No. 581 - Whitemore - 'The Whitemoor Chapel' (1857-1865)

Whitemore (spelt Whitemoor until the 1860’s) is a small rural settlement near Westbury in Northern Tasmania. Whitemore was once the southern part of the original Quamby estate granted to Richard Dry senior, whose son became Premier of Tasmania. The area around Whitemore Creek was sold to William Hingston in 1854. It was Hingston who donated land for a Wesleyan chapel in 1857. As well as a being a place of worship, the chapel served as a Sunday school and as a day school for local children during the week. It also housed a library. Known as "Whitemoor chapel”, the name was adopted by the village that grew around the church.

The Whitemoor chapel was used as a place of worship for only 7 years before it was replaced by a much larger brick church built in 1864. After the opening of the new church the old wooden chapel was used for various purposes and although significantly altered in appearance, remnants of it still exist. While the building only had a brief life as a church, it nevertheless represents the resourcefulness of the early settlers as well as their value of education.

The chapel was a simple structure measuring 18 x 30 feet with a pit sawn frame and cladding and interior lining and a roof of shingles. It opened for the first services on Sunday 13 December 1857. The opening ceremony as well at the public ‘Tea Meeting’ held the next day were reported by the Launceston Examiner:

“A new Wesleyan Chapel having been erected at Whitemoor, near Westbury, the opening services were held, according to public announcement, as follows: -On Sunday, the 13th inst., two sermons were preached to large congregations, by the Rev. T. B. Harris, of Longford, and collections made on behalf of the building amounting to £17. On the following day about 200 persons sat down to tea, after which a public meeting was held, R. H. Douglas Esq. being in the chair. After singing and prayer by the Rev. John Cope of Launceston, the Rev. Josh. Fillngham, minister of the circuit, read the various items of expenditure in the erection of the building, amounting to £250; also the subscriptions promised and received; showing a deficiency of £80. An appeal was then made to the friends assembled, which was most liberally responded to, and, in a short time, to the satisfaction of all, the Chairman announced that the chapel was free from debt….In connection with the above was celebrated the anniversary of the Sabbath School at the same place. The children belonging to the school were plentifully regaled with cake and tea, and rewarded for merit and good conduct”.

With the construction of the new church in 1864 the chapel was moved to the rear of the block in what was to be the first of three moves. It continued to be used as a day school and also a Sunday school up until 1929 when a State school was built opposite the church. In 1909 additional land was purchased alongside the brick church and the chapel was relocated for a second time onto the site of the present church hall. The third and final move took place in 1929 when a church hall was built and the chapel was moved to the rear of the building. By this time the split paling cladding had been replaced by weatherboard and the shingle roof was covered by corrugated iron. The old chapel later lost its gothic style windows and chimney when a kitchen was built onto the hall in 1955 and when a kindergarten room was added in 1958. The position of the chapel within the newer buildings can be seen in the photograph below but all of its external features have gone except for the small window located above the former gothic style doorway and entrance which has also been replaced.

The chapel’s triple relocation and the various functions it has had over a period of 160 years is typical of past times when nothing was wasted and where buildings were modified and repurposed rather than demolished. Local historian Ivan Heazlewood, writing on the occasion of the Whitemore Methodist Church’s sesquicentenary in 2007 makes a fundamental point about this chapel which holds true for many early rural churches:

“It no longer has the pleasing visual identity of an early Methodist Chapel….but its rich and remarkable history reminds us of the vision, dedication and fortitude of the district’s pioneers and of our Christian heritage. It is evidence not only of our ancestors desire for a place of Christian worship; they wanted education for their children….. It consolidated the expansion of the Sunday school and the establishment of a library in 1860 gave the entire district, adult and juvenile, an avenue for enlightenment and entertainment comparable with the introduction of television…”


The Whitemoor Chapel (c.1887) when the building was in use as a State school and Sunday School - (photo from Heazlewood)

Notice of the chapel's opening in 1857 - Launceston Examiner

The chapel is now embedded in the hall alongside the Whitemore Uniting Church. The window above the doorway appears to be the only 'original' feature of the chapel still intact. - photo: Duncan Grant 

The location of the chapel in Whitemore - The red dotted lines indicate the chapel's three moves and its final position in the rear centre of the church hall.

A view of the hall from the road with the chapel visible at the rear of the building. Photograph: Duncan Grant
The brick church (opened in 1865) which is now the Whitemore Uniting Church. Photograph: Duncan Grant


Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Thursday 10 December 1857, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 19 December 1857, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 3 December 1864, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 22 June 1865, page 4
Examiner, Monday 26 August 1929, page 5

Heazlewood, Ivan C.; Sesquicentenary of the Wesleyan Chapel - Whitemoor, 1857-2007. I.C. Heazlewood, [Whitemore, Tas.], 2007.

Heazlewood, Kenneth J. and Whitemore Methodist Trust, issuing body.  Whitemore Methodist Church, 1848-1965 / compiled by K. J. Heazlewood  Whitemore Methodist Trust [Whitemore, Tasmania]  1965

Thank you to Ivan Badcock for his assistance with this article.

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