Wednesday, 13 November 2013

St Patrick's Church, Colebrook

Virtually every settlement in Australian has a church, the overwhelming majority of which are in the Gothic style. Collectively they represent one of the major images of our cultural landscape. Their Gothic style comes from the designs of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52), England's greatest early-Victorian architect, designer and theorist, who has a seminal impact on the development of nineteenth-century design and architecture, particularly the association of Gothic design with ecclesiastical structures. Pugin's vision is best understood through his own church designs. These are only to be found in England, Ireland and Australia.

In Tasmania the group of his churches, St Patrick's, Colebrook, St Paul's Oatlands, and additions to St John's, Richmond, constitutes a unique layout of his vision throughout Australia in an entire class of buildings: churches large and small, sophisticated and crude. Their proximity as a group is a unique example of the rural landscape with churches as its focus. Such a close unspoiled group of Pugin small village churches can be found nowhere else, including England and Ireland.

St Patrick's Church is an aisled church with a triple bellcote on top of the nave east wall.  The church is constructed from coursed sandstone and has corrugated iron roofs and a plastered interior.  Its mid nineteenth-century crown glass windows are largely intact.  The style of the church is English Flowing Decorated Gothic of c.1320 and it is very similar to small English village churches of the period.

It stands in a churchyard with adjacent cemetery in which is a churchyard cross, an arrangement promoted in Pugin's writings, but in fact more in evidence in Tasmania than in England. This church is one of only two of Pugin's buildings constructed from highly detailed accurate scale models made in London by George Myers, his favoured builder.  The design dates from 1843 and the models were brought to Tasmania in 1844 by Pugin's very close friend Robert William Willson, first Bishop of Hobart Town.  Construction was started on a crown land grant on the hillside above the village of Jerusalem (later renamed Colebrook) in 1855 and the church was opened on 21 January 1857.

In September 1895 the triple bellcote astride the nave east wall was blown down in a mini tornado, destroying the chancel roof and damaging the chancel walls and floor. When the church was repaired the bellcote was not replaced. This was done in 2007 after reverse engineering the bellcote drawings. The bellcote is the only such triple bellcote in this position on any of Pugin’s churches and very significant.

In the early 1970s the choir screen was pulled down and partly re-erected at the west end of the nave. It was later put back across the chancel entrance but with parts damaged or missing. In 2006 the screen was dismantled and conserved, the missing and damaged components being re-carved in matching Australian Cedar. It was re-installed in December 2006.

Essentially, the building is intact and is presented as when it was first completed. It is currently part of a conservation project being undertaken by the Pugin Foundation and still is active, providing services as part of the Richmond Parish.

Information Source: Australian Heritage Database

Pugin Foundation Conservation Project: