No. 1282 - Currie - All Saints' Anglican Church (1913-1997)

Currie is the main town and administration centre of King Island. In 1866 the ship "Netherby" ran onto rocks off the island and was salvaged by Captain Archibald Currie. The harbour and later the settlement were named in his remembrance.

The focus of this article is on King Island’s first Anglican church which was built in 1913 and destroyed in an act of arson in 1997. A new church, which was consecrated in 2002, will be the subject of a further article.

The presence of the Anglican Church on King Island dates back to April 1854 when Bishop Nixon, the first Bishop of Tasmania, visited the then unsettled Island. In 1880 Bishop Sandford landed at Cape Wickham and held services there and baptised two children. He then rode down to Currie to hold services at the Lighthouse. In 1893 Bishop Montgomery came to King Island, the first of several visits until his departure from Tasmania in 1901.

“He [Montgomery] followed a usual itinerary, service in the extreme north and then a horseback tour of all the settled areas. He conducted the first Confirmation service on the island on 14th August, 1898, when Mr G. Huxley was confirmed”.

Between 1902 and 1904, the rector of Forth and Leven (Rev. F. G. Copeland) visited King Island at regular intervals. Another notable event occurred on 10th July, 1904, when Reverend Alfred Wells Ashcroft held a service at Currie, as the first minister to hold the appointment of Rector of King Island.

Progress towards building a church at Currie was made in January 1912. Hobart’s Daily Post reported:

“A small block of land has been purchased by the Church of England committee for the purpose of erecting a church on a very suitable site, which is practically speaking a very central one”.

The memorial foundation stone was ceremonially laid on Wednesday 20 August 1913. The King Island News reported:

“One of the most important functions that has occurred in the history of King Island was enacted in Currie on Wednesday last, when the foundation stone of a new Anglican Church was laid in the presence of a large congregation of parishioners and others by Canon Shoobridge, assisted by the Vicar, the Rev. J. M. Devenish…. The instrumental and vocal portion of the special service was capably performed by the Church choir, assisted by Miss Shoobridge. Mr Geo. E. Robinson officiated as organist….”.

The foundation stone was prepared by Mr Tronerud, a local resident, who “had voluntarily fashioned [it] with his own skilful hands”. The building was estimated to cost £506 with an additional £150 required for furniture and lighting.

The church was officially dedicated and opened before it was fully completed due to an early and unexpected visit by Bishop Mercer. The ceremony, which took place on Sunday 12 October 1913, was described in the King Island News:

“An unexpected passenger who arrived with the S.S. Wauchope from Melbourne on Saturday last in Bishop Mercer, …. for the purpose of consecrating the Anglican Church that is being built at Currie. His Lordships sudden appearance was the signal for much action among members of the Church, and during the day several energetic workers obtained forms from the public hall and chairs from private residents sufficient to seat the huge congregations who attended the two services held in the unfinished building on the following day. Despite the short period in which parishioners could be notified, both services were exceptionally well attended. The Bishop was assisted in both services by the local Vicar, Rev. M. Devenish, and Mr J. F. Lightfoot, Lay Reader. During the morning service four candidates were confirmed, and his Lordship, after consecrating building, delivered a powerful address on Confirmation and the new church. A larger number of people were by longer notice enabled to attend the evening service during which all the available accomodation was occupied by the largest congregation ever seen on the island…”.

Alexander North was engaged as architect and the church was built by Mr Humphries. The church was of considerable size for the small town “being 59ft. long by 27ft. broad, with an apse at the east end”. 

The fact that the church was far from complete at the time of Bishop Mercer’s visit is borne out by a report in the King Island News in early November 1913 which details the church’s newly acquired furnishings and which necessitated a second informal opening:

“Sunday last, 2nd inst., was observed as the first dedication festival of the newly-erected Church of All Saints, King Island; and in accordance with a resolution passed at the last meeting of the Church Working Committee, it was unanimously resolved that the festival of All Saints and the nearest Sunday thereto be henceforth recognised as the Patronal Festival, and the offerings be devoted on that day in each year to the Church Building Fund, and notices were given to that effect.”

“For some time previously preparations had been made to ensure success, and to this end the Vicar paid a visit to Melbourne last Wednesday, returning by the steamer on Saturday, and during that interval he secured a fine American organ, made by the well-known firm of Mason &, Hamlin, which had been strongly recommended, at a considerably reduced figure and upon very favourable terms; he also successfully obtained a beautiful sanctuary carpet, manufactured by the well-known firm of Crossley & Son….a large roll of…matting, … very handsome brass candlesticks for the altar,…[and] a remarkably handsome cross 2ft in height….”.

In time additional furnishings were added to the church including the gift of a Credence Table from from the Governor (Sir Harry Baron); altar cloths made by Mrs Devenish; a lectern from Mr and Mrs Lott in memory of their daughter; a pulpit from “Island friends” in memory of World War 1 soldiers; a Christening font, a copper ewer, seats and choir desks, a bell and altar dish donated by Mr and Mrs W. E. Bowling, Mrs A. Bertram and Mrs Glascodine.

In 1971 the King Island News reported that the church’s original foundation stone prepared by Mr Tronerud had to be replaced:

“History has been preserved on King Island with the resetting and hallowing of All Saints' Church new foundation stone. The ceremony was performed on Sunday, 14th November, by Archdeacon A. G. Costelloe. The ravages of time and the easterly winds had eroded the original stone, set in 1913, by the late Canon" George Shoobridge, of Holy Trinity, Hobart. Mrs. R. A. Keating, a senior resident of King Island, who was present at the setting of the original stone, attended the service. Deaconess Marie Kingston, who is in charge of the Parish, initiated a "dollar drive" earlier in the year for the replacement of the stone, to which many people contributed”.

In December 1997, a few days before Christmas, All Saints’ burned to the ground following an act of arson for which two men were later charged. However, the islanders rallied to rebuild a new church which was opened in 2002. This will feature in a future article in ‘Churches of Tasmania’.


All Saints Anglican Church at Currie. (undated photo). Source: Ulverstone History Museum

Source: Libraries Tasmania. Collection of postcards Item No: AUTAS0016125415331

Members of the choir, Canon Shoobridge and other church workers. The Weekly Courier 28 August 1913


An etching based on a drawing made by Bishop Nixon when he visited King Island in 1845 (Raymond Arnold). Nixon's drawing shows the site of a mass graves dug for the victims of Cataraqui shipwreck. One grave contained 200 bodies. In 1846 the masts from the wreck were sold for use as supporting columns for the west gallery of St Peter’s Anglican church in Melbourne.


Sources:

Daily Post, Wednesday 17 January 1912, page 2
King Island News, Friday 22 August 1913, page 3
King Island News, Friday 17 October 1913, page 2
King Island News, Friday 7 November 1913, page 2
The Examiner, Tuesday 11 November 1913, page 3
King Island News, Wednesday 30 July 1919, page 2
King Island News, Wednesday 22 October 1952, page 4
King Island News, Wednesday 5 November 1958, page 5
King Island News, Wednesday 28 August 1963, page 12
King Island News, Wednesday 27 April 1977, page 6
King Island News, Wednesday 24 November 1971, page 2

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