No. 363 - The Rosevale Congregational Church - "Sheep in the Wilderness"

Rosevale is a small rural settlement about 25km west of Launceston. Rosevale, previously known as Bridgenorth, was renamed in honour of local landholder, James Rose. The establishment of the 'Bridgenorth State school' some three or four miles away gave rise to some confusion prompting the adoption of the name Rosevale. James Rose arrived in Tasmania in 1854 to work for Robert Quayle Kermode of Mona Vale. He later left his service and purchased 200 acres of land at ’Bridgenorth’.

A Congregational church was opened at Rosevale on the 24th May 1870. The opening service was reported in the Cornwall Chronicle:

“On Tuesday last the Rev W. Law formally opened the very neat chapel recently erected at Bridgenorth …For the site of this much-required edifice, Mr Rose made over an acre of land, and the chapel has been erected by the subscriptions of the residents, to be held in trust in connection with the Congregational Union. There was a large attendance at the opening, the day being a general holiday in honor of the Queen’s Birthday. …After service a substantial luncheon, provided by the congregation, was served up in a tasteful manner. To this this between sixty and seventy persons sat down, and at the close addresses were delivered by the Rev. W. Law, Messrs. E. West, Joyce, and Pearl. Mr Law, during his address, intimated that although the chapel was nominally in connection with the Congregational body, it would be cheerfully placed at the disposal of ministers of other denominations when they wished to hold services in it. The chapel is a neat structure of wood, built with a view to future enlargement when the population of that portion of the West Tamar increases. So far the chapel has been completed and the erection paid for. Henry Hopkins, Esq., has liberally contributed £6 to the chapel, which is to be appropriated to the purchase of a pulpit, and this will probably be placed in its position next week. A new porch is also to be built, which will greatly add to the warmth of the chapel. During the week the building is used for school purposes, under the conduct of Mr Marshall. A Sabbath School has also been formed, and at the first attendance on Sunday last, 36 children were present".

In March 1871, the Annual Meeting of the Congregational Union and Mission of Tasmania, a voluntary association of all the Congregational Churches in the Colony, reported on the progress of the Rosevale church a year after the opening. The report provides some useful information about the church as well as the local community:

“…A small chapel at Bridgenorth, … was opened for public worship by the Rev. W. Law. This locality (now called Rosevale) is on the West Tamar, some sixteen miles from Launceston, in the midst of a thickly timbered country. It is almost impossible to conceive of the spiritual and intellectual destitution that had previously prevailed there. Many of the young folks had grown up in great ignorance, and some of the people stated that they had not seen a minister of God for several years. They were delighted to have an opportunity of assembling together for public worship as they had been accustomed to do in other places, and it was gratifying to see them working with willing hands and cheerful hearts in cutting down the scrub in various directions so as to clear the approaches to the sanctuary. The chapel has been opened free of debts, and services have since been held regularly, the congregations averaging about seventy persons... A Sunday-school is also held at Bridgenorth, with the attendance of of over forty children….attendance at the Sunday services has increased to such an extent that already it has been found necessary to enlarge the chapel. Arrangements have been made for this purpose, and with very little aid from this Union the required funds have been provided by the residents, each one - even to the smallest children - being anxious to contribute something towards the work… The sheep in the wilderness have a special claim upon the sympathy and help of the church. The people have manifested a spirit of noble self-reliance worthy of praise and imitation…”.

In 1872 a report in the Weekly Examiner reveals that the chapel was indeed extended increasing its length from twenty to thirty feet.

The Congregation Union Report of 1878 notes that the Rosevale church had faced twin challenges in that year:

“At Rosevale the attendance has been much interfered with during the past year by the unsual prevalence of sickness in the district. For some weeks services were altogether omitted, and Sunday and day schools given up the same time. The religious dissensions caused by the intrusions of the “Evangelists” seem to be dying out”.

The Wesleyans or Primitive Methodists never managed to establish a church at Rosevale although an Anglican church was built in 1924. The Congregational church was used as a State school up to 1896 and the last reported anniversary service took place in 1890. The precise location of the church is not known but it must have been in close vicinity of Church Lane which lies about a kilometre north of the former Rosevale Anglican church. (see map below)  A photograph of the church is held by the Archives Office in Hobart and it is possible that remnants of the building may still exist at Rosevale. The question of the buildings fate and original location is still to be followed up and a photograph of the church will added once it is made available. 

A Google Earth image showing the location of Rosevale Church Lane.  


Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 28 May 1870, page 6
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 25 March 1871, page 2
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 30 March 1972, page 6
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 10 January 1874, page 13
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 16 March 1878, page 15
The Mercury, Saturday 10 November 1883,  page 2 
The Colonist, Saturday 4 June 1990, page 25
Daily Telegraph, Monday 1 May 1905, page 3

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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