Naomie Clark-Port and Tony Port have purchased St John’s Church and cemetery in Franklin from The Anglican Diocese of Tasmania.
Naomie will be the fifth generation of the Clark family to care for the church and cemetery and says she is looking forward to restoring the building and having the badly damaged headstones in the cemetery repaired.
The couple has formed a not for profit company, and will be improving the grounds, and encouraging people to visit the cemetery and enjoy the quiet solitude there.
They have also been approved as cemetery managers, and will be ensuring the cemetery is respected, after years of neglect.
This includes public access, especially for people wishing to visit their relative’s last resting place.
Tony and Naomie received bushfire recovery funding last year, from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The funds will be used for headstone repair and interpretive signage, to tell the story of St John’s history dating from the 1830s.
“The land was donated to the people of Franklin by Lady Jane Franklin, and the original wooden chapel on the site was named St Mary’s.” said Naomie.
“My great-great-grandfather was a founding member of the original St John’s Church of Eng- land, and, along with other early pioneers, raised the funds to build the “new church”, (St John’s) that was dedicated and licensed in 1864.
“He is buried in the cemetery, along with the later generations of the Clark family,” she said.
St John’s will be re-opened as a church for weekly worship after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The church will be run by King’s Covenant Huon Valley, and everyone will be welcome to services.
It will also be available for weddings, baptisms, and funerals, although the cemetery is full to capacity.
“We are looking forward to the support of the Huon community’” said Tony.
“We understand that the church and cemetery (in particular) are important to local families who have relatives buried there.
“We often have enquiries from mainland visitors tracing their ancestors, so having information available for the public to view will be a great addition,” he added.
Naomie and Tony recognise that the property is an historical asset to Franklin, and are planning to invite local musicians and choirs, to use the church for concerts and recitals in the future.
“My dad, Brian, installed the beautiful, historic pipe organ that was gifted to St John’s by the sons of Algernon and Gertrude Clark as a memorial,” said Naomie.
“He was the organist for over 65 years and would be so happy to see St John’s being used for worship again.
“The acoustics are very good, due to the high ceiling and solid walls,” she added.
The Bishop of Tasmania, Dr Richard Condie, said, “We are glad that St John’s will be owned locally, by people with a strong connection to the building, and pleased that funds raised in the sale will be applied to providing redress.”
Work on the property will begin very soon, and regrettably, the huge macrocarpa tree in the centre of the oldest section of the cemetery will be removed.
“Unfortunately we can’t repair the colonial headstones while the huge roots are dislodging them, and the threat of big limbs falling is too dangerous for both headstones and people,” said Naomie.
“We are sorry the tree has come to the end of its life, but we intend to make some church pews and picnic tables out of the timber, so it is used as a kind of memorial.”
They would love to hear from anyone with photographs taken at St John’s, or family records of burials in the cemetery.
They would also be keen to buy back any of the original pews, that were sold when the church was deconsecrated.
Naomie and Tony welcome input from the community, and may be contacted on 0438 663 525.