No. 1317 - Sandy Bay - St Stephen's Anglican Church (1896)

Sandy Bay is a southern suburb of Hobart. It is believed that it was named by Reverend Robert Knopwood while he was out on the Derwent on a whaling boat. The northern half of Sandy Bay was known as Queenborough between the years 1859 and 1878. St Stephen’s is located in Lower Sandy Bay.

The history of St Stephen’s can be divided into three distinct periods:

1. Construction of the first church at Sandy Bay began in 1847. This building was never completed after it lost its roof in a gale in 1850.
2. A second church was built and opened in 1858. This church was shared by Anglicans and Wesleyan-Methodists until the 1880s.
3. In 1896 the church was completely rebuilt. From this time onwards it was only used the Anglicans.

This article’s focus is on the period of the third church built in 1896. an article about the first two churches can be found here: [No.1293]

In 1896 the old “Red Chapel” constructed in 1858 was replaced by a new building. The demise of the old chapel was welcomed by many. A correspondent to the Mercury wrote:

“All praise is due to the clergymen of the parish, the churchwardens of St Stephen’s, and all the residents in that locality who have helped, for the noble and herculean way in which they have struggled to replace the old "Red House" (always a disgrace to the church), by a handsome building erected to God's glory….”.

A report in the Mercury celebrated the new building which was described as:

“A small but ornate ecclesiastical building which has risen phoenix-like through Anglican liberality on the ashes of the old Red Chapel”.

The new church bore little resemblance to the building it replaced. The earlier church was a Georgian style structure typical of Wesleyan-Methodist chapels built in the in the early 19th century. The new church reflected the dawning of the Federation era and was dominated by an Arts and Crafts style belfry and spire. The building was designed by architects Ricards and Salier and the project was completed at a cost of £427. A report in Mercury described the new building at the time of its reopening:

“A neat gabled porch from which springs the new belfry and spire gives access at one end to the nave , 40ft x 30ft, with an open and elegant timber roof. At the east end a large handsome gothic arch opens into a new apse-ended chancel similarly treated, and having an arched recess for organ at side, and a door leading to the new vestry on the same side. The walls to nave and chancel have handsome wood dado to windowsills, and above they are finished in plaster, tinted a soft French grey. The doors, dado and roof are constructed of selected Tasmanian stringy bark , beautifully finished, being equally effective in appearance to English oak. The nave is lighted with seven lancet windows and a large and effective west window, while the chancel has four lancet windows. These are filled in with stained cathedral glass, in elegant patterns. Altogether the building will form one of the most picturesque of our suburban churches”.

St Stephen’s was officially reopened by Bishop Montgomery on Sunday 19 April 1896.

In 1917 a parish hall was built alongside the church. The foundation stone was laid by the Dean of Hobart and officially opened in May 1917. In 1961 this Federation style hall was replaced by a post-war modernist red brick building. In 1922 Sandy Bay formed a seperate parish ending its long association with St Georges parish. In the same year a rectory was built. At building centenary celebrations in 1956 an arch and gate was erected in front of the parish hall. In 1970 a new porch was added to the Church and the west end was enlarged, somewhat compromising the 1896 design. St Stephen’s houses work of prominent Tasmanian woodcarver Ellen Norah Payne (1865-1962), which includes a hymn board and an Honour Roll commemorating men of the parish who fought and died in the Great War.

The Church and Hall were sold by the Anglican Church in 2022 and are now privately owned. The church’s rare beachfront site contributed to a record sale price of $4.5 million.

St Stephen's - Sandy Bay (Libraries Tasmania) NS3373-1-210

The church in 2022 - courtesy Frank Knight Real Estate

The interior of St Stephen's - courtesy Frank Knight Real Estate

The church before porch and extension were added in 1970. (Libraries Tasmania) NS392-1-770

The 'Red Chapel', the second church built on the site. (Libraries Tasmania) NS1013-1-1923

The Memorial Gates in front of the hall. Photo courtesy of The Mercury


Mercury, Wednesday 18 December 1895, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 2 May 1896, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 9 May 1896, page 1
Mercury, Friday 10 July 1896, page 2
Mercury, Saturday 18 April 1896, page 3
Mercury, 25 January 1915.
World, Saturday 30 September 1922, page 7
Mercury, Wednesday 24 August 1927, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 23 August 1947, page 5

St Stephen’s Church, Sandy Bay. 1947 St Stephen’s Church of England centenary booklet.

Henslowe, Dorothea I. & Hurburgh, Isa. 1978, Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania / by Dorothea I. Henslowe ; sketches by Isa Hurburgh [S.l

Stephens, G. 1991 The Anglican Church in Tasmania: A Diocesan History to Mark the Sesquicentenary: 1992, The Print Centre.


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