No. 463 - Stanford Baptist Chapel - "In All Its Fury"

The Stanford* Baptist chapel only existed for a very short time with a life of only 14 months. It was built in memory of Mary Jordan, who died in March 1880. The church opened for services in early 1881 and was the first Baptist place of worship in ‘Upper Liffey’, an area located around the junction of the Liffey and Bracknell Roads. Another Baptist chapel had earlier opened at nearby Blackwood Creek in 1880 which was similar to the Liffey area in that it was populated by poor farmers and timber workers.

In October 1880 an anonymous correspondent to the Launceston Examiner, who wrote under the pseudonym “W.R.”, made a plea for help for the Baptist “Bush Missions” in the Blackwood Creek and Liffey region. The writer was most likely Mr William Rose, a missionary and member of the Baptist Church at Perth. The letter, which is reproduced here in full, provides a vivid picture of rural poverty and the missionary work of the Baptists. The letter also reveals information about progress made by the newly opened Blackwood Creek church as well as plans for the new church on the ‘Stanford Estate’ at Liffey:

“Sir, - With no desire to bring my name before your readers, I will venture to say a word relative to Home Missions, having been led under Divine Providence to engage in this work to some extent during the last two years. I have found many homes in the bush unvisited by a Christian minister, and very many children uneducated. Our Mission has been principally confined to Brumby's Bush [Blackwood Creek], and latterly to the Upper Liffey, near Mountain Vale. The former place was without a school or place of worship and the Lord's Day neglected. Amid many discouragements, a public school has been established, and a Sunday-school, and we have visits from various Church ministers, principally from the Baptist Church of Perth. A place of worship, creditable to any country district, is almost completed, at a cost of over £100”.

Turning to the Upper Liffey area, “W.R.” wrote:

“As regards the support of the Mission referred to, it has been inadequate to the need, but with the Divine blessing, and the assistance of friends, we have been able to continue the work up to the present, and thus extend our Mission to the Upper Liffey, near Bracknell, where we hold regular Gospel meetings. For the children, numbering over 30, a school is much wanted, which it is hoped will soon be supplied, the more readily owing to the liberal provision made by the Government, viz., to erect school premises where needed without the usual one-third local contribution, so hard to be obtained amongst poor people. Our desire is still to continue in the good work, but in order that we may “owe no man anything,” support is needed from Christian philanthropists, and lovers of Home Missions. Contributions of books, tracts, or cash will be thankfully received. We often meet with cases where left-off clothing would be esteemed a great boon by our poorer friends in the bush. Parcels addressed “Christian Mission, Upper Liffey, Bracknell," will be promptly acknowledged. Last, but not least in the doings of the Mission, a place of worship is to be erected on the Stanford estate, about three miles from Mountain Vale, also a Mission residence adjacent. The principal part of the work will be done by one family, the Messrs. Jordan, who were among the early settlers. The old patriarch of the family and his beloved wife, both over 70, verging upon 80 years, are still living, and the principal promoters of the good work, other members of the family heartily concurring, by taking the axe and saw into the bush to prepare timber for the work. Perhaps some of your Christian readers may desire to strengthen their hands by their means, and all by their prayers. I desire lastly to be of use in the education of two fine lads in one family, but both are deaf and dumb. Will some of your readers furnish me with information as to the easiest mode of communicating instruction to them. I understand there is not an institution in the colony for the training of such children, and the parents being poor it is impossible to educate them in the other colonies. Trusting you will find space in your valuable journal for this rather lengthy report of Bush Missions in Tasmania, I am yours obediently, Upper Liffey, Oct. 28. W. R.”

The ‘axe wielding’ Jordan family referred to in ‘W.R’s’ letter had in fact been moved to support the Baptist cause for a church at Liffey following the death of Mary Jordan; their beloved daughter and sister. The foundation stone of the Stanford chapel was laid in a ceremony reported by the Launceston Examiner:

“On Thursday, 17th March, we had a very social gathering on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the Baptist Chapel. A goodly company assembled on a portion of the Stanford estate to witness the usual ceremony. After singing a hymn, Rev. R. Williamson, of Perth, offered prayer. After some introductory remarks by Mr W. Ross, and the reading of a document containing a short memoir of the late Miss Mary Jordan, in whose memory the land, was given, and the building thereon was to stand, Mr Jordan (her father) adjusted the stone, and pronounced it well and truly laid. A hymn was sung, and Rev. R. Williamson gave an earnest and practical address, which was listened to with great attention. The benediction was then pronounced, and the party dispersed to partake of tea prepared by the gentler sex. After the party had regaled themselves with tea cake, sandwiches, etc., the room was cleared to get the temporary seats adjusted for the impromptu public meeting. Mr W. Rose, after singing and prayer, in a short address introduced the Rev. R. Williamson. He again secured the attention of the audience, setting forth as he does the simple story of the cross, in his usual plain and lucid manner. He having become a favourite amongst us, owing to his homely, kind, and earnest manner of putting the truth, already fruits of his labour are manifested. The place of worship about to be erected is to be vested in trustees a good portion of the labour and material will be found by the Messrs. Jordan, and we have no doubt that, in answer to prayer and divine guidance, the work will not lack for anything needed for its speedy completion. The land on which the chapel is to be built is the gift of Mr John Jordan, but a similar portion of land adjoining is the gift of Mr Jordan, son., as a burial ground. When all is completed and fenced in, it will be a pleasant spot”.

The church was completed in a matter of months and was officially opened in August 1881. The Examiner once again provides a report:

“The opening services of the Stanford Baptist Chapel were conducted by Rev. R. Williamson, of Perth, on Sunday, 21st inst. The chapel was filled by an attentive audience. In the afternoon the building was crowded. On Monday a luncheon was provided by the Messrs Jordan, to which a goodly number sat down. Subsequently a public meeting was held. Mr W. Ross, resident missionary, presided. After singing the "Old Hundredth" prayers were offered up by Pastor M'Cullough, of Longford Tabernacle. Miss Bosworth recited with feeling a piece of poetry dedicated to the memory of a beloved daughter, now deceased, of Mr Thos. Jordan, son.. The Chairman, in a short address, referred to the object of the gathering, making touching reference to the departed sister, believing it was an answer mainly to her prayers that had brought about such happy gatherings that had assembled that and the preceding day. Her father and mother, with two brothers and sisters having erected a neat little place of worship as a tribute to her memory. Pastor M'Cullough gave an earnest and practical address, … Another recitation was given by Miss Jordan, and the singing of the doxology closed the meeting, ….The above place of worship is a wooden building, 24 x 14, a substantial structure, lined inside with T and G pine. The whole of the labour and material, with the exception of the pine, has been found by the members of the Jordans family; Mr Thos. Jordan, jun., assisted by Messrs Thos. Jones and John Jordan, erected the building. Messsrs. Gibson and Son, of Perth, kindly presented them with the pine for inside lining, and the chapel is furnished with comfortable pine seats. A very neat tablet to the memory of the deceased sister has been presented by Mr J. Omants, her brother in-law. It has been placed over the platform. Some very handsome texts of scripture, presents from Hobart, are placed on the walls, and the whole is very creditable to those connected with it. Mr and Mrs Jordan, senior, were able to attend nearly all the services. Monday, 22nd, was the birthday of the former, who has now entered one his 82nd* year”.

Given that the chapel was built in memory of Mary Jordan, it is pitiful to learn of the church’s untimely fate only 14 months after the building had opened. In May 1882 the Launceston Examiner carried a report which reveals the chapel’s cataclysmic end:

“There have been terrific gales at the Upper Liffey. The weather continued rough from Thursday; 4th inst., the wind blowing hard, with rain, but the gale did not reach its height until Sunday morning. It increased from daylight up till nine o'clock, when it came down in all its fury, uprooting the giants of the forest by hundreds, and blowing down the new chapel lately erected by the Messrs.Jordans, carrying it bodily over, and portions of it hundreds of yards away, thus making the whole a complete wreck. It took off the roof and one side of Mr. J. Jordan's house, also a new shed belonging to Mr. J. Jordan. and damaged buildings belonging to Messrs. John Bennett, W. Ross, and Richard Beckett. A stable and barn belonging to Mr. W. Saunders were blown down, and a cow and two pigs were killed. Mrs. V. Spencer lost two valuable cows and one bull, Mr. George Spencer one bullock, and other damage was also caused by the storm. Such a terrific gale we have never experienced here during the last twenty years”.

No doubt the loss of livestock and property was devastating to the pioneering Liffey farmers but the destruction of the Stanford chapel was an especially cruel blow to the Jordans’. The chapel was Stanford not rebuilt. Another 20 years were to pass before the Baptists built a second church as Liffey at another site. This church similarly suffered misfortune, but this will be the topic of an upcoming blog article.

*  The spelling of Stanford as "Stamford" has been corrected in all of the quotations - see published correction notice below. 
** See published correction notice below.

Note incorrect spelling in Advertisement -  see correction notice below. Source:  Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 16 August 1881

Full advertisement - Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 16 August 1881

Notice of correction of the spelling of Stanford - Launceston Examiner Saturday 17 September 1881

The death notice of Mary Jordan, in whose memory the church was built.  Source: The Mercury, Thursday 18 March 1880, page 1

Liffey region location. Source

The old Liffey school built three years after the destruction of the Stanford Chapel


The Mercury, Thursday 18 March 1880, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 30 October 1880, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 16 August 1881, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 23 March 1881, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Monday 29 August 1881, page 3
Tasmanian, Saturday 3 September 1881
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 13 May 1882, page 3


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