No. 816 - Moonah - St Mary's Anglican Church - "The Bank of Faith"

Moonah is a suburb of Greater Hobart and is located approximately 5 kilometres north of the central business district. Moonah was previously known as South Glenorchy before it was developed as a residential area in the late 19th century.

The first Anglican place of worship at Moonah was the Moonah Mission Hall which opened in 1908 near the Derwent Park Railway Station [see No. 797]. It was intended to build a full church at at this site for in 1910 two blocks of land adjoining the Mission Hall were purchased “in order to provide for the extension of work there”. A second Mission Hall, St Anne’s, was opened at Lutana in 1924. [see No. 793] However, when the first church for the Moonah Parish was built, it was at a new site on Springfield Avenue, equidistant between the two mission halls.

The foundation stone for the new brick church was laid on Sunday 11 May 1924 by Mr R.W. Shoobridge and attended by Bishop Robert Hay. The short-lived Hobart newspaper, The World, published an account of this ceremony:

“Quite a large assemblage was present yesterday afternoon at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Anglican Church at Moonah—St. Mary's. The afternoon was bright and calm, and the proceedings most impressive….The building will be a brick one, costing about £2600. The contractors, Messrs. Blake and Monaghan, commence building operations to-day. The edifice will be built on the same plan as St. Stephen's Church at Wynyard. All the preliminary work, comprising the laying of the foundations has been done voluntarily”.

The building was completed within 6 months and was dedicated to St Mary in a ceremony in mid December 1924. An interesting aspect of the church is that it was consecrated twice, the first time in April 1925 and the second in June 1929. The first consecration was of the “Shoobridge Memorial Chapel”, in memory of Selina Shoobridge, wife of Robert William Giblin Shoobridge. As a major benefactor of the church, Shoobridge had been honoured with laying the foundation stone in May 1924. The death of Selina Shoobridge in September 1924 resulted in the establishment of a memorial chapel within the church. In addition to funding the construction of the memorial chapel, Shoobridge gifted a further £500 to reduce the debt on the building. In response to this gesture the Shoobridge Memorial Chapel was consecrated by Bishop Hay on Sunday 26 April 1925.

The debt on the land and the building was finally paid off in 1929 which enabled the rest of the church to be consecrated by Bishop Hay on Sunday 16 June 1929. The consecration service was reported by the Hobart Mercury. In his address Bishop Hay drew particular attention to two men who had been instrumental in the construction of St Mary’s; Robert Shoobridge and Archdeacon Robert Richard:

“One had only to go back about six years when Archdeacon Richard came to the parish. At that time there was no church at Moonah. Since then there had been many things done in real church extension. At that time many were anxious as to how the church in the parish was going to keep pace with the development of the population. They had seen how the development had taken place. The building had cost about £5,000, and then afterwards Mr. R. W. G. Shoobridge, who had been a very fine benefactor, was responsible for the entire construction of the side chapel. When the Archdeacon came there was nothing in the way of funds to start with. He drew entirely upon the bank of faith, and the people of Moonah had stood by him wonderfully”.

Less than four months after the consecration, Archdeacon Robert Henry Richard passed away. A section of Archdeacon Richard’s obituary is reproduced here as it reveals a little known story of a remarkable man:

“He was not only a fine churchman, but was exceedingly popular with both the clergy and people. He had been responsible for having a new church built at Moonah and one at Lutana, as well as a new chancel at St. Paul’s. Glenorchy, in addition to his other activities. Archdeacon Richard was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and spoke the Welsh language. He came to Tasmania at the invitation of the late Bishop Mercer in 1904….Before coming to Tasmania he had been engaged as curate in Newport, Liverpool, and at Howden, in Yorkshire. His first charge here was at New Norfolk, where he occupied the position of rector….He was rector of Zeehan from 1911 to 1918, rector of Queenstown from 1919 to 1921, and of Wynyard from 1921 to 1923. He performed a great work during the time of the Mount Lyell mining disaster of 1912, and was a tower of strength to those in affliction. His war service was also a great accomplishment, for he was among, the first contingent of chaplains who accompanied the A.I.F. He was at Gallipoli, Egypt, France, and at the Horse ferry Road headquarters of the Australian forces. The soldiers held him in high esteem, his disposition and manly characteristics appealing to them. He was appointed archdeacon of Hobart in 1923, and was a fine administrator, a firm friend, and a staunch supporter of Christian principles….”.

Archdeacon Richard was buried at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery as were Selina Shoobridge and her husband Robert who died at the age of 88 in 1936.

There is a final twist in the story of a church twice consecrated. It is that St Mary’s was consecrated for a third time, for in 2016 it became St Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

* Photographs used in this article are my own - unless indicated otherwise.  Photographs of St Stephen's at Wynyard, the plan of which was used for St Mary's, can be view HERE  

         St Stephen's at Wynyard (built 1920) The plans for this church were used for St Mary's Moonah

                              Headstone of Selina Shoobridge at Cornelian Bay Cemetery 
                                              courtesy of Gravesites of Tasmania

        Headstone of Archdeacon Robert Richard  at Cornelian Bay Cemetery  - courtesy of   
                                                                  Gravesites of Tasmania

  The Interior of St Mary's Orthdox Coptic Church - courtesy of St Mary's Coptic Church (Facebook Page)


World, Monday 12 May 1924, page 2 
Mercury, Monday 15 December 1924, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 25 April 1925, page 2
Mercury, Monday 27 April 1925, page 2
Mercury, Monday 17 June 1929, page 3
Examiner, Thursday 3 October 1929, page 6

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


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