Wednesday, 25 March 2015

St Peter's Church, Hamilton

St Peters Church of England at Hamilton is one of the oldest existing churches in Australia, and even pre-dates the founding of Melbourne. Built of freestone with a tower which has an opening for a clock, which for some reason has never been installed and with only one door under the tower. The reason for this was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which in the early days was about 50 per cent convicts, from attempting to escape.

The plans for the church were designed by the Government architect, John Lee Archer. The cost was stated at £700 minus the tower and the first committee for the construction of the church was appointed with Mr. D. Burn as Secretary. The Government agreed to pay half the cost of the church and construction began in 1834 with J.J. Turnbull as builder. The foundation stone of St. Peter's, Hamilton, was laid by the Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania, Colonel George Arthur, on Thursday, June 26, 1934.

Prior to that date meetings of residents of the surrounding district interested in the erection of the church had been held, and subscriptions invited and generously responded to by leading residents. Apparently the walls had to be rebuilt in 1835 just after the laying of the foundation stone by Lieut. Governor Arthur in June, 1834 and the new builder contracted to complete it was W. Sibley after Turnbull had found himself in financial difficulties.

It was stated that the church would be completed within two months, but that did not mean all interior fittings and furnishings, because a further reference states that the building was completed and inspected in June, 1837. The church was consecrated on May 8th, 1838, by the first and only Bishop of Australia, the Rev Dr. W. G. Broughton, who also consecrated the burial ground. The first confirmation service was held on the same day at 10:30.

There were plans to add a spire to the tower in the 1920s but they never eventuated.
There are headstones around the church that date back to the 1830s and some of the regions earliest pioneer settlers. One headstone of particular interest is that of Sarah Lane who died at the age of 8 years in 1844.
The inscription on the headstone reads:
Lieth the mortal remain-
Of Sarah Lane
Died 3rd Nov.r 1844
Aged 8 years
This little inoffensive child
To Sunday school had trod
But sad to tell was burnt to deat-
Within the house of God”

The dropped 's & h' are the result of the stonemason who didn’t measure out his work very well but saddest of all is the fact that this little girl died tragically in a fire while attending her Sunday School. Quite incredible and very sad.

St Peters remains an active and vibrant church to this day and is part of the Hamilton Parish

Main Text & Information Source - St Peter's Church, Hamilton