No. 100 - Former Wesleyan Chapel Campbell Town - 'A Fine Looking Building'

In the 1850’s, Campbell Town claimed to be the fourth largest town in Tasmania. It was also one of four garrison towns on the route between Launceston and Hobart. It became a policing centre for overseeing the capture of escaped convicts and developed into a centre for the coaching industry and hotels serving travellers on the route connecting the north and south of the island. Religious groups were active in the town soon after its establishment.

The first Methodist service was conducted in 1832 by the Reverend Nathaniel Turner. Early services were held in the old court house at the bottom of Bridge Street. Turner, together with his colleague John Manton, set out to establish Methodism in the north of Tasmania with the support of Samuel Horton of Somercotes who became the trustee of the first chapel in Campbell town and who also funded the first Sunday school there. A feature of the town’s religious community was the high degree of interdenominational support and the building of the first Wesleyan chapel is evidence of this. Records of its ‘pew rents’ reveal the names of prominent people of the town such as Dr Valentine, who was never attached to the Wesleyans yet contributed to the chapel building fund.

In 1839 the King Street chapel was completed and opened for services. It was a small plain brick building with dimensions of 30 feet by 17 feet. This soon proved to be inadequate for the growing congregation and a new chapel was built in front of the old one. This opened on 18 November 1846. It was described as a ‘fine looking building’ and was almost double the size of the first chapel. This is the building in the photographs. But within two years this building was also found to be too small to house its congregation. In 1849 a large gallery was added but once again this turned out to be not large enough and so in 1879 another church was built on new site on Campbell Town’s High Street. This is the ‘Brickhill Church’ which I will cover in a separate blog entry. The old Wesleyan chapel continued to be used as a Sunday school after the opening of the Brickhill Church until it eventually closed in the 1970’s when it was sold to become a residence.

The advent of the railway and road transport saw the decline of Campbell Town as a significant settlement. While the Wesleyan's had built three churches in four decades in the 19th century, the 20th century was a story of steadily shrinking congregations. This decline reached a point where there is a complete absence of a ‘Methodist’ (or Uniting Church) community in the town today.


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Sources:

Examiner Wednesday 14 January 1940

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.


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