St David’s Church/Cathedral, Hobart (first)

Foundation stone laid 1817
Consecrated 1823 (although in use before then)
Steeple replaced 1835
Became St David’s Cathedral 1842
Demolished 1874 after completion of new (current) building

Plan : Plan : Front elevation : Rear elevation, : Side elevation : Cross-section : Plan for “altering and enlarging” : Front elevation with new tower

Tuesday, February 18, 1817.
THE Civil and Military Officers are requested to attend at Government House To-morrow Morning at Half-past Eleven o’clock A.M. to accompany the Reverend ROBERT KNOPWOOD to the Ground prepared to lay the Foundation Stone of St. David’s Church. In Consequence of which, the same will be observed as a Holiday throughout the Settlement; and the Acting Assistant Commissary General will cause to be issued to each of the Non-commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, Superintendents, Overseers, Constables, and other Persons in the actual Employ of Government, Half-a-Pint of Spirits.
By Command of His Honor,
The Lieutenant Governor,

Hobart Town Gazette, 22 February 1817

Wednesday last was a Holiday throughout this Settlement, being the day appointed by His Honor Lieutenant Governor DAVEY for the Consecration of a site of ground situated in Macquarie-street, Hobart Town; whereupon is intended to stand the New Church – St. David’s.

At eleven o’Clock in the forenoon the Royal Standard was hoisted at the Battery, and immediately after the Rev. ROBERT KNOPWOOD (Colonial Chaplain), and the Civil and Military Officers assembled at Government House. The Lodge of Freemasons being in waiting, and the Troops in Garrison under Arms, the Procession moved at 12 o’clock; and on arriving at the ground Mrs. and Miss Davey, the Lady and Daughter of the Lieutenant Governor, and the Ladies & Gentlemen of the Settlement, amongst a numerous concourse of spectators, honored the occasion with their presence, and appeared highly gratified; not only in witnessing the formation of a Public Building so essentially calculated to improve the morals of the rising generation, and so long anxiously wished for by the Inhabitants of Van Diemen’s Land, but that His Honor Lieut. Gov. DAVEY, during his Administration of this Colony, should have the pleasing task alloted him in laying the foundation stone for a religious structure. The Rev. Robert Knopwood read from the 3rd chapter of the 1st Epistle of Corinthians, verse 11th “For other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ;” and in his impressive delivery endeavoured to show the good that might be derived from religion, which seemed to excite the most profound attention: after which a neat and appropriate Masonic Oration was delivered by a member of the society. The ceremony being concluded, the Lieutenant GOVERNOR, accompanied by the Rev. Robert Knopwood, and the Civil and Military Officers returned to Government House, where they partook of a very handsome cold collation—all anticipating the increasing prosperity and happiness of Van Diemen’s Land. From the acknowledged indefatigability of Captain NAIRN’s exertions, as Inspector of Public Works, we have a flattering prospect that before the expiration of the present year of
seeing the Spire of St. David’s Church wave its head for the reception of its congregation; when we hope our worthy Chaplain will be enabled to resume his clerical duties in a renovated state of health; and that His Honor Lieutenant Governor DAVEY’s name will be handed down to posterity.

The following is a copy of the inscription intended to be inscribed upon the foundation stone of St. DAVID’s Church.

and Colonel in the Royal Marine Forces,
Departed this life the 24th of March, A. D. 1810,
In the Administration of His Government.
The Foundation Stone of St. DAVID’s Church was laid this 19th of February, A.D. 1817, by THOMAS DAVEY, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, and Lieutenant Colonel of His Majesty’s Royal Marine Forces, in the presence of all the Civil and Military Officers of this Settlement.
Hobart Town Gazette, 22 February 1817

We feel pleasure in stating that the brick-work of Government House being now complete, St. David’s Church is going on in a rapid manner. In a short time a spire will attract the eye of the worshipper in this Island; and the inhabitants will, we trust, be seen pressing forward to her hallowed courts, for the purpose of attending
the solemn ritual.

Hobart Town Gazette, 4 October 1817

Government and General Orders.
Saturday, September 23d, 1820.
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR directs that the New Church of Hobart Town shall be called, “ST. DAVID’s CHURCH,” out of Respect to the Memory of Colonel DAVID COLLINS, of the Royal Marines, under whose Direction the Settlement was founded in the Year 1804, and who died, Lieutenant Governor, in the Year 1810.

Hobart Town Gazette, 23 Setember 1820

On Sunday morning last, the Church of St. David, Hobart Town, was consecrated by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, Principal Chaplain of the Territory.
Hobart Town Gazette, 15 February 1823

HTG 19 November 1825
Hobart Town Gazette, 19 November 1825

It is a curious circumstance that William Ashton, who was executed last month in Launceston, for robbery and bushranging, was the person who laid the foundation stone of St. David’s church, in the administration of Colonel Davey.
Hobart Town Courier, 21 March 1829

A new Clock, we learn, is about to be erected on St David’s Church, which will strike much louder than the present one, and face two ways, viz to the East and to the West. Six large clocks, for the different Churches in the Colony, came out among the stores in the last prison ship.
Colonial Times, 9 October 1829

We are happy to learn that a very considerable addition is about immediately to be made to St. David’s church, by which upwards of 200 good sittings will be added to the present, besides a large number set apart as free sittings. It would certainly be taking a hint from Catholic countries, but we have often regretted that the excellent mode adopted in continental churches was not in use amongst us, namely, to have no pews at all, but to leave the area completely open, and to supply the congregation with kneeling chairs, at the cost of a few pence. This practice has a noble and imposing effect, and the absence of all distinction as to rank, each one pressing forward as his feelings of devotion prompt him, affords an instructive lesson to the rich as well as the poor, that we must all stand or fall before the dread tribunal, according to our own individual conduct here below.
Hobart Town Courier, 3 April 1830

The church clock of St. David’s is having a third face added to it. We should very much like to know whether it is to be a truer time-keeper than the second has proved to be ? for to the best of our recollection, it is now some four months since the face in question was added to the works, and to this very moment the hands have not yet commenced operations. The good folks of Hobart Town may probably expect, if things go on as they now do, that in about two or three months the arrangements making will be completed, and that, provided the clock’s works will move three pair of hands, the inhabitants from most part of the town will be able to see the “time teller.”
Colonial Times, 18 February 1831

Pictures (with original steeple):
Photo of painting, 1830
Watercolour, 1831
Lithograph, 1834
Photographic print,c.1835

The spire of St. David’s Church, we observe, is taking down. We trust it is to erect a more stately and picturesque one in its stead. If the brick tower is not sufficiently stable, we trust that the economy of posterity as well as of the present day, will be looked to, and that it will be pulled down and a proper one erected, that will stand for ages and coincide with the body of a new church whenever the decay of the present one, which builders we believe consider will not be distant, may require it. We should be sorry to see an unattractive cupola or obtruncated finish to the present frail tower set up like the one at Trinity church. The pew rents which we believe are now pretty regularly paid, surely entitle us to expect that we may have one church, at least, in Hobart town with a taper spire pointing to heaven.
Hobart Town Courier, 28 November 1834

It is with sincere regret we perceive the chief ornament of the town, the steeple of St. Davids has been pulled down–but we suppose it is some fad of Mr. Bedford’s, and he may it appears, just do as he thinks proper both with the Church–the Church people, and the public money. It is scarcely two years since he was the cause of the unnecessary expense of repairing the body of the Church, and now he is gone to the steeple after that is finished, we suppose he will open war upon Mr. Kemp about the passage. Mr. Kemp however, is too much for the venerable pious gentleman.

A correspondent tells us, that the fine spire of the Rural Dean’s Church, has caused much envy on the part of the head Colonial Chaplain, and that he being deter- mined not to be out done, has resolved to have a dome on St. David’s, which edifice, henceforth will be called the Cathedral. The other of course, is the Abbey. There is one difficulty however to be surmounted by the Chaplain ! If St. David’s is to be the Cathedral there will be no Bishop there–no– nothing higher than a Colonial Chaplain, whilst at the Abbey there will at least be a Dean!
Colonial Times, 2 December 1834

Will it be believed, that after months have elapsed in the constructing a handsome dome for St. David’s Church, at the no small cost ‘of some seven or eight hundred pounds to the public, it is now discovered that the dome is too heavy for the tower, and therefore it is impossible to erect it, and that a pitched roof is to ornament St. David’s Church-verily, should we have been happy to have seen the old and elegant spire fall down on and smother the meddling persons/whose business it seems to be to put the people to an unnecessary, lavish, and foolish waste of public money.
Colonial Times, 13 January 1835

Bedford, the builder, has erected on St. David’s, as funny a piece of architecture as ever graced a Colonial town ; but the d—–l of it is, no one can tell of what order it is. The workmen say it is of Mr. Bedford’s ” positive” order. It is certainly ” clerical,” because Parson Bedford was the architect ! We have puzzled our brains to know what to call it, whether a bee hive on a large scale–a lanthorn for a light-house, or a minaret. The old spire of St. David’s was taken down because it was too heavy, and offered too broad a face to the wind. The present non-descript ” cathedral what you may call it,” is however double the weight of the former, and exposes by far a greater surface to the wind, and costs the people a mere nothing-not above £1000 or £1500.
Colonial Times, 17 March 1835

The new ” thing-um-de-bob” on the top of St. David’s, begins to have an astounding appearance-if the top of it were gilt, and round black spots placed thereon, it would for all the world have the appearance of a huge pepper box-as it is at present advancing towards a finish, it is doubtful what it is in-tended to represent. Two to one the first strong wind, blows the pepper box into Macquarie-street : we advise the passers by, to give “a good look out” in windy weather, as the pepper box would fall with a terrible thump, though it be but a pepper box !
Colonial Times, 24 March 1835

Pictures (with replacement tower):
Lithograph, 1844
Macquarie St, 1859
Photo, 1859-67
Photo, Macquarie St, 1860
Old and new


The dismantling of the old Cathedral and Parochial Church of St. David’s, Hobart Town has commenced. A sale by auction of the fittings, pews, and gallery fronts, came off on Saturday, when the lots of old but well-seasoned cedar and Huon pine were heaped up in the Cathedral ground, and brought together a large assemblage of dealers and on-lookers. Not a few of the persons present expressed regretful feelings at seeing their old pews ruthlessly laid out to be taken hither and thither at the fiat of the auctioneer’s hammer, and the reminiscences of old times obliterated and scattered. The hassocks and cushions were in heaps by themselves, but the auctioneer, Mr Roberts, declined to sell them, being the private property of the seat-holders, who had not been invited to take them away–a very wise discretion on Mr Roberta’s part, for which some lovers of ” relics ” will doubtless be thankful. There was a vast array of prayer-books and bibles in graduated conditions of dilapidation, which did not seem to command attention. The amount realized for the fittings was about £80, which will be appropriated to the building fund of the new Cathedral. The well-known pulpit, in which the venerable and venerated incumbents–or chaplains, as they used to be termed–officiated, is still unmolested. The next thing, we presume, will be the sale of the building itself, which is in good sound condition, and it seems a pity to have to take it down. The old familiar clock will be missed until another tower shall have been substituted in connection with the intended additions to the new structure, provision being made for the clock, with its duplex or triplex face, to be placed in about the same relative position to the surrounding buildings as at present. But when the old church is demolished some temporary horological arrangement should be made for the public convenience; and in a matter of such importance the City Council might very legitimately take action in the interests of those they represent. St. David’s Church is not an ancient building, having been erected some fifty-five years since, and, but for the rage of modern structures according to ” Pugin,” the Church might have stood another fifty years at least, as it is generally understood to have been substantially built (about the year 1819). The tablets commemorative of the illustrious departed are still to be seen on the desolate-looking walls of the wrecked structure. The oldest of these is situate on the north side of the Chancel, being in memory of the Rev. W. Hutchins, the first Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land, placed there by old Dr Bedford. We subjoin the inscription :–

Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM HUTCHINS first Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land. Born 20th November, 1792 ; died 4th June, 1841. Firm, moderate, and pious, he gave a bright ex ample of Christian fortitude, he sustained the endeavors of his followers, he supplied their defects, he bore with their infirmities. Bereaved by the sudden visitation of God, they mourn an irremediable loss, but chiefly one–the oldest and the most attached among their number– the chaplain of St. David’s Church, who consecrates this tablet to the dead.

On the south side of the Chancel is a tablet to the memory of Dr Bedford him self, who will be remembered by old colonists as having officiated for many years at St. David’s. The tablet, beautifully executed by W. Patten, of Sydney (erected by Dr Bedford’s children), bears the following inscription :

Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM BEDFORD D.D., senior chaplain of this colony, and for thirty years minister of this church. Born 6th March, 1781; died 2nd December, 1852. His virtues are embalmed in the hearts of his family ; for the pardon of his sins he depended on Christ. His children thus desire to perpetuate the remembrance of an old and faithful servant of the church, and of a parent to whom they were deeply indebted.

There are other similar mementoes; one of Eleanor Martha, widow of Dr. Bed ford, who died at Sydney some years after her husband. Another of Dr. James D. Millar, of Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland, surgeon of 51 H.O.L.J. regiment, who died July 27th, 1839, the tablet having been erected by his brother officers. Another, to the memory of a youthful officer of the same regiment, En sign Cecil Augustus Paget, son of the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Paget, G.C.B., who died May 10th, 1838, aged 19 years, the tablet having also been provided by his brother officers. The only other similar memento is of recent date, the finished work of Huxley, Parker and Co., Melbourne, to the memory of Isabella, wife of Lieut. Col. W. F. Stephens, H.M. Bengal European Cavalry, and oldest daughter of Richard Lewis, Esq., of Hobart Town, who died in England 9th July 1865, aged 34 years. These tablets will probably be transferred to the new Cathedral. We may remark that the state of the walls of the old contrast favorably with the walls of the new Cathedral; owing to an apparent defect in the foundations, the walls of the new building are affected with damp, which some persons think is incurable. When the old Church is removed, however, there will be a better chance of the wind and sun operating on the new walls, and it is to be hoped they will ” dry up.” We under stand the foundation of the old Church has been excavated for the coins, inscription, &c., deposited at the erection, which, we suppose, the Incumbent has taken into his charge.
Launceston Examiner, 28 July 1874

Demolition photo

3 thoughts on “St David’s Church/Cathedral, Hobart (first)

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Robert Edwards

    August 26, 2018 at 11:21am

    Am I correct in assuming that the name attached to the cathedral, Saint David, is the patron Saint of Wales, otherwise known as Dewi Sant? If so how come this Saint’s name was chosen as I believe that apart from St David’s Cathedral in Hobart the only other St David’s Cathedral (Eglwys Gadeiriol Tyddewi in Welsh) is situated in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Monissa Whiteley

      August 26, 2018 at 11:37am

      As it says up there somewhere, it was named in honour of the (then) town’s first governor/founder. I have no idea if they had the Welsh saint in mind at the time. I can’t think of any Welsh connection & there’s not a lot of records surviving from that time.

      “the New Church of Hobart Town shall be called, ‘ST. DAVID’s CHURCH,’ out of Respect to the Memory of Colonel DAVID COLLINS, of the Royal Marines, under whose Direction the Settlement was founded in the Year 1804, and who died, Lieutenant Governor, in the Year 1810.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mike Seabrook

    October 27, 2022 at 7:54am

    historical records of australia – sorell to bigge page 681 22 sep 1820 lists the names of distribution of pews in st davids church as an enclosure – confused of the dates of first services and query what happened about wives etc. note the publicans barnes, ransom, wallis, hopwood, connelly,eddington and devine were listed in pew 13.

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