No. 1018 - Hadspen - St Stephen's Anglican Church (1845-1961)

Hadspen is a dormitory town on the South Esk River approximately 10 kilometres south west of Launceston. The early settlement was centred on a village near Reibey’s Ford. It is believed that George Frankland (Surveyor-General 1827 to 1838) named the settlement Hadspen after an estate in his native county, Somerset.

Thomas Reibey’s iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, which remained uncompleted for almost a century, is the church most closely associated with Hadspen. Few will know that another Anglican church, St Stephen’s, served the community for almost 120 years before it was removed with the eventual completion of Reibey’s church in 1961. Little is known about this church and I have found only one photograph which captures a partial section of this building. I am hopeful that an image may exist. The church was moved after it was sold to the Methodists but I have yet to establish where it was moved or even if it still exists.

The foundation stone for St Stephen’s was laid by Bishop Nixon on Monday 14 October 1844. In March 1845 The Courier reported:

“A Church and School-room has been completed at Hadspen, and opened within the last few weeks. The material is wood, and accomodation is provided for about 150 persons”.

When the construction of the Church of the Good Shepherd began in 1868, St Stephen’s was still in use as a church and schoolroom. In 1873 a visitor to Hadspen wrote:

“After inspecting the Entally bridge we passed into the grounds of the English Church and school at Hadspen, and saw the unfinished church upon which so much taste in architecture and so much skill in building has been exercised…”.

Four years later another visitor to Hadspen observed:

“There are no less than 3 Episcopalian Churches in Hadspen…. Number 1 is a weatherboard building, also used as a public day school, for which it is poorly adapted. Number 2 church is the chapel-of-ease at Entally. Number 3 is a half-finished stone building has been abandoned for the last seven years…”.

From the 1880s there are several references to services at St Stephen’s although by this time it ceased to be used as a schoolroom. In 1925 the rood screen from Entally Chapel was removed placed into St Stephen’s. In 1930 a report in the Launceston Examiner described the dedication St Stephen’s altar rails and other furnishings taken from the private chapel at Entally House :

“On Sunday afternoon Ven. Archdeacon H. B. Atkinson dedicated new altar rails, altar linen, and other church furnishings in St. Stephen's Church, Hadspen. There was a very crowded congregation and the pretty little church looked beautiful with the improved rood screen and stained glass window. The archdeacon, in a splendid address, gave an account of the history of the rood screen, which had been brought from England by the late Rev. Thomas Reibey for use in his own private chapel at Entally. After the death of Mr. Thomas Reibey the services at Hadspen ceased to be held in the private chapel. The estate was sold. About six years ago Mr. Henry Hardman, who had bought the estate, at the request of the present rector, gave the rood screen and other church furnishings to the Hadspen church. Steps were immediately taken to place the gifts in the building, which was being used for church services. Towards the end of last year, through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Gaunt, Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. James Eastoe, Miss Hunter, Mrs. Boyd, and Miss M. Walker, it was decided to improve the rood screen by bringing it forward and placing altar rails, new carpets, and other furnishings. Mrs. Doddery gave some beautiful altar linen and Mrs. Fred Gunn gave a valuable present in the way of providing new prayer books and hymn books for the use of the congregation. The contractor, Mr. Price, of Invermay, did the work admirably, and was helped on several occasions by the churchwardens, Messrs. Hunter, Eastoe, and Dyer….” .

In the 1950s a campaign to completed Reibey’s stone church was rekindled due to the approaching centenary of the start of its construction in 1868. Since the late 1860s Reibey’s unfinished church took on the appearance of a ruin and became a tourist attraction as it resembled a Victorian Gothic folly.

With the final completion of the Church of of the Good Shepherd in 1961, the historic furnishings and a window were taken from St Stephen’s and placed in the ‘new’ church. Soon after this the old weatherboard church was sold and removed. Dorothea Henslowe, author of ‘Our Heritage of Anglican Churches’, states that the church was bought by the Methodists. I remain hopeful that further information about the church’s removal will come to light.

Hadspen c.1880 - John Henry Harvey - State Library of Victoria

The Church of the Good Shepherd with St Stephen's circled on the right. (c. 1961) (Libraries Tasmania)

A detail of the photograph above. This is the only image of St Stephen's I have found to date.


Launceston Examiner, Saturday 12 October 1844, page 3
The Courier, Tuesday 15 October 1844, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 16 October 1844, page 4
The Courier, Tuesday 22 October 1844, page 3
The Courier, Saturday 22 March 1845, page 2
Launceston Examiner, 24 December 1868, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 21 May 1873, page 2
Tribune, Monday 22 October 1877, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 4 February 1930, page 5

Henslowe, Dorothea I. and Hurburgh, Isa.  Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania / by Dorothea I. Henslowe ; sketches by Isa Hurburgh  [S.l  1978


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