No. 403 - The Ellesmere Presbyterian Church [Scottsdale]

The Presbyterian church at Scottsdale was one of three of the town’s churches that were initially established at Ellesmere, a settlement which lies about a mile north of the Tasman Highway.  Over a period of two or three decades the population centre of the settlement shifted from Ellesmere towards ‘Tucker’s Corner’ which was renamed Scottsdale by the 1890’s.

The first church built at Ellesmere was the Union Church which was established in 1863. This was frequented by ministers from different denominations including the Wesleyan Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans. However, the spirit of religious harmony began to wain in mid 1870’s after the arrival of William Brown and Charles Perrin, two evangelical preachers, representing the Plymouth Brethren. Subsequently a division in the congregation resulted in a group breaking away from the Union Chapel in 1876 and establishing a Gospel Hall.

A second schism occurred in 1878 when a group supporting the Wesleyan minister broke away and built a Methodist church and parsonage at Ellesmere.  In the same year a congregation under the Free Presbyterian church was formed. In 1881 the Presbyterians also departed the Union Chapel and opened their own church at Ellesmere. By this time the locals referred to the Union Chapel as “the hive” and following the Presbyterian’s departure, a local wag remarked: “I see the old Union Chapel has swarmed again”.  

Land for the new Presbyterian church was purchased at a site on the corner of George and Reid streets. The building was constructed in late 1881 and opened for its first service in January 1882.  The opening service was reported by the Hobart Mercury and as was the practice of local correspondents of that time, the report provides substantial detail about the church’s appearance:

“The opening services of the Free Presbyterian Church, Ellesmere, took place on tho 15th inst, when two appropriate sermons were preached by the Rev. James Lindsay, of Launceston,… This neat church, which has a very attractive external appearance, is a plain substantial building of wood, in the Gothic style, and is centrally situated in the small township of Ellesmere, contiguous to the courthouse, police station, Ellesmere Hotel, and Wesleyan Church. The internalmeasurement is 21ft. 6in. x 40ft., and from floor to ceiling 21ft; the sitting accommodation consists of comfortable pews and bench seats, constructed of blackwood, and capable of comfortably seating 140 persons. The preaching department consists of a capacious platform, raised to a convenient height with a neatly finished back of blackwood, and is furnished with a reading desk, cushion, and drapery of baize. The front and side windows have obscured glass margins, with stained glass centres; the ceiling is being painted white; ventilators blue and yellow; walls, pale blue, with buff mouldings; the wainscoting being a dark lively stone colour; the facings of the windows being buff, with white bars.  The majority of the sittings are placed in the body, of the church, with an aisle on either side of the building. The main entrance to the building is by a covered side porch; there are also two doors at the back, one leading directly into the church from the outside, the other from a commodious vestry attached. The contractor is Mr. Alex Gill, of Scottsdale, and the entire cost of the building when completed will be about £380; of this sum £300 have been raised by various means”.

The occasion was supported by the entire community. The Wesleyan church was closed for the day (a Sunday) so that its members could attend the opening services.

In 1885 a manse and school-room were built alongside the church. Under the leadership of Reverend George Mather and Reverend Thomas Cunningham, the Ellesmere church became the centre of Presbyterianism in the district with new churches established at Springfield, Nabowla and Legerwood.

As Scottsdale's population centre shifted away from Ellesmere the Presbyterians considered moving the church to a more convenient site. In March 1917 a decision was made:

"After various questions had been put by the moderator, and answered by the minister, session, board of management, and the congregation, it was moved and seconded - "That for the best interests, both secular and spiritual, of the Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, the present church be moved to the township." This was freely discussed, and on being out to the vote the congregation decided on the removal".

Therefore, before the end of the Great War, the church was removed from Ellesmere by a team of bullocks to a new site further down George Street closer to the town centre. It remained at this site until the 1980’s when it was demolished and replaced by a new building. The story of the new Presbyterian church will form the subject of a second blog entry.

The church at the Ellesmere site in 1909. Source: The Tasmanian Mail

The church at the new site on George Street. Source: Weekly Courier


Tasmanian, Saturday 1 June 1878, page 10
Launceston Examiner, Friday 20 January 1882, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 21 January 1882, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Friday 12 June 1885, page 3
The Tasmanian Mail, January 23 1909, page 19
North Eastern Advertiser, Friday 28 January 1910, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 31 March 1917,  page 9 
North Eastern Advertiser, Friday November 30 1917, page 2
The Weekly Courier, April 6, 1922.
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 2 February 1923, page 3
Examiner, Thursday 1 November 1923, page 2
Examiner, Saturday 24 December 1927, page 14
Mercury, Monday 27 July 1936, page 2


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