No. 1365 - Launceston - St John's Mission and Shoobridge Hall (1906)

St John’s Mission was established in 1893 in response to a growing number of families living in extreme poverty. The arrival of the Salvation Army in Launceston in the early 1880s and its relentless proselytising amongst the town’s poor challenged the established churches to respond to both the spiritual and material needs of the poor; especially those who had abandoned the practice of religion.

During the incumbency of the rector of St John’s Church, Reverend Cannon R. C. Nugent Kelly, an Anglican mission was opened in a former public house, the ‘Queen’s Head’. The building, which no longer exists, was located in the vicinity of the Coles Supermarket car-park on Wellington Street. The driving force behind the establishment of the ‘Queens Head Mission’ was Charlotte Shoobridge, better known as “Sister Charlotte”. In 1894 Sister Charlotte was ordained a ‘deaconess’ of the Church of England, the first ‘deaconess’ in Tasmania. In 1892 Sister Charlotte moved to Launceston to take on the challenge of running the Anglican mission for town’s poor and working classes. The Mission opened on Palm Sunday in March 1893 with 60 present for the first service. Further information about the Mission at the Queens Head can be found here: [No. 773]

By 1905 the Mission at the Queens Head had outgrown the Wellington Street building. In 1901 a block of land was purchased in Bathurst street to build a new Mission House but this was subsequently discovered to be too small. Land was then purchased on Canning Street upon which the new Mission was built.

The foundation stone of the new mission was ceremonially laid Wednesday 25 May 1905. The Daily Telegraph reported:

“The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Mission House in connection with St. John's Church took -place yesterday afternoon in the presence of a large assemblage. The new building is in Canning-street, opposite Albert Square, and was rendered necessary by the growth of the Mission's operations and the intention of those who are carrying on the good work to further enlarge the sphere of their labours. …At half-past 3 o'clock, the hour at which the proceedings were to begin, a large crowd had assembled around the spot on which the stone was to be laid. These included many ladies, and amidst the foliage of fashionable millinery could be seen the silk headgear of the Mayor and members of the City Council,…There were also the Mayoress (Mrs J. W. Pepper) and Sister Charlotte, the zealous worker, who is in charge of the Mission. On the extemporised platform was an organ, at which Mr J. H. Fray presided, and to the left were the members of the choir of St. John's Church. The ceremony partook largely of a religious nature, a number of hymns being rendered, and was of an impressive character….After prayer, the stone was raised, and the Mayor, with a large trowel, smoothed some mortar beneath it in quite a workmanlike manner….”.

The Federation style building was designed by Mr J. M. Haenke and constructed by J. and T. Gunn. In addition to the main Mission, a hall and a chapel were to be built adjoining the new building. However, lack of funding resulted in a delay in the construction of the chapel and religious services were held in a meeting room. While the foundations for the chapel were laid the building was never constructed. The only sign of the chapel is a row of protruding bricks where it was to be connected to the Mission. Following Sister Shoobridge’s death in 1925 the adjoining hall was named “Shoobridge Hall” in her memory.

The official opening of the new Mission took place on Tuesday 27 March 1906. The Mission continued its work until the 1940s. The building was acquired by the YMCA in 1947 for use as a girls’ hostel. The premises now houses Launceston Backpackers.

Former St John's Mission on Canning Street with the rear of the Shoobridge Hall

The former Mission - photo:  Laura Whelan

The rear of the Mission building. The protruding brickwork is a remnant of the planned chapel that was to be attached to the main building. Photo: All Saints' Network

The Mission's memorial foundation stone.

The original Mission was housed in the Queens' Head Hotel on Wellington Street. Photo: Libraries Tasmania


Examiner, Wednesday 3 May 1905, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 25 May 1905, page 5
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 28 March 1906, page 5
Examiner, Wednesday 28 March 1906, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 30 June 1910, page 7
Examiner, Thursday 13 November 1947, page 5 - article on the Canning Street Mission House by Basil Tkaczuk – 2018


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