No. 378 - The Cornwall Methodist Hall - "Unfit for Public Worship"

Cornwall is a former coal mining town near St Marys in north-east Tasmania. The Cornwall Coal Mining company began mining operations near St Marys in 1886, which led to the establishment of small settlement numbering about 200 residents by the turn of the 20th century.

Cornwall once had three churches: an Anglican Mission Hall built in 1908*; a Salvation Army hall built in 1924; and a lesser known Methodist Hall which was in use from at least 1905 to 1928. Although the building was available for other purposes, during this period it became commonly known as the Cornwall Methodist Hall.  A report in the Examiner from October 1928 provides valuable information about the hall's origins and history:

“During Monday night, which was wild and stormy, the old hall at Cornwall, which was expected to be blown over for some time, collapsed…. The hall was originally built by the miners of the place a good many years ago. The Government at one time put a piece onto it, and it was used as a State school for some years. The Methodist Church used the building for many years, but the present Methodist minister of the district (Rev. H. Keeble) declared it unfit for public worship. It has done good service during its time, but as the population of the town grew it used to be overcrowded. This was a good advertisement for a new hall, arrangements for which a committee have in hand at present. In one way it is a blessing that it has collapsed”.


In the previous year (1927) the hall narrowly escaped destruction in a fire:

“On Friday night or Saturday morning an attempt was apparently made to burn down the Methodist Hall at Cornwall. At the rear of the building part of the foundation has fallen out, and there were evidences that under the structure portions of dry material had been placed and set on fire. This was discovered by some boys and the material was found to have been only partly burned. Two boards in the floor had also been ruined. The building is insured, but the Cornwall Brass Band has uninsured property in it to the value of £10. The matter is in the hands of the police”.

The earliest reference to the building as the 'Cornwall Methodist Hall' are found in a report from the Daily Telegraph in 1905 which refers to the local ‘concert club’ holding a social in the “Cornwall Methodist school-room”. It therefore seems that the hall was used as a Sunday school and Methodist church from about this time up until the mid 1920's. The hall was used for other purposes including a meeting place for groups such as the Cornwall ‘Men’s Club’ which was using the hall in 1912. From the period of the Great War there are frequent references to Methodist using the hall for fairs and other events for the purpose of raising “church funds”. Apart from the ‘fairs’ there are several references to harvest festivals and regular Methodist services held at the hall.


After the hall was blown down in 1928, a replacement hall was built in 1930 but this no longer had a connection with the Methodist church. It is likely that the Anglican Mission Hall and the Salvation Army Hall proved adequate for the religious needs of the Cornwall community and another Methodist church was located at St Marys only 8km away.

Returning to the Examiner's report from 1928 which refers to the hall's earlier use as a State school, if this building was indeed used as Cornwall's first school room, it is possible that it is the same structure mentioned in the following report from September 1896:

“Narrow Escape. - The Cornwall Colliery state school had a narrow escape of being destroyed by fire on Wednesday. It appears (writes our own correspondent) that the flue or pipe from the stove was a little short, and sparks must have caught the pine lining of the building. Two of the company's men had just come up on the empty set, and rendered assistance in extinguishing the flames. Thanks are due to Mr. Bennsworth, the carpenter here, who worked with a will and took the ridging off. Water was played on the building, and, Mr. Pitt, the head master, notwithstanding his hands were badly burnt early in the fight, stuck manfully to his post on the roof in order to get at the burning part. He had one or two narrow escapes from falling. Thanks to the willing hands who joined in fighting the flames, they were got under before any great damage was done. Two or three hundred shingles and about 10ft. to 15ft. of pine boards will put all right again. The recent heavy rain gave a good supply of water”.

When a new State schoolroom was built at Cornwall in 1901, the old miners hall and school room was taken over by the Methodists and it subsequently became known locally as the “Methodist Hall”. The old Colliery State school and 'Methodist hall' are therefore likely to have been one and the same building. Having survived the two fires, the old Cornwall hall finally met its end in the wild storms of 1928.

* The Anglican Mission Hall was replaced by the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1960.  The Anglican Church and Salvation Army will be featured in future blog entries.

A representation of the Cornwall Methodist Hall - No photograph of the hall seems to exist - this image is only for illustrative purposes - image: Duncan Grant 2019
Cornwall in 1904. Source: The Weekly Courier, 15 October 1904

Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Friday 4 September 1896, page 5
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 17 August 1901, page 8 (Advertising)
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 23 November 1905, page 7
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 13 October 1914, page 8
Examiner, Thursday 1 May 1919, page 8
Examiner, Wednesday 9 July 1919, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 12 July 1919, page 12
Examiner, 24 February 1927, page 8
Examiner, 24 March 1927, page 7
Examiner, Saturday 26 March 1927, page 3
Examiner, Wednesday 24 October 1928, page 6
Examiner, Tuesday 8 April 1930,  page 3  












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