No. 820 - Epping Forest Presbyterian Church (1885-1981)

Epping Forest is a small settlement on the Midland Highway approximately 25 kilometres north of Campbell Town. Governor Macquarie, on his first trip in 1811, named the area after the woodlands of Essex in England. Locally know as Epping, it was officially named "Epping Forest" in the1960s to avoid confusion with Epping in NSW.

A Presbyterian church once stood at the intersection of Belle Vue Road and the Midland Highway. It opened in 1885, replacing an earlier Presbyterian church located about 2 kilometres to the east further down Belle Vue Road. This was known as the Esk Vale church which had opened in 1846 [see No. 521]. By the 1880s Epping Forest had become the population centre of the district and local Presbyterians were inconvenienced by having to walk or ride to services at Esk Vale.

In 1884 the Presbyterian Synod received a petition bearing 57 signatures requesting that the church be removed to Epping:

“The petition of the undersigned sheweth - That the church at Eskvale is a considerable distance from Epping, the natural centre of population, and standing by itself unprotected; that those who live between the church and the River Esk generally drive to the church, and would find no inconvenience in travelling an additional mile and a half; that those who walk to church live near Epping, and that several who at present attend seldom might be induced to attend regularly if the church was more conveniently situated. We the undersigned members and adherents of the congregation of Eskvale, therefore ask that you will grant us authority to remove the present church to a new site at Epping, and to sell the church ground at Eskvale”.

The petition for a church at Epping Forest was granted by the Synod. For reasons not known, the Eskvale church was not moved to Epping as requested and instead a new building was constructed. There are few details about the construction of the new church. An advertisement calling for tenders for a new church were published in March 1885. In mid May of the same year a report in The Tasmanian noted that “Mr Selby of Launceston, has…..made a start at the building, and will, in all probability, have it erected in a prompt and satisfactory manner”.

By September 1885 the church was completed and was officially opened on Sunday the 13th of that month. While no published description of the opening service appears to have survived, a report and advertisement in the Launceston Examiner, provides the bare details:

“Tomorrow the new Presbyterian Church Epping will be opened, when sermons will be preached in the morning by the Rev. James Beattie, and in the afternoon by Rev. John Lyle”.

In September a meeting of the Presbyterian Synod announced that the name of the church would change from Esk Vale to Epping and that the land on which the old Esk Vale church stood, was to be sold to Mr James Gibson. No mention is made of the building and it is not known if it was removed or demolished. However, the pulpit and pews of the Esk Vale church were taken to Tunbridge where they were installed in a new Presbyterian Church, St Matthews, which opened there in 1886. [see No. 440]

The history of the Epping Presbyterian church is largely uneventful and like Presbyterian churches in nearby communities at Barton, Kirklands, and Campbell Town, it follows the familiar pattern of dwindling congregations and church closures. By 1973 services at Epping were reduced to one Sunday a month. In 1977 the Epping church joined with the Uniting Church before closing in the early 1980s. The fate of the building is not known with it being either demolished or removed to another location.

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

                    The Presbyterian Church at Epping Forest c.1980. - Source: Libraries Tasmania

          The Epping Presbyterian Church (undated) -  R S Miller, Presbyterian Church of Tasmania

      Advertisement for the construction of the Epping Church (still called Eskvale until it opened)  -  
                                                                              Launceston Examiner

                                                                     The Launceston Examiner

   The church was located on the corner of Belle Vue Road on the left of the photo, diagonally opposite the   
                                            Epping Forest Public Hall - Google Street view (2015)


Launceston Examiner, Thursday 24 June 1880, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 9 October 1884, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Friday 10 October 1884, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 28 March 1885, page 1
The Tasmanian, Saturday 16 May 1885, page 23
The Tasmanian, Saturday 5 September 1885, page 24
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 9 September 1885, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 12 September 1885, page 2
The Mercury, Friday 9 October 1885, page 3

R S Miller, Presbyterian Church of Tasmania, Triple Jubilee 1973, Presbytery of Tasmania, Hobart, 1973.


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