No. 1484 - Gowrie Park - Non-Denominational Church Hall (1966-1974)

Gowrie Park is a former village built by the Hydro Electric Commission to house workers constructing the Mersey-Forth Hydro-Electric Power Development Scheme. Gowrie Park is located on the Claude Road about 15 kilometres south west of Sheffield

Tasmania’s vast hydro-electric scheme dates back to 1914 when the Tasmanian Government bought a small electricity company in financial difficulty and created the Hydro-Electric Department. The first power station at Waddamana in the Great Lake Power Scheme was opened in 1916. Over a period of 80 years, 30 power stations and 54 major dams were built. Construction camps and villages were built to support major projects and during this period 10 villages were established, most of which had a full social infrastructure including a school, public hall and a church. After the Second World War, large numbers of migrants were recruited to construct dams and power stations. This brought English, Polish, German, Italian, Scandinavian and other migrants together with Tasmanians, creating lively and diverse communities.

The Mersey-Forth HEC Power Development Scheme was granted Parliamentary approval in 1963 to build three major diversion tunnels and seven big dams with seven power stations at Rowallan, Lemonthyme, Devil’s Gate, Wilmot, Cethana, Paloona, and Fisher. By 1964 the village at Gowrie Park was under construction which at its peak accomodated 3000 residents in 420 houses and single men’s huts. A large store was established in 1964 and the Gowrie Park School opened on 25 May 1964. Other new buildings included a library, cinema and church.

What is known about the church is found in the book ‘Two thousand yesterdays: a social history of the Kentish Municipality’:

“From 1965, Gowrie Park also came within the [Catholic] parish of Railton Sheffield under Father Hanratty. Mr Tom Tyler recalled that, in that year, Mr. Vern Ralph designed and was overseer of the building of the hall from donations of about ten pounds per family. In 1966, the hall was moved to Gowrie Park where it was used as a multi-denominational church. It was returned to Sheffield in 1974, and unfortunately fell off the back of the truck on the way”.

The removal of the church coincides with decommissioning of the settlement which was staged between 1970 and 1974. A photograph of the church hall has yet to be found. Its location alongside the police station is marked on a map of Gowrie Park village.

Gowrie Park in the mid 1960s. Libraries Tasmania

The Advocate, 18 Saturday 1971

Detail of a map of the Gowrie Park settlement showing the location of the Church Hall. (Hydro Construction Villages. Volume Three)


The Advocate, 18 Saturday 1971, page 14

Rackham, Sarah and Woodberry, Joan and Tasmania. Hydro-Electric Commission. Public Relations Department. Hydro construction villages. Volume three. Poatina, Gowrie Park, Strathgordon / written and compiled by Sarah Rackham ; edited by Joan Woodberry Public Relations Dept., Hydro-Electric Commission Hobart 1983 

Williams, Helen and Williams, Dallas. Two thousand yesterdays : a social history of the Kentish Municipality / by Helen & Dallas Williams Kentish Times Press Sheffield, Tas. 1988



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