No. 539 - Penguin Baptist Church (1908-1995)

Penguin is a seaside town situated approximately 10 kilometres west of Ulverstone. It was established in the 1860’s and was one of the last coastal towns in the northwest to be settled. The Victorian gold rush created a renewed demand for timber and consequently wood cutters and splitters moved into the area. The town was named by the botanist Ronald Campbell Gunn after the penguin rookeries that were once common along this part of the coast.

Penguin Baptist Church is a modern building situated on Ironcliffe Road about 2 kilometres from the centre of the town. This building replaced an earlier church built in 1908 which was situated near the centre of Penguin on the corner of Crescent Street (previously Station Street) and Ironcliffe Road.

The Baptists arrived at Penguin in 1903 with the first meetings led by Pastor Samuel Harrison. Services were initially held in the Penguin Presbyterian Church but in 1905 a decision by the Presbyterians to move their church to a site at West Pine prompted the Baptists to build a church of their own.

Construction of a Baptist church began in May 1908. In mid June The North West Post reported:

“The members and adherents of the Baptist Church have reason to be proud of their little building, which has risen mushroom-like from the ground during the last few days. The framework has now been all covered, so that the carpenters are able to defy the weather and keep on working. It should not be long before it is opened for public worship”.

In August 1908 the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times reported on progress made with construction and provides further details about the building:

“The new Baptist church in the centre of the town is nearing completion. The building stands on a quarter of an acre of land which was portion of a half-acre block purchased by the church trustees some two years ago for £65. Later half this block was sold to Mr. R. E. Thomas for £40, and he has since built a comfortable villa residence upon it. Towards the cost of the block purchased by the church officers a sum of £10 was raised locally, and the balance was donated by a lady sympathiser in Hobart. The building, the contractor for which is Mr. H. Haines, of Devonport, will be completed next week. Its dimensions are 30 x 20, and it has a lofty ceiling. The building is lined with hardwood and N.Z. white pine, and the interior is to be stained and varnished. There are ventilated lead-lights throughout, and three stamped steel ventilators are let into the ceiling. A brick baptistry has been built under the platform. The cost of the whole will be just over £200. The seats will arrive from Hobart shortly, being a gift from the Harrington street church trustees….There will be a debt of about £175 on the building. Mr. Smith does not know yet whether a pastor will be sent to reside at Penguin, but, in any case, some change will shortly be made at Ulverstone or Burnie to allow for regular services being held”.

The church was officially opened on Sunday 16 August 1908 by Reverend C. Palmer, President of the Baptist Union.

Ironically, the Presbyterians used the Penguin Baptist church for some months in 1910 after their church at West Pine was totally destroyed in a gale in August of that year. (The Penguin Presbyterian and West Pine Presbyterian churches will form the subject of a future article).

In 1995 the last service at the church was held following the sale of the building. It was demolished in 2007 to make way for a new building to house ‘The Rock Community Church’. A series of photographs taken by Terence Revell in 2007 and 2008 document the demolition of the church 99 years after it had “risen mushroom-like”. A modern structure built by the Rock Church now stands on the site of the old Baptist church.

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell (2007)

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

The Baptismal pool - Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

Photograph supplied by Terence Revell 

An early undated photograph of  the Penguin Baptist Church - supplied by Photograph supplied by Terence Revell - original source not known.

A Google street View shot of the site showing the new structure added to the front of the church hall by 'The Rock Community Church'. The community church has since moved to new premises on Dooley Street.
The church prior to its sale in 1995 - Photo: The Advocate 2 June 1995


North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 25 June 1904, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 6 September 1905, page 2
North West Post, Tuesday 9 June 1908, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 26 June 1908, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 22 August 1908, page 4
The Advocate, Friday  2 June 1995

Thanks tor Terence Revell for providing photographs of the church and press clippings about its sale in 1995.


  1. This article states that "In 1995 the last service at the church was held following the sale of the building." This is incorrect. Services did continue at the church under a renaming as the "Hope Chapel" under the pastorship of a Joseph Benjamin "Ben" Wheatley (dec. Aug 11th '09). My father was heavily involved with Ben and the Chapel in the early 2000's.

    I have fond memories of some of the churchgoers such as the quiet Leila McCulloch and the larger-than-life Mavis Jarvis. After services, I would have the large hall at the rear of the church essentially to myself (I was the rare child on the congregation, though sometimes Ben's grandchildren would attend) to play around in while the adults took morning tea. I even attended Ben's wedding as the ring boy and received a watch as a gift at the reception at the Pindari Deer Farm.

    Certain family tensions saw us split from the church a few years before the 2007 sale. By that time, we had moved away from Penguin, so it was quite a shock starting the 2008 school year turning onto Ironcliffe Road and seeing nothing of the old Chapel remaining!

    It seems strange that there are no records of the 1995-2007 activities still existing.

    1. Thank you for this information. I welcome corrections and additional information as all articles will be updated in time. As a matter of clarification was the "Hope Chapel" a breakaway Baptist group or a different religious denomination? Also what became of the "Hope Chapel" group? Information about the more recent history of churches is hard to find as there is little information available in the public domain, which is why feedback such as yours is so valuable. Regards, Duncan.

    2. From my recollection, services continued in the Baptist denomination; I vaguely remember one or two people being baptised by full immersion.

      As for what happened to the usual congregation, I'm sorry to say that little, if any, communication was made following the split with the church. Given the age of some of those I remember, coupled with the years that have passed, it would be unfortunately safe to say that several of them have passed away, and those that remain either found other churches or aren't living in the Penguin area anymore.

      I'm sorry to say that this is the extent of my recollections; I was barely 10 years old by the time my association with Ben and the church ended, and the emotional tumult of that time caused me to block out large swathes of that chapter in my life. I hope that whosoever comes across this record in the future has the drive to correct the injustice of this incomplete file.


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