No. 1292 - Priory - Priory Hall

This article is one in a series about public buildings in country areas that were used as places of worship. In these communities churches may have been planned but were never built due to lack of finance or changed circumstances. In most settlements, before a church was built, worship was typically held in homes, schoolrooms, barns, halls and other buildings. Conversely, in some communities, churches were sometimes the first public building erected and were used as schools and community halls. The focus of this series will primarily be on the public halls and schools that were used as churches. These buildings, and the religious communities which used them, are often overlooked in published histories of churches.

Priory is a small settlement on the Anderson Bay Road in Tasmania’s North East region and which lies approximately 10 kilometres north of St Helens. The district developed rapidly when tin was discovered in the area. However the deposits were quickly exhausted and the settlement did not develop.

Religious services at Priory were first held in the home of Mr Richard Richards and his wife Louisa, the daughter of Benjamin Smith, who had established a Union Church at nearby Goulds Country. It was Louisa who established a Sunday school in 1905 and was a driving force in the communities religious life for many years. Her contribution was publicly acknowledged in 1954 as reported in Launceston’s Examiner:

“A woman who has been a church organist for 60 years was given a social evening at Priory, near St. Helens, in recognition of her services. The woman, Mrs. R. Richards has played for both Church of England and Methodist services during that time. When Mrs. Richards first went to Priory, worship was held in her home and then later in a school building. She was instrumental in starting a Sunday school which was carried on until the children grew up or left the district. Mrs. Richards was presented with a posy and a gift and speakers were Messrs. T. Reid. James Le Fevre and R. Murfet. All spoke highly of the work accomplished by Mrs. Richards over the years…”.

Following the establishment of a non-denominational Sunday school in 1905, religious services were held in Priory’s school and public hall which had been built in 1904. Over the years Methodist and Anglican services were held in the hall and were sometimes described in local newspaper reports. For example, in April 1913, the Daily Telegraph reported:

“On Sunday at 3 p.m., the harvest festival was held by the Methodist missionary, Mr J.C. Brown. The church was very prettily decorated by the ladies of Priory, and the minister addressed a good congregation. On the following evening the gifts were taken to St. Helens, where they were sold…”.

In 1915 the hall was extended and its reopening was reported by the Examiner:

“The opening of the new hall at Priory…was a most enjoyable function. A large number of people gathered from St. Helens, Goshen and Goulds Country, and a programme of musical and elocutionary items was rendered….The residents of Priory are to be congratulated on their enterprise in the erection of such a building, which will meet all requirements for religious services, day school, and social gatherings”.

In late 1940 the hall was destroyed in a fire which presented a dilemma for the community. In March 1941 the North Eastern Advertiser reported:

“A petition [to the Portland Council] was tabled from residents of Priory asking for some assistance from the Government to re-erect the building recently destroyed by fire and which had been used for a school, church and hall. [It was]… resolved that while it had the unanimous sympathy of the Council it was suggested that the prayer of the petition be redrafted “For the purpose of a school and public purposes”.

A suggested solution to the problem was to move one of the Goulds Country churches to Priory but this proved to be controversial and was rejected by the Portland Council. The North East Advertiser reported:

“The Warden of the Portland Municipal Council (Cr. P. W. Steel) referred in indignant terms at last meeting to a proposal to remove the Anglican Church in Goulds Country to The Priory….the building used as a Church at The Priory was burnt down before Christmas, and some of the Church people had in mind the removal of one of the two churches at Goulds Country. The Warden said the Churches were built by the pioneers of the district and that the Union Church was under the control of the Council. To talk of removing either of them without even consulting the people was the degrading action of a lot of low-down blackguards….”.

The hall was eventually replaced although there is no record of when this took place. However the hall was once again in use by July 1945 with the North Eastern Advertiser reporting that a new organ had “been purchased for church services at Priory”.

Anglican church services continued at the hall through to the end of the 1950s when they were discontinued. The hall continued to to be used by the community for a number of years until the building fell into a state of disrepair.

The second hall built at Priory which was used as a church until the late 1950s. Source: St Helens History Room


Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 29 April 1913, page 8
Examiner, Wednesday 1 December 1915, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 3 December 1915, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 24 January 1941, page 2
North-Eastern Advertiser, Tuesday 11 March 1941, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Tuesday 10 July 1945, page 2
Examiner, Thursday 25 September 1947, page 4
Examiner, Monday 17 May 1954, page 11

Richardson, Garry Charles. and Rattray, Tania. Up country : the history of Goshen, Terryvale, Goulds Country, Priory, the Marshes, Pyengana, West Pyengana, bullock drivers and the sawmills of the municipality of Portland, north east Tasmania / Garry Richardson Bay of Fires Images and Publishing [St. Helens, Tasmania] 2017


Popular posts from this blog

Welcome to Churches of Tasmania

No. 624 - Dunalley - St Martin's Anglican Church - "In grateful memory of the men who fought in the Great War"

No. 592 - Gretna - St Mary the Virgin - "Worthy of Imitation"