No. 416 - The Salvation Army Hall at Cornwall

The Salvation Army arrived at Tasmania in the early 1880’s and first established bases at Launceston and Hobart. The reception to the ‘Army’ in Tasmania was initially hostile and sometimes even violent. Negative reactions to the Salvation Army were a response to the raucous nature of the ‘Army’s’ gatherings; middle class prejudice towards the working classes who were attracted to its meetings and because of its disruptive recruiting strategies which included street processions and open-air meetings. In Launceston and Hobart it was shadowed by a ‘skeleton army’ that parodied its marches and disrupted its meetings, sometimes violently. In Hobart the leader of the ‘Army’, Captain Gallagher, as well as others, were imprisoned for breaching municipal by-laws but were released after the intervention of the Attorney General.

By the time the Salvation Army arrived at St Helens and Cornwall, the disruptions and antagonism towards it had dissipated and it had become an accepted part of the religious establishment.

Cornwall is a former coal mining town near St Marys in north-east Tasmania. The opening of a mine in 1886 by the Cornwall Coal Mining Company was followed by the establishment of a small settlement which grew to about 200 residents by the turn of the 20th century. By the 1920’s the Methodists and the ‘Church of England’ had established a presence in the township. The Salvation Army drew much of its support from the working classes and it had earlier established ‘barracks’ at mining towns such as Lefroy, Beaconsfield and Mathinna. Its arrival at Cornwall was therefore a natural progression of its activities in other mining centres across the north east of the State.

The first mention of the Salvation Army’s presence at Cornwall comes from a report in the Launceston Examiner in 1922:

“At the Methodist Hall, Cornwall, on Tuesday night a meeting was held by Captain and Mrs Smith of the Salvation Army, from Beaconsfield. There was a good attendance, and an enjoyable meeting was provided. It was intimated at the meeting that the Salvation Army would open permanently in St Marys in January 1923”.

In January 1923 the Salvation Army established a branch at Cornwall and continued to use the Methodist hall until its own ‘Army barracks’ were built and opened in 1924.

The Launceston Examiner published a lengthy report on the opening of the Cornwall ‘barracks’ which also reveals a surprising detail about the hall’s origin:

“For some weeks past Captain Cullen, the officer in charge of the Salvation Army in the St. Marys district, has been working hard to have the hall ready for the official opening, which took place on Saturday before a large attendance. The hall, which is 30 feet by 20 feet, was at one time used for a barracks at Lefroy, but was recently pulled down and brought to Cornwall and reconstructed in its present position by Captain Cullen and helpers. Attached now to the hall is a four-roomed dwelling for the officers' quarters. The South Launceston Band were to be in attendance at the opening, but owing to motor troubles they were late in arriving, and the ceremony was proceeded with without them, with regret".

"Staff Captain J. E. Martin, Staff Captain G. Lynn, Captain Carr, Lieutenant Smith, of Launceston, together with the local members of the Army, officiated at the opening. After a hymn had been sung and a brief speech by Staff Captain Martin, he turned the key in the door, and declared the Army Hall open, amidst applause. Inside the hall a fair was declared open, and the band arriving later, gave a short programme in connection with the fair…. In the evening an open air meeting with the band was held at St. Marys. A concert had been arranged for Saturday night in the new hall, but owing to a counter-attraction it was cancelled. On Sunday afternoon the band gave a concert in the Cornwall reserve, and there was a large attendance. On Sunday night, at the final meeting held in the hall, which was crowded, Captain and Mrs Cullen, who have had charge of the branch here for some time and are leaving, were farewelled…”

The Salvation Army remained at Cornwall for another 40 years before its officers were removed in the late 1960’s. The hall was used for Sunday school and other services until it was sold in the 1990’s and removed to Irish Town (2km east of St Marys) where it was converted into a house.

The Salvation Army Hall at Cornwall (undated) - With thanks to Jim Hass
The Salvation Army Band at Cornwall - Courtesy of Margaret Davis - posted on St Marys Connection July 18, 2018

Sources:

Examiner, Thursday 3 August 1922,  page 8 
Examiner, Wednesday 24 January 1923, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 24 January 1923, page 6
Examiner, Wednesday 29 October 1924, page 9 
The Mercury, Tuesday 4 November 1924,  page 8

Jim Hass (discussion on post) St. Marys Connections, St. Marys, Tasmania. Family, Friends & History.

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