Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saving St John's

St John's in Franklin is a beautiful heritage listed stone church that was built in 1863, replacing an older timber church built around 1840, on land given to the community by Lady Jane Franklin. It's a local landmark and one of the first things you see as you drive into Franklin, perched on the hillside overlooking the village. I love it.

The church is one of the earliest examples of the work by Hobart architect Henry Hunter, whose later works include the Hobart Town Hall and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It is home to family memorials and a beautiful organ and altar. The graveyard beside it is home to the history of local families and their memories of loved ones and generations past. And the occasional grazing horse.

As in many communities, the number of regular churchgoers is dwindling. St Johns has not been home to regular religious services for some years. During the Focus on Franklin festival this year, we were lucky enough to attend a recital given in the church by local musicians Steve and Marjorie Gadd. I smiled as I saw the piles of navy blue Australian Hymn Books stacked up behind the organ, the same ones I remember from school. The church building needs work but has such beautiful bones.

Now the Anglican Church wants to get rid of it. That's understandable I guess, as it costs money to maintain and for what? But Franklin cannot afford to lose (or lose access to) one of the few surviving original public buildings that remain. And the lack of consultation with the local community about the building's fate is offensive.

A group of interested people has formed to come up with a plan to take to the Anglican Church to safeguard the building's future. Most would like to see it used as a community resource, for exhibitions, concerts, organ recitals, Christmas carols, weddings and other family celebrations. I think it could also make a great home for a business - but one that allows public access to both the building and the graveyard. I'm horrified by the thought that it could be "converted" to a private residence or worse, allowed to fall into ruin and bulldozed. It's a wonderful piece of local history.

If you are interested in helping to save this beautiful building for community use, please show your support! Join the Friends of St John's - visit the Facebook page or email

UPDATE: Following an amicable meeting between a group of Friends of St John's and the bishop, a second community meeting has been called to update everyone on the situations and options for the future. It's on at 7pm tomorrow night, Wednesday 16 July 2014 at The Palais in Franklin.

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