No. 68 - Perth - Baptist Tabernacle (1889)

Perth is one of Tasmania’s oldest towns having being established in 1821 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Macquarie was so impressed with the area that he selected it as a site for a township. At this time Macquarie was staying with the pastoralist David Gibson and named it after Gibson's home town of Perth in Scotland.

Perth’s Baptist Tabernacle is the product of the generosity of it benefactor, William Gibson, one David Gibson’s sons, who had established the property ‘Native Point’ on the South Esk River.  William Gibson and his wife Mary, were instrumental in establishing and funding Baptist Tabernacles at Hobart and Launceston as well as other towns across northern Tasmania.  Gibson funded an earlier Baptist church in Perth which had opened in 1862. 

The Daily Telegraph described the plans for the new Tabernacle in some detail:

“The church is built partly on the style of the Hobart Tabernacle, but is a decided improvement, and it looks unique, more so because the style is new to Tasmania. It is an octagonal building, surmounted with a dome, which gives the edifice a very imposing appearance. The main building, of octagonal form, is 50ft by 50ft, the foundation 3ft 6in wide, with a depth of 5ft, being built of bluestone on a concrete bottom. The walls rise to a height of 35ft from the foundation, and are built of brick… The sitting accommodation has been specially studied, and the seats are to be placed so that every visitor directly faces the platform ….The church will comfortably seat 400 persons and as ventilation, light, and acoustic properties have been especially studied, the building will be a most comfortable one, and will be an honour to the donor and to the denomination”.

The building was designed by George Fagg who was also responsible for the Hobart Tabernacle. The contractors were ‘Messrs. Hill and Son’  at a cost of £1057.  The Colonist reported that:

“Messrs. Peppiatt and Jordan are carrying out the brickwork, while the bricks themselves have been supplied from Messrs. Jory and Campbell's yards. The whole of the haulage outside the contract is at the expense of Mr and Mrs. Gibson, at whose sole cost the building is being erected”.

The honour of the laying of the foundation stone which took place in August 1888 was given to Mary Gibson, who was a driving force behind the Baptist cause. The Telegraph noted that:

Mrs Gibson had laid the foundation stone of every Baptist Church in Tasmania to which Pastors had been appointed from the Baptist College [in] London. To her, in a large sense, the church owed its revival in Tasmania. She had alike exerted her influence over her son and husband. The generic meaning of the word wife was one who weaves and he thought she had woven her son's life in a fair pattern. When, many years ago, she landed in the colony it could have been but little thought what good she would do and how far her influence would extend”.

 At the conclusion of the foundation stone laying ceremony:

“A bottle containing copies of the Launceston Daily Telegraph and Examiner of August 8, 1888 [and] coins of the realm, and the following dedication address (read by Pastor Walton), were placed in a cavity in the brickwork beneath the memorial stone: — 'On Wednesday, the 8th day of August, in… [the] 51st year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, this stone was laid as the foundation stone of a building to be devoted to the purpose of religious worship… through the medium of the denomination of Baptists, who hold and practise the immersion of believers, and the doctrines as set forth in the rules of the Associated Baptist Churches of Tasmania, a copy of which is enclosed herewith”.

At the opening of the Tabernacle in the following year, “long before the hour for opening the doors a large number had gathered, many driving from Longford and surrounding district as far distant as Bracknell…” At the ceremony, the role of the Gibson’s were once again honoured. Pastor Walton had:

“…the pleasing duty of presenting fruit urn and napkin rings to Mr and Mrs Gibson… from the Baptist churches of Tasmania, and an address signed by representatives of the churches, a duty which he performed with great pleasure. Pastor McCullough, in feeling terms, alluded to the sterling worth and Christian character of the recipients, and in the name of the Baptist Churches said  ‘we love Mr and Mrs Gibson’, a sentiment which from long personal friendship he fully endorsed. Mr Gibson in a few short, weighty, and touching terms returned thanks, and speaking of the Lord's continued goodness to himself, besought God's blessing on all present, and that the building of which he be to God's glory”.

The appearance of the Tabernacle has changed little since it opened over 130 years ago. Inside the building some of the original furnishings remain including the kauri pine pews. Two of the pews have pegs on the back for the Gibson family to hang their hats.  Another original furnishing a pedal and bellows organ as well as a little street pedal organ used for open air street rallies.  A large marble plaque commemorates the lives of the William and Mary Ann Gibson. 

* All the colour photographs used in this article are from my own personal collection - photographed in 2018 and 2023.

William Gibson

Mary-Ann Gibson -

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Date unknown: State Library of Victoria Image H82.43/25

William Gibson's home originally called Scone at Native Point. Now called Eskleigh. source: LINC Tasmania AB713-1-5694 date c.1970


Daily Telegraph Thursday 9 August 1888
Colonist Saturday 11 August 1888
Daily Telegraph Wednesday 11 December 1889
Colonist Saturday 14 December 1889
Daily Telegraph Wednesday 28 August 1889

The History of the Perth Baptist Tabernacle in Tasmania, pamphlet produced by the church. (undated)


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