No. 1333 - Launceston - Frederick Street Infant School (1836)

This blog post is a little unusual in that Launceston’s Frederick Street Infant School would not appear to have any obvious connection to religion or Christian worship.

In Van Diemen’s Land the first Infant School Society was formed in 1832 and a school room was established at Hobart. In 1835 a similar society was formed in Launceston. A school was established to accommodate:

“Children of both sexes, between the ages of two years and seven years, to be open to all children without distinction— the Holy Scriptures being made the basis of all instruction”.

The first Launceston school was located in temporary premises on the corner of Charles and Balfour Street. The school moved to Frederick street in March 1836.

From the beginning the school building was used for purposes other than education. In the 1830s and 1840s it was used for regular meetings of the Teetotal Society; the Temperance Society; the Horticultural Society, the Bible Society; the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge as well for general public lectures and meetings such as those agitating for the abolition of transportation. From July 1836 it was used as a place of worship by the ‘Particular Baptists’ led by Reverend Henry Dowling. Presumably the Baptists would have worshiped at the school until the Baptist chapel on York Street was completed in 1840. After Reverend John West arrived in Launceston in 1838 his congregation met at the Infant School until a temporary independent chapel opened higher up Frederick Street. [See No.1204]

Architectural historian Dr Eric Ratcliff suggests that the school may have originally been designed as a chapel. In a lecture “From Chapel to Church: Nonconformist Building in Launceston”, Ratcliff argues that the Frederick Street school has the appearance of a nineteenth century chapel and that this may not be coincidental:

“The Infant Schools Society appears to have acquired an existing building; it is not recorded that it was built for them. Like the chapels, it has plainer brick sides and a stuccoed front, but examination of the architecture of that front suggests that it was not finished as intended – the gable is so much plainer than the lower part, and the piers look set to support an imposing stepped parapet that never eventuated. It is possible that it was intended to be a chapel rather than a schoolhouse, but if so, whose?”.

In fact the building was commissioned by the Infant School Society and the school’s construction was commenced by Mr John Anderson Brown in April 1835. It is of course possible that Brown might have modified plans for a building designed as a chapel. While the reason for the school’s chapel-like appearance may never be known, it is perhaps appropriate that the building be included in “Churches of Tasmania” because of its connections with Launceston’s Christian communities.

Notice in the Cornwall Chronicle


The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 11 April 1835, page 1
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 25 April 1835, page 2
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 19 March 1836, page 1
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 23 July 1836, page 3

Dr Eric Ratcliff, From Chapel to Church, Nonconformist Building in Launceston, Launceston Historical Society Papers & Proceedings 2009

National Trust of Australia (Tasmania). Northern Division. Launceston's history in trust National Trust of Australia (Tas.) [Launceston, Tas 1977


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