No. 262 - The Salvation Army Hall at Lilydale - 'The Larrikins of Lilydale'

The Salvation Army’s presence at Lilydale began in 1885 with a meeting held on the old school ground. Seven members of the ‘Army’ in Launceston walked to Lilydale to attend the open-air gathering.

The first Salvation Army officer at Lilydale, Captain G. Woods, was appointed in 1889. The Lilydale correspondent for the Launceston Examiner was not enthusiastic about this development:

“We have Captain Woods of the Salvation Army stationed here, but I am certain that the district is not in a position to keep all these denominations; in fact, it is as much as we can do to keep one properly”.

The Salvation Army soon gained a significant following in the township. Meetings were held in a building used by the Good Templars’ Lodge that was in a paddock owned by Mr Ludwig Bardenhagen. Later this building was enlarged and moved to the main road. In 1915 a new hall was erected on land donated by Ludwig Bardenhagen, who also supported the Army financially and provided a cottage, rent free, for the officers and supplied them with meals.

The success of the ‘Army’ was due in large part to the enthusiasm of it members. At the 50th Jubilee of Salvation Army in 1939, the work of Captain Tindall was recalled:

“One of the well remembered officers of the early days was Captain Zachariah Tindall. Three week night meetings were held, and in between them Captain Tindall covered the surrounding districts on foot. He would walk to Lefroy in five hours, selling the “War Cry” en route. On Tuesdays he would walk over Brown Mountain, visiting as far as three miles beyond Underwood and return in time for the evening meeting. On Sunday’s, accompanied by members of the local corps, he would visit Lisle, travelling the eight miles through the bush across the shoulder of Mount Arthur on foot…”

The Army seemed to enjoy popular support in Lilydale and did not initially attract the 'larrikin element' or the ‘skeleton army’ to the same extent as the Salvationists in Launceston, who were terrorised with rock throwing and the verbal and physical assaults of its members. In 1888 the Daily Telegraph reported on a meeting addressed by Captain Fladger noting that:

“No interruption of any kind occurred, for we have no larrikins amongst our youth – to the credit of the district – and singing went in first-class style”.

But this was perhaps wishful thinking and the larrikins of Lilydale soon made an appearance although it was not only the Salvation Army that was targeted. In 1894 a series of letters published in the Daily Telegraph complained of the larrikin element in the township. ‘Old Observer” wrote:

“It has been my intention for some considerable time past to draw the attention of the authorities to the disgraceful conduct of the larrikins in this district on Sunday, particularly after evening services. Some time ago a disgraceful fight took place between two of these larrikins on a Sunday night in Mr F. Proctor’s paddock, and it is nothing unusual for a band of these larrikins to be congregated about the Salvation Army Barracks, and very often making use of foul language to passers by; and this is growing rapidly, as we are favoured with a visit from the Karoola larrikins two or three times a week, and especially on Sundays…”

Another letter from”A.W.” suggested:

“Our policeman spends an hour or two on Sunday evenings patrolling that part of the street between the Mechanics’ Hall and Bardenhagen’s store, dispersing the groups which almost invariably are to be found between these two points, and especially in front of the S.A. Barracks”.

Another correspondent took exception to the accusation of the larrikins being Lilydale boys:

“I consider the whole of this correspondence a puerile and abortive attempt to damage the good name of Lilydale…. I must say, [in] the last 27 years, [I] have failed to see any misbehaviour on the part of the young men, and as stated before, they are the lads from Karoola, [and] Underwood…”

This assertion provoked a response from two letter writers; “Peregrination” and “Pro Bono Publico”:

“…I am confident that they will prove to be the bona fide youths of Lilydale, and be the means of removing the false imputations and vilifications…. so uncharitably levelled at the Karoola young men…”


“… I am thoroughly conversant with the Karoola folk, and I can unhesitatingly state that Karoola is, and always was, as free from larrikinism as any part of the colony”.

Whether the larrikins were from Lilydale, Karoola, Underwood or elsewhere, the problem of the ‘larrikin element’ continued for some time. In 1901 the Daily Telegraph reported:

“It is nearly time that something was done to stop the larrikinism that is being a nuisance. On Sunday evening, especially, it is always noticeable, but just now, when the constable is away, it is beyond a joke. Last Sunday night a number of young fellows killed some fowls that were roosting in a hedge. On being moved away by a resident, they went to the Salvation Army Barracks, throwing stones on the roof, and as a wind-up placed a log of wood against the door, so that anyone opening it from the inside would receive the full force of the blow. Shortly afterwards they had to be chased away from the Presbyterian Church by one of the managers. It is a pity an example cannot be made of them. The State school gate is often taken off its hinges and carried away…”

And again in 1913 a report in the Telegraph complained that:

“The larrikins seem to be very much in evidence lately. Battens are pulled off fences (including the churches), … On Sunday evening, when the Salvation Army was having an open-air meeting, a stone was thrown which damaged the drum…”

The experience of larrikinism at Lilydale was in fact no different from most country towns and was certainly no worse than Launceston where the Salvation Army had borne the brunt of intimidation against non-conformists by groups of youths. Despite these disturbances, the Salvationists at Lilydale had a popular following and enjoyed the support of the broader community. 

 By 1915, the growth of the ‘Army’ resulted in the construction of a new meeting hall in the town. The opening ceremony was reported by the Launceston Examiner:

“The members of the Salvation Army in Lilydale, assisted by a large number of residents, tendered to Commissioner Hay and staff a most hearty and enthusiastic welcome yesterday. The occasion was the opening of a new hall, recently built by the Salvation Army for the furtherance of their work in this large district. The building is a fine structure, 29 by 40, capable of seating 150 persons”.

The Salvation Army thrived at Lilydale and the 50th and 60th jubilees were celebrated and reported in the Examiner in 1939 and 1949. After the war, the Salvation Army experienced declining support and closures of citadels and halls occurred in most small towns across Tasmania and Lilydale was no exception.

Unfortunately the old hall was lost in a fire in 2012. It had been removed from its site on the main road to make way for a public swimming pool.  It was relocated at Bardenhagen’s sawmill where it was used as an office and shed. It was here that it was destroyed in a massive blaze at the mill in 2012. An NBN tower now stands on the spot where the old hall was last located. Although there is no longer any visible presence of the ‘Army’ in Lilydale, its long association with the town is an important part of its social and religious history.

Undated photograph - possibly just before the hall was moved to make way for the Lilydale swimming pool. sourced from Heritage Lilydale Facebook Page - original source not known)

The Salvation Army Hall c1915 (sourced from Heritage Lilydale Facebook Page - original source not known)

The hall in the centre right of the photograph, on Lilydale Main Road (sourced from Heritage Lilydale Facebook Page - original source not known)


Daily Telegraph, Monday 17 September 1888, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 12 October 1889, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Monday 5 February 1894, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 13 February 1894, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 21 February 1894, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 1 March 1894, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 14 March 1894, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 21 August 1913, page 7
Examiner, 23 January 1915, page 10
Examiner, Saturday 6 February 1915, page 8
Examiner, Friday 21 July 1939, page 4
Mercury, Friday 21 July 1939, page 7
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 21 July 1939, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 25 July 1939, page 5
Examiner, Wednesday 2 November 1949, page 3 (Dorothea Gibbins) (Heritage Lilydale)


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