No. 101 - Newnham Methodist Church - 'Annoying Voices'

In 1881 the first Methodist Church in Newnham opened. The establishment of a church at Newnham is linked to the efforts of Reverend George Thomas Heyward who had retired in 1878 owing to ill-health and had settled at Newnham. He had preached in the Devonport region as well at at Collingwood and Port Adelaide before he returned to Tasmania to take charge of the Margaret Street church. On retirement he attended the Paterson Street Church and on seeing the need for a church at Newnham, he began to actively campaign for it.(1) At the church’s jubilee celebration, older members of the congregation recalled walking into Paterson Street from Newnham and changing and hiding their old walking shoes in the rushes growing in unbuilt areas of Inveresk and Invermay before entering the city.(2)

The new church at Newnham soon became a ‘great influence for the good’ in the community. However, Heyward’s good work was destroyed on the night of 27 August 1903, when the church was set alight by a 35 year old man, George Woodward. A report from the police court reveals that the burning of the church was a senseless act of a disturbed man.

“At the Police Court today, George Woodward, aged 35 years, a tramp, was charged with wilfully setting fire to the Methodist Church, a wooden building, at Newnham, on 27th August. [The] accused admitted the charge, stating that as he was passing the building he heard voices inside which annoyed him. He broke a window, effected an entrance, and set fire to the place, burning Bibles, hymn books, seats, and all the contents. [The] accused was arrested on the following day whilst on his way to Hobart”. (3)

Woodward was later found guilty and received a 6-month prison sentence.

A new church was soon rebuilt on the same site and reopened on 21 February 1904. Barely 8 months later Reverend Heyward passed away, bringing to an end an era for both the Methodists in Newnham and Launceston.

The rebuilt church still stands in Newnham today alongside the modern Launceston North Uniting Church that has now replaced it.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

 Launceston Examiner Wed 6 Jul 1881  Page 1  Advertising

Examiner Sat 20 Feb 1904  Page 6  Advertising

The Reverend George Heyward- Examiner (Saturday 8 October 1904, page 5)


(1) Examiner Tuesday 17 February 1931
(2) 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.
(3) Bendigo Advertiser Wednesday 9 September 1903

Examiner Wednesday 9 September 1903
Examiner Saturday 8 October 1904


Popular posts from this blog

Welcome to Churches of Tasmania

No. 624 - Dunalley - St Martin's Anglican Church - "In grateful memory of the men who fought in the Great War"

No. 592 - Gretna - St Mary the Virgin - "Worthy of Imitation"