No. 314 - The Pontville Congregational [Uniting] Church - 'The Walls Echo Praise of God'

The first Congregational services at Pontville were led by Reverend Joseph Beazley and held in the local courthouse. In 1854 a small stone church was built which stood on the riverbank opposite the present church and near to the remnants of the original Congregational cemetery. In early 1874 the foundations of this church collapsed and the church’s trustees decided to build a new church on a site on the opposite bank of the Jordan River. While construction was underway, religious services were temporarily held in the district police office.

Construction of the new church began in early 1875 and the foundation stone-laying ceremony took place on 29th March of that year. The Launceston Examiner expressed the hope that the proposed Pontville church would be of a similar quality as the new Congregational Church at Richmond:

“This is as it should be. It is a disgrace to any Christian body to erect unsightly churches when beauty, which is a spring of perpetual satisfaction and pleasure may, at a small additional outlay, be secured”


The Hobart Mercury reported on the stone laying ceremony in some detail: 

"Some time ago the old church was declared unsafe, and not before it was necessary, the foundations having given way, leaving very ominous-looking cracks in the walls. … As soon as it was found that the old church was unserviceable, steps were taken towards the erection of a new building…. The site is an excellent one, and far superior to that upon which the old church is erected. The proposed new building will be of stone, of which there is any quantity near at hand. Its dimensions will be 48ft. by 27ft., which is about one-third larger than the old church, ... The estimated total cost will be about £500….. It had been announced that the ceremony of laying the stone would take place at half-past two. Previous to that a number of congregational friends from Hobart Town arrived, and soon people from the country began to pour in, the very fine weather having induced a great many to come out. There were nearly 200 persons gathered at the site of the new church. The Rev. Bird then addressed the assemblage….  The rev. gentleman, … expressed the hope that the walls of the new church would long echo to the praise of God; that the word of God would be preached there with such power that many would find peace, and that great success would attend the labours of the pastor….”

The building was completed in 15 months and was opened on June 8th 1876 by Reverend Stafford Bird, minister in charge of the Davey Street Congregational Church in Hobart and assisted by Reverend J.W. Shipphird, the local minister. The church was built on land donated by Mr. H. Finlay and was designed by Mr. John Paul. Soon after the new church was opened the old building was demolished and most of the stone was used to construct a minister's residence. 

The Reverend Shippird served the Pontville Congregational Church for 40 years. He arrived in Tasmania in 1858 under the auspices of the Colonial Missionary Society and was 'given charge' over congregations at Bagdad, Hunting Ground, Tea Tree and Broadmarsh for most of that time.  Travelling the district on horseback almost cost Shippird his life in 1873 while:

"...Riding through the bush between Broad Marsh and Bagdad, missed his road and wandered to the edge of some

steep rocks. The horse fell and was killed, but Mr Shipphird escaped with a few bruises".

In 1977 the Pontville Congregational Church joined the Uniting Church as part of the Claremont Parish which incorporated churches in the Bagdad, Brighton and Broadmarsh district. In the early 2000’s the church was deconsecrated and sold for private development. It is now the premises for the Twelve Stones Restaurant.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Ray White Real Estate

Photograph: Ray White Real Estate

Photograph: Ray White Real Estate

Photograph: Ray White Real Estate

Sources:
The Tasmanian, Saturday 24 May 1873, page 6
The Tasmanian, Saturday 20 March 1875, page 9
The Weekly Examiner, Saturday 27 March 1875, page 3
The Mercury, Tuesday 30 March 1875, page 2
Cornwall Chronicle, Friday 9 April 1875, page 3
The Tasmanian, Saturday 10 April 1875, page 5
The Mercury, Friday 9 June 1876, page 2
The Tasmanian Tribune, Friday 9 June 1876, page 2
The Mercury, Monday 26 February 1900, page 2
The Mercury, Friday 29 March 1935, page 12

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

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