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Why wasn’t the fund used for Trinity?

Percy from the Pews

Blackburn and Pugin were masterly presenters of the Gothic Revival style of architecture, Pugin more famously so because of his many achievements in England; indeed, he is regarded as arguably its greatest early Victorian architect. Blackburn, on the other hand, was sent out to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict, but his architectural legacy to present-day Tasmania is as lasting (provided his masterpiece Holy Trinity survives) as Pugin’s.

While certain Tasmanian Anglican Church buildings continue to languish in physical decline and face an uncertain future, elsewhere there’s proof that rescues can be achieved. It’s a matter of where there’s ecclesiastical will, there’s a way . . .

The evidence comes from another faith – the fine restoration effort on the Roman Catholic St Patrick’s Church at Colebrook in the Coal Valley.

Like North Hobart’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, St Patrick’s was designed by a very talented architect. For Holy Trinity it was James Blackburn, for St Patrick’s Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. They created important historic landmarks to their respective religions.

Archival photos show how impressive both churches looked in yesteryear, dominant in their different town and country settings. Both have suffered in recent times – yet with St Patrick’s there has been the determination to save it, from people who fully appreciate its rich heritage significance.

Blackburn and Pugin were masterly presenters of the Gothic Revival style of architecture, Pugin more famously so because of his many achievements in England; indeed, he is regarded as arguably its greatest early Victorian architect. Blackburn, on the other hand, was sent out to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict, but his architectural legacy to present-day Tasmania is as lasting (provided his masterpiece Holy Trinity survives) as Pugin’s.

In England, Pugin created building icons – and if that’s an overused word these days it’s entirely appropriate with his creativity.

His was the distinctive design of the famous clock tower of Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell there), plus the building decorations of the Houses of Parliament. He was also responsible for innumerable churches, four cathedrals and a monastery.

He produced thousands of original designs not only for architecture but also for furniture, carved stonework, metalwork, jewellery, ceramics, stained glass, tiles, textiles, wallpaper – and decorations for flats. It was an incredible output, and done in a short life (1812-1852).

But the central point of this article is St Patrick’s, which Pugin designed in 1843. It was built in 1855-56 and was his last such work. The posthumous significance of this has been recognised by the Pugin Foundation, which decided on St Patrick’s as the first focus for its activities to conserve Pugin’s Australian heritage (think also of another St Patrick’s, the Melbourne cathedral).

Pugin never visited Australia, but his grand designs certainly did for his Down Under clients. And Colebrook’s St Patrick’s is of special note because it was one of only two Pugin churches built from a scale model, rather than architectural drawings.

There are other reasons why St Patrick’s was selected as the initial restoration in Australia, including unique features such as being the only one of his having both an aisled clerestoried nave and a triple bellcote on the nave east gable.

The comprehensive project has been substantially helped through a $180,000 grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund (motto: “Making a difference”), the money coming under its promotion and conservation of Tasmania’s cultural heritage. The fund was established as part of the sale of the Trust Bank to make grants for worthwhile community purposes, and it receives an annual allocation from the State Budget.

One wonders why this same fund wasn’t approached to aid Holy Trinity. As is the case with St Patrick’s, it has many major historic features (notably its world-famous bells, and the magnificent War Memorial Window) that should be saved and protected.

A footnote to the above – the fund provided $47,753 for restoration and improvement work on the counterpart Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Launceston.

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