No. 1461 - Cranbrook - 'Gala Kirk' (1845)

Cranbrook is a rural area located about 10 kilometres north of Swansea on the east coast of Tasmania. Gala Kirk is the oldest church on Tasmania’s East Coast and is closely associated with the Amos family.

In 1884 a visitor passing through the area succinctly summarised the early history of the settlement:

“There are several estates whose boundaries converge, and within a comparatively small area are several large homesteads - a church (Presbyterian), two cemeteries, a smith's shop, and a few workpeople's cottages. By reason of having a post office, it is called the town of Cranbrook…Cranbrook is then the nominal centre of four fairly large properties - Gala, Glen Gala, Glen Herriot, and Cranbrook… There is a wee house at Cranbrook, on the east of a basaltic hummock, called Cragie Knowe, which, being interpreted, meaneth "rocky hill." This part was settled on in the second decade of the [19th] century, or the first year of the third, by the Brothers Adam and John Amos, who came from the neighbourhood of Galawater, Scotland…. A small cemetery on the Gala estate contains the remains of many of the Amos family…. A square mile of excellent basaltic soil is about equally divided between the four estates….The Swan river, and a tributary flows through, affording ample water for stock.…”.

The establishment of a church at Cranbrook in the 1840s is outlined in the book ‘Glamorgan Tasmania, the Oldest Rural Municipality in Australia’:

“A diary kept by James Amos of ‘Gala’ for the year 1840 gives the earliest known record of church services held at Cranbrook and Swansea. This shows that, on January 16, 1840, the reverend Mr. Morrison conducted a service in the granary at ‘Glen Gala’. Subsequently, regular services were conducted by Mr Morrison and Reverend Mayson at ‘Glen Gala’, ‘Glen Heriot’ and the homes of Mr Watson and Mrs Lyne”.

At an service it is recorded that:

“On one occasion, just as service was about to begin, word was received that some bushrangers were in the vicinity. The men of the congregation secured their guns and assisted to apprehend the bushrangers, who were taken into custody, after a few shots had been fired”.

In 1844 it was proposed that regular services be held on the East Coast on the condition that the community provided the necessary support. At a public meeting held on 7 October 1844, James Amos offered five acres of land on the Glen Gala Estate for the construction of a Presbyterian church. The proposal was approved at the meeting and a committee was established to investigate plans and oversee the construction of a church. The committee included James Amos (Gala Mill); James Amos (Cranbrook); Alexander Reed (Watersmeetings); John Amos senior (Cranbrook); John Ferguson senior and Adam Amos junior. The cost of the church was born by subscribers to a building fund and the government contributed a further amount of £232.

The foundation stone for the church was ceremonially laid on Friday 28 February 1845 by William Taylor Noyes, Assistant Police Magistrate of Great Swan Port who was assisted by Reverend Thomas Dove and Reverend Joseph Mayson in the presence of about fifty inhabitants of the district. The church was built of brick and included a belfry, vestry and an attached schoolroom.

On 31 October 1845 the committee published an advertisement indicating its approval of the completed church:

“At a Meeting of the Undersigned Managing Committee, held this day at the New Kirk, Glen Gala, after inspecting the interior of the Kirk, Vestry and School Rooms, feel desirous of expressing their highest satisfaction with the neatness of the fittings up, also, with the strength and durability of the whole fabric, and consider the contractor, Mr John Amos, entitled to great credit for his performance”.

The church was officially opened by Reverend J. Lillie on Sunday 7 December 1845. A church bell was donated by Richard Cleburne, a prominent Hobart businessman and a director of the Colonial Bank.

The subsequent history of the church is not remarkable with only a few points of interest worth noting. In January 1884 the church came very close to being lost in a bushfire. Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported:

“About 10 miles from Swansea the Gala Kirk, or Scottish Church, a large and substantial-looking building, had a narrow escape of being burnt to the ground. The fences all round were on fire, and it was only by the united efforts of the neighbouring farmers that the old Kirk was saved”.

In the same year the ownership of the land on which the church had been built became a matter of dispute between the board of management and Mr John Lyne who had purchased the property. In 1885 a report on the proceedings of the annual Presbyterian Synod explained:

“In the year 1880 in investigating the title of the church lands, it was discovered that the five acres in question had presumably through an error in the survey been included in a certificate of title issued to Mr. John Lyne, the purchaser of the estate of which Gala Kirk had originally formed a part. We wrote to Mr. Lyne, asking him to give to the church trustees a formal transfer of the piece of land which had for so many years been the property of the Scotch Church. Some correspondence ensued, and Mr. Lyne declined to give the transfer asked, stating, as his reason that he had bought the estate on which Gala Kirk stood, and held a title for it”.

Lyne eventually relented. Further details about the dispute, which is complex, can be found <HERE>.

Over a period of over 170 years the church was put to use in a variety of ways including as a school, a library depot, a venue for public meetings and even as a polling station for elections. For a period it was used for Anglican services. In 1977 Gala Kirk was incorporated into the Uniting Church of Australia.

Sadly, Gala Kirk has recently been sold by the Uniting Church. At the time of writing this article it is proposed to use the building as a wine sales centre.

Gala Kirk - photograph courtesy of 'peterhut' (Muirland Publishing) flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Gala Kirk - photograph courtesy of 'peterhut' (Muirland Publishing) flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Gala Kirk - photograph courtesy of 'peterhut' (Muirland Publishing) flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Gala Kirk - photograph courtesy of 'peterhut' (Muirland Publishing) flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Gala Kirk - Plaque carved by Ellen Nora Payne - photograph courtesy of 'peterhut' (Muirland Publishing) flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

True Colonist, Thursday 26 December 1844

Hobart Town Advertiser, Friday 21 November 1845, page 3

The Observer, Tuesday 25 November 1845

Photograph taken at the time of the sale of the church in 2023. Photograph:  Petrusma Property -

Photograph taken at the time of the sale of the church in 2023. Photograph:  Petrusma Property -

Photograph taken at the time of the sale of the church in 2023. Photograph:  Petrusma Property -

Photograph taken at the time of the sale of the church in 2023. Photograph:  Petrusma Property -

Gala Kirk (1966) Photographer: Sir Ralph Whishaw - Libraries Tasmania - Item Number NS 165/1/103

Gala Kirk (1970) Photographer: Lloyd George Webb - Libraries Tasmania - Item Number LPIC33/1/30

Sources used and further information:

True Colonist, Thursday 26 December 1844, page 1
Hobart Town Advertiser, Friday 7 March 1845, page 3
Hobart Town Advertiser, Friday 21 November 1845, page 3
The Observer, Tuesday 25 November 1845, page 2
The Observer, Friday 28 November 1845, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 19 January 1884, page 3
Mercury, Friday 10 October 1884, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 18 October 1884, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Friday 9 October 1885, page 3
Mercury, Monday 27 October 1884, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 20 November 1935, page 8
Examiner, Thursday 21 November 1935, page 6
Examiner, Wednesday 28 February 1945, page 4
North-Eastern Advertiser, Tuesday 14 March 1950, page 4

Presbyterian Church of Tasmania, triple jubilee, 1973 : record ; compiled and edited by R. S. Miller, Hobart, Presbytery of Tasmania, 1973.

Glamorgan Tasmania, the Oldest Rural Municipality in Australia; Glamorgan-Spring Bay Historical Society (1988) - Creators: Bill Davenport, Ruth Amos and The Glamorgan Municipal Council
Australian Bicentennial Authority.

The Amos Family: A Story of Tasmanian Pioneers' compiled by Rex and Adriene Evans 1997, Auckland, Evagean Pub., 1997.


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