No. 205 - The Lilydale Uniting Church - "The Spiritual Wants of Lilydalians"

The first church built at Lilydale, or Upper Piper’s River, as it was previously known, was the Union Church shared by Presbyterians and Wesleyans. This church opened in 1880 following the work of a committee formed for the task of establishing a place of worship for the town:

“The first meeting of subscribers for the Upper Piper's River United Church was held in the schoolroom on January 6, 1879…. At the first meeting of the subscribers it was decided to erect a church in which ministers of all denominations could preach. It was decided to appoint a working committee of five members on the following basis: Presbyterian two, Wesleyan two, Independent one. At a meeting held later in the same year it was decided to accept the offer of the Rev. A. Mather, of Scottsdale, to hold divine service in the church once a month, the first service to be held on October 21, 1879”.

The United Church operated for a few years and by 1889 the Wesleyans were planning to build a church of their own. The correspondent for the Examiner observed that the United Church was only being used by the Wesleyans and Presbyterians and that:

“I believe we are to have a Wesleyan church built here soon, and then, no doubt, matters will be amicably arranged”. 

In contrast, this hope was not enthusiastically endorsed by the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph:

“The spiritual wants of the Lilydalians are likely to be well satisfied. We have a Union Church which is fairly well patronised. It is now proposed to add a Wesleyan Church, the foundation stone of which, I believe, will be laid on the 24th May next by the Hon. W. Hart, M.L.C., and shortly a Roman Catholic Chapel is to be built…. Probably Baptist and Congregational Churches will be built for a few people connected with both these denominations... in the district, and this will give about half a dozen families to each congregation, and it will be a desperate struggle to pay for their place of worship and to support their minister. What a truly edifying spectacle from a Christian viewpoint. We will have several denominations preaching practically the same doctrine and conducting their services in almost exactly the same way, struggling for existence. We do not want narrow denominationalism, but unity”.

The parting of the ways between the Presbyterians and Wesleyans was in fact amicable. The committee established for the building of the new church proposed that:

“Should the Methodist Church decide to build a church and the Presbyterians be willing to assist in the building of [the] same Methodist Church [they] will agree to surrender its rights to the use of the Union Church to the Presbyterians”.

Land for the church was donated by Mr Ludwig Bardenhagen and the church was built by Mr Frederick Proctor, who owned a wheelwright and blacksmith business at Lilydale.

In June 1890 progress with the construction of the Wesleyan church was reported in the Colonist:

“Monday…. Being a public holiday, the Wesleyans decided to have a day to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of their new church, and it proved fine, a large number of Launceston friends supplemented the local friends, and at 1 p.m. assembled to witness the event, which was kindly performed by Mr Wm. Sidebottom, M.H.A.”.

Following the laying of the foundation stone, celebrations got under way:

“After the ceremony all adjourned to the hall where an abundance of eatables had been provided by the ladies, and full justice was done to the good things. The rest of the day was devoted to various games, in which young and old thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Messrs. Bardenhagen and Proctor were to the fore in providing entertainment for the little ones, and succeeded in getting up a long programme of juvenile sports, … As the evening wore on, the lights in the Mechanics’ Institute warned us that the concert was about to commence…”

By August of that year the church had been completed and opened for services:

“Last Sunday was a great day with the Wesleyan body here, when the new church was opened, and a really nice little church it is… the interior of the building is particularly well finished…. The opening services was conducted by the Rev. J.G. Millard, of Launceston, and despite the inclemency of the weather large congregations attended the building, which accommodates 150 persons, and was comfortably filled”.

Following the opening of the Wesleyan-Methodist church, relations with the Presbyterians remained cordial. For example, services were arranged so as not to clash. The Lilydale church had initially fallen under the authority of the Underwood Methodist church but it came to head the Lilydale circuit until it was incorporated into the Launceston North Circuit in 1958. It is now part of the Launceston North Uniting Church.  Following the establishment of the Uniting Church in the 1970's and the subsequent closure of the Lilydale Presbyterian church, the observation of the Daily Telegraph's correspondent in 1890 has effectively come to pass: "We do not want narrow denominationalism, but unity”. 

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018 - The former Tunnel Methodist Church now at the rear of the Lilydale Church
Source: Cyclopedia of Tasmania 1900, Volume 2, page 202
Ludwig Bardenhagen: Source: Detail from a photograph of the Lilydale Council - Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery -  QVM:1995:P:0934
T.R.G. Williams Postcard - Lilydale series c.1900


Daily Telegraph, Thursday 8 May 1890, page 4
Colonist,  Saturday 7 June 1890, page 23
Daily Telegraph, Friday 29 August 1890, page 4
Mercury, Monday 14 September 1936, page 5
Examiner, Tuesday 27 August 1940, page 4
Mercury, Saturday 17 August 1940, page 5
North-Eastern Advertiser, Tuesday 27 August 1940, page 3

Lilydale Methodist Church, Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee, 1950

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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