Tuesday, 3 October 2017

St Andrews Uniting Church, Evandale

Built 1839 – 40, largely through the efforts of the Rev Robert Russell, this church is one of the most important colonial buildings in Tasmania in that it has retained its quality without significant change to its external appearance or its outstanding interior. The Rev Russell was the first Presbyterian minister in Evandale having arrived in the district in 1838. 

The congregation raised 400 pounds towards the cost of the construction and the government of the day contributed 600 pounds. The final cost of construction was approx 1500 pounds and no one knows where the extra money came from. Russell is said to have supervised the construction himself, having sought a design from within the colony. No architect has ever been identified and the finished structure no other building in the Australian colonies. The form of the building echoes that of a Roman temple but with a steeper roof and the addition of a bell turret. The style of the building is classified as a Greek Revival.

The main structure is of bricks that had been made locally to line the tunnel that was intended to carry water from the South Esk River below the town to an aquaduct that would carry the water to Launceston. After a number of accidents among the convicts employed in the tunnel construction, the project was abandoned. The brickwork, now painted, is exposed on the back and side walls but stuccoed on the front and the turret. 

The pair of Tuscan columns flanking the front entrance were quarried at the property of colonial artist, John Glover, and carted to the church site by bullock wagon. On the triangular pediment above the front door is a large moulded roundel that may have been intended to house a clock face.

The interior is superbly appointed with box pews, gallery balustrade and a high “witness box” pulpit made of beautiful New South Wales cedar brought from the Hawkesbury area. The walls are plastered, the ceiling timbered and the gallery supported by iron columns. A large chandelier seems almost to fill the space within the curve of the gallery. It is probably of 18th century date and is said to have been salvaged from a church in Edinburgh that had been damaged by fire. The pulpit is one of the few of its type remaining in Australia

It has an octagonal canopy with a curved roof rising to a peak on which is perched a gilded dove and is entered through a door at the back. It dates from a time when a Presbyterian minister about to preach a sermon was ushered into the pulpit by an elder, and locked in until the congregation was ‘satisfied’, that is to say until there were no questions or criticisms on matter of doctrine that had not been answered.

The first service was held in the new church on 5th September 1840 under the auspices of the Rev Russell. He would go one to minister at St Andrews for almost 40 years. As the congregation grew, the original church was found to be too small to accommodate everyone and so a balcony with extra seating was added at a later date.

Many of the pioneering families of Evandale and the surrounding district were buried in the churchyard, including the church founder, Rev Robert Russell, whose grave is marked with a statue of “Hope” atop grey and red granite pillars and is in a prominent position in front of the church he brought to fruition through his vision and hard work.

St Andrews is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture and is acclaimed as one of the best preserved places of worship in Tasmania and is today, one of the most photographed buildings in Evandale.

Main Text & Information Sources –
Evandale Heritage Walk brochure – The Evandale Community Centre
Interpretive Signs at the Site

Internal Photos –