No. 272 - East Devonport - Methodist Church (1883)

Before the official proclamation which established the town of Devonport in 1890, two seperate townships had developed on either side of the Mersey River; Torquay on the east and Formby on the west. Of the two towns, Torquay was the most developed. East of Torquay farmers settled along the coast from North Down to Port Sorrel and in 1851 the discovery of coal at Tarleton initiated a period of growth for the town.

After the discovery of coal at Tarleton a number of Methodists decided to establish a Methodist church to serve the faithful in the area. In 1853 services were conducted in the open air and a Sunday school was opened by Mr Surft at the coal mines. In 1857, the first Methodist Minister, Rev. G. Lough was appointed to the Mersey District and meetings were held near Cockers Point at Tarleton. In the same year a fundraising ‘tea meeting’ in aid of church building funds was held in a tent made from sails loaned by Captain W. Holyman.

Before a church was built at Torquay services were held in the courthouse and some services were held in the billiard room of Mr Steven’s hotel. The first Sunday school was opened by Mr George Muggeridge whose house had been used for weeknight services.

In 1858 a small wooden chapel was erected on the corner of Cross Street and Murray Street. Further information about this chapel can be found in this article [No. 1339]  The chapel remained in use until 1883 when it was replaced by a new church which was officially opened on 26 November in that year. An article published in the Mercury provides considerable detail about the new church as well Torquay’s Methodist community:

“The anniversary tea-meeting of the Wesleyan Church and Sunday school, Torquay, was held in a temporary erection within the neat church enclosure, on the 26th inst. ….Mr. Basil Archer, of Cressy and Longford, preached stirring sermons morning and evening, Sunday, and also addressed the Sabbath school. The collections at the services stand out the most munificent among anniversary collections, this or perhaps any other year in any church in Tasmania, viz., £201 sterling….The church will now seat over two hundred. It is a weatherboard gothic building,
having a neat spire and belfry above the front elevation. The rear is finished in a semi-octagon, which gives ample room for the choir behind the pulpit. The furniture is of the best and appropriate in pattern. Altogether it is a highly creditable church, said to be now the best on the N.W. seaboard; of course, leaving Latrobe out.

After tea all assembled in the church, and proceedings commenced, Mr. Robt. Stewart, of Pardoe, being elected chairman. He called on the Rev. G. Schofield of Latrobe after prayer, and an introductory hymn by the choir. The speaker took us his points the spiritual and temporal advancement of the church, which he elaborated interestingly and solidly. Mr. W. Blackett, missionary, under the auspices of the Wesleyan Home Mission, spoke of Sunday schools and their influence. The Rev. J. May (from Sheffield), Mr. Basil Archer, and Mr. Thos. Hainsworth, also gave short addresses. Mr. Hainsworth, who remembered Torquay 27 years ago, and meeting for worship in the house of the late John Denny, a man justly styled a small body with a giant soul; and what a ramshackle place it was compared with the handsome church they were now in.

Twenty-seven years ago the rain spattered through where they worshipped at Torquay; now this elegant church was a proper place for worship, securing the comfort of the congregation, and therefore enabling them to give their attention to the service. He congratulated the people of the Wesleyan Church at Torquay that their nice church was out of debt…. The choir's efforts indicated earnest and honest preparation for the biggest church event ever known among the Wesleyan
body at Torquay, and they sang well. The ladies who commanded the tea equipage met the wants and appreciation of the assembly. But when were they known to fail? Mr. Phillips proposed, and Mr. Baily (an old soldier, and said to be one of the best broad swordsmen in the colony) seconded a hearty vote of thanks to Mr. Basil Archer…..”.

“An exceedingly pleasant and profitable anniversary closes today, 27th inst., on Pardoe beach, when the Sabbath school children are to be regaled, and enjoy themselves generally to the tune of " What are the wild waves saying." The whole sum obtained by the collection and tea amounted to £210. Not bad for a seaside village”.

A year after the new church reopened a parsonage was built close by.  In 1903 a Sunday school hall was erected next to the church. The hall was previously a small Methodist church built at Thirlstane in 1891. [see No. 475

While the parsonage has survived, the church was demolished when a new church was built in the mid 1960s.  This building was in use for almost 30 years before it was closed and sold in the early 1990s.  The new church still exists and has been adapted to house the Baptcare Orana Respite and Social Centre.

A detail of the photograph below.
The old Wesleyan Methodist Church (undated) Original source not known - posted by Betty Keep‎ Devonport (Tasmania) and Surrounds - A Pictorial History 1 July 2018 

An Early photograph of East Devonport (undated) showing the church and parsonage - original source not known

Post card (1940) showing the church (centre left) See detail in photograph below. Source: LINC Tasmania item number AA193/1/1298

Detail of postcard showing the rear of the church looking south - source Source: LINC Tasmania item number AA193/1/1298

The Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 18 August 1858, page 7


The Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 18 August 1858, page 7
Mercury, Friday 30 November 1883, page 3
North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times, Saturday 6 June 1903, page 4
North West Post, Monday 30 November 1908, page 3
North West Post, Tuesday 1 December 1908, page 3
Examiner, Wednesday 2 December 1908, page 7
The Advocate 'Breathing New Life into Our Old places' January 21 2015

Pink, Kerry. And wealth for toil : a history of North-West and Western Tasmania, 1825-1900 / Kerry Pink Advocate Marketing Services Burnie, Tas 1990

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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