History

The Auld Kirk is situated in Sidmouth, Tasmania on the 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 Rev. Alexander McKenzie and Mr James Reid, of Richmond Hill. Rev. 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 Rev. 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 Rev. Murray Ramage, Moderator of St Andrew’s Church Launceston, took place on December 13th, 1981. In 2010 work commenced to extend the Sunday school hall, including the provision of a new kitchen facility, with the extension being officially opened on the 25th September 2011.