No. 1001 - Stanley - St Paul's Anglican Church (1888-2021)

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 at Stanley 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.

This year, on Sunday 31 October, the final service of St Paul's Anglican Church will take place, 174 years after the the opening of Stanley’s first Anglican church in 1847. [see No. 991] The original stone church stood for less than 40 years and was demolished due to significant structural problems. A report in 1882 reveals that these flaws had become urgent:

“Mr.Conway condemned the building entirely, considering the foundations [are] 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….”.

The new weatherboard church was designed by architect Harry Conway and was completed in 1888. It was officially opened by Bishop Daniel Sandford on Sunday 19 February. A report published by Launceston’s Daily Telegraph provides a few details of the occasion:

“After four years' weary working and waiting, our new St. Paul's Church is at last un fait accompli — built and paid for. Bishop Sandford conducted the opening ceremony of consecration last Sunday, and preached twice to a crowded congregation. The building is a credit both to architect and builder— neat and unpretentious outside, while the inside is characterised by elegance and comfort”.

In the same report the Telegraph’s correspondent complained about disruptions at a concert held following the consecration ceremony: :

“Advantage was taken of the Bishop's visit to give a tea meeting and concert, the proceeds to be devoted to parsonage repairs. His Lordship presided at the concert. As soon as it was opened, our local larrikins, who so dearly like to hear their own sweet voices, promptly commenced their yells and cat-calls. This was as promptly suppressed by the chairman, and during the remainder of the evening there was little to complain of in the behaviour of the occupants of the back seats; although I noticed a few who kept up an audible conversation, even during the rendering of pieces which made anyone with a taste for music hold their breath. It is difficult to understand what such people go to a concert for”.

The closure of St Paul’s in 2021 follows the relentless pattern of the closure and sale of Tasmania's Anglican churches which has accelerated in recent years. However, the church and its hall (which houses the Stanley Discovery Museum) will not be lost to the community as a result of the Tasmanian government’s provision of funds to purchase the church and its hall from the Anglican Diocese, thereby securing the future of Stanley’s local history museum.

St Paul's Parish Hall - Which houses the Stanley Discovery Museum

The original stone church - demolished in 1886 - source: UTAS Open Access Repository -


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
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 23 February 1888, page 3
The Colonist, Saturday 25 February 1888, page 19

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


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