No. 1233 - Launceston - The "Old Newnham Church of England" (1851-1887)

Newnham is a northern suburb of the city of Launceston. Newnham was originally part of the municipality of Lilydale before it was incorporated into Launceston. Newnham was the name of a 250 acre property developed by Lieutenant Matthew Curling Friend in the 1830s.

The first Anglican church at Newnham was opened on Sunday 4th May 1851 by Archdeacon Robert Davies. Little is known about this building which was located on George Town Road, opposite St Barnabas’ church. A booklet produced to celebrate the centenary* of St Barnabas, describes the old church as follows:

“Just past the Alanvale Road turn-off one would see a brick and wooden building standing in in the tree lined hollow. This was known as the ‘Old Newnham Church of England’ and served the community as church and school. During the incumbency of the Rev. Augustus Barkway, before and up to 1859, services were held in this distant part of the Holy Trinity parish. On weekdays Mrs. and Miss Troy used the building as a school. Local children, from the cottages of farm hands on neighbouring estates, would walk or ride, on horseback, to this seat of knowledge and discover the arts of reading and writing. But this was a closing chapter for the old building. When the Rev. Barkway left to become Chaplain-in-Charge at St. Paul’s in Launceston, and the two ladies moved on, the solid wooden doors of the Old Newnham C. of E., were closed for a very long time”.

In fact the church opened eight years before Reverend Barkway’s incumbency which began in 1859. Barkway was to minister at the church for a total of 27 years before its doors were shut in 1887. It it also appears that the church’s “solid wooden doors” were not impenetrable for in 1863 it was broken into and vandalised. In March 1863 the Cornwall Chronicle reported:

“The Church at Newnham was broken into and wantonly and sacrilegiously plundered on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. The thief or thieves forced open the door and carried away a bible, a prayer book and a cushion. They also broke five panes of glass in the window of an unoccupied house near the church, formerly the residence of the schoolmaster. A great many leaves from the bible and prayer book were torn out and scattered for some distance along the road to the residence of Mr Walker … there were numerous articles in the church left untouched, viz - school books, maps and surplice belonging to the Rev. Mr. Barkway”.

After the church closed in 1887 the the building was used as a State school until at least 1907. The date of the church’s removal or demolition is not known. No image of the church is known to exist. For illustrative purposes, I have used an 1867 drawing of Newnham Hall, then the residence of William Dawson Grubb. The old Newnham church would have been located about 500 metres to the north-east of Newnham Hall.

* The booklet published in 1969, to celebrate 110 years of the Anglican Church at Newnham, mistakenly dates its origins to 1859 instead of 1851, when the first church was built and opened.

Newnham Hall (1867) Libraries Tasmania

The Cornwall Chronicle, 26 April 1851


The Courier Saturday 26 April 1851
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 26 April 1851
The Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 18 March 1863
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 22 December 1904, page 3
The Examiner, Monday 11 February 1907, page 6

Church of St Barnabas 1859-1969, Foot and Playsted Print, Launceston (booklet)


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