Sunday, 24 April 2016

St James Church, Jericho

Four years before the settlement of Oatlands began, the first recorded religious service was held at Jericho, on the 23 February 1823. It was conducted by the Reverend Samuel Marsden from N.S.W. in the home of Mr. Thomas Gregson, “Northumbria”, Jericho. The movement for the erection of a church at Jericho began in 1827. Up until this time, the district was being supplied by William Pike, a catechist, who lived at “Park Farm”, Jericho.

The original church was designed by John Lee Archer and was consecrated by Bishop William Grant Broughton on Tuesday 10 May 1838. Fifty years later, cracks appeared in the building, and it was decided to erect another building on the same site. The new church, St James’ Church, Jericho was designed by Henry Hunter and built by Walter Fish at a cost of 839 pounds and consecrated by Bishop Sandford on the 29th April 1888

As a dominant township element, St. James’ is of great significance to Jericho. Architectural fittings and furnishings bear dedications to prominent early members of the district, including Thomas Gregson who was Premier of Tasmania in 1857, and whose property “Northumbria” borders the church. St. James’ is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its community values and its ability to represent a modest sandstone Victorian Gothic Church. Walter Fish was responsible for the stonework and the woodwork was carried out by Charles Ellen, both of Oatlands.

The stained-glass windows were added over time and are some of the best examples of Australia’s glass artists, including John Lamb Lyons (Sydney), George Dancey, William Kerr-Morgan, Brooks Robinson (renowned for the strength of his workmanship) and perhaps the most important window which was the last window that William Montgomery crafted. The beautiful window at the rear of the church, “Crucifixion” was executed by Augustus Fischer of Melbourne. His windows are rare and his work was renowned for his treatment of flowers. The wall treatment and stenciling are rare and beautiful.

It is also thought that St. James Church was the first church in the southern hemisphere to have conducted an Ecumenical Service. The churchyard includes an Avenue of Honour, a row of pine trees dedicated to local men (and one woman) who served in W.W.1.

St. James’ is a family church of the Bisdees, a prominent pastoral family of the district. They took an active part in the welfare of the church and its people. John Hutton Bisdee was the first Australian-born Victoria Cross recipient, and is buried in the cemetery. Bisdee was awarded the V.C. in 1900 for bravery in the Transvaal War, following which he returned to Tasmania to the family farm, and later served in W.W.1. He passed away on his property in 1930. The two Bisdee family plots are a dominant feature of the cemetery when approaching the doors of St. James’.

After years of uncertainty over its future (its roof was damaged by a windstorm in 2002 but the Anglican Church was only prepared to pay for temporary repairs). Despite appeals, it was closed and deconsecrated in early 2008. Subsequently, however, Bishop John Harrower allowed the local community to take it over on a peppercorn rental leasehold, the community to look after and maintain it and the grounds. A local volunteer committee has been established an excellent museum of local history and a memorial to those local men who served for their Empire.

For the botanist, the cemetery is one of only two sites in Tasmania where the rare plant Leptorhynchos Elongatus or Lanky Buttons can be found. This bright yellow daisy was recorded by the botanist J. D. Hooker in the 19th century as “not uncommon”.

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