No. 897 - Stanley Presbyterian Church

Stanley is a historic town on the far northwest coast approximately 80 kilometres west of Burnie. The Van Diemen's Land Company once had its headquarters in the area which was originally known as Circular Head. It was later named after Lord Stanley, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who went on to serve three terms as British Prime Minister.

Stanley’s Presbyterian church is one of the oldest churches on the North West coast. It is also unique in that it was the first prefabricated iron church imported to Tasmania.

From 1853 Presbyterian services were regularly held in the Stanley police office. The first minister was Reverend James Garrett who periodically came from Launceston in a small boat. In late 1853 a meeting of subscribers decided to build a Church of Scotland at Stanley and “resolved to build an iron church if funds permitted”. At the following meeting in February 1854 instructions were given “in writing to Mr Gibson, who was about to visit England, to buy an iron building to accomodate from 80 to 100 people, with flooring boards, seats and fittings”.

The building material was duly shipped from Scotland and erected by Mr McKaig on an acre of land granted by the Van Diemen’s Land Company. Part of the shipment of timber was lost or stolen during the churches construction. Nevertheless the building was completed and officially opened on Sunday 7 October 1855. The Launceston Examiner carried the following report of the occasion:

“This building, the first iron church in the colony, was opened on the 7th instant, by the Rev. James Garratt, of West Tamar, who delivered an impressive and appropriate discourse…. [that] was listened to by a crowded audience with the deepest attention. The collections towards the defrayment of the debt amounted to £31. This church, which is in connection with the Presbytery of Van Diemen's Land, is a unique and elegant little structure to accommodate above 100 persons. The Presbyterian committee here have engaged the services of Mr. John McIlrea, in the capacity of itinerant Missionary, at a salary of £200 for the ensuing year, a gentleman who has had much practice in the ministry in connection with the Lancashire Presbytery, and the London City Mission….”.

In February 1856 it was discovered that Mr. McIlrea was not “a licentiate of the Church of Scotland” and it was decided that” the church be closed to him” thus Stanley’s Presbyterian community remained without a minister although Mr Garett continued to visit occasionally. While the issue of a permanent minister was eventually resolved the issue of regularly supply of ministers was an intermittent problem.

The church no longer has its iron cladding although the date that this was replaced is not known. In 1925, on the occasion of the church’s 75th anniversary, the building was described as being “badly in need of repairs” and its replacement with a new building was considered. 

Over the years a number of improvements have been made to the original church including the construction of a new belfry and a schoolroom that was added to the rear of the building. In 1930 extensive renovations were undertaken and the building, which was papered inside, had plasterboard lining installed. In the same year new concrete foundations were laid and a vestry was added while the outside walls were reboarded and painted.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the Stanley Wesleyan chapel, built in 1873, and which stood alongside the Presbyterian church was vacated by the Methodists and was acquired for use as church hall. The Presbyterian church and hall are still in use and have become a popular wedding venue.

          The former Wesleyan Methodist Church, sits to the left of the Presbyterian church.

                 An early undated photograph of the church with its original belfry and iron cladding.   
                      Image credit: Meg Elridge - reproduced by the Stanley Heritage Walk website.


Launceston Examiner, Thursday 18 October 1855, page 3
Courier, Friday 19 October 1855, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 8 December 1883, page 1
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 18 July 1906, page 3
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 30 September 1925, page 6
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 7 October 1925, page 4
The Advocate, Saturday 13 December 1930, page 8
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 4 November 1953, page 3


  1. Wonderful rich history . Really appreciate it. Thanks for the share .


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