No. 299 - The Lottah Methodist Church - "A Remarkable Fact About Lottah"

There are now few signs of Lottah’s existence. Tin was discovered in Lottah in about 1875. The Anchor Mine became operational in 1880 and the township of Lottah developed around the mine. At its peak Lottah had several hundred residents, a school, two hotels, two churches and a football club.

In 1903, the correspondent for the Hobart Mercury provided a vivid snapshot of the town:

“This is a township, three miles from Gould's Country, and situated 1,500ft above the sea level. It has a population of about 500 or 600, but if the Anchor tin mine was to cease working, the number of inhabitants would decrease to about 100. The township owes its existence to the mine, for the country round is mountainous, and only suitable for grazing cattle, though in one or two places small patches could be cultivated, but not without a good deal of difficulty. There is a little dairying carried on, but just about sufficient to meet local demands. Therefore, the resources of the locality are limited, and, beyond mining operations, there is little to record….

Lottah township is composed of many cottages, the majority of which are small, and tenanted mostly by miners. Being in such a high elevation, the drainage of the township is good, and, in consequence, fevers and such like are of rare occurrence. The two hotels, the Lottah and Jubilee, are licensed by Messrs. A Woolley and G. Macmichael respectively, whilst the general store of Messrs J C. Macmichael and Co. is the leading establishment in that line. The post office, in charge of Mrs Charlesworth, is close to the Lottah Hotel, whilst on the hill beyond the Jubilee Hotel is the new police station, a rather handsome building. The general place for holding entertainments, etc., is in a building which was used as a tin shed in connection with the Anchor mine. It is close to the mining manager's residence, and 35 chains from the post office. A remarkable fact about Lottah is that it does not possess a church of any denomination, which is rather singular for such an old place. The spiritual welfare of the people, however, is not neglected, as the State School building is used for holding divine service….”


While Lottah was without a church; Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists were active and involved in fundraising to construct places of worship for their congregations. In 1906 the Methodists were the first to succeed in erecting a church. The Launceston Examiner reported on its opening in October 1906:

“The new Methodist Church which has just lately been erected here, and which is the only church in the township, was opened last Sunday by the Rev. Gilbert E. Moore. Three services were held – at 11am, 3pm, and 7.30pm – good congregations at each service. In the evening the church was crowded out. … The afternoon service took the form of a children’s service. Mr Moore took for his subject a train, and with a blackboard and easel (kindly lent by Mr. Ferguson, our respected state school teacher) managed to engage the attention of the children for the allotted time…”

The Examiner also reported on a fundraising concert held the following day. This report provides some insight into the communities debate about establishing a church in the town:

“The concert in connection with the opening of the Methodist Church was held on Monday night… in the Anchor Hall, when there was a crowded house, Mr. J.B. Lewis (manager of the Anchor mine) being in the chair…. He said it was 12 months ago since the first meeting was held regarding building a church, and it was at first thought advisable to build a union church for all denominations, but on it being shown that union churches often caused strife, it was decided to build a Methodist Church, as it had a prior claim, having looked after the wants of the district when no other denominations came near….”

A year after its opening the Daily Telegraph reported that the church had acquired a bell and a belfry:


"On Sunday the Rev. Mr Moore presided over the anniversary services at the Methodist church, which now possesses the orthodox bell duly set up in a proper belfry. It must be remembered that for many years Lottah, for a fairly important township, was unique in that it was a churchless settlement, hence the introduction of the church bell seems worthy of remark".

A collapse in the price of tin in 1913 marked the beginning of the end of Lottah which was entirely dependent on the Anchor Mine. The decline of the town was swift. In 1920 the Daily Telegraph reported:

“Several more houses here have recently been sold, and will shortly be removed. Two churches, one hotel, and the well-established Post Office, however, still remain intact. They will doubtless, weather the depression until such time as there is a turn in the tide of local affairs”

There was to be no turning of the tide as is evident in 1923 when pressure mounted to close and remove Lottah’s Methodist church. The Daily Telegraph reported:

“The proposal to remove the Methodist Church from Lottah to Winnaleah is certainly not appreciated by the few remaining members of that church who have in mind the many financial difficulties attached to its first establishment”.

For reasons unknown, the church was not moved to Winnaleah but its days were numbered. In November 1930 a tender was advertised to remove the church to nearby Weldborough. Here it was reconstructed to become St Peter’s Anglican Church. The church’s reincarnation as St Peter’s will be the subject of a follow-up blog entry.


An undated photograph of the Lottah Methodist church in its new location at Weldborough: Source - St Helen's History Room.

An undated postcard of Lottah - No churches seem to be visible

The North East Advertiser, Tuesday 11 November 1930

Sources:

The Mercury, Thursday 4 June 1903, page 6
The Examiner, Wednesday 10 October 1906, page 3
The Examiner, Thursday 11 October 1906, page 3
Daily Telegraph,Friday 11 October 1907, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 25 August 1920, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Friday 27 April 1923, page 8
The North East Advertiser, Tuesday 11 November 1930, page 2

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-16/the-mining-history-of-lottah-in-north-west-tasmania/7250248

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