. The settlement was originally named Long Bay before it changed to Middleton in 1892. The name was derived from a barque named Middleton built by shipbuilder John Watson, a former overseer of the shipyard at Port Arthur. Middleton was the family name of Watson’s wife, which was also appropriated as the name of the Watson home at Long Bay.

Middleton had two Anglican churches both of which were destroyed in the bushfires of 1906 and 1967. The first attempt to build an Anglican church at Middleton dates back to 1871 but this was abandoned by 1875:

“The committee have to regret that the steps hitherto taken to remedy…the unhappy state of affairs…in connection with the undertaking of building a church at Long Bay have been unsuccessful….It is earnestly to be hoped, however, that something will be done….for when it is considered that there is not a single consecrated place of worship between Kingston and Franklin, a distance of of 70 miles (sic), embracing a most important district…”.

By the early 1890’s a second and this time successful effort was made to build a church at Middleton. In January 1893 the Launceston Examiner reported that plans had been ordered by Reverend W.H. Hurburgh for a church which would be:

“…A pretty little building, consisting of a nave, chancel, porch and spire and… well finished off in all respects. The design is early Gothic, with cathedral glass windows and picturesquely ornamental gables”.

A further clue as to the appearance of the building (which was designed by Alexander North), is revealed in another report in the Examiner. Here it is describes  as:

“Somewhat similar to the Scottsdale church, but the building will be a trifle smaller. Over the porch there is a tower surmounted by a spire 60ft in height”.

Advertisements inviting tenders for the church were published in August 1894. No newspaper report of the church’s opening appear to have survived but Dorothea Henslowe writing in “Our Anglican Churches”, states that it was consecrated as the Church of the Holy Spirit in June 1899.

After a 20 year struggle to get a church built at Middleton, sadly the building was destroyed in bushfires that swept through southern Tasmania in the summer of 1906. As the fires encroached on Middleton the local population “camped on the shore to escape the fire”. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“Heavy bush fires have been raging throughout the Channel districts, principally in the vicinity of Long Bay. On the 26th.., a change of weather averted a disaster in the township, but last night the westerly weather brought the fires down coastwards…and despite every effort of willing workers, the flames approached the township. About 3 p.m. the Anglican Church caught fire immediately followed by the state school, and within 15 minutes both buildings were entirely demolished, with all the furniture…”.

The church was rebuilt on a new site in 1907 and was dedicated to St Michael and All Angel’s at its opening on Sunday 19 April 1908. The Hobart Mercury printed a brief report of the ceremony:

“The Anglican Church at Middleton was opened and dedicated by the Ven. Archdeacon Whitington on Sunday last. A crowded congregation listened to an excellent sermon by the Archdeacon, and the choir rendered the service very creditably, Miss Steele presiding at the organ. The church is of very pretty design, and is a landmark to all who travel on the Channel. Councillor McDowall, who has acted as the hon. sec. and treasurer of the building committee, gave the site, and it is largely to his untiring efforts that the church has been completed. The total cost is about £300 and about one-third remains to be paid”.

Sixty years later history repeated itself and in the devastating bushfires of the summer of 1967, Middleton lost all three of its churches. St Michael’s was never rebuilt and instead a modern building shared by the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist communities became the settlement’s sole place of worship. This church closed about twenty years ago and has been converted into a house leaving Middleton without a place of worship.

Additional information and sources about the church and building are most welcome as all articles are updated. I can be contacted through this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: <Churches of Tasmania>


A postcard of the church - which seems to be the same photograph of the church which appeared in the Weekly Courier in 1928. The source of the postcard is not known.

An advertisement for the construction of the 'Church of the Holly Spirit', Middleton's first Anglican Church (The Mercury August 1894)

The former community church at Middleton which has been converted into a house. (Real estate photograph - Nest Property 2013)

Sources:

The Mercury, Saturday 12 August 1871, page 3
The Tasmanian Tribune, Saturday 13 March 1875, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 3 September 1892, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 18 January 1893, page 8
The Mercury, Friday 24 August 1894, page 3
Examiner, Thursday 1 February 1906, page 6
North West Post, Thursday 1 February 1906, page 3
Tasmanian News, Thursday 1 March 1906, page 2
Mercury, Thursday 23 April 1908, page 2

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




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