In 1844 the parish of St John the Baptist was formed. The year after, a parish hall was erected on the southern side of Goulburn Street. This served as a church, a Sunday school, and a day school. By 1850 the Reverend FH Fox of the Parish of St John the Baptist in the still youthful town of Hobart, Van Diemens Land, opened a public subscription to build a fitting church to serve the needs of the parish, which since 1844 had been making do with services in the schoolhouse on the corner of Goulburn and Crane Streets.
Two years later the drive had amassed $2,000, sufficient for Cox, who had already designed St Johns at Buckland, to give drawings to the architect, George Edmund Street, to make into final plans. Cox’s choice of architect was grandiose. A distinguished London architect, Street was enamored with Gothic design, and was already known for the nave of Bristol Cathedral, the choir of the cathedral of Christ Church in Dublin and, above, all, the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Street had equally grandiose plans for St John the Baptist, but owing to something politicans today would appreciate — insufficient funds — the proposed 130-foot steeple had to be modified. However, as the Reverend Cox reminded his flock, the church was to be built ‘for bringing souls to Heaven’ rather than ‘satisfying architectural fancy’. As time went on some repairs were needed, but this gave the chance to lengthen the chancel for a superb pipe organ to be installed. And fancy or otherwise, the result was the magnificent sandstone building you see today.
The church was completed in 1856 and consecrated that same year. Other buildings were added to the parish as it grew, such as a rectory and organ in 1864, a scout room in 1870, a new church organ in 1880, major additions and alterations to the church in 1902, and a kindergarten in the same year.
The church itself has long been a landmark of West Hobart, with many considering it the ‘gateway’ to the suburb. It was closed in 1997 when the parish of West Hobart was joined with the parish of St Peter’s Sandy Bay to form the Bay West parish, and in September 1998, the church was deconsecrated and the building sold.
Since then it’s been known as Pendragon Hall, a colonial accommodation bed & breakfast venue. St John the Baptist Church, where many members of the local community were baptized or married, has been an integral part of the West Hobart community for 146 years and the church building remains a prominent part of the West Hobart streetscape.