The Church: Past and Present

St Matthias' has operated continuously since 1843.

2018 is its 175th anniversary.

But its future beyond that is uncertain.

The History of St Matthias'

A settler, Dr Gaunt, who had arrived in Tasmania in 1831, promised to build a church for his wife, Frances. He chose a magnificent site on the eastern banks of the Tamar River, at Windermere. It is arguably the most beautifully situated church in Australia, on a promontory with sweeping views of the estuary and the steep hills of the West Tamar. On the southern side of the church, the Tamar is as wide as Sydney Harbour.

Construction of the church began in 1842 and was completed in 1843. It has been in operation ever since and its 175th anniversary will be celebrated this year – November 2018. It is claimed by some writers to be the oldest church in Australia under continuous operation.

In the early years many churchgoers would arrive by boat from along the Tamar, or from the other side, from Rosevears.

The first burial took place in 1846. Since then the tombstones have served as a history of the passing of members of the community, the saddest being those of many infants. In modern times a columbarium wall was added and now the niches also hold the remains of many loved ones.

The church is used for both weddings and funerals.

There are many surviving descendants of those identified on the tombstones in the graveyard and the ashes niches in the wall.

Useful links about the church:

An excellent potted history, with photos: Geoff Ritchie’s Blog

Launceston Examiner: “Faithful promise honoured” (click main photo for slideshow): Launceston Historical Society

Tourism: Discover Tasmania Website

The graves: An audio tour

The Anglican Church Redress Scheme

St Matthias’ Church at Windermere has been put on the list for sale by the Anglican Church of Tasmania to raise funds for National Redress payments to victims of sexual abuse.

Our group – Windermere Church Forever – fully supports the National Redress Scheme. 

The redress scheme proposed by the Anglican Church of Tasmania has made the future of St Matthias’ – as a functioning church, building and site – highly uncertain.

Many aspects of the proposal are far from clear, including:

  • the legal status of the original property deed
  • exactly how much money St Matthias’ Parish must raise (except that it is something over $45,000 – we have estimated $46,500)
  • the consultation and decision making processes and timelines
See the links attached for more information. The Fact Sheet gives the key dates as follows:
  • 1 September 2018 – deadline for community submissions to the General Manager of the Diocese
  • 1 October 2018 – deadline for Parish Council submissions to the Diocesan Council.
  • December 2018 – Diocesan Council meets to consider submissions and may exempt some buildings from sale or delay sales.
It is possible that the requirements, processes and dates could be altered in the coming months.
Residents have no option but to assume the worst and, independently of the Parish and the Anglican Church, raise as much money as possible to meet the redress scheme, if required, and to ensure Windermere Church survives forever in church or public ownership as a building and site.  See About Us for more information.

Links about the redress scheme:

Anglican Church of Tasmania: Redress Proposal

Anglican Church of Tasmania: Fact Sheet

Windermere’s St Matthias’ church on sale list: The Examiner, May 7, 2018