Historic St John’s Anglican Church in Ross is up for sale despite community efforts to save it

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After a long community effort to try to combat it, a piece of regional history has been put up for sale.

St John’s Anglican Church is nestled in the main thoroughfare of Ross in Tasmania’s North Midlands.

Built in 1869, the church has long been a city landmark, but in recent years has become the focus of community campaigning after it was offered for sale as part of the estate sale of the Anglican Church to meet their needs. obligations.

Now, with the official disbanding of the Friends of St John’s Ross community group, the church has entered the public market.

Former community group leader Christine Robinson said it was a day she hoped not to come as the diocese gave Friends of St John’s Ross a goal to raise $200,000 to buy the building before it be offered for sale on the open market.

Christine Robinson said the church is part of the fabric of the town.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

They came “a hair’s breadth away” from making that dream a reality, Ms Robinson said.

“We put in so much effort and we got closer many times,” she said.

“We are only a small group, but we are very determined.”

At one point, it seemed their dream had been granted when a woman from England, who had been traveling in the state, expressed an interest in buying the church for the community.

“She said, ‘Well, $200,000 isn’t a lot in English pounds. … I’m going to buy this church and I’m going to donate it to the community,” Ms Robinson said.

They got to working with lawyers to draft contracts, she said, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The potential buyer had to return to England or risk being stuck in Tasmania, his finances took a hit and the sale could no longer take place.

Rows of pews are visible in this interior photo of the church, along with a wooden roof and stained glass window.
The church is heritage listed, with stained glass windows and a century-old organ.(Supplied: Harcourts)

No small task for potential buyers

Built of sandstone and featuring prominent stained glass windows, the beauty of St John’s is breathtaking. But the community’s connection to the place goes deeper than that, Ms Robinson said.

“The first time I walked in here, I just felt those years of people’s hopes and dreams — things that people had prayed and hoped and wished for hit you,” she said.

“You can feel it in the walls – it’s just a magical place.

“For many people who are still in town, their parents got married here, they were baptized here.

“It’s generational…it’s part of our history, part of the fabric of the place.”

An aerial view shows the church among the township.
Interest in the church has been “massive”.(Supplied: Harcourts)

Whoever buys the church will have a decent job to do.

The property is heritage listed and has a pitched roof, 50ft high sandstone spire and clock tower sourced from Birmingham.

Inside the church there are windows tinted with tracery, a Caen stone pulpit and a century-old oak organ and prayer stall donated and carved in 1928 in memory of the late Robert Kermode, l he was one of Campbell Town’s first representatives on the Legislative Council back in the 1850s-60s.

While these are all features that add to her charm, they can be a double-edged sword.

According to a property report completed for a potential buyer, no structural issues were identified as requiring urgent attention.

However, “the evidence is that the slates [in the roof] To replace”.

Pews and a stained glass window are seen inside a stone church.
Despite its beauty and cachet, there is work to be done for the future buyer.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

The report notes that the extent of water damage to the roof structure is unclear without further assessment, but that mold is apparent on the “closed ceiling link, indicating high moisture content in the lining and suggesting problems with the roof structure”.

Deformations of the stained glass windows of the choir have also been identified.

The property is also not currently zoned for residential purposes and should therefore be kept for commercial or community purposes.

Boom in the interest of the church

Northern Midlands estate agent Nick Hay said that although it was not the first church he had sold in his career, the level of interest seen in St John’s was something he had not never experienced before.

A man wearing a collared shirt and tie smiles at the camera.
Nick Hay said the churches were popular because they had “a heart and a soul”.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

He said even within the first few hours of the property going live, inquiries were pouring in.

“[It’s] been massive, from the level of Midlands-based landowners and community groups wanting to keep it in the community to customers in South Australia, New South Wales,” he said.

“I expected it, but not at these levels.”

He said the church posted in some Facebook groups in particular has seen increased interest, as well as a general trend of people wanting to restore and convert historic buildings.

“Churches are traditionally used as meeting places, where the community has its baptisms, its deaths, it’s Sunday service – so they still have a heart and a soul,” Mr Hay said.

“I think maybe it’s because they were a gift to the community and a lot of people are very nostalgic and want to maintain that connection.”

Three people chat outside St John's Church in Ross.
The community of Ross hopes that whoever buys the church will look after it and preserve it.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

So where is the repair system now?

About $22 million was raised from the sale of just under 60 properties – mostly churches, according to the Anglican Church.

Five other properties are currently under contract, and five more will be sold over the next two to three years.

Of the $22 million raised, proceeds were split with approximately $8 million going directly to repair and a significant portion redirected to “future-proofing” ministries in local parishes still operating in the area. from Tasmania.

An exterior view of the church shows it in profile.
St John’s is built of sandstone and has prominent stained glass windows.(Supplied: Harcourts)

Tasmanian Bishop Richard Condie said he was aware selling the buildings was painful and the situation in Ross was no different. However, he said, it was a necessary decision.

“We had an obligation to raise funds…and we tried to do that,” he said.

“It really hurts people in small communities because they love the building, they have a lot of history with it – we recognize that. It hurts us, every time we’ve had to sell one.

“About a quarter of the churches we sold either stayed as churches with other denominations or remained in community hands. We love it when we get that result.

“We can’t always achieve that – and we couldn’t achieve that at Ross.”

Bishop Condie said the Anglican Church is also considering other ways to release funds for reparations, including looking at some of the other investments it has to support the ministry, such as chaplaincy, to meet claims obligations. filed.

Ms Robinson said the Ross community had accepted that the church had to be sold – they had only one hope.

“I hope whoever buys this church loves it for what it is, for the building it is and the heritage it represents – and that they will keep it, care for it and preserve it,” he said. she declared.

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