No. 477 - Forest Hall Methodist Church

Forest Hall is located on the Dunorlan Road, near Elizabeth Town and approximately 15 kilometres north west of Deloraine. There were two churches in this area, a chapel built in 1863 on Henry Reed’s Dunorlan Estate and a Wesleyan Methodist church which opened in 1884.

Henry Reed’s Dunorlan chapel was used by the Wesleyan’s until 1884. Following Reed’s death in 1880 and for reason’s unknown, the trustees of the estate gave notice to the Wesleyan’s that the church would be required by the trustees on 1st January 1885. The Wesleyan’s then took immediate steps to build a new church.

The new church opened on Sunday 21 December 1884. The opening was advertised in the Launceston Examiner but the service was not ‘officially’ reported by newspapers. Unusually, a resident of Forest Hall, using the pseudonym “Forester”, took on the task of providing the Daily Telegraph with an account of the event. Most of this letter is reproduced here:

“The Wesleyan body a few months ago received intimation that the Dunorlan Church, which had been occupied by them as a place of worship for many years, would be required by the trustees on the 1st of January, 1885. In consequence of this, steps were immediately initiated for the purpose of erecting a building in which to worship”.

“A central and eligible site on part of the Forest Hall estate was generously given by Mr Wm. Bonnily, of Rubiconside, and enclosed with a paling fence. The structure erected therein is 35ft long by 20ft wide, with neat porch fronting towards the Dunorlan-road; walls 15ft from floor to ceiling which is arched and neatly decorated. The interior presents a very pleasing appearance, being lined throughout with T. and G. pine, except the wainscoting, which is of panelled blackwood. The platform, which is 6ft wide and 18in. from floor, extends full width of building, and is enclosed with ornamental blackwood railing. On the platform stands an elegant desk and organ. The ceiling, painted white, and the walls light blue above the varnished wainscotting, give the church a beautiful appearance. The structure does credit, both to the architect, Mr Jonathan Graham, and to the builder, Mr Joseph Grigg”.

"The Rev. Francis Neale, President, of Horton College, preached two most excellent sermons on the occasion of the opening, to crowded and attentive congregations. On the following day, Monday, 22nd, a public tea-meeting was held, when the largest gathering that has been seen in the neighbourhood for some years partook of a sumptuous spread. The proceeds of tea, with the Sunday collections, amounted to over £23”. 

“At 7 o'clock a public meeting was held in the church, which was again crowded to excess. The meeting was presided over by Mr W. Bonnily, who gave an interesting history of the beginning and progress of Methodism in the neighbourhood. The report, which was read by the treasurer (Mr Jonathan Best) showed that the building and furniture cost over £250. Towards this sum, £80 was borrowed from the loan fund and about £160 raised by subscription and opening services, leaving a deficiency of about £10”.

“The Revs. Messrs. Wykes, Cox, and Neale, and Mr Matthew Burnett, delivered eloquent and impressive addresses, intermingled with choice selections of music by the choir. The internal beauty of the building called forth expressions of pleasure and admiration. The Forest Hall congregation are to be congratulated on the success of their undertaking, and they in their part express their most cordial thanks to the friends who have so nobly assisted them to bring, the enterprise to a satisfactory completion.”

The new church was listed as “Forest Hall” on the Methodist circuit plan, replacing “Dunorlan”. The subsequent history of the church is uneventful although a memorial hall was built alongside the church in 1935. The date of the church’s closure is not known but it was likely to have been shortly after the establishment of the Uniting Church in 1977. The building became derelict and in 1994 it was purchased and removed to Strahan. Here it was renovated and repurposed as tourist accomodation. It is now called “Church Cottage” and is located at 2 Reid Street, and forms part of Kerrellie Cottages at Strahan.

Henry Reed’s Dunorlan Chapel will be the subject of an upcoming article on this blog.


The restored Forest Hall Church at Strahan - source - courtesy of kerrelliecottages.com.au
Photo courtesy of Kerrellie Cottages Strahan


Launceston Examiner, Thursday 18 December 1884

Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 12 May 1863

Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 12 May 1863, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Monday 8 September 1884, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 18 December 1884, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 8 January 1885, page 3

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

Link to Kerrellie Cottages

https://www.kerrelliecottages.com.au/church-cottage

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