No. 343 - Henry Reed's Chapel at Mountain Villa - "Very Gently and So Sweetly"

 Wesley Dale, near Chudleigh, is located on land granted to Lieutenant Travers Hartley Vaughan in 1829. In 1837 he sold his property ‘Native Hut Corner’ to Henry Reed, a successful businessman and devout Wesleyan. Reed named the property WesleyDale, after his spiritual leader. He extended the house and built a church. In the 1870’s Reed built a large ‘summer home’ and another church on the property which he named Mountain Villa. His first residence then became known as Old WesleyDale. The church featured in this article is the second built by Henry Reed and is located close to Mountain Villa. 

Henry Reed was one of Tasmania’s leading businessmen, bankers and philanthropists. He was also an ardent evangelist who made a significant contribution to the Christian cause in Australia and in Britain.

Henry Reed was born in Doncaster, England, in 1806. At the age of 20 he sailed for Hobart arriving in April 1827. From Hobart he walked to Launceston, a distance of 120 miles. Reed had a deep religious experience in the early 1830's when a small boat he was rowing overturned on the Tamar River and he almost drowned. Once ashore, he knelt down to give thanks for his deliverance. This incident had an enormous influence on his religious life.

As a businessman he made his fortune through the acquisition of land and the use of convict labour. In 1828 Lieutenant-Governor Arthur granted Reed 640 acres along the Nile River. He soon acquired other properties near Launceston and established businesses in shipping, whaling, sealing and general trading out of Launceston to Hobart, Sydney, New Zealand and London. In 1831 Reed sailed for England where he married his cousin Maria Susanna Grubb.

Reed's enterprises helped the establishment of the new settlement of Melbourne with his loan of £3000 to John Batman. As a Wesleyan and a fervent evangelist he claimed to have preached the first sermon at Melbourne, his congregation being Henry and John Batman, William Buckley and three Sydney Aborigines.

In 1847 Reed returned to England where he remained for the next twenty-six years. He undertook many preaching engagements throughout the north of England and was deeply affected by the widespread poverty he encountered there. Reed's wife died in 1860 and three years later he married Margaret Frith an ardent church worker. After this marriage his philanthropic interest intensified. He became associated with General Booth and helped him with money and advice in the formative years of the Salvation Army.

In 1873, Reed returned to Tasmania settling at Mount Pleasant in Launceston, one of the finest houses in northern Tasmania. He also developed Mountain Villa at Wesley Dale which was completed in 1875.

Reed’s return to Wesley Dale was reported by the Cornwall Chronicle in January 1874. The report reveal’s Reed’s deep religious convictions and his evangelising in the area:

“On Thursday last great excitement was felt by the residents of Chudleigh and its neighbourhood as it became known that Henry Reed, Esq. the proprietor of large estates in this and other portions of the colony, was on that day about paying us a visit, and had signified his intention to hold service in the chapel on his estate of Wesley-dale, which he has not visited for upwards of 26 years. Many who remembered him when he was last in the colony were desirous of again meeting him, and many more who only knew him from report were anxious to see a gentleman whose name is almost a house-hold word among us. At the time appointed the chapel, which is a commodious building, was crowded, many of the visitors coming from a distance The service was conducted by Mr Reed, ably supported by Mrs Reed, who sang very sweetly a hymn from the Pioneer Hymn Book, which has been compiled by Mr Reed, and of which he has brought out large quantities for gratuitous distribution, together with tracts and pamphlets, containing many interesting anecdotes of his own life, many of which Mr Reed narrated to his congregation. The service throughout was most interesting. On the following day a camp meeting was held near the mouth of the Caves, which was attended by upwards of 200 persons from all parts of the district. Three services were held during the day. The weather was delightful, and many persons finding themselves in such proximity to those celebrated caves did not neglect the opportunity of paying them a visit. The services were again conducted by Mr and Mrs Reed, assisted by Mr Cameron, and a distribution of books was again made on a large scale, shewing that Mr Reed, in his good work, spares no expense. It is the intention of Mr Reed again to pay us a visit, when he states that he will make a call at every house in the district. He has also intimated that he will give a piece of land and assist in erecting a school at the Mole Creek, where one is much needed”.

After the completion of Mountain Villa and its chapel, Reed intended to preach from the magnificent new building but his declining health limited this. In 1878, Thomas Spurgeon, a British Baptist preacher and son of the evangelist Charles Haddon Spurgeon, visited Mountain Villa, along with William Gibson of Scone. His account, ‘A Tasmanian Trip’ provides a glimpse of an ageing but still active Reed:

“Not far along the forest path we met a train of bullocks going to the creek for water. Mr Reed asks the lad who drives them how it is he does not come to Sunday-school, tells him that though he can drive bullocks, which by the way, is no easy task, it would serve him better still to be able to read God’s word. He asks him too, to inform his friends that Mr Spurgeon of London, would preach on Sunday next, and they were to be sure and come”.

Spurgeon provides further insight into religious life at Mountain Villa:

“A cold, fresh morning saw about fifteen of us gathered to the seven o’ clock prayer-meeting and so precious was our fellowship with the Lord of the Sabbath that we well-nigh forgot the cold… Neither Mr nor Mrs Reed was there, for the former had spent a bad night and was very unwell. This reminds me of how sweetly the good old gentleman spoke of his declining years and wasting strength. “Yes,” said he, “my time will soon be over, but the Master is very kind: he is taking down the tabernacle very gently, and so sweetly. He first takes away my hearing first, and soon my other powers must follow…”

Evidently, despite his age and poor health, Reed continued supervise the Sunday school. Spurgeon wrote: 

“The Sabbath-school is held in the morning, about fifty children attending and Mr and Mrs Reed superintending. During a forenoon walk we did our best to get a good attendance for the service, and one of our friends rode over to a neighbouring village to invite others to the meeting. An early dinner allowed all in the house to be in readiness for three o’ clock, and at that hour we found the long shed crowded by well-nigh three hundred people. In answer to our prayer Mr Reed was able to attend and we had a time of great blessing… I preached from a favourite theme, Isaiah 51; and afterwards I heard dear old Mr Reed saying to himself, “The good, grand old stuff, - man’s utter helplessness and degradation, God’s sovereign grace, and the glory all the Lord’s. The Master bless him”. Again, as usual, some of the people longed to tell me of their love to father, and how they treasured and read his sermons; but I could not stay long to talk with them, for I had little time in which to rest, and prepare for the evening meeting”.

Two years after Spurgeon’s visit to Mountain Villa, Henry Reed died at his home at Mount Pleasant in Launceston. Not long after Reed’s death, another visitor to Mountain Villa, Theophilus Jones, described the the house and its chapel.

“The chapel referred to stands on the hillside, a little more than half a mile off the old Company's road, and 10 or 15 chains left of Wesley Dale House….The chapel is an appropriately designed, suitably sized building, with fair internal appointments. The walls are, however, bare, and to a small degree cold and uninviting. The spaces between the windows of this country chapel, which also does duty as a Sunday school, offer room for panelling, and were the lilies of the field, the vine, the sheepfold, the sparrows, etc., illustrated, and surrounded by nicely-lettered texts, I don’t think there would be any incongruity. The pleasure to an Englishman, with a love of all resembling the old home scenes, on seeing a congregation of wholesome well-dressed country people gather from all points across the grassy meadows on foot and horseback, or arrive by the lane in vehicles, and gather in handshaking coteries, was refreshing. I don't think in Australia a nicer-looking body of people could be gathered promiscuously than I saw assembled at Chudleigh. More than a hundred adults assembled, and I am told the average attendance is more than this”.

With the passage of time, the Mountain Villa chapel ceased being used and fell into a ruinous state. The photographs taken by Danny Beer in 2010, before the chapel’s restoration, reflect the ‘bare and cold’ appearance described by Theophilus Jones. Although the building would have been used by Henry Reed for only a few years before his death, it is perhaps the most fitting memorial to his last years at Mountain Villa. Like Reed’s own ‘tabernacle’, his chapel decayed “very gently, and so sweetly”.

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©

Photograph: Danny Beer 2010 ©
All photographs provided by Danny Beer - Used with permission. 
Henry Reed. Source: Wiki commons

The Chapel in 1904. Source: Weekly Courier Saturday March 26, 1904

Mountain Villa in 1904. Source: Weekly Courier Saturday March 26, 1904


Cornwall Chronicle, Friday 23 January 1874, page 3

Devon Herald, Wednesday 2 October 1878, page 2
Mercury, Saturday 8 December 1883, page 1
Devon Herald, Saturday 12 October 1878, page 3

Weekly Courier Saturday March 26, 1904

Hudson Fysh, 'Reed, Henry (1806–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 31 January 2019.


  1. Great research and story. What a man Henry Reed was

  2. Congratulations. Your blog is included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

  3. Really great to hear at the chapel has been restored. I was privileged to be shown through the villa and chapel in the late 1990's after the outside of the villa had been restored. Fascinating place and I wished I could have traveled back 100 years!


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