All Saints Anglican Network encompasses several centres which have in recent decades been separate parishes of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania. Their history is intertwined with that of St. John’s Church, Launceston, and historically, all were ministered to for parts of their history by the clergy of St. John’s Church. It could be argued, however, that the history of the parish began at Outer Cove, now George Town, site of the first Divine Service in northern Van Diemen’s Land on Sunday 25th November 1804. Indeed, Governor Macquarie’s insistence that George Town be the administrative capital of the northern settlement led to Revd. John Youl being forced to live at George Town from 1821 to 1825. In that early period, there was a combined chapel and school house on the corner of Elizabeth and Cimitiere Streets at George Town. Youl had come up to Launceston in December 1818 to inspect the settlement, returning to George Town in January 1819. In this short period he performed many marriages and baptised many children. He and his family returned to Launceston in December 1819 to take up residence wherever it was offered. It was during his enforced residence at George Town that plans were set afoot for the building of Launceston’s St. John’s Church.
History of All Saints Anglican Network
During 2019 and 2020, churches which had been independent parishes for decades came together under a new ministry and administrative body taking the name of All Saints Anglican Network, restoring relationships which had existed before those parishes were given independence. While a good deal more work has been done in recent years to record the history of St. John’s Church – now the City branch of the new network, the earlier history already encompasses the other centres – South-East which emerged from St Peter’s in St. Leonards, George Town, already mentioned and based at St. Mary Magdalene, and North – based at Barney’s – St. Barnabas at Newnham. The City branch also includes the buildings of St. Oswald’s at Trevallyn and St. Aidan’s at East Launceston.
History of All Saints Parishes – Trevallyn-Riverside, George Town, St. Leonard’s, St. Barnabas and others
In 2021, a good deal of attention is being given to making sure that documents and artefacts from the various churches that have now become All Saints Anglican Network are gathered, sorted and recorded, and stored in an appropriate environment. This will enable the history of those churches to be available for future researchers. It is hoped that many documents and images of broad historical interest can be digitised, and published online. Already, copies of several historical publications produced by those churches from the 1960s to more recent times, have been gathered and digitised. Here are some of them:
We are grateful to the family of the late John G. Branagan for their permission to add Historical Notes – St Oswald’s Church 1893-1993 to this website.
The Heritage and History Group of All Saints Anglican Network would welcome contributions of historical information, audio and video recordings and photographs relating to the story of each of the church buildings and congregations now part of the Network, but also of buildings recently or long since sold or demolished. There were churches in towns which themselves have vanished!
Detail from painting of original church of St Mary Magdalene George Town ca 1845 by Susan Fereday
The linked publications are quite a useful source of historical information about the various centres, and shed some light on the historical connections with the parish of St. John’s Church, Launceston. Duncan Grant’s excellent online Churches of Tasmania series seems very well researched, and fills in many gaps in the history of the churches that are now part of All Saints Anglican Network, or have since closed or disappeared.
St. Oswald’s, Trevallyn, while technically part of the Beaconsfield parish when the foundation stone was laid in 1893, immediately became the responsibility of clergy from St. John’s, and continued as part of that parish until combined with St. David’s, Riverside in 1953 as the Parish of Trevallyn. At a later date, the parish was normally referred to as Trevallyn-Riverside, which seems to have been the case until the inauguration of the Riverlinks parish in 2004, amalgamating the former parishes of East Launceston, George Town and Trevallyn-Riverside.
St. David’s, Riverside, apparently known as Church of the Holy Cross in its earliest years, was established at Cormiston in 1921, apparently using a re-cycled and donated building which remained in use until the modern church was completed in 1963. See online Churches of Tasmania article Church of the Holy Cross 1921-1964. The “Holy Cross” name, however, may have been dropped earlier. Historical issues of St. John’s Parish Messenger list service times and dates for simply “Cormiston” during the 1940s, but from Feb. 1950 changed to “St. David’s, Cormiston”. More research is needed to find the reason behind that change!
Based on the linked history by Peter Cox, it appears that George Town became part of a separate parish, Dorset, after an act was passed by the Legislative Council in 1837, so its history was separate from the former St. John’s parish for over 180 years, until the reunion as part of All Saints Anglican Network in 2019.
The little Christ Church building at Low Head was completed in 1877, and functioned until de-consecrated in 2019, after which it was sold by the Diocese of Tasmania. Again, see Grant’s Christ Church at Low Head for a further perspective. Likewise, St Alban’s at Pipers River, begun in 1909 but not dedicated until 1923, was deconsecrated and listed for sale as part of the diocesan plan to meet the cost of redress for victims of sexual abuse. See online Churches of Tasmania article St. Alban’s, Pipers River for further historical information. Similarly, The Church of the Ascension at Lilydale was closed and listed for sale during 2020. It had been variously part of the Dorset and St. George’s Invermay parishes over its history, and receives some mention in the linked 1969 history of St. Barnabas, Newnham. Duncan Grant has also published an article on the long-gone St. Andrews, Lefroy – part of the same parish as George Town in its day – an era during which Lefroy was by far the bigger and more important town.
History of St. John’s Church, Launceston
The history of St. John’s Church goes right back to the beginnings of European settlement of northern Tasmania in 1804, but is more properly dated from the appointment of Revd. John Youl as chaplain to Port Dalrymple in 1815. With the building itself commenced in 1824, this represents a very long period of accumulated documents, pictures and other artefacts. The building itself is the largest of those artefacts, and includes a small museum area with items and pictures of past times.
The people, of course, are the church, and many Australians, and occasionally people in other countries, have wanted to access records of those people – baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals and burials, to further understand their own family history. To preserve those precious records, a large collection of documents relating to the early history of St. John’s Church has been digitised by the Tasmanian Government’s library and archive service, Libraries Tasmania, and can be searched online. Follow: Libraries Tasmania Name Index Search. Libraries Tasmania holds extensive church registers from many different centres across several denominations, but much of the archive collection has not been digitised, and particular registers might need to be booked for reading at the Hobart reading room. See Libraries Tasmania – Church registers held in the Archives Office of Tasmania (stors.tas.gov.au) for a catalogue of the register collection.
Our Heritage and History Team is working hard to catalogue and conserve the artefacts and documents held by the church. The linked articles below, along with our website photo galleries, will give some idea of the past, distant and more recent, of St. John’s Church.
A booklet covering the history of St. John’s is available from the church. The following pages also outline our history:
This very comprehensive collection of Memorials and Biographies – 120 at last count, outlining memorials in St. John’s Church in the form of plaques, windows, furniture and other items, was compiled by well-known Launceston historian, Jenny Gill. In a few cases, the link will take you to an external location such as the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
In normal circumstances, St. John’s Church is open to visitors during office hours – 9 am – 1 pm Monday-Friday. Visitors can use a QR code to link them to this page to allow them to follow a self-guided tour of the church building. Coloured dots on the map will take link the visitor to information associated with particular features – the stained glass windows, memorial plaques and other interesting features.
“Hidden Places” Video Tour
The magnificent and historical church building is usually open to the public on weekdays, but there are areas that not even our own congregation can visit, mainly for safety reasons. Now, you can virtually tour these “hidden places” by playing this video!
Historical Image Galleries
We have managed to digitise hundreds of photos relating to our church history – some dating back to the 1860s, as well as a few paintings, the earliest of which appears to date from the 1840s. Many of the images in the photo galleries also have interesting historical information in their captions. Click on the first photo in the gallery to bring it up to viewing size. Captions will appear below the photo. Use your arrow keys to go to the next image.
We are always happy to receive further images relating to the history of St. John’s and other All Saints churches, and will publish them as soon as possible, with acknowledgement of source if desired.
Audio and Video Collection
It is not known whether there are any audio recordings made at St. John’s from the “pre-electronic” era – 1880s to 1950s. We would be delighted to be given access to any such recordings, and would digitise them as soon as possible, to link to this website. “Reel to reel” recordings were made of a few services and concerts from the early 1960s onwards, although the technology in use appears to have been very limited. From the early 1980s, sermons were recorded to audio cassette and duplicated as a ministry to those who could no longer attend services through age or infirmity. Only a limited number of those earlier recordings have survived, as the master tapes were wiped for further use, but our collection is reasonably good from the mid 1990s, and from the early 2000s, we have an almost complete record of Sunday sermons through to the present day. From 2014, we have also made video recordings of Sunday sermons.
[Click] Sermons to find our collection of recorded sermons.
Use the search options at the top of the page:
eg Start Date 1980, End Date 1990 (and click on the Filter>> button to apply your search).
Our earliest extant audio recordings:
During 2017, two sermon series preached by Revd. Ernest Horth in 1984
were also acquired and added to the collection. Use the search function mentioned above.
Ferguson and Urie – Colonial Victoria’s Historic Stained Glass Craftsmen 1853-1899
(and our particular Ferguson and Urie window) – St John’s Anglican Church, Launceston