No. 521 - The Eskvale Presbyterian Chapel

Occasionally I stumble across a ‘lost church’, that is a building which has slipped off the published record and has effectively become ‘forgotten’. While researching the Epping Forest Presbyterian church which opened in 1885, I came across a reference to an earlier Presbyterian church, the Eskvale Chapel, which served the Epping Forest region. Initially I thought that this may have been a reference to the Kirklands Chapel but a close reading of the record of a 1884 Presbyterian Synod meeting reveals precise information about this chapel’s location. The Synod was responding to a petition requesting the Eskvale Chapel’s closure:

“The following petition was received : — The petition of the undersigned showeth — That the church at Eskvale is a considerable distance from Epping, the natural centre of population, and standing by itself is unprotected; and those who live between the church and the river Esk generally drive to church, and would find no inconvenience in travelling an additional mile and a half; that those who walk to church live near Epping, and that several who at present attend seldom might be induced to attend regularly if the church were more conveniently situated. We, the undersigned members and adherents of the congregation of Eskvale, therefore ask that you will grant us authority to remove the present church to a new site at Epping, and to sell the church ground at Eskvale. There were 57 signatures. A motion on the subject being put, it was resolved to accede to the request of the petitioners”.

From this record it is evident that the church was situated near the Belle Vue Road, approximately 2 kilometres east of Epping Forest. Records about the church and its establishment are limited but details of its founding are recorded in a notice published in the Launceston Examiner in February 1846. The notice lists subscriptions to the building fund published by the building committee. Twenty four names appear on the list with the main subscribers being: Mr David Gibson Senior; John Gibson; David Gibson Junior; William Gibson; James Aitken; J.R Salmon and W. Thornell. A total of £104 was raised through subscription.

The chapel comprised of timber and brick and its dimensions may be determined by the 800 feet of flooring boards listed amongst the expenses. The chapel was opened on 1 March 1846 by Reverend James Bell of St John’s Hobart Town. The notice published by the building committee concluded with a note:

“On Wednesday the 4th March, at 11 o’clock, A.M., the Committee will be in attendance to let the pews and sittings for the ensuing year”.

Between 1846 to 1876 the Eskvale Chapel fell under the Macquarie River (Kirklands) Charge. From 1876 to 1885 it formed part of the “Kirkland-Esk Vale” Charge and with its removal to Epping in 1885 it became part of the new Kirklands-Epping Charge.

With the chapel’s removal to Epping Forest in 1885 the land at Esk Vale was sold to Mr James Gibson. For reasons not explained the pews and pulpit of the old church were taken to Tunbridge where they were used in the new Presbyterian Church, St Matthews, which opened there in 1886.

The removal of the pulpit and pews to Tunbridge is confirmed in a 1935 report on St Matthew’s golden jubilee where it is noted:

“The pulpit and pews…were originally constructed for the old Eskvale Presbyterian Church,… as the signatures of several members of the Gibson family on one of the pews testifies…”

St Matthew’s at Tunbridge closed in the 1960’s and the building was later removed to Taranna on the Tasman Peninsula where it was used as a ‘Southern Presbyterian Church’. The church is still there (see photo below) and I assume that the old Eskvale pulpit and pews were taken to Taranna along with St Matthew’s. I intend to follow this up as these items would now be 175 years old which would make them one of the oldest surviving pulpit and pews in Tasmania. The Gibson families signatures on the pews should provide suitable provenance of their origins.

The Epping Forest Presbyterian Church will form the subject of an upcoming article.


The Eskvale Chapel's location would be in this vicinity - View of Ben Lomond - from Epping Forest  (1867) - Artist GuĂ©rard, Eugen von, 1811-1901 - Out of Copyright - Australian National Library


Launceston Examiner - Saturday 21 February 1846 - Eskvale Chapel Building Committee notice

Launceston Examiner - Saturday 21 February 1846 - Eskvale Chapel Building Committee notice
The location of Eskvale east of Epping Forest

St Matthew's Presbyterian Church (Tunbridge) now at Taranna - the original pulpit and pews of the Eskvale Chapel may still be housed in the building.

Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 21 February 1846, page 6
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 28 February 1846, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 4 March, 1846, page 4
The Tasmanian, Saturday 5 September 1885, page 24
The Mercury, Friday 9 October 1885, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Friday 10 October 1884, page 3
Tasmanian, Saturday 11 October 1884, page 26
Daily Telegraph,Wednesday 9 September 1885, page 1
Mercury, Monday 28 October 1935, page 10

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