No. 118 - Newstead Baptist Church - 'Not a Place for Theatrical Displays'

The Baptist Church in Tasmania began with the arrival of  Reverend Harry Dowling in Hobart in 1831. In July 1834, Governor George Arthur granted land on Tamar Street for the establishment of a baptist congregation in Launceston. However this land was sold and the proceeds were used to establish the town’s first Baptist Church on York Street which opened in December 1840. William Gibson’s funding of the Cimitiere Street Tabernacle in 1884 saw a revival of the Baptist movement in Launceston. This was followed by the establishment of the Elphin Road Baptist Church in 1906. This was originally intended to serve Newstead, but it was situated too far away for this purpose. A provision in the will of James Duncan made it possible to build another church to serve the suburb. 

At the foundation stone laying ceremony in November 1935 the contribution of the benefactors to the Baptist movement were acknowledged:

“The Baptist work in the Newstead neighbourhood began in 1904, when the foundation of the present church on Elphin Road was set. The work in that church had grown considerably under the pastorate of the Reverend English, and it was felt that the time had arrived when an extension of the field was necessary. It was decided, therefore, to build at Newstead. The commodious premises in the course of construction were made possible by the substantial sum left by the late Mr James Duncan for church extension in and about Launceston. The site of the church at the corner of Wentworth and Douglas Street was purchased in December 1933. The trustees had great faith in the development of the district, and had so planned the buildings that they could be enlarged when necessary.” 

At the dedication service in March 1936 Reverend English underlined the purpose of the church:

“This church has been built and designed only for sacred uses, and in this public way we surrender it to the honour of God, to be employed in His worship and service", …He asked "what was the purpose of the church. It was not a social club where a few could gather to enjoy themselves. It was not a place for theatrical displays and all the cheap nonsense of worldly shows. It had a far nobler and loftier purpose than that”.

Reverend English must have overlooked the architects very minor nod to the very fashionable Art Deco movement which appears in the guise of the caps on the buttresses at the entrance to the church. 


The Newstead Baptist Church has served its purpose well. It has outlasted the original Baptist Church on York Street as well as the churches on Cimitiere Street and Elphin Road and it has continued to thrive and serve the Baptist community in Newstead. 

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Sources:

Mercury Monday 25 November 1935
Examiner Monday 16 March 1936
Examiner Saturday 14 March 1936




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