No. 512 - Barrington - Uniting (Methodist) Church - "Not bad that, Mr Editor"

Barrington is a rich farming area approximately 20km south of Devonport and is situated between the Forth and Don Rivers. Exploration of the area, lead by Nathaniel Kentish, was made extremely difficult by thick forests and rough terrain. The area was settled by several Methodist families from the Westbury district in 1865.

Barrington is regarded as the birthplace of Methodism in the Sheffield district. The first settlers were led by John and Charles Coleman and were later joined by Alexander Smith, John Harmon, Benjamin Green, John Reeves, Charles Packett and William Smith, all members of the Methodist Church. Worship was held at the home of John Coleman and Reverend Inglis, based at Latrobe, visited Barrington and Sheffield several times a year. In 1869 plans were made for a church which was built with local labour and opened on Sunday 18 December 1870 in a service led by Reverend Nathaniel Bennett of Launceston.

The church existed for 14 years before it was destroyed by fire in March 1884. This was the second occasion that the church caught alight that year. The disastrous second fire was compounded by the unfortunate fact that the building was uninsured. The Launceston Examiner carried a dramatic eyewitness account of the disaster:

“I regret that I have to chronicle the total destruction of the Wesleyan Chapel by fire, which occurred yesterday at about 4 p.m. A fire had been smouldering for some days among logs some 100 yards distant, but yesterday a tall hollow stump suddenly blazed up, and it is supposed that a spark from this stump lodged on the old and dry shingles of the chapel, and ignited the roof. All the residents in the immediate neighbourhood happened to be away from home, but fortunately Mr. Alex. Hutton and his eldest son, Robert, were working at a tree about 200 yards away, and hurrying to the scene of danger succeeded in saving all the chapel furniture - seats, lamps, chair, table, bookcase, etc. Much praise is due to the Messrs. Hutton in getting the furniture out, which was done at great risk just at the last, as it is asserted that the roof fell in ten minutes after the place took fire - so quickly did the flames spread. I must not omit to mention that Miss Hutton, Miss Cooper, and Miss Pullen seconded the efforts of the Messrs. Hutton. Just at this juncture Mr. Acklin, with a number of machine men, arrived upon the scene. The Public School and teacher's residence (being just on the opposite side of the road) were in great danger, the wind blowing directly onto them. The teacher's house caught fire several times, but by great effort - some on the roof, and others handing up buckets of water - the buildings were saved. Mr. E. Kenzie of Lower Barrington greatly distinguished himself on the roof. I regret to have to add that the chapel was not insured. The same may be said of the Public School buildings, and suggests the expediency of immediate attention being given to this subject. Singular to relate, the same chapel had a very narrow escape from destruction by fire on the 14th January last; the roof caught fire then, but persons were watching, and water was ready, and the place saved…”

Despite this loss the Methodist community was able to replace the church in good time. The building which stands at Barrington today was officially opened on Sunday 26 January 1885. The occasion was described in a report published in Launceston’s Daily Telegraph:

“Services in connection with the opening of the new Wesleyan Church, Barrington, which was built to replace the one that was burned down last summer by a bush fire, took place on Sunday, 25th inst. The Rev. R. Thompson, minister of the circuit, preached the opening services to the largest congregations that ever met in the district. The collections for the day amounted to £10 10s. The tea-meeting was held on Monday, and the weather was not very favourable, rain falling at intervals throughout the day. The tea-meeting was a great success, realising the sum of £28 7s, making a total of £38 17s. Not bad that, Mr Editor, for a district that was a dense scrub some 15 years ago…. A public meeting was held in the church after the tea. Mr J. Hope, who presided, congratulated the meeting on the handsome little church they had built. He believed it was the best building in the circuit, and trusted that the new church would not meet the fate of the one that they had lost by the bush fire last summer, ….”

The Barrington church indeed survived many summers and celebrated its centenary in 1985. Unfortunately it did not survive the wave of church closures following the establishment of the Uniting Church in 1977. The last service was held in November 1995 and the building was sold soon after this. The church was subsequently converted into a house and the original part of the building has been preserved.

The Barrington Methodist Church c.1890.  Photo supplied by Craig Broadfield (private collection)

The church as it appeared when last sold in 2018. Photo courtesy of One Agency Collins Real Estate

The church in 1902 (Weekly Courier)

Photo courtesy of One Agency Collins Real Estate

Photo courtesy of One Agency Collins Real Estate

Notice of the opening of the first church in 1870 - Launceston Examiner

Notice for the opening of the second church in 1885 - Daily Telegraph


Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 13 December 1870, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 15 December 1870, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Friday 7 March 1884, page 3
Devon Herald, Friday 7 March 1884, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 8 March 1884, page 3 
Daily Telegraph, Friday 16 January 1885, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 4 February 1885, page 3
Advocate, Tuesday 26 October 1920, page 1
Mercury, Tuesday 25 November 1930, page 5

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.


  1. My ancestors were John Coleman and Alexander Smith. Thanks for sharing. I believe Alexander Smith donated the land where the original church was?!


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