No. 985 - Patterson's Plains - St Peter's Anglican Church (1847-1867)

Patterson’s Plains is a former district on the eastern side of the North Esk River. It now forms part of the Launceston suburb, St Leonards. In 1806 the district was opened up for pasture and named Patterson's Plains, after Colonel William Paterson, who lead the establishment of a settlement at Port Dalrymple. By the 1820s Patterson’s Plains gained some notoriety when an unarmed aboriginal group of people travelling to Launceston were “wantonly fired on” by settlers. Patterson’s Plains was also the site of the capture of the infamous bushranger Matthew Brady's and his gang in 1826.

By the 1840s two churches were built at a village at Patterson’s Plains; a Wesleyan Methodist church (1846) and an Anglican church, St Peters (1847). This was pulled down 20 years later and replaced by a new church in 1869. By this time the village at Patterson’s Plains had been named St Leonards. This name was adopted in 1860 as recorded by the Launceston Examiner:

“The pretty village on the left bank of the North Esk River, at Pattersons Plains, distant four miles from Launceston, has at length received a name, and has been proclaimed a town. The neighbourhood has borne from the earliest times the general designation of Patterson's Plains, in honour of the officer who was the pioneer of colonisation in Northern Tasmania; and at a later date, a portion of the land on which the township is built having been granted to the late Captain King, was known as Mount Esk. Four years ago the residence at Mount Esk, the mill, and one or two houses, alone occupied the site which now boasts several elegant residences and numerous cottages. At about that time the Mount Esk property, after passing through several hands came into the possession of Mr. Dawes, since when a considerable population has settled there, including several of our businessmen, lawyers, bankers, and traders. There is an inn and several small shops, an Anglican and Wesleyan place of worship. The district constable of Selby with two subordinates are stationed there. There is a public school, a Sunday School, and-a lock-up. All the village wanted was a name. The propriety of calling it Mount Esk was suggested. Milton was proposed by others. "Saint Leonards" is the final and official choice, - we presume from the number of lawyers who reside, or have resided, there. It is the title which has crowned the distinguished career of Sir Edward Sugden”.

The first Anglican services in the district were held in a room in the “mansion” on the Mount Esk estate. On Friday 4 December 1846 the foundation stone of an Anglican church was was laid by Archdeacon Marriott of Launceston. The Cornwall Chronicle reported:

“We congratulate the residents of Patterson's Plains, on the prospect of having a neat and comfortable, though small church, on a site conveniently situated on the Plains, a few miles from Launceston. Divine service has, we understand, been of late performed on Sunday afternoons by the Rev. P. Kane, the Head Master of the Grammar School, in a small room allotted for the purpose. Yesterday, the Venerable Archdeacon Marriott, laid the foundation stone of the new church, with the customary ceremonials, in the presence of several clergymen, and a number of visitors, who after the service, adjourned to partake of a collation provided in the neighbourhood”.

The occasion was somewhat overshadowed when Mr Richard Dry, who was to become Tasmania’s seventh premier, suffered a near fatal accident when returning to Launceston after the ceremony. The Hobart Courier reported:

“This gentleman experienced a frightful accident on Friday, returning from the laying of the foundation stone of the Church at Patterson's Plains. Attempting to leap his horse over a fence, the animal fell a complete summerset over the fence, upon Mr. Dry, who had retained his seat notwithstanding the violence of the shock. He was conveyed insensible to a house nearby, and subsequently to town. Medical gentlemen have been almost constantly in attendance, and we regret to say that he still remains in a very precarious state. Yesterday afternoon the symptoms, we understand, were very alarming, and the case appeared hopeless; but these symptoms subsided during the evening, and the reply to our enquiries made a few minutes before going to press this afternoon, was, that the symptoms were decidedly more favourable, but that he could not be pronounced out of danger. The sympathy expressed for Mr. Dry on this melancholy occasion by all classes of the community, confirms the estimation in which he is held, and must be consolatory to his family and friends. We understand that, besides the prayers said in the English Church to which he belongs, the Ministers of the various other Churches in the town, yesterday, spontaneously offered up prayers on his behalf. During this morning the enquiries at the Cornwall Hotel, by country as well as town residents, were very numerous”.

The church, which was a small stone building, was officially opened on the morning of Sunday 18 April 1847 by Reverend Henry Kane, headmaster of the Church of England Grammar School. The Cornwall Chronicle reported:

“St. Peter's Church, Patterson's Plains — This neat little edifice, so much required by the settlers at Patterson's Plains, was opened for divine worship on Sunday last, and the sum of seven pounds collected in aid of the Building Fund. The church is finished, with the exception of the interior ornaments and fittings, which are intended to lie perfected as soon as possible”.

It is interesting to note that the day after the opening, Reverend Kane, like Richard Dry, came close to losing his life. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“On Monday, as the Rev. H. P. Kane was returning from Windermere, where he had been officiating as minister on the previous day, in attempting to cross Barnard’s Creek, which was much swollen by the late rains, his horse was carried away, and both it and the rider were helplessly borne along by the torrent, for a considerable distance. The horse rolled and plunged amidst the rush of water, and Mr. Kane for some time maintained his seat, and fortunately at last, though without any clear perception of the manner whereby, found himself safe upon the bank of the stream”.

St Peter’s church was consecrated by Bishop Nixon on Monday 6 January 1851. The occasion passing without incident.

In February 1867 a decision was made to demolish St Peter’s and replace it with a new church that was to be built close to the site of the original building but with a “more commanding” position “further from the road”. The reason for this action is not clear however it is likely to be due to structural problems as well as that the building could not accomodate a growing congregation. Construction of the new church began in August 1868 with some of the material of the original building used in the new structure.

The only image of the original church is a monochrome copy of a watercolour painted by Reverend Henry Kane.

St Peter's at Patterson's Plains (St Leonards) c.1850.  A detail of a copy of a watercolour painting by Reverend Henry Kane - The Examiner February 2019. Source of copy not indicated.

St Peter's at Patterson's Plains (St Leonards) c.1850.  A watercolour painting by Reverend Henry Kane - The Examiner February 2019. Source of copy not indicated.

A notice published in the Launceston Advertiser, November 1846.

The 'new' St Peter's which opened in 1869.  The church has now closed. Photographed 2018.


Tasmanian and Port Dalrymple Advertiser, Wednesday 12 January 1825, page 2
Launceston Advertiser, Thursday 26 November 1846, page 2
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 5 December 1846
Courier, Wednesday 9 December 1846, page 2
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 17 April 1847
The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 21 April 1847
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 24 April 1847, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 24 April 1847, page 6
The Courier, Wednesday 1 January 1851, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 7 January 1860, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 31 October 1867, page 5
The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 19 May 1869, page 2

Jenny Gill: Our History- Suburb's Saintly Mystery, The Examiner, February 3 2019.


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