By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer

The delightful little Church of St Joseph stands on a prominent site overlooking the village of Fingal in the valley of the same name.

The foundation stone was laid on 21 November 1877 and it was opened on 1 April 1880, the builder being a local man, Michael Lattin.

St Joseph’s is a superb and scholarly essay by the renowned Hobart architect Henry Hunter (1832–1892), who was responsible for the design of some thirty-four Catholic churches across Tasmania between 1855 and 1886.

As the protégé of William Willson, our first bishop, Hunter was inspired by the writings of Augustus Pugin (1812–1852), the famous English architect and designer, who was a close friend of our bishop.

Indeed, it was Willson who set Hunter up as an architect in 1854 and furnished him with Pugin’s most influential publications.

This Fingal building, in its composition and detail vocabulary, is a faithful evocation of a small English medieval church. It is beautifully proportioned and detailed, the Decorated Gothic style of the chancel, or sanctuary, being in contrast with the plainer Early English Gothic of the nave and porch.

As such, it is a textbook example of Pugin’s theory of propriety, namely, the more elaborate treatment of the chancel should be expressive of its more solemn and sacred purpose.

It belongs to a significant pair of splendid Hunter churches in Fingal, along with the former St Peter’s Anglican Church, opened in 1869 but sadly closed and deconsecrated in 2017, then sold on 16 October 2019.

St Joseph’s has a full complement of windows, some ten in number, by the renowned Melbourne stained-glass artist William Montgomery (+1927).

These were installed by Fr John Graham, who was pastor at Campbell Town from 1907 to 1922. He had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart, as reflected in his donation of the left-hand light in Fingal’s three-light chancel window.

The inscription in its central light is ‘May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved’. Fr Graham was responsible for the erection of churches in Ross and Mangana, both dedicated in honour of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and in having glass by Montgomery installed in both buildings.

Tags: Heritage Conservation