No. 1137 - Latrobe - Congregational Church (1878-1900)

Latrobe is a large country town situated between the Bass Highway and the River Mersey. The first dwelling was built in 1836 and land sales took place some 20 years later. The settlement was named after Charles LaTrobe, who acted as Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania in 1846-7. Latrobe was once an important port town with boats operating from Bells Parade until the River Mersey silted up.

Congregationalists were active in the North West since the late 1840s. By the late 1870s churches had been built at Forth, Don River, Devonport and Ulverstone. In March 1877, the Congregational Union received a letter “from several persons at Latrobe expressing the wish that a Congregational church might be established there”.

By August 1887 plans for a brick church were well underway and architect Harry Conway was engaged. The Tasmanian reported:

“Rev. M.W. Bradney,… held a sort of initiatory service, which was attended by about 120 persons. After the service a committee formed. A piece of ground between the English and Wesleyan Churches will, in all probability, be the site of the proposed church, and the land is offered at about half its value by the liberal owner, Mr George Atkinson. The new building will not only be substantial, but highly ornamental, and it is intended, if possible, to construct it in the Gothic style, with buttresses, &c, and the building will be constructed of bricks of different colours, to relieve the monotony. The church, with school and minister’s residence, is estimated to cost between £800 and £1000, … liberal promises of support have been received…”.

By October significant progress had been made:

“At a meeting of the Congregational Church Building Committee, …plans of a new church drawn by Mr Harry Conway, were submitted to the Committee, and they were so satisfactory that the committee decided to adopt them, and instruct Mr. Conway to call for tenders. Contractors are to be asked to tender for church without tower and for church with tower….it would be easy to build the church without the tower…”.

Conway’s plan for a church with a spire 98 ft high was ambitious and the project soon ran into trouble. In December the Launceston Examiner reported:

“Tenders received were double the amount the Committee had expected …. none of the tenders have been accepted….. a decision [was] made to erect a wooden building to be used as a temporary church which would thereafter be used as a Sunday school once a brick church was built”.

The ‘temporary’ wooden church was completed within a matter of months and was officially opened on Sunday 31 March 1878. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“The place of worship just opened is a neat wooden structure situated in Hamilton Street between the Wesleyan and Episcopalian churches, and is capable of seating about 150 hearers. The site on which it is built is a corner allotment fronting in Hamilton and George streets. The first promoters hoped to build a more imposing brick structure, but failing this they have erected the present building, and it has been so nicely finished that it will serve the purposes of this body of Christians for some time, and will, it is hoped, at some future period serve the purposes of a Sunday school”.

More 20 years were to pass before ‘temporary’ church was replaced with a permanent brick church based on a new design in a “Queen Anne American style” . Before construction began in 1900 the old church was moved to the rear of the site. It remained in this position for several years before it was eventually demolished.

A detail of a photograph showing Latrobe's first Congregational church built in 1878. Source: Libraries Tasmania - item number: 147-4-26 2

The new church built in 1900 with the earlier church at the rear.  Source: Libraries Tasmania - item number: 147-4-26 2

Launceston Examiner, November 1877

The Congregational Church in 2019


Weekly Examiner, Saturday 17 March 1877, page 2
Tasmanian, Saturday 5 May 1877, page 7
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 9 October 1877, page 5
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 13 October 1877, page 16
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 6 November 1877, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 8 December 1877, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 4 April 1878, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 2 September 1899, page 2


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