No. 776 - Sorell - The Uniting (Presbyterian) Church (1842)

Sorell is one of Tasmania's oldest towns with the region first settled in 1808. Sorell was formally established as a township in 1821 and was named after William Sorell, who served as Lieutenant-Governor from 1816 to 1824.

Sorell’s former Uniting Church was established as a Presbyterian Church in the early 1840s. The foundation stone for the church was ceremonially laid on Thursday 16 July 1840 and the building was completed almost two years later, opening on Sunday 24 April 1842. The land for the church had been donated by Andrew Counsel and the architect was James Blackburn.

Difficulties in securing regular services of a minister resulted in the church being unused for many years and the building fell into disrepair. The irregular use of the church resulted in it becoming a target of vandalism. In November 1870 the Tasmanian Times reported:

“At a recent sitting of the Sorell Police Court, …..Lewis Quinn, William Hollingsworth, William Weaver, and Edward Blackmore, young boys, were charged with firing at, trespassing in, and defacing the building known as the Presbyterian Church, Sorell. Trooper Newitt proved having seen Hollingsworth fire a gun through the latticed windows, and Quinn inside the church injuring the pews or otherwise trespassing. The other two defendants were looking on, but were not seen committing any overt act. The Magistrates found the two first named defendants guilty, and imposed a penalty of 10s. upon Quinn, or fourteen days hard labour, and £5 on Hollingsworth, with the alternative of one month's incarceration. The other defendants were discharged. Quinn's fine was paid, but Hollingsworth was sent to gaol in default”.

The church was used by the Anglicans between 1879 and 1884 after St George’s was declared unsafe and was torn down and rebuilt. Ministerial shortages continued to impact on the church through to the 1920s. It was restored in the early 1960s by a group of volunteer workers with funding from the National Trust and State government. The building subsequently received heritage classification by the National Trust.

In recent years land around the church has been appropriated for housing units belonging to “Uniting Age Well”, and these have impacted on the historical precinct. Services have now ceased and it is believed that the building is in the process of being sold.

* Photographs used are my own unless otherwise indicated.

                     An undated photograph of the church - Libraries Tasmania NS1553-1-107


Colonial Times, 4 February 1840
Colonial Times, 14 July 1840
The Courier, 15 April 1842
Tasmanian Times, Wednesday 9 November 1870, page 2
The Mercury, Monday 19 May 1930, page 3.

Morris, William Charles. and Stansall, M. E. J. and Lovett, B. and Scots Uniting Church (Sorell, Tas.).  Scots Uniting Church, Sorell / first history written and compiled by W.C. Morris


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