No. 187 - The Elphin Road Baptist Church - 'Boy in a Sailor Suit'

The Baptist’s presence in Tasmania began after the arrival of Reverend Harry Dowling in Hobart in 1831. In July 1834, Governor George Arthur granted land for a church in Launceston. This site abutted onto a grant made to Reverend Price for the Tamar Street Congregational Church. Later this land was sold and the proceeds used to establish Launceston's first Baptist church on York Street that opened in December 1840. William Gibson’s, funding of the Cimitiere Street Tabernacle in 1884 facilitated further growth of the Baptist movement in Launceston. Baptist communities were founded in Inveresk and Invermay and in 1905 a church was established on Elphin Road to serve the growing suburb of Newstead.

In 1902 the Cimitiere Street 'mother church purchased land in Newstead with plans to build a brick church of a ‘neat Gothic design’. The memorial stone for the new church was laid on Wednesday 14 June 1905 with about 80 people attending the ceremony.  Speaking at this occasion, 
Reverend A. W. Bean welcomed the visitors and stressed that he "did not desire the members of his church to be looked upon as denominational intruders”. He noted that: 

“Their presence showed a kindly feeling existed towards the Baptists on their coming to the neighbourhood. It might seem boldness on their part to come, but boldness was not a vice in Christian service…. [and] they were not … carrying their colours at the end of a lance to poke into other people’s breasts”.

After the speeches, The Daily Telegraph described the stone laying ceremony:

“A small paper parcel, containing an account of the extension movement and other matters connected with the Baptist Church, was then deposited in a cavity beneath the stone, which was then placed in position and declared well and truly laid…Donations towards the building fund were then laid on the stone, one of those who subscribed being a small fair-haired boy in a sailor suit, who carefully deposited upon the stone the sum of threepence in coppers” [see photograph below]

The church was completed in a little over 4 months and was opened for its first service on Sunday 29 October 1905. The church became an independent Baptist church in 1917 and later facilitated the building of second Newstead church on Wentworth Street, which was at a more central location to serve the suburb. In 2001 the Elphin Road Church and Christ Church Baptist Church amalgamated to become the City Baptist Church. The Elphin Road building was sold shortly after and has recently become a gallery space to showcase artwork. (see linked news item below)




Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Laying of the foundation stone. The boy in the sailor suit may be seen in the centre left of the photograph. (Weekly Courier, 15 July 1905)
Sources:

Daily Telegraph Thursday 15 June 1905, page 3
The Examiner Thursday 15 June 1905, page 5
Daily Telegraph Monday 30 October 1905, page 5

https://citybaptistchurch.net/about-us/our-history/

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