No. 55 - Frederick Street Primitive Methodist Chapel Launceston - 'A Messenger From the Evil One'

The Frederick Street Primitive Methodist Chapel, is the second church to be built in northern Tasmania following the revivalist movement's activities in Launceston in the 1850’s. The first Primitive Methodist Chapel at Youngtown (covered in an earlier blog entry) was a product of the same movement. The fervour of the early movement is evident in the following report of the meetings on Windmill Hill in November 1858. These Primitive Methodist Camp Meetings as they were called must have been a sight to behold:

“On Saturday evening last the public were made aware by placards on the walls of Launceston, that the first primitive Methodist Camp Meeting would be held… on Sunday, the 28th November on the vacant ground at the corner of Elizabeth and Welman Streets, services to commence at half past 9 in the morning, and at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. It was further announced that a public Love Feast* would be held in the Wycliffe Chapel, York Street, the same evening, at 6 o'clock, to which all were invited. Accordingly a number of the most zealous members of the Primitive Methodists assembled in the Wycliffe Chapel, at 9 o'clock on Sunday morning, and after prayer formed in procession and proceeded, singing a hymn up York, George and Elizabeth streets to the camping ground mentioned above. When stopping at the corners of those streets to pray, they were informed by one of the Municipal Police Force that they were committing a breach of the law in obstructing the thoroughfare in the public streets. One of the leaders, in reply, said he did not believe that singing to the praise and glory of God could constitute a breach of an English law, but if so, he would like to see the matter tried, and he for one, would therefore not desist. Another member of the society said, that while in the chapel he had been strongly tempted, he believed by the devil, not to join the procession and he considered that the man in blue was a messenger from the evil one who wished by such means to throw obstacles in the way of the good work, but this only tended to strengthen his (the speakers) belief that his brethren were adopting the right course and he would not be prevented from following after that, which he was convinced was right. The man in authority was thus defeated, and the procession continued on its way to the camping ground….”

By 1863, the Primitive Methodists had sufficient numbers and resources to build their own chapel in Frederick Street. At the laying of the foundation stone on 13th May 1862 the Examiner reported that:

“… beneath the slab a hermetically sealed bottle, containing copies of the Launceston Examiner and Cornwall Advertiser of that day, the bill announcing the services, [and] a plan of the station…[were placed]”.

There was one variation to the traditional stone laying ceremony:

“The Rev. J. Sharpo explained one fact which he said, had perhaps been noticed by the audience; …the absence of coin under the foundation stone. In these times the necessity of economy was much spoken of, and it was on that principle they had proceeded. They thought coin above the stone would be much better than coin under the stone. A collection was then made…”

The report concluded with a description of the chapel design:

“The chapel will be a neat edifice of brick, of an Italian design. Its length is forty foot, width thirty-six feet; and there will be sitting room for about 300 persons. There will not be any pews, but the seats will be open. The back, as we have before stated, will be of wood, so as to permit of the building being easily enlarged when necessary, by being carried back some fourteen feet”. (Launceston Examiner Thursday 15 May 1862)

The church continued to operate until 1942 when it became part of the Launceston City Mission, where services were still held until it became part of the Missions headquarters complex in 1953.

* Love Feasts

According to Crowther in his 'Portraiture of Methodism', at Love Feasts

"...they read the accounts of the success of their missions in the different parts of the world. The Methodists, at these meetings, take only bread and water. The love-feast is both begun and ended by singing and prayer; a travelling preacher presiding. The time is chiefly taken up in relating Christian. experience. Any person may speak who chooses. They are generally very agreeable, edifying, and refreshing seasons. They tend to promote piety, mutual affection, and zeal. A collection is made, the first object of which is, to pay for the bread used on the occasion; and the surplus is divided among the poor members of the society where the love-feast is held".

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018
LINC Tasmania object SD_ILS:568786

Photo taken circa 1900 - source QVMAG QVM:1991:P:0199


Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 1 December 1858

Examiner Thursday 15 May 1862

Johnathan Crowther, A Portraiture of Methodism or a History of Wesleyan Methodists (2nd Ed) 1815 London


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