Sunday, 7 June 2015

St George's Church, Sorell

The current St George’s Church was constructed in 1883/84, replacing a larger church on the same site that dated back to 1825/26. The first Church of England service in Sorell took place in 1820, when the Reverend Robert Knopwood delivered a sermon in a barn.  The need for a chapel at Sorell was reputedly highlighted by Commissioner Bigge and the foundation stone for the church was laid by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur in August 1825.

Following the ceremony the Reverend Garrard said that ‘it awakened the emotions peculiarly sweet and touching to see an assembly meet to hear the truths of the Gospel on a spot which had been since the creation under the dominion of ignorance.’

Most of the construction work was carried out by convicts and when completed, St George’s was regarded as one of the finest country ecclesiastical edifices in Tasmania.  The building was made of stone with cedar furnishings.  Inside, there were three galleries which were used to separate convicts from the general population and it was so large that more than 600 people could be accommodated.  It appears that the quality of the workmanship was sub-standard as tenders for the performance of sundry repairs were invited in April 1833. The soil around the church yard was very prone to cracking and moving and this led to structural issues in the church.

By the late 1870s the building had decayed into a dilapidated state and it was pronounced unsafe for use.  The local Presbyterians graciously offered the Anglicans the use of their church until repairs could be made.  In March 1882 it was decided to rebuild St George’s Church and the parishioners organized a series of fund-raising activities.

The inordinate size of the original church had become inconvenient and plans were drawn-up for a smaller building more adapted to the wants of the locality.  The new church was to be built on the same site and in the same style of architecture as the old one.  The contract was awarded to Messrs Grubb Bros of Hobart for ₤925.

In August 1883 the old church was pulled down and the stone utilized in the new structure which was completed and formally consecrated in June 1884.  The newspaper report on the consecration in The Mercury stated that ‘although owing possibly to financial considerations, the designers have worked upon the principle that plainness unadorned is adorned the most, the church will afford a pleasing addition to the somewhat limited architectural beauties of the town.’

The problem with the soil was not resolved until the 1980’s when the foundations were surrounded by an underground irrigation system which helps to keep the soil moist and stable.

Main Text & Information Sources – 
Australian Heritage Database
Interpretative signs at the site