No. 194 - The former Methodist Church at Weegena - 'The Blackmoor Church'

This small former church at Weegena was established as a Wesleyan church which opened in 1888. It was built with the help of donations from Henry Reed of Launceston and William Gibson of Perth. It was originally known as the Blackmoor church, and this name as well as the name Weegena has been the source of much debate over the years.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph in 1921, a correspondent using the pseudonym ‘W.T.S.’ wrote:

“Blackmoor is perhaps most noted for its large families, prolific blackberry crops, succulent spuds, and fisherman. There was a saying in vogue here some 30 years ago that should one meet a resident whose identity was not known to him, and addressed that person by the name of Sharman he would be about right every time. Certainly for many years Blackmoor has been closely identified with that well-known name. Of the four brothers who settled here in the early days, the youngest, namely Mr. F. Sharman, alone survives….”

Writing about the church ‘W.T.S.’ noted that:

“For many years Blackmoor was a stronghold of Wesleyan Methodism, Messrs F. Sharman and Wm. Walker with their respective families being all staunch supporters, and forming a small congregation in themselves, but death and removals from the district sadly depleted the ranks of the denomination….”

While the Sharman’s dominion was unquestioned, the name of the church and district has been the sources of some confusion. An article in The Advocate from 1935 with the headline “Trio of Names” was the first to raise this issue:

“The trio of names which have been applied to this district just west of Dunorlan, are apt to be misleading and cause confusion. The part of the district near the State school is called Brookhead, the part near the church is called Blackmoor Church, and that part where the post office and store are situated is Weegena. The meaning of the word Weegana was questioned last week when Mr. H. A. Nichols M.L.C., was visiting the district. Mr. Nichols, who has some knowledge of the Tasmanian aboriginal language, said he was unable to fix the word definitely, but thought it was derived from the word “weeztem,” meaning rainbow*. The church is generally styled Blackmoor, but originally it was Blackamoor, and was connected with certain events in the very early days when blacks were numerous at “Stockers” [Stocker’s Plains] and other places not far away….”

In reply to “Trio of Names” a letter from a correspondent signed ‘Blackmoor’ clarified the origin of the church and its name:

“On the plurality of names with which this location is burdened…. On September 29, 1875, the quarterly meeting held at the Deloraine Wesleyan Parsonage, and presided over by the Rev. H.J. Lavers, granted permission to Wesleyan residents to erect a chapel at Brookhead. But the chapel did not materialise. Twelve years later, on March 30, 1887, …similar permission was granted, but the name Blackmoor was substituted for Brookhead. The building was erected soon afterwards, and nowhere in the circuit records does the word “Blackmoor” appear. The church is in a rather dilapidated condition, with an asthmatic organ, is quite unworthy of a prosperous district”.

In spite of its dilapidated condition and asthmatic organ, the Blackmoor church struggled on. The last newspaper report records its 65th anniversary in 1953, with a large congregation attending from as far away as Penguin in the west and Winnaleah in the east. No doubt at least a few Sharman’s would have been amongst the visitors for this final celebration.

The church continued to hold services until the 1960’s but was eventually closed and sold in 1972. Having been a house for over 40 years, modifications have gradually changed its appearance but the features of a church can still be made out in its old bones.

* A note on the name Weegena:

According to Department of Primary Industries website 'Placenames' a further explanation of the name Weegena is given as: List in Womans Weekly 26/02/1975 by Aldo Massola gives its meaning as campfire, fireplace: nearest to this spelling found -- Wigena, meaning dead wood (H Ling Roth).


Families in the area:

A link to an article on Blackmoor/Weegena - Apart from the Sharman's many families in the area are made reference to including: Kelly; Gaffney; Jessop; Hooper; Britton; Cole; Lynocks; Hawley and Walker. 
Link: HERE

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

The interior of the church - Harcourts Real Estate - prior to sale of the church in 2017.

Sources:

Daily Telegraph Tuesday 13 September 1921, page 6
The Examiner Saturday 13 December 1924, page 12
The Advocate Wednesday 27 February 1935, page 6
The Advocate Tuesday 5 March 1935, page 10
The Examiner Tuesday 5 December 1939, page 9
The Advocate Wednesday 4 November 1953  Page 10

https://www.placenames.tas.gov.au/

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

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