No. 555 - Paradise Baptist Church - 'Ill Winds in Paradise'

Paradise is a rural district approximately 8 kilometres south of Sheffield. Its original name was ‘Reuben Austen's Paradise’, after one of the first settlers who remarked upon seeing the sun glistening on the picturesque mountain vista, "This is Paradise.”

A Baptist community was active at Paradise from about 1890. For 15 years services were held in a large dining room in a house belonging to Mr James Manning. By 1904 attendance had increased to the point where the dining room was no longer adequate and the Baptist Union was approached for support to build a church at Paradise. In 1904 construction of a church began on land donated by James Manning.

The church was officially opened in January 1905 with the dedicatory services reported in the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times:

“…There was a fair attendance considering the unpropitious weather, and it being Claude [Road Methodist Church] anniversary as well. Special hymns were sung by the choir, Mrs Newman presiding at the organ. On Wednesday a very successful tea public meeting and coffee supper was held in connection with the above church, which was very well patronised….During the meeting Mr Ridley gave an account of how the church was erected. Mr James Manning gave the land fronting on Paradise road on which the building stands. Messrs R. Bauld and Son, of Latrobe, prepared the plans and specifications free of charge and also inspected the work. The building stands on rising ground and commands a splendid view of Mt. Roland, the Western Tiers and the country about the Minnow River. The building is of hardwood, on stone foundation, with iron roof. The size is 30ft by 18ft. It is comfortably seated. Mr H. Morris was the contractor for the building. The residents carted all the material free of charge. Half the total cost has been met by subscriptions. Mr H. Harman loaned the balance necessary for the contract”.

In 1921 disaster struck when in September violent gales blew the building off its foundations. The Baptists were able to used the Paradise Gospel Hall until the church was repaired and replaced back on its foundations several months later. Ironically, the Gospel Hall was completely destroyed by high winds in a storm that swept through the area two years later in August 1923.

If the double disaster was not enough, another storm swept through Paradise in October 1928, this time completely destroying the Baptist Church. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“The storm on Sunday afternoon was the cause of the destruction of the Baptist Church at Paradise. The building was about 45 feet by 20, and had recently been renovated. The gale caught it just before 1 p.m., and hurled it down the hill for about two chains. The organ and all the furniture were broken. If the incident had happened about an hour later there would have been children in the Sunday school, but the building was at the bottom of the hill in ruins when they arrived. Reports have come in confirming the statement that much damage has been done to farms in the locality…”.

The church was rebuilt again, this time on a new site less exposed to the wind and further down the road on the Mannings property. It is hard to believe that barely two years later the church was once again damaged by high winds. In December 1932 the Launceston Examiner reported:

“Church Moved by Wind - So strong was a gale at Paradise on Friday that it moved the Baptist Church several inches across its foundations. Had the structure slipped another few inches it would have turned completely over and been wrecked. The Baptist community of the district has been unfortunate in regard to the church. It was destroyed by wind on a former occasion, and rebuilt only two years ago”.

The church was repaired once more but the church organ, which had been previously badly damaged in the 1928 storm, was never same:

“The organ was so injured that only a severe major operation by a local expert was able to make it serviceable again. Since then, in dry weather, the instrument suffers from shortness of breath, whereas damp weather induces a noisy attack of rheumatism, as evidenced by an exasperating obligato accompaniment of shrieks in the treble and groans in the bass…”

While buildings can be replaced, communities cannot. The Baptist church at Paradise, like so many rural churches across Tasmania, did not survive the movement of people to towns and the consequent dwindling congregation ultimately led to its closure.

The second Baptist Church at Paradise - photograph courtesy of Jennifer Hemsley


Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 3 November 1904, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Friday 9 December 1904, page 3
Examiner, Friday 13 January 1905, page 7
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 27 January 1905, page 2
Advocate, 15 September 1921, page 5
Examiner, Saturday 29 October 1921, page 9
Examiner, Thursday 23 August 1923, page 2
Advocate, Tuesday 9 October 1928, page 6
Examiner, Thursday 11 October 1928, page 6
Examiner, Thursday 29 December 1932, page 4
Advocate, Thursday 4 October 1934, page 9

Hemsley, Jennifer Around the country circuits : reminiscences of the Baptist Church family throughout "Tassie's top half". Regal Press, Launceston, Tas, 1996.


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