No. 289 - The Former Congregational Church on Davey Street Hobart

The former Congregational Church in Davey Street, Hobart, is a monument to Henry Hopkins (1787–1870), a businessman and philanthropist who was a leading Congregationalist and supporter of the Tasmanian anti-transportation movement. Henry Hopkins and his wife Sarah, were wealthy independent settlers who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land 1822. In response to their efforts, the Reverend Frederick Miller arrived in Hobart from Highbury College in London in 1830 to become the first settled Independent minister in Australia. Due to the financial support of Hopkins, Congregational chapels became widespread in southern Tasmania, but were not as extensively in the north, where Baptist and Methodist communities were more prevalent. In 1837 Hopkin’s funded an Independent chapel in Collin’s Street. When this was outgrown, it was again Hopkins who provided substantial funding for the Congregational church built on Davey Street.

In June1853 The Courier reported on plans for a new Independent Church in Hobart:

“According to announcement a public meeting was held in Collins-street Independent Chapel last evening, the object being to take into consideration the necessity of building a new place of worship, and to appoint a committee to carry out the same. After the meeting had been opened by singing, reading, and prayer, the pastor, the Rev. G. Clarke, proceeded to give a short history of the church from its commencement, of which the following is an outline:-

On the 11th March, 1836, a number of individuals, who had been members of congregational churches in England, met at the house of Mr. Hopkins, the reconstituted themselves into a church, and elected the Rev. J. Nesbit their pastor. For some time they met at a place in Liverpool-street, but that being unsuitable, and the members unable to build a place of worship, Mr. Hopkins himself built the present chapel in Collins-street, which was to be used by the Congregationalists till the people who worshipped there were in a position to build a place for themselves. Mr. Hopkins has therefore for sixteen years placed the chapel at the service of the church gratuitously, the minister’s salary and other incidental expenses being paid by the people. The church and congregation now think the time has arrived that they must rise and build a new chapel more commodious and in a better situation than the present one...”


Funding for the building of the new church was by subscription but again Henry Hopkins was a major benefactor. A site was purchased opposite St David’s cemetery on Davey Street. In July 1856 The Courier reported on the foundation stone-laying ceremony which was led by Henry Hopkins:

“The foundation stone of the new chapel intended for the use of the church and congregation under the pastorate of the Rev. G. Clarke, now worshipping in Collins-street, was laid with the usual ceremonials yesterday, at noon. When completed it will be one of the handsomest edifices of the kind in Hobart Town. The design is from the studio of Messrs. Tiffin and Davidson, of Macquarie-street. The style selected is that of the early English of the days of King John, a style of architecture which prevailed for about two hundred years, and has been revived with considerable success. The facade, when finished, will present the distinguishing characteristics of the style, consisting of a tower and breach spire (95 feet in the clear), with an entrance by one deeply recessed doorway. This opens into a porch, whence springs a staircase turning right and left, giving access to the galleries, while entrance to the body of the building will be obtained by means of side doors leading out of the porch. The chapel will consist of a nave, two aisles, a chancel and vestry; schoolrooms are designed to be built at the back. The roof will be what is called open timbered, consisting entirely of hardwood boarded and slated; and supported by nave piers formed of eight alternated clustered and octagonal columns. The pulpit, formed of cedar handsomely carved, will be placed at the junction of the nave and chancel, which last will be lighted by a three light pointed window filled with stained glass. The exterior will be relieved by projecting buttresses…. The building throughout will be built of freestone, from the quarry at Risdon, and indeed, so far as practicable, colonial material alone is to be used in its construction. The contract has been taken by Mr. James Pretty, and it is expected that the building will be ready for the opening services about July next. The cost will be something under £5000. All the most modern improvements have been adopted by the architects, and introduced. The new chapel will contain no pews, but open benches (cedar) only; and will comprise sittings, in the body and galleries, for about 700 persons. This increased accommodation has long been necessary, the chapel in Collins-street being far too limited for the requirements of the rapidly-increasing congregation and church”. 


The church was completed in a little over a year and was opened and dedicated in August 1857. The Colonial Times reported:

“On Sunday, morning worship, was commenced by singing the anthem, “I will arise.” The minister, the Rev. G Clarke, offered the prayer of dedication. The sermon was preached by the Rev. F Miller minister at Brisbane street chapel, from Psalm xlviii 9, “We have thought of Thy loving kindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple”…. In the afternoon the Rev. W. Nicolson, minister at Chalmers’s Free Church, officiated and preached from Exodus xl. 33, 34, … The minister of the congregation, the Rev. George Clarke, conducted the evening service…” 

The church was designed by Charles Tiffin and William Montgomery Davenport Davidson. This is the first recorded architectural design of Charles Tiffin, who left for mainland Australia during the church's construction. Tiffin became Colonial Architect for the newly-formed colony of Queensland in December 1859. Tiffin went on to design and supervise the construction of over 300 Queensland buildings including the Old Government House, Brisbane, (1859–1860), the Brisbane General Hospital, (1865) and the Main Wing of Queensland Parliament House (1865–1867). William Davidson moved to Queensland in 1861 where he eventually became Surveyor General.

The Davey Street Congregational Church became part of the Uniting Church in the 1970’s. It continued to operate as a church until it closed in the early 21st century. It was sold in 2012. Plans were submitted for a partial demolition and adaptation of the rear of the property for a new hotel and apartments. This development has not proceeded.




Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Source: From http://www.oswa.org.au/WAOrgans/EasternStates/Hobart/HobartCongregational.html (origin of source not indicated)

Real Estate Photo 2012 (realcommercial.com.au)

Real Estate Photo 2012 (realcommercial.com.au)

Henry Hopkins: Archives Office of Tasmania, PH30

The Courier,  Friday 10 June 1853, page 2
Colonial Times, Saturday 16 July, page 3
The Courier, Thursday 31 July 1856, page 2 
Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 6 August 1856, page 5
Colonial Times, Tuesday 18 August 1857, page 
The Mercury Tuesday 5 November 1872  page 3
http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/C/Congregationalism.htm

http://www.pillarsofanation.com.au/architects6.html

https://www.planningalerts.org.au/applications/323006



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