No. 559 - Burnie - The First Baptist Church (1901-1925)

Burnie is a port city on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Burnie’s origins date back to 1827 when a settlement was established at Emu Bay by the Van Diemen’s Land Company. The settlement was later renamed Burnie after William Burnie, a director of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

The Baptists were one of the last of the main religious denominations to become established at Burnie. In September 1898 Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported:

“For some time the Baptist Union of Tasmania has been considering the need of extending its cause on the North-West Coast. Pastors H. Wood and J.S. Walton were appointed to visit Burnie, and interview the friends favouring the movement…. a meeting was held to take definite steps with a view of forming a church and the obtaining of a pastor. A good deal of earnestness has been shown by the friends of the denomination, and there is every prospect of a good church being established in a short time”.

The Daily Telegraph’s prediction proved to be accurate. In October 1900 tenders were advertised to build a church and manse and on new year’s day 1901, a foundation stone was ceremonially laid. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times recorded the event:

“The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Baptist Hall at Burnie took place yesterday afternoon at 5 o'clock. Proceedings commenced by the Burnie Brass Band playing a religious selection…. Mr E. Duthoit, of Hobart, ex-president of the Baptist Union of Tasmania, laid the foundation stone, prefacing the action by an address…. He made feeling reference to the departure of Pastor Wood, the first pastor of the Burnie connection, and whose health he prayed would rapidly mend. He spoke of the new hall as a long-felt want…. Baptists attached no special importance to their place of meeting. Their buildings were not looked on as holy…. Buildings were often wrongly termed churches. Baptists formed a section of God’s Church, and the name had been given to them because they believed in the same kind of baptism as the Bible approved of — by immersion, and then only to converted persons”.

Land for the building, which was located on Mount Street, was donated by Mrs Gibson of Perth who also gave £125 towards the cost of building the hall and adjoining manse. The ‘church’ was a large wooden building and was erected within the space of four months. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times reported on the opening services which took place on Sunday 5 May. The report also contains details of the buildings appearance:

“The new Baptist Hall in Mount street, Burnie, which has just been completed was opened for public service yesterday, when Dr C. Mead, B.A., a medical missionary, conducted services at 11, 3 and 7 o'clock. The record of the opening day was of a highly successful nature, and the church premises [are] to soon become one of the leading bodies of the town….The hall is a spacious building, the dimensions being 65ft by 85ft, with a front elevation of 22ft. The main hall is comfortably fitted inside. The walls and ceiling are lined with pine with a handsome dado of blackwood round the walls about breast high; the architraves are also of blackwood which give the windows a neat and finished appearance. The hall is splendidly lighted and ventilated. It has ten large windows and for the evening services six mammoth lamps light the building. The baptistry is conveniently situated behind the reading desk. The seating accommodation is exceptionally good, room being provided for about 260 persons, and the seats themselves are very comfortable. There are some finishing touches to be made by the painter, Mr W. H. Lane, and when this work is completed the hall will be one to be proud of. Mr T. Kenner can be said to have carried out very creditably his contract for the erection of the building. At the back of the hall are two vestries, the smaller one is to be used as the Pastor's vestry, and the other for meetings in connection with the church…. The hall was erected at the cost of £530, the seats costing £65 of this amount”.

The manse, which was a brick building, cost almost as much as the church and was completed for £420.

Given the size of the church, it is surprising that it was outgrown in a little over twenty years. In 1925 it was replaced by a larger brick church and the old building was moved to the rear of the block for use as a Sunday school. The new building, which still stands on Mount Street, will form the subject of a seperate blog entry.

The first Baptist Church with the Manse alongside.  Source: Pictorial History of Burnie - FaceBook Page - original source not indicated.


Daily Telegraph, Monday 12 September 1898, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 11 October 1900, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 2 January 1901, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 6 May 1901, page 2
Advocate, Saturday 12 December 1925, page 9


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