Sunday, 12 April 2015

St John The Baptist Church, Ouse

The church of St John the Baptist is a simple and modest sandstone church surrounded by a churchyard which contains many graves and monuments of the early settlers from the district. It presents an interesting and dominant silhouette. The church is in a dramatic and picturesque setting, on top of the knoll between the township of Ouse, and the Ouse River. Together with the nearby Bridge Hotel and the gardens by the River Ouse, it presents a nineteenth century precinct of rare quality.

In 1840 land was granted by W A Bethune of 'Dunrobin', for the erection of a church at Ouse Bridge. Unlike most Anglican Churches constructed after the Church Act, 1837, no financial assistance was received from government sources. Construction of the church was funded and undertaken with the assistance of local parishioners. Construction was undertaken during the incumbency of the Reverend E J Pogson (July 1831 to September 1844), and is understood to have commenced in 1842, and to have been completed in 1843.

'The Mercury', 1 July 1943 reported that the centenary celebrations were held on Sunday 27 June 1943, which was the first Sunday after the feast day of St John the Baptist (24 June). A stained glass window which portrays the Patronal Saint, performing the baptism of Christ, and which commemorates the centenary of the building was installed at this time.

Following the eventual transfer of deeds to the church on 30 August 1866, a request for consecration was made to the diocesan authorities. The church and burial ground were consecrated by Bishop Bromby on Thursday 9 May 1867. St John's was always part of the Hamilton Parish, and in early synod reports was referred to as the 'chapel' at Ouse Bridge. The reasoning behind this was due to the fact that church authorities were unable to consecrate the church until they had clear title to the land on which the church stood.

The construction date of the small porch is not known, though it is possibly the work of Hobart architect, A C Walker, and is similar to other work undertaken by his practice during the late 1890s (C.F. St Stephen's, Sandy Bay; St Raphael's, Fern Tree; and St Alban's, Claremont.)  In 1929 extensive work was undertaken in an attempt to stabilize deteriorating masonry. Like so much 'restoration' work of this period, this work largely exacerbated the problems.

In 1982 a comprehensive conservation programme was initiated as the building was visibly falling apart. 140 years after the construction of the church, the parishioners once again rose to the task. Sandstone was quarried out of a landslip on a hill at a nearby local  property and then transported to the church where blocks were cut and matched to the existing stones. A new internal wall was installed and one of the stained glass windows was restored during this period. Interestingly, no services were missed during this period.

The renovation continues and is an on going project. Truly a labour of love for the community. A beautiful country church!

Main Text & Information Sources –
Australian Heritage Database.
“From Black Snake To Bronte” – Audrey Holiday & John Trigg