No. 482 - Bishopsbourne Methodist Church - "A Compact and Comfortable House of Prayer"

Bishopsbourne is a village situated approximately 35 kilometres south west of Launceston, at the junction of the Bishopsbourne and Liffey Roads. It was built on land belonging to the Bishop of Tasmania, Bishop Nixon, who arrived in the colony in 1843. He named the property Bishopsbourne and went on to establish Christ College at this site. [see No. 354]

The Wesleyan Methodists were active at Bishopsbourne by the late 1840’s. A Sunday school was established by the mid 1860’s and school and religious services took place in various buildings, including a barn at the rear of Mr Henry Blackwell’s blacksmith shop. The Methodists had a desire to build a chapel but this was hampered by restrictions on the sale of land by the Church of England.

This situation changed in 1875 when Henry Blackwell purchased a building that had previously been a store belonging to Mr. C.A.H. Williamson. The building had become vacant when the owner moved his business to Launceston. It was a relatively new structure, built of wood and neat and tidy in appearance. The Launceston Examiner provides details of this breakthrough for the Wesleyans and the opening of their new chapel on Sunday 18 July 1875:


“Sunday was indeed a day of rejoicing for the Wesleyan portion of this district, as the object for which they had long struggled was successfully accomplished. Bishopsbourne belonging to the College Estate, land could not be sold or given away, and only to be had on a short lease. This was a sad and fatal hindrance towards the erection of a Wesleyan chapel; but as the Rev. N. Bennett said at the luncheon, God opened a way in his providence, and the large store being available, formerly Mr Williamson's, it was made use of, removed bodily to a piece of land adjoining, and with a little alteration, made into a compact and comfortable house of prayer”.

“This desirable state of things has been brought about mainly the large liberality and strenuous exertions of Mr Blackwell. It was he who purchased the property (including the remainder of the lease) of Mr Williamson, and then in a most generous manner presented the store to the Wesleyan body, thereby saving a cost to them of £100. He also gave his time and labor and collected very nearly the whole amount beside; truly he deserves a special vote of thanks, and a reward above; and it is to be hoped that others may be influenced to go and do likewise. Our churches would not be so unfinished and uncomfortable if those having the means would consecrate a portion to the service and worship of God”.

“But to proceed, the Chapel was opened and solemnly dedicated on Sunday, the 18th inst. when the Rev. F E.. Stephenson preached morning and evening, and Basil Archer, Esq., in the afternoon. The weather was rather unfavourable in the morning, but the place was well filled in other parts of the day. The collections amounted to £6 10s. On Monday a luncheon was provided in the place of the usual tea, and was a complete success. The tables literally groaned under the abundant supply - turkeys, geese, fowls, sucking pigs, pastry, etc.—and ample justice was done by the numerous party assembled”.

“The public meeting (Rev. N. Bennett presiding) was opened by singing and prayer, and the Chairman said he felt deeply thankful to all concerned for the successful termination of their work, and especially to God who had owned and prospered it all, and he trusted that He would still further bless them by filling the place with hearers and souls being born again. He would not detain them, but call on Mr Blackwell for his report”.


“Mr Blackwell stated that the desire of his heart for many years past was now realised, and it was a day of great rejoicing to himself and family, and he trusted that spiritual results would follow. The amount of subscriptions was £34 11s, collections on Sunday £6 10s, proceeds of luncheon £10 12s, total £51 13s. Expenditure, including removing of chapel, windows, seats, and lamps,&c., £50 0s 11d; leaving a balance in hand of £1 12s Id. Extra subscriptions from town were received, making the balance £5 7s Id. This will be devoted to the purchase of a pulpit and sundry additions. B. Archer, Esq., in an eulogistic speech moved the following :—"That a special vote of thanks be given to Mr Blackwell for the gift of the chapel, and his trouble, &c., in its removal, and to the ladies and gentlemen for getting up the luncheon.” This was seconded by Mr M. Brumby, and carried by acclamation. Another hymn was sung, and Mr Richardson and Mr B. Archer engaged in prayer. The Chairman pronounced the benediction, and thus ended a very pleasant and successful meeting”.

Henry Blackwell, the local blacksmith and a farm machinery maker, was indeed a leading figure in the establishment of Methodism at Bishopsbourne. Blackwell served as Bishopsbourne's Sunday school superintendent for 40 years, taking on the role in 1864, the same year class meetings were commenced by John Hall.

The church was located within the Bishopsbourne township on the eastern side of the public hall (now a private residence), and set back from the road.[see photo below]

The closure of the church came on 29 September 1912 with the Launceston Examiner reporting:

“Owing to the deaths or removals to other districts of most of its best supporters, the Methodist Society has decided to close this little church….after Sunday next, 29th inst.”

The building was removed to the nearby “Vron Farm” where it was used as an outbuilding. Due the buildings gradual deterioration it was demolished in recent years. No photograph or image of the church survives.

An advertisement from 1867, three years after the establishment of the Sunday School (Cornwall Chronicle)

Google Street view - showing the church's location, east of the former Bishopsbourne Hall, near the line of trees in the distance.

Bishopbourne's location in the Noth of Tasmania. (placenames.gov.tas.au)


Sources:

The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 25 December 1867, page 5
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 18 September 1869, page 5
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 3 December 1874, page 5
The Cornwall Chronicle, Friday 23 July 1875, page 3 
Weekly Examiner,  Saturday 24 July 1875, page 8
Examiner, Tuesday 24 September 1912 page 3

Bishopsbourne Wesleyan Methodist Church – 1875-1912
(Notes by Ivan Badcock – 25 May 2019)

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