No. 991 - Stanley - St Paul's Anglican Church (1847-1886) - "Bad proper care"

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

Little information has survived about the early years of Stanley’s first Anglican church. Some accounts suggest that the church, which was built by Van Diemen's Land Company, opened in 1842. However, a report in the Launceston Advertiser in November 1844 establishes that it was built a little later:

“At Circular Head (called the Township of Stanley) a handsome new church is commenced building, to cost, it is said, £1000.”

The year 1842 in fact aligns with the arrival of Reverend Thomas Nattle Grigg, who “for five years conducted church services in temporary places of worship”.

The church was built of stone based on a design by colonial architect, John Lee Archer. The date of the completion and opening of the building is not known but it is was likely in mid 1847, given that St Paul’s centenary was marked in August 1947. The church was only consecrated by Bishop Francis Nixon on Thursday 13 May 1858, the year in which ownership of the building was transferred to the Church of England. The Launceston Examiner published a brief report of this event:

“On Thursday, the 13th - being Ascension Day - the Bishop of Tasmania consecrated St. Paul’s Church, at Circular Head. The building was erected by the V.D.L. Company, and has been made over by them to the Church of England. His Lordship delivered a very impressive discourse upon the text ‘Thy Kingdom come’”.

While a seemingly solid building, St Paul’s stood for less than 40 years given that it had significant structural problems. A report in 1882 reveals that these flaws had become urgent:

“The western and southern walls appear to be giving way, and by many the condition of the building is regarded as anything but safe. It was built by the V.D.L. Co. in the early days of the settlement, and bad proper care been used in its construction, it ought to have lasted for many long years to come. Although the building has no pretensions to architectural beauty, its mantle of ivy gives it a very picturesque appearance. A meeting of the congregation lately held, under the presidency of the incumbent, it was decided to engage Mr, Conway, architect of Launceston, to inspect the building, and report fully upon its condition….”.

Mr Conway’s report made grim reading:

“His report was submitted to a meeting of the congregation, held in the church…under the presidency of the incumbent, the Rev. H. D. Atkinson. Mr. Conway condemned the building entirely, considering the foundations the most defective part of the structure. One of the walls is considerably out of the perpendicular, and he thinks the roof, if allowed to remain, will certainly some day collapse altogether from the want of proper tying. Any patching up of the building he thinks would be very unsatisfactory, and would have to be repeated at no distant date. Mr. Conway therefore advises the pulling down of the church with a view to its entire re-construction, much of the old material being fit for use again, if it be decided to have a stone building. Estimates of the probable cost of a wooden and of a stone building respectively were given….”.

By 1883 the building had deteriorated further and was considered no longer safe to use. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“The dangerous condition of the building has at length led to the temporary closing of St. Paul’s Church, and services are now bring conducted in the Presbyterian Chapel, kindly placed by the trustees at the disposal of the incumbent. It is proposed to re-build the damaged portions of the old church, and should this be found impracticable, the only alternative will be a new structure”.

In 1886 the old church was demolished in the face of some resistance from locals:

“Early on Monday morning last the bell of the Church of England tolled once, causing some little anxiety to know who had gone to "that bourn from whence no traveller returns." Upon inquiry, however, it was found that the alarm was occasioned by workmen, who had been set on to pull down the building itself. Let us hope that bell has tolled for the last time, for of all the unpleasant ways of telling unpleasant news, bell tolling is the most unpleasant and startling; very often when the street door knocker has to be muffled with greatest care, and every sorrow deadened where some invalid lies, the sudden tolling of the church bell has caused such a shock to the nerves of the sufferer, that life has been endangered. The practice, I think, has passed away in almost all other towns but Stanley. We can do without the tolling, but we miss the old church with its ivy-covered walls…A willingness was shown on the part of some to rescue the old church from the hands of the destroyer. One energetic individual went round for signatures, protesting against the act of vandalism, but it was too late. The ivy was torn from the walls, and the walls knocked down, whilst the residents looked on with grief….”.
St Paul's c.1860 - source: UTAS Open Access Repository -

St Paul's c.1860 - source: UTAS Open Access Repository -

John lee Archer's design 1845 - source: UTAS Open Access Repository -

Stanley c.1870 - Libraries Tasmania

Stanley c.1870 - Libraries Tasmania


Launceston Examiner, Saturday 9 November 1844, page 4
Launceston Advertiser, Saturday 9 November 1844, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 25 May 1858, page 2
The Courier, Wednesday 26 May 1852, page 2
Mercury, Monday 3 July 1882, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 29 July 1882, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Monday 11 June 1883, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 8 December 1883, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 6 April 1886, page 3
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 14 October 1925, page 6
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 16 May 1928, page 2

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


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