No. 167 - Turner's Marsh Uniting Church - 'Pastoral Vignettes'

When researching a church's history, a story often quickly emerges: a colourful character, a controversy or perhaps a mystery of some sort will present a thread to be woven into a narrative. The old Wesleyan chapel at Turner’s Marsh does not have an unusual or remarkable history. But it is the very ordinariness of this church's which brings it to life. The story of the church and its people are recorded in great detail in correspondents’ reports about picnics, fundraisers, jubilee celebrations and funerals. These reveal a fascinating record of country life and the values and attitudes of a close-knit community. This short history will step through a handful of these scenes reported through the words of local correspondents who wrote for the Launceston press. The beauty of the language, the fullness of the characters; the voices and laughter and tears they recorded, effortlessly awaken the past in the following vignettes.

The Opening of the Church August 1879

“The place was the scene of a very pleasant gathering on Sunday…on the occasion of the opening of the Wesleyan Church for public worship. The event has been looked forward to with a degree of pleasure by a number of the inhabitants who filled the little building. The Rev. J.S. Greer came from Launceston, and preached the dedicatory sermon in the morning…and in the afternoon…to two very appreciative congregations, who listened with rapt and feeling attention….”

A Good Friday Tea Party: To liquidate Church debt – April 1881

“The object sought was to a great extent successful. The ladies who kindly undertook to provide the creature comforts, did it as women always do, and their exertions were fully appreciated by all present…After partaking of the good things, the elders of the party indulged in social conversation, while the young people fell to running, jumping, and such like sports, as are most congenial to youth”.

A Church Anniversary – 1885

"The anniversary of the Turner’s Marsh Wesleyan Church was celebrated on Sunday last…On Tuesday the usual tea and public meeting was held in Mr Barrett’s barn, which on Monday, had undergone, by use of cartloads of ferns and large bunches of flowers, a complete transformation at the hands of the young ladies connected with the congregation, assisted by Mr Thompson and Mr Foote, of Lefroy, whose good humour and overflowing heart, made him the magnetic centre of a small circle of ardent feminine admirers. The decoration being completed, an adjournment was made to the grass paddock, where the day’s labours were wound up by much innocent mirth, indulged in by young and old to their hearts content. The morning of Tuesday was fully occupied in preparing and laying out the abundant provision for the tea, and soon after noon the friends began to gather. About 2 o’ clock the Lefroy contingent, consisting principally of ladies, arrived in a large dray, drawn by two powerful horses….The attack on the tables soon began, and until 5 o’ clock the time was occupied in serving robust farmers, muscular miners, and mathematical quarrymen, avoirdupois business men, their wives, and sons, and daughters, and sweethearts, with sandwiches, tarts, cake, tea, etc…”

A Funeral – December 1886

"The remains of the Welsh miner Thomas, were interred here on Sunday…in the ground belonging to the Wesleyans, there being no general cemetery here. The attendance at the funeral was large, and the burial was gone through in the Welsh language. It was heart rendering to hear the cries of the bereaved wife, and to see the children by her side at the open grave. I think it was nothing but right that a proper investigation was held to ascertain how the accident occurred”.

Sunday School Anniversary- November 1896

“The singing of the children was excellent, especially in the evening service, and it must have been gratifying to their instructor (Mr George Miller) to know that his labor had not been in vain… The church was very nicely decorated with ferns and flowers, which reflected credit on the inventive faculty and artistic taste of the young ladies and gentlemen who did the work… On Monday a picnic was held in a paddock lent for the occasion….There were a couple of cricket matches played during the afternoon, while others found enjoyment in a variety of games which were kept going in a lively and sociable manner till the shades of evening began to creep on, when the majority of those present adjourned to the church, where a concert was held. A long and varied programme of vocal and instrumental music and recitations was rendered in a pleasing and capable manner… special mention should also be made of Master E. Johnstone, a lad of some eight summers, who gave and excellent rendition”.

The King’s Birthday and Sunday school anniversary – November 1908

“Services were held in the church on Sunday afternoon and evening… The prizes were distributed in the afternoon, and it was surprising to see the beautiful and expensive books that were given to the scholars, and must be very gratifying to the children themselves”.

The Wesleyan and former Uniting Church is now only a vessel for the memories of the lives and stories of a world long gone. All churches and their graveyards are cultural and sacred spaces. Although this pretty church sitting high on a hill above the Piper's River no longer holds Christian services, it will continue to remind us of the lives once lived and lost in this beautiful valley.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

                           The Cemetery at the Church
                                 Photographs: Duncan Grant 2018







Sources:

Launceston Examiner Saturday 30 August 1879, page 3
Daily Telegraph Saturday 7 March 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner  Thursday 9 December 1886, page 3
Colonist  Saturday 19 October 1889, page 20
Launceston Examiner Friday 18 November 1892, page 4
Daily Telegraph Friday 13 November 1896, page 4
Daily Telegraph  Saturday 14 November 1908, page 9

Comments

  1. Built on my 3 x Great Grandfather John Barrett's land. John Barrett was born on 26 June 1812 at Stoke Ash in Suffolk, England. The eighth of ten children to James Barrett and Rebecca Mayhew.

    Economic hardship throughout England forced the family to London around 1824. Overcrowding and extreme poverty saw the authorities charging everyone including children with the most petty of crimes and transporting them to the colonies. At least three of the Barrett children fell foul to the law sometimes solely on the word of just one constable.

    John at the tender age of 14 was convicted at Middlesex on 16 Feb 1826 for Highway Robbery. He was transported to Hobart onboard the ship "Asia II". The "Asia II" departed from London,England on 13 July 1827 transporting 157 young male convicts, the ship arrived in Hobart Town on 30 Nov 1827. John was recorded as Convict No. 1002, he was 16 years of age, height four feet eleven and and a half inches, brown hair, brown eyes, trade errand-boy, native of Suffolk.

    John was assigned to Lewis Gilles, and at first worked on his sheep property "Eppindorf", near Ross in the midlands of the island.

    John was granted his Ticket of Leave on 26 November 1835, he was 23 years old

    John worked with timber gangs clearing land for settlers. Whilst working on "Mountford" estate a Methodist missionary, Nathaniel Turner, shared lunch with the gang and preached so effectively that all twelve members converted. John joined the Wesleyan Church and continued an active member all his life providing funds and timber for the church expansion in Tasmania.

    John's brother Amos and his sister Rebecca were also transported to Hobart and relied heavily on John's support.

    John received a conditional pardon on 20 June 1840, he was just 27 years old.

    Two years later at 29 years of age in 1842 he married 18 year old Ann Broadhurst on 15 November at St John's Church in Launceston. They had 12 children between 1843 and 1868

    From 1850 to 1867 John traded as a Timber merchant on the south side of Brisbane St Launceston. By this stage John had a house, stables, store rooms and a timber yard. In 1856 John purchased 500 acres from Keith J. King on the east of the Tamar River near Egg Island. He erected cottages for his workman and they supplied plenty of timber.

    In 1860 John purchased from Ronald Campbell Gunn for 1000 pounds a pastoral property of 494 acres "Redmyre" at Pipers River, George Town approximately 16 miles from Launceston. The district was known as "Turner's Marsh".

    In 1875 he sold the Timber business to builders J & T Gunn. It was the very first timber business purchased by Gunn's.

    John died on 26 March 1888 he was 75 years old

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