No. 1253 - Launceston - St John's Rectory (1878)

This article is one of a series about buildings associated with Tasmania’s historical churches.These buildings include Sunday schools, parish halls, convents, schools and residences of the clergy. Ancillary buildings are often overlooked and rarely feature in published histories. My aim is to create a simple record of these buildings, including those that no longer exist.

St John’s Anglican rectory (or parsonage) is situated on the southern side of Launceston’s iconic church. It was designed by architect ‘Harry’ Conway in the style a Victorian Gothic Revival.

Plans for the building were first discussed in April 1878 at a meeting of parishioners. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“A meeting of the parishioners…was held at the school-room, Elizabeth-street, last evening to consider the question of the erection of a parsonage and various other matters connected with the church. The attendance was small. The Rev. Canon Brownrigg occupied the chair, and ….stated briefly the principal object of the meeting, viz., the building of a parsonage. He said that as the church was now out of debt, there was a credit balance of about £53 at a the' beginning of this year, which the churchwardens decided to set aside as the nucleus for the building of a parsonage. Plans had been prepared by Mr Conway, authorised by the churchwardens, and a one great object of the meeting was to adopt the plans, and authorise the church wardens to take measures for carrying them into execution….The plans were then handed round for inspection. They described a' plain Gothic structure, somewhat after the same style as the Launceston Church Grammar School, and the total cost of erection would be abbot £1400….A long and desultory conversation then ensued as to the best mode of raising funds for the erection of the building. Ultimately, Mr W. Turner proposed that a committee be formed for the purpose of getting up a bazaar, the ladies being requested to act upon the committee…”.

Construction began in mid 1878 and a report describing the building's progress was published by the Examiner:

“We have been favoured by Mr Harry Conway, architect, with a view of his plans for the new parsonage for the incumbent of St. John’s Parish, now in course of erection on the ground adjoining the church, at the corner of St. John and Frederick streets. Mr David Scott, the contractor, is pushing the work on vigorously. The architecture of this parsonage will be pure gothic, with verandahs. It will be a two story building, roomy and commodious, fit to be used for clerical receptions and business when required. The first apartment, on entering by the front door from St. John street, will be a small waiting room, the next on a line with it a hall 36 feet by 10 feet; to the left a spacious dining-room, to the right a still more spacious drawing room, with large and handsome gothic window fronting towards Frederick street”.

“The other apartment, or the basement story, will be a study, a spare room, kitchen, pantry, and store-room. Up stairs there will be six bedrooms, ranging from 20 to 22 feet by 16 feet, two dressing rooms and a bath-room. The new Parsonage will constitute an additional ornament to Prince's Square; the ground around it will no doubt be planted with ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers, with handsome well kept walks between”.

The rectory was completed by the close of 1878. The first resident was Rev. Canon Brownrigg who remained the incumbent minister of St John’s until 1887.

In early 21st century the parsonage was converted into offices and meeting rooms for parish staff while the upper floor was converted into a self-contained flat as the Rector’s residence.

St John's church and Rectory (2023) photo: Duncan Grant

The Rectory and church (c.1880) Photo: Beattie, J. W. (John Watt), 1859-1930. State Library of Victoria


Launceston Examiner, Saturday 6 April 1878, page 2
The Tasmanian, Saturday 20 July 1878, page 11
Launceston Examiner, Monday 1 September 1879, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 2 August 1890, page 5


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