No. 950 - Smithton - St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1907-1916)

Smithton is the commercial and industrial centre of the Circular Head district in the far northwest of the island. The early settlement was known as Duck River but this was changed to Smithton in 1895. Smithton is named after an Irishman, Peter Smith, who had been a constable, and later the licensee of ‘The Plough Inn,’ at Stanley. Smith moved to Duck River after buying some 500 acres of land from the Poke and Ollington families. Smith’s successful enterprises enabled his return to Ireland.

Smithton’s Presbyterian church existed for less than 10 years before it was closed in 1916 with the building sold two years later. The small weatherboard church stood on a site at 37 Smith Street, “nestled among tea-tree and gum tree shrubbery”.

Presbyterian services at Smithton began in 1905 with multiple venues used for worship:

“Mr. Blair gave a short history, of the early struggles of church members here. They were like the wandering Israelites in a foreign land. First they had a potato shed (misnamed a cathedral), with plenty of mosquitoes, few people, and much interruption outside. Shut out of this, they found refuge in a carpenter’s shop. This had been closed. They now used the state school”.

It was under the leadership of Mr Forest Blair and Mr A. Butterworth that progress towards building a church was made. The foundation stone for the new church was ceremonially laid by Mrs A.B. Cowle, of Stanley, on Wednesday 12 December 1906.

The church was officially opened on Thursday 17 January 1907. The Circular Head Chronicle reported:

“The church going people of Smithton have for a long time back greatly felt the want of proper accommodation wherein to worship, and it was at length decided that the time had arrived when a church was a necessity. The matter was taken up in a practical manner by the Rev. W. Tulloch, and it is mainly through the energy displayed by that gentleman in organising and collecting, both at home and abroad that they are in possession of the neat edifice which now stand completed. The building is a weatherboard structure, 30ft x 20ft, the height of the walls being 14ft. with 17ft between ceiling and floor. It is well lighted and ventilated in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Board of Health. The seating accommodation has also been well provided for. A roomy porch is erected in front. The plans were so prepared as to admit of additions being made as the wants of the district increased. It was decided to name the church "St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Smithton.” The official opening took place on Thursday last, at which there were a large number of visitors from Stanley and the surrounding districts”.

“The congregation then took their places and the church was comfortably filled. Chapters were then read from the Old and New Testaments by the Revs. Tulloch and Byron, after which the Rev. Mr Beck preached a most impressive and eloquent sermon…. The rev. gentleman was listened to most attentively throughout”.

“In the evening the church was again crowded, when a tea meeting was held, ample justice being done to the many good things provided. The tables were presided over by Mesdames Geale, Butterworth, Allen, Blair and Davy, assisted by a number of young ladies. The bachelor’s table proved a great attraction, a feature of which was the wedding ring inserted in a cake, which was sold at 6d a slice, the fortunate one who got the piece with the ring in it being entitled to be married without fee by Mr Tulloch if the event takes place within three months”.

“Mr A. Butterworth than gave the financial statement, which showed that the church and land had cost about £135, of which £75 had been already raised, leaving a debt of about £60. He appealed to those present to support the church to the best of their ability, and if they did so it would riot take long to wipe out the deficiency”.


Within a few years of opening, services temporarily ceased and the building was then used by the Methodists who had intentions to purchase it:

“The Presbyterian services were discontinued, so they hired the Presbyterian church. They intended to buy that church for the Methodists. After a year or two the Presbyterian services were resumed”.

Presbyterian services resumed around 1912 which prompted the Methodists built their own church on Goldie Street in 1912. The opening of the Methodist church may have contributed to financial difficulties experienced by the Presbyterians in paying off the buildings debt. Services were held until 1916. The building was sold in 1918 for the sum of £170 to businessman George Acheson.

In 1931 a review of the history of Smithton’s churches, published in the Circular Head Chronicle, states that the church was later dismantled and the material sold. A large portion of it, including the stained-glass windows, were incorporated in a building used as a billiard room and hairdressing saloon owned by Mr H. Evans.
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Smithton (1907) Source: 'The Duck- A History of Smithton'


Sources:

Examiner, Monday 17 December 1906, page 7
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 19 December 1906, page 2
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 23 January 1907, page 3
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 27 May 1931, page 3 
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 23 September 1936, page 2

Grey, Bruce L.  The Duck : a history of Smithton (C.B.D.) c.1856-1996 / written and compiled by Bruce L. Grey  B.L. Grey Smithton, Tas  1997




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