No. 1296 - Falmouth - The Falmouth Church

Falmouth is a seaside village on the east coast that lies approximately 15 kilometres north east of St Marys. It had a strong association with the whaling industry in the early days of the colony and was settled in the early 1830s. It is most likely named after the Cornish port of Falmouth in England.

Falmouth has had three places of worship:

1. From the 1850s a barn as well as a ‘large room’ was used for church services on the farming property    Glencoe, less than half a kilometre south of Falmouth village.
2. A small carpenter gothic style church, which was also used as a school, was erected at Glencoe in the 19th century. The church-school was destroyed in a fire in 1941.
3. A replacement non-denominational church, an old school building from Hadspen, was in erected 1944. This building was destroyed in a gale in the 2003.

The earliest reference to regular formal religious services at Falmouth dates to 1852 when Reverend Parsons was appointed “to the pastoral charge of of the parishes of Fingal, Cullenswood, and Falmouth”. Shortly after this a Sunday school was established at the settlement. In September 1858 The Hobart Town Advertiser reported:

“Through the laudable exertions exertions of the Rev. Mr Drake and two or three ladies, the Sunday School was opened today….Mr Drake stated that he opened a Sunday School at Falmouth this morning, when there were 30 children in attendance, but regretted to state that several of them, at 10 years of age, did not even know there letters!”.

In the same month an article published in the Hobart Town Daily Mercury aired various complaints about Falmouth, including the state of religious affairs:

“This port on the East Coast which may be said to be on the high-way to Fingal is lamentably deficient in several important requirements. The population of the township comprises from one hundred and fifty to three hundred souls, but there is no clergyman of the Church of England to marry the living or to bury the dead, neither is there any consecrated spot wherein the last remains of mortals may be deposited. A portion of ground not fenced in, is used as a cemetery, but the cows, goats and pigs, having free access make sad havoc with the graves…Mr. Drake is endeavouring with laudable exertion to establish a Sunday school in the township, and he occasionally performs divine service on Sunday in a barn, or other available buildings. Surely this is a state of things that should not permitted to continue….Perhaps some blame is to be attached to the inhabitants for their apathy in behalf of their own interests….”.

In response to the ‘Mercury’s’ report, two letters were published challenging the correspondent’s assertions and both of these provide a different perspective. The first, was written by George Pineo, owner of Falmouth’s only Inn:

“I notice an article headed, "Falmouth," remarking on the deficiency at this township of several important requirements… In answer to the above named complaints, I beg to state -

1st. That the Rev. Mr. Drake, a duly ordained minister of religion, has performed divine service at Falmouth every Sunday for some time, and has at the solicitation of the residents made permanent arrangements to continue the same; and we have no doubt he will christen, marry, and bury those who really require his pastoral offices.

2nd. That the cemetery referred to will shortly be fenced in, and that most of the graves in the same are secured with fencing and brickwork, the expenses of which, in some cases, have been defrayed by subscriptions of the Falmouth inhabitants. Six years since, some slight havoc was made by pigs, I think never since….

There is a day school here and, owing to Mr. Drake's exertions, a Sunday school was opened yesterday at which twenty nine scholars attended. I am afraid your correspondent has been too hasty in writing his report on the state of our young township, and that he is mistaken in supposing the inhabitants are to be blamed for apathy. I can safely assert that for liberal subscriptions, clerical, public, or charitable, the inhabitants of Falmouth are not one whit behind any township in Tasmania, taking into account their numbers and means….”.

A second letter published by the ‘Mercury’, penned by “One Interested”, repeated Pineo’s points and added:

“An ordained clergyman, of the Church of England, the Rev. A. Barkway conducted divine service once a month till he resigned his appointment a few months since; although he resided at Cullenswood, ten miles distant, he was always ready when called upon to bury the dead or unite the living. Shortly after Mr. Barkway’s departure, the Rev. B. Drake was invited, who accepted the appointment and has since regularly conducted divine service at Falmouth and Cullenswood every Sunday; certainly at the former place a barn is used for the purpose at the present. It cannot be supposed, with a population so small, a church could be erected immediately; it requires time”.

Although 8 acres of land in Falmouth village had been granted in 1857 for “Ecclesiastical Purposes”, including a church, school, and burial ground, this land was never used. Instead a church-school was erected on the property Glencoe where a barn had earlier been used for services. It is unclear when the church was built as visitors to Falmouth made no mention of it. In 1888, one of these visitors, using the pseudonym “Rambler”, wrote:

“The residents live a quiet peaceful life, enjoying the best of health, which is better than wealth. Their spiritual wants are attended to frequently by the Rev. Mr L'Oste, Church of England, and the Rev. Mr Oldmeadow, Wesleyan, in rotation, Mr Becker of Glencoe, giving a large room for divine services”.

In 1890, another visitor described the settlement and once again, no mention is made of a church:

“This little township is in a beautiful situation….but the town itself has an ancient look as though it has been left behind in the march of progress. There are but few houses, and no licensed hotel, though there is a boarding house where temperance refreshments can be obtained. The residents are chiefly farm labourers…”.

While the church may have been overlooked in these accounts, Glencoe house was still being used a venue for religious functions through the 1890s. In May 1892 The Tasmanian reported:

“…On Friday evening, 13th, quite a stir was observable, the occasion being a concert in aid of the Sunday school. The entertainment was held in a room lent by Mr Becker, of Glencoe, tastefully decorated by the Falmouth ladies”.

While the date of the church’s construction has not been determined, the first direct reference to it in a newspaper report is in 1923. In the summer of that year a fete and strawberry festival was held on the Mariposa House (previously George Pineo’s Inn), where the proceeds, amounting to £30, were “devoted to improvements in the Falmouth church”.

Tim McManus’ comprehensive history of Falmouth, ‘Thanks to Providence’, does not indicate when the church at Glencoe was built but indicates that a church-school was in existence by the 1870s. It is possible that at this time the building was a converted barn with the church being built as late as the 1890s. McManus writes that the Church-School “was nicknamed ‘the geranium’ because it had green walls and a bright red roof”. Little else is written about “the geranium” and only two photographs of it have survived.

Unfortunately, the little church-school was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1941. This is recounted by McManus in ‘Thanks to Providence’:

“It was the task of the older children to clean out the class-room at the conclusion of every week, in readiness for church services during the weekend…..this included burning all waste paper in an oil drum positioned outside for the purpose. On a hot windy day towards the end of 1941, juvenile enthusiasm coupled with lack of supervision resulted in the church/school being set alight and literally going up in smoke”.

The church was replaced in 1944 when an old building school from Hadspen, west of Launceston, was transported to the east coast and converted into non-denominational church. In addition to use its use by Anglicans the was also occasionally used by Catholics.

In 1996 the church was moved from the site near to Glencoe to the Falmouth cemetery. This came about due to the construction of a new road that affected access to the building. The church’s end came in 2003 when it was flattened by strong winds. All that remains of the church are its concrete piers which stand amongst badly weathered headstones that date back to the earliest days of the settlement.

Falmouth Church "The Geranium" which stood about 400 metres south of the village. Photo: The McManus Collection

The new church, a former school moved from Hadspen. The photograph was taken before the building was moved to the Falmouth cemetery in 1996. Photo: The McManus Collection

The 'new' church after it was moved into Falmouth village. Photo: McManus Collection

The old Glencoe homestead where religious services were held in a large room. Photo:

Photos of the Falmouth Cemetery and the site of the second church.

The ramp to the church's entrance

Two of the concrete piers on which the church stood.

A link to site with a list burials at Falmouth Cemetery. These do not include burials at the Steel family private cemetery at Glencoe.

                                       LINK HERE


The Courier, Wednesday 7 January 1852, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 28 November 1857, page 3
Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Friday 10 september 1858, page 3
Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Thursday 16 September 1858, page 3
Hobart Town Advertiser, thursday 16 September 1858, page 3
Mercury, Tuesday 28 August 1866, page 2
Colonist, Saturday 29 December 1888, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 16 January 1890, page 3
The Tasmanian, Saturday 21 May 1892, page 25
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 18 January 1923, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 7 July 1927, page 2
Mercury, Wednesday 21 December 1938, page 3
The Mercury, Saturday 5 February 1944, page 5
Valley and east Coast Voice, Volume 29 (No.13) 25, 25 October 1996
Sunshine Coast Community News, October 2003, page 1

McManus, Tim. "Thanks to providence" : a history of Falmouth, Tasmania, and its people / Tim McManus T. McManus Falmouth, Tas 1993


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