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Cullenswood Anglican Church
Built 1847

 



Cullenswood Rail Station

 

 

 

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Cullenswood

 

Robert Vincent Legge was the son of an Irish barrister. Along with his five sisters, he left Dublin in 1827 and boarded the ship Medway bound for Van Diemens Land. They arrived in Hobart Town on the 12th August of that year and Robert was immediately given a land grant of 1200 acres by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur.
Leaving his sisters in Hobart Town, Robert wasted no time in getting a small herd of sheep together and with his allotted crew of half a dozen trusted convict servants, heading up through the midlands to the South Esk River, where he was told there was good land to be had.
Robert had read the report John Helder Wedge complied in 1825 when he surveyed the areas along the South Esk and Break O’ Day Rivers. But it was Wedge’s description of the view from the top of St Patricks Head, the peaked mountain he had climbed at the eastern end of the valley, that interested Robert the most.
The area just west of the mountain, called Break O’ Day Plains, wedge had said was flat, fertile and had a number of running creeks meandering through the plains and into the Break O’ Day River.
One can only imagine that Robert would have stopped over at St Pauls Plains and spoken to Simon Lord at “Bona Vista”, then James Gilligan at “Clifton Lodge”. James Grant at “Tullochgoram” would have been a good contact. We can assume William Talbot at “Malahide” would have been his last contact before he continued along the Break O’ Day River until he found his perfect spot. It was on the banks of the river near a fine broad water and only a few short miles from the peaked mountain that had been his dominant land mark, as he travelled through the valley.
The first few years on the grant would have been hard for Robert and his crew. Indeed, it was said they lived in hollow logs until a few acres of land could be cleared to plant crops and rough huts could be built.
In the 1830s when Robert married and brought his lovely wife Eliza to “Cullenswood”, which he had named after his family home in Ireland, things had not improved all that much. Even after his son, William, was born in 1841 not much had changed. But Robert and his convict servants were hard workers and by 1845 a handsome home had been constructed with a beautiful garden reaching down to the Break O’ Day River.
Robert was a deeply religious man and extremely grateful for what God had given him, consequently, his next project was to build a fine church where his family, along with his servants, tenants and Anglican friends could worship their God each Sabbath in comfort.
Christ Church, Cullenswood, was completed in 1847 and by 1851 Robert had secured his nephew, Dr Samuel Parsons, from Ireland, to take over as the first clergyman. He was installed by Van Diemens Land’s first Anglican Bishop Francis Russell Nixon.
By this time the Break O’ Day Plains was becoming well settled with some six to eight grants issued in the area around “Cullenswood”. The need for a town to service these settlers, servants and tenant farmers was obvious and a village began to spring up around the church.
By 1858 when a Catholic Church was built a few hundred yards to the west of the Anglican Church, there was a Post Office, Store and a hotel called the Tasmanian Inn (This is not to be confused with the Tasmanian Hotel at Fingal) at Cullenswood and until St Marys established as a town some years later, Cullenswood was the main service centre for the eastern end of the Fingal Valley.
Today the village of Cullenswood is nothing more than the Anglican Church and its Rectory, both of which have seen better days. The property of “Cullenswood”, however, has survived well and, along with “Malahide” at Fingal, is still in the hands of descendants of the original Grantees.
All through the generations members of the Legge family have been prominent citizens and leaders in the community, with Robert, the current owner of “Cullenswood”, Mayor of the Break O’ Day Municipality.
Perhaps the best known of the Legge’s and the one who carved his name the deepest in Tasmanian history was the man they all called “The Colonel”
William Vincent Legge was born at Cullenswood on the 2nd September 1841 and was the first born son of Robert Vincent Legge. As a child he was sent to England and educated at Bath, then later in France and Germany. He was commission in the Royal Artillery in 1862 and came to Melbourne to serve in 1867-68. From there he was stationed in Ceylon where he became interested in ornithology and continued the work begun by Edgar Layard. It was reported that his collection of birds was one of the best in the world.
He returned to England in 1877 and served at Portsmouth as a gunnery instructor. He also published a book in 1880 called: “History of the Birds of Ceylon”.
By this time William had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was offered the command of the forces in Tasmania. He jumped at the opportunity to return home, with his first task being to upgrade the defences on the Derwent River. With advice from his superiors in England, he ordered several of the latest breech-loadings guns for the colony and during his time in charge of the Tasmanian military, the batteries defending Hobart were completed with the most modern equipment available. The battery on the Eastern Shore at Kangaroo Point has now been preserved as part of Tasmanian heritage.
William’s Tasmanian appointment ended in 1890 and he returned to Cullenswood where he became president of the newly formed St Marys Farmers Association and opened the first St Marys Agricultural Show on the 18th April 1893. In 1898, however, when Colonel A. T. Cox retired, the command was again offered to William. He accepted the command and trained the Tasmanian contingent for the Boer War, as well as taking charge of the reception for the Duke of Cornwall in 1900. He held his post until the forces was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1904.
William was a fellow of the Geographical Society and a member of the Zoological Society of London. He was a member of the Linnean Society as well as the British and American Omithologists’ Union and founder of the Australian Omithologists’ Union. As vice-president of the Royal Society of Tasmania he prepared seventeen papers on various subjects including flora, fauna, forestry and geology. Through him the height of certain peaks in the Ben Lomond Range were ascertained and in 1907 the highest point was named Legge Tor.
William was a devout Christian and after returning again to Cullenswood in 1904 he restored the church his Father had built in 1847. He also spent much of his time there as a lay-reader and Sunday school teacher. He died at Cullenswood on the 25th March 1918 and was laid to rest in the family tomb in the grounds of his beloved church.
His son Robert took over Cullenswood after the Colonels death and played an integral role in getting a hospital for St Marys. Indeed, he laid the foundation stone on the Sunday 4th September 1927.
Whilst our early settlers all played a part in blazing the Break O’ Day Plains they, along with their descendants, have all come and gone. But the Legge family has survived, all of whom have no doubt been encouraged by the “Colonel”. He displayed tremendous energy, enthusiasm and love in his work for the Commonwealth, the Church of England and the community.

Jim Haas

 

 

 

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