No. 180 - Westbury Uniting Church - 'By Hook or by Crook'

The first Wesleyan church at Westbury was built in 1840 but by the 1850’s this building was already considered too small for the congregation. Plans were soon made to build a new church but it took until 1866 for this to be accomplished. This is the story of the founding of the new church which  continues to serve Westbury to this day.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid on Tuesday 24 October 1865. Reverend Quick of Horton College assisted with the ceremony, which was reported by the Launceston Examiner:

“The Rev. Quick then, the stone having been lowered upon the foundation, having proved it plumb, square and level, declared it to be laid in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

After a luncheon served in the old chapel attended by 300 guests, a public meeting was held in the afternoon with Reverend Quick delivering a speech. The speech is interesting in that it reveals a change in how the Wesleyans viewed their places of worship as the colony grew and prospered:

“Up to that time the sort of building they had erected were suitable to the circumstances of the colony. They now wanted more than four walls to worship in – they required such a building as should be neither taken for a mechanics institute or a barn, but declare its character that it was set apart for public worship. They were about to make an improvement in style of their buildings in those placed in New Town, Launceston and Westbury…. He thought it desirable to have buildings of suitable and even superior character. He could not conceive how a congregation could come together for sincere worship of God without being transformed somewhat into the image of the Invisible, without being made more God-like. A spacious building permitted an increase in the number of worshippers, and a large amount of good would be likely to follow”. 


Speaking after Reverend Quick, Mr Lelean, the Westbury circuit minister, explained how the new building had come about: 

“It had originated at a public meeting in Launceston, where chapel building had been discussed… [but] They had had difficulties, and had at one time almost abandoned the project, but still they had struggled on…. They had sent to Melbourne for plans, but the cost of these plans appeared beyond their reach. At the time a gentleman, who had passed to his reward, left £2000 to the Wesleyan Church. At the suggestion of Mr Quick, they applied for £500 of this money….and it was agreed to expend £1000 of this at Launceston, £500 at New Town, and £500 at Westbury, towards the erection of churches of a superior nature…..He thought that if they had a good harvest that year they would be able, with the money that ought to be taken at opening sermons, to come very nearly to the amount required”.

In a little over 6 months after the laying of the foundation stone the church was officially opened on the 20th April 1866. Once again the Examiner reported on the morning and evening service conducted by Reverend John Eggleston of Melbourne. The reporter described the church as being:

“In the Gothic style, the interior is open to the roof, and the stained glass lights give a very pleasing effect. The pulpit is modern – not a mere box, but sufficiently spacious enough to seat three or four persons…. The demand for a building of such dimensions – for it will seat 350 persons – is a proof of the rise of that important township.”

The reporter reflected on the rise of Westbury with the addition of a second significant church in the town:

“A casual visitor to Westbury proves how important that district is…. The numerous religious and scholastic edifices speak well for its moral status. Soil, climate, and people, all promise a prosperous future”.

On the following day the annual public meeting was held in the new chapel. One of the main objectives of the meeting was to reduce the debt on the new building which stood at a ‘stout £425”. The Tasmanian Morning Herald described the scene:

“Mr Eggleston suggested means of raising the money by promissory notes…. It was not long after until you heard in the meeting “put my name down for £10, another for £20, another for £30, another for £5; and so on down to ten shillings…. There was to be seen the ploughman and farm servant, vying with their masters, all doing what they could towards wiping off the debt”.

The report ended with a question:

“Perhaps some one might ask how is it that the Church of England has not made such progress in the colony as the Wesleyan body have? Go where you will, in the bush, there is a school or formal service held there by the Wesleyans, and that is the reason; they look after their own people as well as others to. And they will get the people to come to their services by hook or by crook, while the country churches on Sunday are thinly attended”.



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

Calvert, Samuel, 1828-1913 (artist.)

Sources:

Launceston Examiner Thursday 26 October 1865, page 3
Launceston Examiner  Saturday 21 April 1866, page 2
Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 21 April 1866, page 10
Tasmanian Morning Herald Friday 27 April 1866, page 3
Examiner Monday 2 December 1940, page 4

Stansall, M. E. J. and Methodist Church of Australasia.  Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 / [by M.E.J. Stansall ... et al]  Methodist Church of Australasia Launceston, Tas  1975




Comments

  1. Thank you Duncan Grant, for your lovely photos of the Wesley Church in Westbury..... I have been informed my Great- Great Grandmother Mary Ann (Nee Smith, and Moore) Breward, is buried in the Westbury Cemetery passed away aged 62 years, from a annuersym... Regards Julia Branch

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