When the flurry of building stage 2 of the extension at St John’s Church Launceston was completed in 1938 there was a large service of consecration conducted by the Bishop of Tasmania, the Right Reverend Dr RS Hay, to mark the occasion.
He dedicated the new Nave and memorial fittings to the work of God’s church in Launceston.
These included: the Harrap, Lakin, and Marion Taylor memorial windows; the Marion Bennett memorial pews; and the pulpit canopy in memory of a former Rector of St John’s, the Reverend Marcus Blake Brownrigg and his wife Georgiana.
All the building thus far had been paid for by donations and collections within the parish.
Over 1000 officials, parishioners, guests, clergymen from other denominations and friends were present; from the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Ernest and Lady Clark to the author’s grandparents and parents.
The Reverend William Greenwood was the incumbent minister in 1938 and there was also a large choir and beautiful music accompanied by Arthur Rock Gee on the mighty and now-famous organ.
The architect of St John’s extension was internationally-renowned ecclesiastical designer Alexander North, and by 1939 he had a new specification to complete the building work in the grandest of styles.
He envisaged a large central ‘Norman style’ tower over the dome, the removal of the old convict tower, and the erection of twin towers to match the central one.
These twin towers were to have several functional rooms on three levels, and a several-faced clock on the north tower. The central tower was to house a full peal of cathedral bells with music rooms on the lower levels.
More funds were needed for this construction, but 1939 was a bad year due to the end of the Depression and the threat of war looming and all thoughts turned to saving money and the distress on the Continent.
Alexander North died in May 1945 and the subject of the towers did not rise again until the 1960s, a period of growing prosperity.
The then-vestry of St John’s looked at North’s plans and sought financial assistance from the newly-formed National Trust.
Representatives of that body observed a ‘convict-built tower’ and advised conservation, not demolition.
That is how the situation has remained in respect of our past and of the men who designed and built the old church.
Mr North’s grand design must be laid to rest in the name of heritage.
North’s drawings of the towers are still at St John’s and may be viewed on the St John’s website.