No. 537 - Burnie - The Cattley Street Wesleyan Methodist Church

Burnie is a port city on the north-west coast of Tasmania. When it was first settled in 1827 by the Van Diemen’s Land Company it was named Emu Bay. In the 1840’s the settlement was renamed Burnie after William Burnie, a director of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

The city of Burnie has had five Methodist churches. These were:
  • A Primitive Methodist church built in 1869 (Mount Street).
  • A second Primitive Methodist church built alongside the earlier church in 1891 (Mount Street).
  • A United Free Methodist Church built in 1885 (Mount Street).
  • A Wesleyan Methodist Church built in 1894 (Cattley Street - originally spelt Catley Street)
  • The Uniting (Methodist) Church which was built on the site of the Primitive Methodist churches on Mount Street in 1901.
The Wesleyan Methodists were the last of the Methodist groups to become established at Burnie with the appointment of the first Minster, Reverend Bunton, in January 1892. The first services were held in Burnie’s Town Hall until a church was built on Cattley Street in 1894.

The foundation stone for the church was laid on Wednesday 20 June 1894 by Mr James [Philosopher] Smith of Forth in a ceremony led by Reverend W.H. Walton. The Launceston Examiner provides a description of the proposed building:

“It is to be built entirely of brick on concrete foundations, the walls to be 15ft in height, and strengthened by 12 buttresses…. The inside measurement will be 35ft by 20ft, and excellent provision has been made to secure good light for the interior of the building, which will be lighted by nine windows of frosted glass”.

The church was officially opened for the first service on Sunday 30 September 1894. The building was erected at a cost £350 which included £40 paid for the land. The building was designed by Mr T. Kenner and built by Mr P. Hoick. It had the capacity to seat 120 people.

It is surprising to learn that services ceased at the church well before the Methodist Union of 1902. In 1896 the Tasmanian Wesleyan Conference discontinued stationing ministers at Burnie and the church was closed shortly after this. The church therefore only functioned as a Wesleyan church for a little over two years.

In 1900 the Cattley Street church along with the Free Methodist Church on Mount Street were sold by tender prior to the imminent Methodist Union. A new church (now the Uniting Church on Mount Street) was built in 1901 to house the Primitive Methodist congregation as well as the Free Methodists and Wesleyans.

The Cattley Street church was leased then purchased by the Salvation Army which used it as their ‘citadel’ for many years. It also housed the Burnie Country Women’s Association and served as a commercial premises. In 2015 it became the home of “The Chapel”, a cafe, bar and music venue. The building has remained remarkably unaltered since it was built 125 years ago given the variety of uses it has had after its short life as a Wesleyan Methodist church.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Examiner, Tuesday 11 September 1900


Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette, Tuesday 19 January 1892, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 21 June 1894, page 3
Tasmanian, Saturday 23 June 1894, page 19
Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette, Tuesday 2 October 1894, page 3
Examiner, Tuesday 11 September 1900, page 1
Advocate, Tuesday 26 October 1920, page 1
Advocate, Friday 23 November 1951, page 10


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