No. 204 - Former Baptist Church at Cluan - 'The Church in the Meadow'

Cluan is a small rural settlement in northern Tasmania about 5km south of Westbury. The name Cluan is probably derived from the Irish ‘cluain’, meaning ‘meadow’.

The former Baptist church at Cluan is a brick structure built in 1975 replacing a much older timber building constructed in 1906. At this time the church's location was described as:

“Prettily situated on a sloping rise that is dry at all times. It overlooks the agricultural vale of Cluan, which is backed by the Cluan Tiers down whose sides course crystal streams, which then wend their way across the fertile plain thickly fringed with black wood and other evergreens”.

In 1906 the correspondent for the Launceston Examiner explained the origins of the church:

“For the past couple of years the Baptist section of the religious community at Cluan has been holding fortnightly services in the schoolroom. The liberal patronage and good attendance during this period was proof positive that in no locality was a church so necessary as this. As soon as the project was mooted, Mr. James Leonard gave a building site on the corner of his Cluan estate. During the last couple of months the residents have responded in a whole-hearted manner. Messrs. Leonard, Pearn, Lockhart, and Page carted the timber from the station. Mr. Masters put the foundation down, whilst there have been a couple of working bees, at which Mr. Cummins lent his teams to remove the logs and put the ground in the good order it is. Numerous canvassers have met with a liberal response in the shape of cash. Miss Bird has loaned her organ free of charge for the time being, and Mr. J. C. Lockart presenting the porch, which has yet to be erected”.

The Cluan community also received support from the nearby Baptist community at Bracknell:

“During the erection of the building Pastor Steel, of Bracknell, has been continually on the go. He had no mock modesty about him…and would discard his clerical garb and assume overalls to assist in the loading of the timber, or take the lead and wait on Mr. Masters with mortar and stone. It was therefore a matter of congratulation to him when Sunday afternoon was fine, and an assemblage sufficiently large to twice fill the 30 x 18 building attended to hear the Rev. R. Williamson, president of the Baptist Union, formally open the edifice and offer special prayer for its blessing”.

An afternoon and evening service was held with visitors attending from Bracknell and Whitemore:

“As many persons at Whitemore had no mode of attending the services except by walking, Mr. James Leonard proposed the old English style of going by wagon. Mr. Leonard is from the land of the bonny rose, and offered his wagon and team with his overseer in charge. A full load arrived by this method”.


Fundraising events including a 'sale of gifts' and a 'tea meeting' were held soon after the opening to pay off the church's debts and for further improvements such as the construction of a stable:

"At the forthcoming tea a feature of the proceedings will be a cricket match between the eleven Page brothers and the Upper Liffey team..... In the near future a sale of gifts will be held, the proceeds of which will go towards the church building fund"

The weatherboard church survived for almost 70 years until it was replaced by the brick building in 1975. The Baptist’s remained at Cluan for about another 25 years when the new church was closed and sold to be converted into a house. The fate of the original weatherboard church is unknown.

The original church at Cluan (undated) source: 
http://eheritage.statelibrary.tas.gov.au/resources/detail66f0.html?ID=WEHS_0066

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Sources:

The Examiner Tuesday 27 November 1906, page 4

Hemsley, Jennifer Around the country circuits: reminiscences of the Baptist Church family throughout "Tassie's top half". Regal Press, Launceston, Tas, 1996.

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