No. 44 - The Independent Church and Price Memorial Hall Launceston - All Gone but for the Garden

This is a story about a church that no longer exists. All that remains is a garden and a hall which also had a life as a Sunday school and a theatre. The Independent Church (built 1836) was demolished in 1920 and is now the site of the Dutch Garden in Launceston City Park which lies next to the Price Memorial Hall (built 1896 as a Sunday School). The hall is now the Tasmanian Design Centre but it also had a previous life as a theatre. 

 The founder of the Independent church, the Reverend Charles Price was a remarkable man, and he is associated with the founding of two other churches in the city, which will be investigated in later blog histories.

I have used an article from the Examiner in 1920, the year in which the church was demolished, as it sums up its history fairly comprehensively. The photos which accompany this blog entry show the beautiful Price Memorial Hall, the Dutch Gardens occupying the site of the former church and a photograph of Price's original Independent Church.

Demolishing an Old Church

A link with the early days of Launceston is shortly to be removed, the committee of the city council having decided that the old Independent Church, near the entrance to the City Park in Tamar-street, should be demolished. However the building is to be utilised for the last time as a place where visitors to Launceston on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales on June 23 may obtain refreshments. Then the 83-year-old walls will be razed to the ground. The property was purchased some time ago by the city council, and tenders invited for the lease of it, but none were received. The land will prove an addition to the City Park. There is an interesting history attached to this old building. The Rev. Charles Price arrived in Launceston in September 1832, and preached his first sermon in the Courthouse, which was then situated where the Post Office now stands. His congregation numbered so few that Mr Price decided to go to Sydney, but in 1836 he returned, and succeeded in obtaining a grant of a quarter of an acre of land in Tamar-street to erect the church, which still stands. While in Hobart he collected £180 towards the project. Mr Price then rented a brick house in St. John-street, opposite the Quadrant where he held services for a time but afterwards obtained the use of the Government School House (subsequently used as Trinity school-room), in Cameron-street. In September 1837, the Tamar-street church was opened for public worship. The total cost of the building, which combined within its walls a chapel, school, and ministers residence, was £1300. Mr Henry Reed, of Launceston, and the Hon. W. P. Weston, of Longford, each contributed £100 to towards the costs while for 14 years Mr Price preached gratuitously, devoting all the offerings towards paying off the debt, and at the same time opened a grammar school as a means of support for himself and family. In 1848 he built at his own expense the little Wycliffe chapel in Vincent-street, off St. John-street and ten years later induced his Tamar-street adherents to erect a chapel at Inveresk. In 1891, after being pastor of Tamar Street Church for 55 years, Mr Price died. In 1896 the Price Memorial Hall was erected beside the old church, which was then used for Sunday school purposes until a few years ago.

(The Examiner 21 May 1920)

The Price Memorial Hall which is attached to the award winning Tasmanian Design Centre (photo: Duncan Grant 2018)

Detail of the Memorial Hall Facade (Photo: Duncan Grant 2018)

Detail of a stained glass window on the East side of the Memorial Hall (Photo: Duncan Grant 2018)

Memorial plaque on the fence of the Dutch Gardens at City Park Launceston (Photo: Duncan Grant 2018)

The Dutch Garden today with the Price Memorial Hall to the left. Photo: Duncan Grant 2018

The Gardens as they looked soon after their establishment Source: LINC Tasmania LPIC147-4-00141

Independent Chapel Tamar Street circa 1890's  source: QVMAG 1999:P:1231


The Examiner 21 May 1920

Other sources of interest on the Hall and Church

Monuments & Monkeys: a walk in historic City Park Independent Congregational Chapel & Price Memorial Hall by Sue McClarron

From Chapel to Church: Nonconformist Building in Launceston Dr Eric Ratcliff


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