No. 264 - The former Congregational Chapel at Melton Mowbray

Melton Mowbray lies north of Kempton in the Midland region of Tasmania. The area was originally known as Cross Marsh, so called because of a marsh that crossed the Bothwell road.(1) It was a favourite camping ground for transport teams and became a centre for the surrounding districts.(2) When Samuel Blackwell* purchased land in the area and established a hotel in 1859, it became known as Melton Mowbray, after his birthplace in Leicester. Blackwell was to play an important part in establishing the Congregational chapel at the Melton.

For most of its existence the chapel at Melton Mowbray has served as a State school and as hall for the Church of England which acquired the property in 1942. This blog entry will focus on its establishment as a Congregational chapel. Its association with the Church of England will be dealt with in a separate article.

Fundraising for an independent chapel at Melton Mowbray began in December 1861 with a bazaar held at Green Ponds [see advertisement below].

By 1863 sufficient funds had been raised to start construction and the foundation stone was laid on 26 November 1863:

“The laying of the foundation stone…took place on Thursday the 26th [November]. …The preliminary service was performed in Mr. Blackwell’s Hotel. The Rev. W. Waterfield gave out a hymn, read suitable portions of Scripture, engaged in prayer, and then a small party proceeded to the building, where, after depositing in a bottle the usual document, Mrs. Blackwell laid the stone in due form, and the ceremony was closed with the benediction. The workmen are proceeding rapidly with the building, which it is expected will be opened for Worship in February 1864, at the time of the next annual meeting of the Congregational Union, which is to be held at Green Ponds [Kempton].(3)

The building was completed and opened for service on 3 March 1864:

“A neat little Independent Chapel has recently been erected at Melton Mowbray, …upon land, the gift of Mr. Samuel Blackwell. It is built in the Grecian style of architecture, though of the plainest description, and is the design of Mr. William Stone, of Battery Point…. The walls are of brick, with stone dressings and finishings in front; the walls being stuccoed with Portland cement. It will seat about one hundred persons…. Notwithstanding the wet state of the weather, upward of that number of persons had assembled to witness the ceremony. The service was commenced by singing, and the offering up of a prayer by the Rev. Mr. Nisbet, after which the Rev. Mr Robinson, of Hobart Town, preached an excellent sermon…. In the afternoon a public tea meeting was held in the schoolroom of the Independent Chapel, at Green Ponds, which was largely attended, the Rev. William Waterfield, Independent Minister of Green Ponds presiding…. It is intended to hold service in it one Sunday every fortnight, by supplies to be arranged for that purpose”.(4)

After it was opened, the activities of the chapel disappear from the newspaper record although there are reports of an anniversary service in 1866 and 1868. The chapel was used as a State school between 1901 and 1937 and was transferred to the Church of England in 1942. A memorial plaque at the church, which commemorates its restoration in 1990, states that the chapel was built in 1866. Research for this article has established that this was in fact two years earlier. Online records are very thin for the early years of this building and hopefully gaps in its history will be filled.

*A note on Samuel Blackwell

John Bisdee, of Hutton Park (granted in 1821) returned to England in 1835 where he encouraged Samuel Blackwell to seek opportunity in Van Dieman’s Land. Both returned in 1840. Samuel Blackwell and his wife established the Cape of Good Hope Inn at Apsley then purchased the Royal Oak Hotel at Green Ponds in 1842. In 1850 he was granted a stagecoach licence between Green Ponds and Bothwell. With the acquisition of land at Cross Marsh, he saw the opportunity for a hotel in an area that had been used as a camping ground by transport teams and had become a popular location for the hunting community. The Melton Mowbray hotel was built by Blackwell in 1858 and opened in 1859.

In 1860 John Bisdee presented Samuel Blackwell with a pack of beagles which he hunted as the ‘Southern Hunt Club’ hounds. Bisdee also supplied deer imported from England, the first to run in Australia. A large hunt club with as many as '80 red coats' regularly met at Hutton Park. Samuel Blackwell was also well known in the horse racing fraternity and is particular remembered for his success with the thoroughbred ‘Panic’ which came second in the Melbourne Cup in 1865.

Samuel Blackwell died on 12 July 1885 and was buried in the Chapel cemetery.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018  (Anglican church in the background)

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018  The memorial plaque incorrectly records the church being built in 1866

Samuel Blackwell's headstone in the cemetery behind the chapel

The Mercury Saturday 26 October 1861

Source: Mercury Friday 25 June 1926, page 5

Source: The Hobart Town Daily Mercury Friday 6 May 1859, page 3

The Melton Mowbray Hotel (1863)  - source:

The Melton Mowbray Hotel (1907) - source:

(1) A Record of Tasmanian Nomenclature p.23
(2) A Record of Tasmanian Nomenclature p.23
(3) Mercury, Thursday 3 December 1863, page 2
(4) Mercury, Monday 7 March 1864, page 2


The Mercury Saturday 26 October 1861
The Mercury, Thursday 3 December 1863, page 2
The Weekly Times, Saturday 5 December 1863, page 4
The Mercury, Tuesday 22 December 1863, page 3
The Mercury, Monday 7 March 1864, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 16 April 1868, page 5
Tasmanian Times, Monday 20 April 1868, page 2
Tasmanian Morning Herald, Monday 23 April 1866, page 3 
The Mercury, Friday 25 June 1926, page 5

A Record of Tasmanian Nomenclature - Compiled by J. Moore-Robinson, The Mercury Printing Office, 1911

Sharples, Theo E. Congregational Union of Tasmania.  Congregationalism in Tasmania, 1830-1977 : a brief history / compiled by Theo E. Sharples  Congregational Union of Tasmania Hobart  1977


  1. Great research of the cute little church. Must have been a small number of children when it was a school
    Enjoyed reading about it.

  2. Accidentally stumbled across this little church and Chapel. Great history surrounding both buildings. Hope both are restored and treasured as they should be.


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