Thursday, 12 January 2017

Auld Kirk, Sidmouth

The West Tamar Presbyterian Church, commonly referred to as the Auld Kirk (Scots for old church and 'Kirk' itself is a medieval word (It was introduced to Scotland by Viking settlers) and meant 'church' in Old Norse. This beautiful little church is situated on the bank of the Tamar River, north of the Batman Bridge

The church was originally built by convicts (who were housed at Blackwood Hills) and free labour. It is a simple Gothic rubble stone church and the building of the church was begun in early 1843 at the instigation of the Rev Alexander McKenzie and Mr James Reid of Richmond Hill. Rev McKenzie was the first minister appointed to the area and he was responsible for the building of the congregation while the church was being built.

He resigned in 1845 and returned to Scotland to be replaced by the Rev James Garrett who arrived in July 1846 and became the first minister to take a service in the newly completed church which was consecrated in 1846. Rev Garrett went on to serve the church for 28 years before passing away in 1874.

After a disastrous fire gutted the church in September 6th 1900, the church became known as “The Church with a tree”. There are various paintings of the church from this time which shows the tops of wattle trees growing inside the church above the walls. It is said that eight bundles of bark were stripped from them when they were finally removed.

In 1912, a petition was sent to the Presbyterian Assembly from Sidmouth, requesting 350 pounds for the restoration of the building. Unfortunately no money was forthcoming so the members of the West Tamar congregation raised the money needed and the church was reopened on May 4th 1913. In 1914, the Rev C.A Anderson came to the Auld Kirk but by 1920 he had resigned his position after a sharp decline in members. As a result the church was closed.

By December 1933, the church was re-opened and re-dedicated. In the following years, many ministers have come and gone but the “Little Kirk” on the banks of the Tamar River still stands today as a proud monument to the many men & women who worked hard to keep this beautiful little church open. The Auld Kirk was finally listed on the Australian Heritage Register in 1978. A beautiful little church to take the time to visit in a very picturesque riverside location.

Main Text & Information Source –
Auld Kirk Sidmouth Church Brochure

Historic Photos –