No. 298 - The Former Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Glenorchy - 'An Overlooked Treasure'

The unassuming building situated on the corner of Chapel Street in Glenorchy deserves recognition for its historical significance. Established in 1831, it is one of the oldest churches in Tasmania. The area around Chapel Street was originally known as O’Brien’s Bridge, an early settlement just outside Hobart. It is named after Thomas O’Brien, who received a land grant in the area. Born in Ireland, O'Brien was also a Norfolk Islander and a marine in the First Fleet before moving to Van Dieman's Land in 1808.

The first Methodist sermon in Tasmania was preached in Hobart in 1820 by Benjamin Carvosso. Between 1825 and 1830 Carvosso served as the first minister of the Wesleyan Church in Hobart. The O’Brien Bridge Chapel was established during Carvosso’s ministry in Hobart and is one of the earliest Wesleyan Methodist churches built in Van Dieman’s Land.

There is very little information about the chapel. According to Max Stansall, land for the church was donated by James O’ Brien and the foundation stone was laid on 1st January 1830 with Reverend Carvosso delivering a sermon.

The chapel opened on New Year’s Day 1831. A Presbyterian minister, Reverend Macarthur, preached on this occasion and a collection was taken “towards defraying the expenses incurred in building the Chapel”.

In 1910 the old chapel was replaced by a new Methodist church on Glenorchy Main Road. The O’ Brien’s Bridge Chapel continued to be used as a Sunday school for some time before it was eventually closed. The chapel now houses a tearoom and craft shop but the building appears to have changed little from the photograph taken of it after the turn of the 19th century. The small cemetery that was situated alongside the building now lies under Glenorchy Main Road and Chapel Street which was widened some time after the 1950’s.

While it is a miracle that the building has survived intact, it is a pity that it has not received a more prominence place in Tasmania’s history.


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 1 January 1831

Undated photograph (1900-1920) LINC Tasmania NS392-1-783

Photo dated 1953: Queen Victoria Museum 1983:P:1563

Sources:

The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 1 January 1831, page 3

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.

https://www.australianhistoryresearch.info/thomas-obrien-marine-private-32nd-portsmouth-company-1788-susannah-mortimore-convict-lady-juliana-1790/

http://www.churchhistories.net.au/denominations/

http://www.tasmanianwarcasualties.com/gravesofts%20split/Church%20History/Church%20History/Methodist%20Glenorchy.htm

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