No. 82 - Lawrence Vale Road Uniting Church - "Killed With Kindness"

The story of the Lawrence Vale Church began in 1878 when a private Sunday school, which had been conducted in a blacksmith’s shop, was taken over by the Wesleyans. It was from this initiative that the Wesleyan church at Lawrence Vale was born. In 1884 the Tasmanian reported that:

“For many years past a preaching station connection with the Launceston Wesleyan Circuit has been maintained at King’s Meadows, but the building being in sad want of repair, and the increase of population on the Sandhill and Lawrence Vale demanding attention, it was resolved a few months ago to erect a new church in a site more central for both localities”.

The new church’s opening in 1884 was largely a result of the efforts of Rev J.G. Millard who had been the superintendent of the Sunday school. The bricks used to construct the church were donated from Machen's Brickworks, which operated nearby. The Tasmanian noted:

“The result was the erection of a neat and substantial brick church with a slate roof, at a cost of some £500, on an excellent site at the junction. … From the church a picturesque view can be obtained down the valley of the Tamar in one direction and towards Breadalbane in the other…”

At a tea meeting following the opening, Rev. Millard was praised from all quarters for his efforts. Millard seemed to be overwhelmed and in response he confessed:


“...that listening to all that had been said so sincerely he felt unmanned. He felt that they had nearly killed him with their kindness”

The church was built to only two-thirds of the original design with the provision that it could be enlarged 'should occasion require', without destroying its symmetry. This foresight paid dividends for in 1952 the foundation for a new hall was laid down. This abutted onto the old brick church but was of weatherboard rather than brick, as can be seen in the photographs.

In 1957, the Lawrence Vale area was subject to serious landslides which saw numerous houses abandoned and for a time some feared that the church might be effected. However, these concerns proved to be ‘groundless’. There were plans to build a new larger church in the 1960’s but funds did not permit this from proceeding. In reviewing the history of the church in 2010, The Examiner reported:

“Lawrence Vale celebrated its centenary in 1984 with a publication of its history. 
At the time, it had more than a dozen fellowship and worship groups operating from the site or in the community. The interior was refurbished in 1984 for about $6500 from a building fund raised by the congregation… Parishioners at the time planned that the fund would also finance replacing the weatherboard section of the church with brick”. 

After becoming part of the Uniting Church in the 1970’s, the Lawrence Vale Church went into a slow decline. Its last service took place in October 2010 and it closed after 126 years as a place of worship with its community being relocated to the Chant Street Uniting Church. The Examiner reported:

“…Both congregations had been worshipping together for more than 12 months, one week at Lawrence Vale and the other at East Launceston. … Considerable work needed to be done to both properties but East Launceston required less investment".  But disappointed Lawrence Vale parishioners said that significant amounts of money had been spent on the church and the manse beside it in recent years and both were in good condition. It is believed that Lawrence Vale carried little debt - helped over the years by generous donations from parishioners' estates”. 

Subsequently, in 2017 the Chant Street Uniting Church also closed and the Uniting Church has shrunk back to its heartland in the city.

Today the Lawrence Vale Church stands as landmark to a lost era. Perhaps a little more kindness would have enabled it to survive a little longer.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Jubilee celebrations 1884-1934 : souvenir programme / Lawrence Vale Methodist Church - National Library of Australia

Sources:

Mercury Saturday 19 May 1934

Mercury Friday 24 August 1951

Tasmanian Saturday 5 April 1884

The Examiner 15 September 2010

Rev M.E.J. Stansall et al. Tasmanian Methodism 1820-1975

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