No. 420 - The First Baptist Chapel at Deloraine

Baptists first appeared in Tasmania in 1834 with the arrival of Reverend Henry Dowling, who had been pastor of the Colchester Particular Baptist Church in England. Based in the north, Dowling became pastor of the Launceston York Street Chapel, which opened in December 1840.

The Baptists first appeared in Deloraine in the late 1850’s led by Reverend Jesse Pullen who preached from a building in West Barrack Street. Baptist activity seems to have subsequently petered out until a revival in 1879 which was financed by William Gibson of Perth.

There is very little information about the Barrack Street chapel but it is believed that the first service took place in a purpose built building on 18 September 1859. Reverend Pullen was active in Deloraine in the early 1860’s as can be determined by Baptist marriage records. I have found only two specific references to the chapel in the newspaper record. The first is a report from 1869 when the chapel was used for a meeting of the independent Order of Rechabites:

“The brethren met at their tent room (Baptist Chapel), Barrack-street, at about 11 o’clock in the forenoon….Many of the brethren from the neighbouring Tent at Westbury were present, to swell the ranks and add to the pageantry of the demonstration”.

The second reference from 1870 is more important because it reveals that the chapel had been closed for some time:

“The Rev. M. Bambier, of Launceston, has recently preached at the Baptist Chapel, Deloraine, two very powerful and heart searching sermons. The object of the rev. gentleman's visit was to endeavour to keep together the few members of that denomination, whose place of worship has been closed for a considerable time, there not having been any recognized officiating minister”.

It is not known if the chapel was used again after Reverend Bambier’s visit in 1870 or if it was reopened in the period before the Baptist revival at Deloraine in the late 1870’s. It would have almost certainly been abandoned after the opening of the Baptist Tabernacle on West Parade in 1880. While the historical record for the ‘Barrack Street” chapel is thin, it is nevertheless an extremely important building as it represents one of the earliest surviving places of worship in Deloraine and especially as it has apparently changed little in its exterior appearance since it was built 160 years ago.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Sources:

Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 27 November 1869, page 6
The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 8 October 1870, page 11
Western Tiers, Friday 24 August 1984, page 3

http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/B/Baptist%20Churches.htm

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