No. 220 - The former Baptist Tabernacle at Devonport - 'Billiard Room Baptists'

In April 1904, the North Western Advocate reported on the opening of a new Baptist Tabernacle at Devonport:

“The opening of the new brick church erected by the Devonport Baptists was celebrated yesterday… The architectural beauty of the new building is most marked, completely dwarfing the wooden hall alongside that has for some years done duty for a church, until increasing congregations demanded a larger building”.

The wooden hall referred to was the old “Protestant Hall” built by Mr T. P. Cowle which the Baptists had purchased in April 1889. Prior to this, the Baptists had used a billiard hall which opened in 1887. The Daily Telegraph described these premises:

“Mr W.G. Buck… has now completed his billiard room and haircutting saloon… The building is of brick… The billiard room is now being used on Sundays as a place of worship. Pastor Blackie, under the Union of Baptists of Tasmania, holds services every Sunday at 3 p.m. I wonder if any of the naughty youths, in looking at the billiard table on Sundays, wish they were having a game. It is to be hoped not”.

Unfortunately due to the lack of a permanent pastor, Baptist services ceased in October 1891. In 1897 services were revived with the arrival of Mr J G Mackie and the Tabernacle at the former ‘Protestant Hall’ was reopened. The Baptist revival was so successful that by the turn of century the congregation had outgrown the hall and the construction of a new building had become necessary. The result was the brick Tabernacle situated on Steward Street. The building appears little changed from the description of it upon its opening in 1904:

“The front elevation presents a striking appearance with its Gothic columns and pointed roof, a handsome coloured tracing window, with two entrance doors into porches on the sides of the front of the building… the inside of the church is 58ft long by 35ft in breadth, and it is 33ft from floor to ceiling, which is an open timbered roof of hammer beam design, finishing upon Gothic corbels. Seating accommodation is provided for 350 persons, … The rostrum is circular and flanked by two sets of steps with handrails and Gothic columns… The baptistery is under the rostrum… The plans of the church were drawn by Mr S. Priest, jun. and the tender of Mr S. Priest sen., was accepted for its erection… The total cost was about £1300”.

The North Western Advocate reported on the opening services:

“The morning service attracted an excellent attendance, the large building being completely full, many coming from Sassafras, Latrobe, Forth, and other adjacent districts…. The afternoon service was held half an hour late until the funeral of the late Mr B.S. Buck had passed through the streets. The funeral affected the attendance, still the building was more than half full”.

Benjamin Buck had been a popular member of the town board and the son of William Buck, who had built the ‘Protestant Hall’ purchased by the Baptists in 1889.

The Stewart Street Baptist Tabernacle closed in the late 1960’s and the building was used as the premises for the Devonport Library between 1969-1983. In 1983 the church was converted into the Devonport Gallery and Arts Centre, which is still based there. The Baptists moved to new premises in William Street in the 1960’s where the church still operates as the Lifeway Baptist Church.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018
Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Undated photograph showing the 'Protestant Hall' to the left of the Tabernacle - original source not known

Interior of the Tabernacle c.1940 - original source not known

The Baptist Church, Devonport. – The Tasmanian Mail, July 20, 1907.

North West Post Saturday 5 October 1889


Sources:

Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 February 1887, page 3
North West Post, Tuesday 23 July 1889, page 2
North West Post, Saturday 5 October 1889, page 3
The Examiner, Saturday 10 October 1891, page 1
The Mercury, Monday 29 November 1897, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 25 April 1904, page 2
The Examiner, Friday 29 April 1904, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Friday 29 April 1904, page 4
TheAdvocate, Wednesday 4 November 1931, page 9

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