No. 1280 - New Norfolk - St Matthew's Sunday School and Parish Hall (1868)

This article is one of a series about buildings associated with Tasmania’s historical churches and religious orders. 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 basic record of these buildings, including those that no longer exist.

New Norfolk is a historic town on the banks of the Derwent River, approximately 40 kilometres west of Hobart. It grew dramatically when settlers from Norfolk Island moved into the district after 1807. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited the township he named it Elizabeth Town after his wife. However, it was later decided to adopt the name New Norfolk, acknowledging the district’s many Norfolk Islanders.

St Matthew’s lays claim to being the oldest surviving Anglican Church in Tasmania. However it is a very different building from the church erected in 1825. The history of the church is dominated by renovation and rebuilding which was largely the result of poor workmanship and inadequate planning. The church’s Sunday school and parish hall was built in 1868, replacing a schoolroom housed in a partitioned off wing of the church.

The new schoolroom was officially opened on Tuesday 20 October 1868. The Mercury reported on the opening:

“On Tuesday evening last a most agreeable reunion took place at St. Matthew's Church Sunday school-room. The occasion was the opening of the new room which had been recently erected in connection with the above church. The Lord Bishop presided, and the room was well filled by ladies and gentlemen from the surrounding neighbourhood. After ample justice, had been accorded to the well-furnished tables supplied by Mr. Wilshire, the Bishop commenced the intellectual part of the entertainment by calling upon the Rev. Mr. Murray, the incumbent of the parish, to give a statement of the reason why they were thus called together. The Rev. gentleman then briefly touched upon the school originally held in the organ room of the church, spoke of its progress until a part of the wing of the church was partitioned off for the accommodation of the increased number of children attending the school, and pointed to the room in which they were then met as evidence of further progress in the work”.

“This room was not only intended for a Sunday school-room, but for purposes of social intercourse and bible and confirmation classes. He was happy to state the room was free from debt, and the proceeds of the tea meeting would be devoted to the purchasing of such furniture as would be necessary to make the room effective. The rev. gentleman spoke also of the school library which numbers 800 vols. After this a hymn was sung, and the Bishop gave a most excellent address, which was received with marked attention and satisfaction….”.

The school, which was also used as a parish hall, has been extended and modified over the years, the most significant addition being added in the 1890s. The building forms part of St Matthew’s Close and is currently used as a cafe, gift and craft shop.

Photo - The Quilted Teapot - Facebook page

The Sunday school in 1870. The building was extended in the 1890s. source: H. Anderson, History of st Matthew's Church

The Sunday school and parish hall in the 1890s. source: H. Anderson, History of st Matthew's Church

The School in the 1950s when it was used as a public kindergarten. Source: Tasmanian State Archive and Heritage Office - item no. AB713-1-3102

The School in the 1950s when it was used as a public kindergarten. Source: Tasmanian State Archive and Heritage Office  - item no. AB713-1-3103


Mercury, Monday 26 October 1868, page 3
Mercury, Friday 14 August 1925, page 5

Anderson, H. (1920). History of St. Matthew's Church, New
Norfolk. Hobart: Mercury.

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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