No. 75 - Former Congregational Church Prospect - Bad Roads and Bush Rangers

The former Congregational Church at Prospect opened in 1857 as a branch of the Christ Church in Frederick Street in Launceston. The Reverend Henry Dowling and Charles Price performed the opening ceremony on April 10, 1857. But it was Rev. William Law, whose early ministry in the Prospect Village district in the mid 1850’s that was instrumental in the church being built. Before the erection of the church Reverend Law conducted services at Mr Josiah Pitcher's Rising Sun Hotel. It was Pitcher who gave the land on which the building stands and also a donation of £20 towards the building fund of the first church to be built at Prospect.

Reporting the church's 50th anniversary celebration in 1907, the Daily Telegraph of Launceston reveals interesting details about both the building and the community:

“The church is built of wood on a substantial stone foundation and looks very little the worse for the wear and tear of half a century's storms. The school was started with an attendance of thirty scholars, and it has steadily kept going ever since. Mr Edward Button, who at present holds the high position of a Judge of the Supreme Court in Wellington New Zealand, was the first superintendent, and held the position for many years”. 

The Telegraph’s report also gives an insight into a very different Prospect from the suburb that exists today:

“James Goodger, one of the original members of the church, gave an account of the opening ceremonies, and referred to the uphill work that had to be done, owing principally to the bad state of the roads. He also referred to the fact that in the early days bushrangers were encamped within a hundred yards of the church, and stuck up some of the residents. He paid a high tribute to the hard work done by the first [Sunday school] superintendent, Mr E. Button, who tramped the district time after time, visiting his scholars, with whom he was very popular”.

Remarkably, the founder of the church, the Reverend William Law was present at the 50th Jubilee celebration and he also recalled its early days:

“He stated that his first meetings were held in the open air until Josiah Pitcher came to his assistance, and allowed him the use of a room in which to hold the meetings. Mr Pitcher afterwards gave the land on which the church was built, and also assisted in the work by a donation. Mr Law then described many trials that he had to encounter with the blacks and bush rangers, who were at times were very troublesome. He referred to the great assistance rendered in the early days by his friends, Revs. Dowling and Charles Price. He also recounted many interesting events of the work done by helpers in connection with the church”.

Sadly, like so many churches, a fire destroyed the Prospect church on 11 April 1944. The Launceston Fire Brigade was unable to save it due to there being no water main in the area. The congregational community used the Baptist Church (Summerhill) until a new building was opened on the site in September 1952. The church and hall is now used by the Open Door Fellowship. However, the old Congregationalists are still present resting in the cemetery that almost surrounds the church. The cemetery closed in 1995 but was in the news a few years back regarding damage to grave sites. (see below)

A note on the grave stones:

The cemetery contains some interesting stones which lend an insight into the community that once worshipped here. Amongst these are those of the Yorkshireman, John Featherstone Ockerby, a mayor of Launceston and MP for Bass, after whom Ockerby Gardens in Launceston are named.  It was Ockerby (then aged 81) who called the Launceston Fire Brigade when the church burnt down in 1944.

Link to news item on damage to graves:  Here

A full list of those buried at this site can be found here: Graves

Photo: Duncan Grant 2018

Photo: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photo: Duncan Grant 2018

The Mercury 1944

John Featherstone Ockerby: Photo - House of Assembly Long Room Picture: 404

Photo: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Daily Telegraph Thursday 25 April 1907
The Examiner Monday 15 September 1952
The Mercury Wednesday 12 April 1944


  1. How wonderful. Rev. Dowling married my 3x great grandparents at his house as my 3x grandmother and her father worked for him as indentured servants.

  2. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thanks, Chris

  3. It is hard to imagine how different things were. It is great when we can connect personally with these histories. Thank you.

  4. Hi Duncan I am related to Mr Edward Button and the first Mayor of Launceston, and as you mention the First Superintendent. I live in NZ. He was Born in Tasmania. Admitted to bar in Tasmania in 1861, and NZ in 1863. Married Louisa Cowell in 1862, 2 children. Practised in Hokitika NZ in partnership with W S Reid, then on his own. Mayor of Hokitika 1869; MP for Hokitika 1876-1878; admitted tp partnership Whitaker & Russell 1884. Mayor of Birkenhead 1888-1900; MP for City of Auckland 1893-1896; President Auckland District Law Society 1893-1900; prominent in Wesleyan Church. Retired from partnership of Buddle Button & Co in 1907 to take up appointment as temporary judge, Supreme Court, Wellington. Retired in 1908. Returned to Auckland and later practised in partnership with Morton Aldis & Aldis 1916-1917. Died 1920 aged 82. [Source: The Story of Bell Gully Buddle Weir / J Millen, 1990]

  5. Edward's father, William Stammers Button was also associated with the Congregational Church and was a founding member of the Independent Church on Princes Square (Later Milton Hall). There is a Button Street in Launceston which I think is named in honour of William.


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