No. 437 - Little Hampton Methodist Church - 'The Local Correspondent'

Little Hampton, now known as Toiberry, is rural area that lies about 3 kilometres east of Bishopsbourne. The Little Hampton Methodist church is now a house and is situated on the corner of Bishopsbourne and Brookdene Road.

Ivan Badcock, local historian and Bishopsbourne resident, draws on personal recollections and experiences from the 1940’s and 50’s when recounting the history of the church:

“The Little Hampton Wesleyan Methodist Church came into existence in 1887 when the building was moved onto site at the western corner of the Little Hampton farm property. It had been built in 1863 at Maitland on the two thousand two hundred acre property granted to William Pritchard Weston. This land had been let out to a number of small farmers thus establishing a significant population in the area with the need for a church”.

“The church building on being moved was sawn in two with the sections placed on poles and skidded on site drawn by bullocks and then rejoined. A vestry and entrance porch completed the building with a stable erected in the church yard. My father would recall the land for the Church was provided by Edward Murfet, a Methodist and owner of the Little Hampton farm but during the time of the land transfer switched his faith allegiance to that of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination and attempted to stop the Methodists receiving the block, without success”.

“With the Church being well positioned in the district attendance numbers grew and were added to when the nearby Bishopsbourne township Methodist church closed at the end of September 1912 and the Liffey Church also Methodist, located half way between Bishopsbourne and Carrick, was moved during March/April 1909 to Elphinstone Road, Cressy”.

“In my time at the Little Hampton Church from the 1940s the congregation was usually around 40 persons with a further 20 attending the Sunday School. The Sunday School was held at 2.00pm and the Church service an hour later. The church yard was filled with cars and bikes lined the wall of the church”.

“The congregation was active in the community holding various meetings and social occasions. Fund raising to support the work of the Church was regularly undertaken. Over a number of years a food catering service was undertaken at The Longford Motor Racing event. Much of the profit was directed to the establishment of the Glen Rowan Homes for the Aged at Perth”.

“One visitor to the church was a tramp, who around the time of the Second World War, would periodically come for weeks at a time and set up camp in the stable. He would make a bed of grass and cook outside. While there he would walk the several miles to the Liffey River and collect willow wood, out of which he made clothes pegs and sold them around the district. His name is no longer remembered but stories state he dressed in army style clothes and walked with long strides”.

“The Church yard had the reputation of being haunted as lights were claimed as being seen there. Luminous mushrooms grew in the grounds and it was probably these that were seen. Even so it was of sufficient reason for many to be wary when passing by, particularly at night. One regular was a suitor who would pass the spot on his way to and from when visiting his intended at Bishopsbourne. A plan was hatched to jokingly give him a fright: the perpetrator would hide in the deep ditch armed with a red coloured light. As expected the suitor came along on his bicycle, returning home in the dark, and as he drew near the light was switched on, accompanied with loud haunting moaning noises. It is said the rider was terror struck and rapidly moved into top gear to make his escape. No doubt the prankster went home well satisfied”.


“A sad event occurred at the church when 10 year old local school boy, Glen Reid, was electrocuted. On his way home he decided to climb a tree to locate bird nests. When he reached a point near the top of the tree the wet branch on which he was sitting touched high-tension wires. The shock threw the boy’s body back into the tree. Other children were sheltering under the tree from rain when the fatality occurred but were not harmed. The tree with others near the power line were soon felled. With dwindling numbers the church was closed in 1975 and the property sold, becoming a private residence”.


The earlier history of the Little Hampton church, which stretches back 140 years, is glimpsed through reading local newspaper reports about the church’s activities and events. These reveal surprising detail about life and religion at Little Hampton. While isolated by its distance from Launceston, the nearest large town, the community was nevertheless well connected to the wider world.

One way in which the community overcame its isolation was through popular lectures and “magic lantern” shows. Little Hampton’s ‘local correspondent’ for Launceston’s newspapers reported a diverse range of topics presented in the church, ranging from the “South African War” to “Tasmanian Scenery”. In 1898 a touching record of a ‘lantern show’ is described by young Hazel Murfet in a letter she wrote to “Mr Flamingo”, the Examiner’s children’s editor of the column, “Letters from the Little Ones”:

“The Rev. Mr Bradbury took his magic lantern to Little Hampton Church one evening last week, and showed us some pictures of tropical Australia. He also showed us some pretty pieces of coral, and a little girl named Coral who was sitting against me could scarcely keep from laughing. I go to school, and am fond of reading English history. - Your little friend, Hazel Murfet. Hampton Maine, Bishopsbourne”

As well as the ‘lantern shows’ that brought visions of exotic places to Little Hampton, other gatherings at the church similarly enriched rural lives. Little Hampton’s ‘local correspondent’ faithfully recorded ‘entertainments’ such as Mrs Taylor’s dramatic reading of “the pathetic story [of] “The Road to Heaven” (illustrated by lantern slides); a lantern lecture by Reverend Trebilco on Dicken’s “Death of Little Nell” from ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’; and a dialogue entitled “Men’s and Women’s Rights”, delivered by “Misses Prewer and Pitt and Messrs. Pearn and Taylor”.

Little Hampton’s Methodists were also preoccupied with fundraising for foreign missions which was a duty of all Methodist churches, however small or remote. A report from 1907 reveals Little Hampton’s place in this vast network of fundraising. In return the faithful were imbibed with a view of exotic places and people:

“On Monday evening a meeting was held at the Little Hampton Methodist Church on the subject of foreign missions. Rev. F. Delbridge presided, and related some very interesting incidents in connection with mission work in the South Seas. Rev. J. E. Warren also gave a stirring address on the subject of the evening and quoted numerous statistics showing the progress and splendid generosity of the converted Fijians and other native Christians in support of missions. Missionary hymns were sung during the evening. Miss Hall presided it at the organ. The collection was in aid of the foreign mission fund”.

Of all the reports which appear in the Launceston press, those of Sunday school activities and anniversaries received most the ink. Apart from being important occasions, the anniversaries also provided an opportunity for Methodist communities to come together from surrounding churches including Liffey, Bracknell and Bishopsbourne. In 1898 Little Hampton’s Sunday school had 41 scholars and 6 teachers. The local correspondent’s report for that year is standard fare and bursts with pride and detail:

“The Little Hampton Wesleyan Sabbath-school anniversary services were held on Sunday last, when two excellent sermons were preached by Rev. J. R. Bradbury, minister of the circuit… The congregation at both services was large and attentive. Special hymns were selected, and sung creditably by the teachers and children and other willing helpers. The organist of the church and school on the occasion handed over the organ to two of the scholars, Miss Amy M’Queen manipulating the instrument in the morning, while Miss Emily filled a similar position in the evening. On the Monday following, the usual public tea was held, presided over by the ladies of the congregation. The eatables as usual, were of the very best description, this being a special feature in connection with the school right from its commencement. The tables were most tastefully decorated with flowers of the choicest kinds. Those who had not been present at any of the previous gatherings were agreeably surprised at seeing such a splendid tea provided….”

Another feature of church life was the wedding! A report in the Examiner from 1905 makes the claim that the first wedding at Little Hampton church, since it opened three decades earlier, took place in September of that year:

“Recently the Methodist Church, Little Hampton, was the scene of a very pretty wedding, the contracting parties being Miss Amy M'Queen, daughter of Mr. John M'Queen, of Little Hampton, and Mr. Ernest Bosworth, youngest son of Mr. George Bosworth, of Upper Liffey. Rev. W. Beckett, of Longford, performed the ceremony, in the presence of a full church. The choir sang "The Voice that Breathed O'er Eden," and as the bridal party left the church, amid showers of rice and confetti, Miss Hall played the "Wedding March." The bride was handsomely attired in a costume of cream material, with the usual veil and wreath of orange blossoms, and carried a lovely bouquet of white flowers, the gift of her sister, Mrs. A. Bosworth. Miss Ida M'Queen occupied the position of brides maid, and wore a pretty cream costume, with a large white hat, and carried a bouquet of daffodils, with yellow streamers, also the gift of Mrs. A. Bosworth. The bridegroom was supported by Mr. George Spencer as best man. The little church had been prettily decorated for the occasion by the girl friends of the bride, the prevailing tints being white and yellow. Though this little building has been in use for many years, this was the first time a wedding has taken place in it. After the ceremony Mr. and Mrs. M'Queen entertained about 60 guests at a sumptuous lunch at their residence in honour of their daughter's marriage. During the afternoon Rev. W. Beckett took a photograph of the wedding party. A large number of handsome and useful presents were received by the bride, among which may be mentioned a very handsome tea service of 40 pieces, presented by the Little Hampton Methodist Sunday School, which the bride has attended as a scholar or teacher from early childhood. She has also been one of the organists of the church for some years, and her valuable help will be missed in the church work. Mr. and Mrs. Bosworth's future home will be at Bracknell, and they take with them many hearty good wishes for their future welfare”.

Forty years after its closure, Little Hampton Methodist church has been significantly altered to the point that the building no longer resembles a church. But the church’s history lives on in memory and in the words of Little Hampton’s local correspondent.

                                                            *******
Thank you to Ivan Badcock for generously providing notes on the church as well a photograph and the 1934 preaching plan for the Longford and Bracknell Circuit.

                                                            ********
Cover photo - details on original photograph below.

Undated photograph of Little Hampton Church - supplied by Ivan Badcock

Google Street View screenshot of the church in 2010

A Lantern slide 'The Old Curiosity Shop: the wanderings of Little Nell and her grandfather York & Son, 1881 - Perhaps similar or the same series shown at Little Hampton in 1913

A  preaching plan for Little Hampton and other Methodist churches in the district - supplied by Ivan Badcock

Sources:

Ivan Badcock, Unpublished notes, Little Hampton Methodist Church, 14 May 2019

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 5 November 1864, page 5
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 27 October 1877, page 21
Colonist, Saturday 20 October 1888, page 17
Daily Telegraph, Monday 3 October 1892, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Monday 12 November 1894, page 5
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 10 September 1898, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Friday 18 November 1898, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 25 June 1902, page 2
Examiner, Wednesday 27 September 1905, page 7
Examiner, Thursday 19 December 1907, page 7
Examiner, Tuesday 11 August 1908, page 6
Examiner, Friday 8 October 1909, page 5
Examiner, Thursday 24 July 1913, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 27 August 1921, page 4
The Mercury, Thursday 21 June 1934, page 2

 Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource, www.slides.uni.trier.de/slide/index.php?id=5021396. Accessed 6 June 2019.



















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