History of the Auld Kirk

The Auld Kirk is situated on the western bank of the beautiful Tamar River, north of the Batman Bridge. The church was built by convicts (who were housed at Blackwood Hills) and free labour. The building of the church began in early 1843 at the instigation of the Reverend Alexander McKenzie and Mr James Reid, of Richmond Hill. Reverend Mckenzie was the first minister appointed to the area and it was he who built up a congregation while the church was being built. He resigned in 1845 and returned to Scotland. The Reverend James Garrett arrived in July 1846, and was the first minister to take a service in the church. He faithfully served the church for 28 years, before passing away in 1874.

A bell was donated to the Kirk and erected by Frances Wilmour. The bell is now hanging in the belfry of the Glengarry Presbyterian Church, where it was taken after the disastrous fire which gutted the Kirk on September 6th, 1900.
The church became known as ‘the church with a tree’. There are various paintings of the church which show 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 available, so the members of the West Tamar Charge raised the money needed, and the church was reopened on May 4th, 1913. In 1914, the Reverend C.A Anderson came to the charge, but he resigned in 1920 after a sharp decline in numbers. The church then closed. On December 1933, the church was re-opened and re-dedicated. Over the succeeding years, many ministers have given faithful service to the little Kirk on the banks of the Tamar River, and it still stands today, a proud monument to the men and women who worked hard to keep the church open.

As the number attending the Kirk increased, so did the number of children. A new Sunday school was built from mud bricks to cater for the rise in number. The official opening, by the Reverend Murray Ramage, Moderator of St Andrew’s Church Launceston, took place on December 13th, 1981. Pastor Richard Gardham was Home Missionary at this time.

In 1986, Reverend Norman Shellard was appointed Moderator of the West Tamar, which was made up of the Auld Kirk, Riverside, Winkleigh and Glengarry churches. This arrangement came to an end in 1993, when Sidmouth West Tamar became a special Charge with Reverend Tom Penning as interim Moderator. Rev. Peter Hill was called as Moderator of the West Tamar Charge in 1996, on a part time basis for two years. In 2000 the position of interim Moderator was filled by Rev. John Britton, until Rev. Peter Thornycroft was appointed as interim Moderator in 2005. Lay Preachers and Elders then led services, with Matt Soccorro as Youth Pastor until his departure to Sydney in 2006 to study for ministry. Rev. Greg Braid became the Moderator in 2009.

Ian Partridge was appointed as Pastor (home missionary) in October 2009. The Charge includes Mole Creek Presbyterian Church as a preaching place of the Auld Kirk. Under his capable leadership, the church continues to grow and thrive. In an atmosphere of sincere and dedicated worship, it forms a steadfast landmark in the community – a part of Tasmania’s history and its future.

Reverend Phil Simmonds was called to minister to the congregation of the Auld Kirk on the 11th July 2017. We pray the Lord will bless his ministry.

The Auld Kirk was listed under the Australian Heritage Register in 1978.