Descendants of Dr Matthias Gaunt oppose church sale

HISTORY: Descendants of Dr Matthias Gaunt hope the Windermere church's original deed will protect it from being sold by the Anglican Church.
HISTORY: Descendants of Dr Matthias Gaunt hope the Windermere church's original deed will protect it from being sold by the Anglican Church.

The original trustee indenture of St Matthias’ Church could hold the key to securing its future. 

This week descendants of Dr Matthias Gaunt lodged submissions to Holy Trinity opposing the proposed sale of the 19th century church.

St Matthias’ is one of 108 properties in Tasmania that could be sold by the Anglican Church, to help fund $8.6 million in redress for survivors of child sexual abuse. 

However Dr Gaunt’s great-great-great-granddaughter Julie Gaunt said she does not believe the Windermere church can be legally sold, because of its original property deed. 

Ms Gaunt obtained the historic deed from the Land Information System Tasmania service.

The original deed for the St Matthias' Church, signed in 1842.

The original deed for the St Matthias' Church, signed in 1842.

Signed in 1842, Ms Gaunt said the terms of the contract made between Dr Gaunt and the church’s original trustees were “black and white” in what they set out. 

“Within this legal document it is written three times clearly that Matthias Gaunt and Frances [his wife] donated one acre of their property forever upon trust,” the submission reads. 

“For the purpose of celebration of divine worship according to the rites and ceremonies of the reformed Church of England and Ireland.....and for a place of burial in connection there with and by or for no other use intent or purpose whatsoever.”

Ms Gaunt said her family wanted the deed to be acknowledged, before any final decisions on the church’s future were made. 

“From the family’s perspective, for reasons of our history and for Tasmania’s history, it has to be publicly known,” she said.

“I believe the wishes of Matthias should be honoured, and what he wanted for this church is written in black and white.”

The Anglican Church published the preliminary list of 78 properties it is proposing to sell earlier this month.

This included 55 churches across the state.  

Since then there has been widespread public concern, particularity over the future of adjoining cemeteries. 

While protected by the Burial and Cremation Act of 2002, Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein acknowledged that amendments might be necessary to ensure the rights of property are “clearly defined and properly protected”. 

The synod will meet to debate the redress proposal this weekend.