St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright

St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston

The beauty of digging around your family history is you never know what stories you might uncover.

I’m relatively new to lutruwita / Tasmania, but after some research, I uncovered a family connection to Tasmania from the early days of colonisation.

But first, I acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and their enduring custodianship of lutruwita / Tasmania. The belonging to these islands, skies and waterways before the invasion and colonisation of European settlement.

My story begins in 1830, when the reverend of All Saints Church in Mixbury, England, recommended my great-great-grandparent, Zachariah Hawkins, for employment with the Van Diemans Land Company as a shoemaker.

Zachariah wasted no time and promptly married his sweetheart, Fanny Bannard, and embarked on their journey as free settlers to Van Diemen’s Land. The voyage was far from uneventful, as hinted by letters from the reverend, alluding to some undisclosed misadventures onboard.

By 1833, Zachariah and Fanny had welcomed two children into their family, John and Isabella.

On the first of January, 1834, the two children were baptized at St. John’s Church in the heart of Launceston, which happens to be the oldest remaining church in the city and one of the oldest surviving churches in Australia.

Their baptisms were notable as they marked the very first recorded baptisms of that year, 30 years after the English began colonising Australia. I acknowledge that 190 years is quite recent, compared to the long history of the Palawa.

Despite the age of St. John’s Church, having started construction in 1824, it has undergone numerous expansions and modifications, with only the original tower remaining from its initial construction.

Visiting the church to see the original tower has been high on my bucket list. So recently it happened. On a working trip to Launceston, I did an early morning walk around and took a few photos.

St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright

A Glimpse into the Past

St. John’s Church, a true architectural gem, has a history that stretches back to the earliest days of European settlement in Australia. Its story began in 1824 when Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur granted the land for the church’s construction. Designed by the esteemed architect John Lee Archer, the church embodies the Georgian style that was favored during that era.

The Oldest Standing Church in Launceston

One of St. John’s Church’s most remarkable claims to fame is its status as the oldest surviving church in Launceston. Its enduring presence is a testament to the dedication of the generations who have lovingly preserved it.

A Connection to Tasmania’s Past

St. John’s Church also holds a special place in the hearts of those who have traced their colonial family roots back to Tasmania. Many visitors find themselves standing where their ancestors once stood, forging a personal connection to the island’s colonial history.

St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
St Johns Anglican Church, Launceston. Image Credit: Darren Wright
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