No. 1115 - Fitzgerald - St Boniface Anglican Church (1923-1953)

Fitzgerald is a small settlement on the Gordon River Road situated about a kilometre from the larger town of Maydena. Fitzgerald is the older of the two settlements and it owes its existence to the extension of the Tyenna railway line in 1917 a further 6 miles from National Park to the Fitzgerald terminus. Fitzgerald was originally known as Maydena until the railway station was built and then renamed in honour of George Parker FitzGerald, a well known businessman, politician and an advocate of the southern railways.

In November 1921 the Hobart Mercury reported that a new Anglican church was to be built at Fitzgerald:

“The Bishop of Tasmania paid his first visit to Fitzgerald on Wednesday and was very deeply impressed with the great development that has taken place there during the past few years. The laying of a foundation block for a new Anglican Church was the pleasing duty that induced the Bishop to undertake the journey from Hobart. The Bishop arrived at 12-40 pm, and after being entertained at lunch by Mr and Mrs Lovelock proceeded to the site of the proposed church where he made the acquaintance of Mrs Pitfield the donor of the land. At the conclusion of an impressive service Dr Hay, standing in the pouring rain, delivered an inspiring address on the value of a church to a district as a witness to God…..At the conclusion of this ceremony Mrs Hunt presented her twin girls to tho Bishop and they were baptised in the presence of a large congregation under the hospitable roof of Mr Luttrell. This was followed In a short address by our resident catechist who thanked by name all who had tendered assistance in making possible this red letter day in the history of Fitzgerald…”.

The church was dedicated to St Boniface and consecrated in February 1923. An interesting feature of the church was a tenor bell taken from the “convict church” at Port Arthur.

In the hot and dry summer of 1933 and 1934 bushfires swept through southern Tasmania. In January 1934 the Mercury reported on the extent of the fires in the greater New Norfolk region:

“Bush fires which raged with great fury during Christmas and early in the new year and which died down following rain at the beginning of last week, struck up in all parts of the Derwent Valley during the oppressive heat of yesterday. The position in the bush beyond Fitzgerald became grave last night, as two fires swept down the valley in a face of roughly 3½ miles. Risby Bros. mill and an acre of stacked timber was in a precarious position, and it was stated that only a miracle could save It from destruction. It is practically certain that some of the mill tramline and log hauler have been lost, and in Fitzgerald township a house and furniture owned by Mr. and Mrs. J. Spaulding was destroyed. At Tyenna, about a mile and a half from Fitzgerald, [a] portion of the township, including the post office, hall and store, was In danger for several hours, and although no damage resulted there were times when even the heroic fighters almost lost hope. There was a serious fire at Mt. Lloyd and Uxbridge, near New Norfolk, but so far no damage has been done to properties in these areas. Pieces of blackened burning embers fell in the New Norfolk township last night and the dense smoke almost completely blotted out the surrounding hills”.

 A report from the Launceston Examiner described the loss of St Boniface at Fitzgerald:

“Further serious bushfire outbreaks occurred at Fitzgerald during the weekend, and as the result the Church of England, a timber mill, and several thousand feet of timber were destroyed. The furniture in the church was saved. It was believed that the bush fires which have been raging at Fitzgerald for some considerable time had been extinguished, but yesterday afternoon a freshening breeze caused a further outbreak among dry trees and the fire quickly gained a grip of the surrounding bush. Fire-fighters were quickly marshalled, but sparks from the trees ignited the shingle roof of the weatherboard Church of England and the building was gutted. Residents were able to remove all the furniture from the building, but It is estimated that the damage will aggregate £1000. The local police station, about 70 yards from the church also was threatened for some time, but the fire was ultimately controlled”.

An open-air service was held following the fire where it was announced that the church would be rebuilt. The new building which was designed by George Roberts was re-dedicated by Bishop Hay in June 1935. The old bell was rehung but it was found to have lost some of its tone as a result of the heat of the fire and from its fall to the ground.

The church remained at Fitzgerald until 1953 when it was moved to Maydena which had become the larger of the two settlements.

The first Anglican church at Fitzgerald which was lost in the bushfires of 1934. Source: The Gazette, Wednesday 9 November 2003.

The second Anglican church built at Fitzgerald in 1935. Source: The Mercury - Tasweekend, Saturday 7 November 1915


 Sources:

The Mercury, Friday 4 November 1921, page 8
The Mercury, Thursday 1 February 1923, page 8
The Mercury, Wednesday 18 April 1923, page 9
Examiner, Monday 8 January 1934, page 7
The Mercury, Tuesday 16 January 1934, page 7
The Mercury, Monday 17 June 1935, page 2
The Mercury, Saturday 22 June 1935, page 8
The Gazette, Wednesday 9 November 2003
The Mercury - Tasweekend, Saturday 7 November 1915

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



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