No. 582 - Burnie Presbyterian Church - "Strictly Practical Lines"

Burnie is a port city on the north-west coast of Tasmania. The origins of the town 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 Presbyterians were one of the last of Tasmania’s significant religious denominations to become established at Burnie. Presbyterian ministers began visiting the area in the late 1890’s however almost a decade was to pass before a church was built in the town.

Regular Presbyterian services were held in the Town Hall after November 1907 and in December of that year, a decision was made to build a church and a building committee was formed. Construction of a church by “Messrs. Stammers and Coates” at a site next to the Council Chambers on Alexander Street began in November 1908. The church was built of brick and was designed by Mr C.J. Pearce. It had the capacity to seat 200 and was built at a cost of £350.

Construction of the church was completed in early 1909 and a dedicatory service was held on Thursday 25 February. The opening ceremony was reported in The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times:

There was a very large gathering — including representatives of all the churches— at the dedication ceremony in connection with the newly constructed Presbyterian church in Alexander street, Burnie, yesterday afternoon. The seating accommodation was taxed to the utmost, and additional chairs were secured with the idea of giving seats to as a large a number as possible. Even then many had to stand. The minister, Rev. A. D. Leckie, had had the assistance of many willing workers, and all the arrangements for the ceremony were in excellent trim”.

“The Presbyterians of Burnie and district have long since felt the need of having their own edifice, and they certainly are to be congratulated on the general appearance, inside and out, of that which which they have erected. The building is compact and well built of brick, with plenty of lighting and ventilation. A small 'porch is built at the main entrance. Inside the building, which is 40ft by 30ft, is cosy and inviting, the brickwork being neatly tuck-pointed. The dome of the building is of local myrtle, which, with a little blackwood, has been used extensively. The seating accommodation is up-to-date and comfortable, and worthy of the church. The pulpit is of substantial design, and gives the building a very finished appearance. There is no unnecessary ornamentation, and the church is built and furnished on strictly practical lines. The building is splendidly lighted throughout by acetylene gas, the installation of which was creditably performed by Messrs. A. W. Tattersall and Co…..”

“Rev. A. F. Maldon Robb, of Launceston, presided over the dedication proceedings, which were conducted by the Presbyterian Moderator, Rev. W. Beck, of Launceston, assisted by Rev. Stewart Byron (Devonport), Rev. J. Russell (Evandale), Rev. J. G. Millar (Fingal), and Rev. Robertson (Victoria). Hymns appropriate to the occasion were sung and dedicatory prayers recited….”

“In the evening the Rev Maldon Robb, B.A., gave his popular 'Dickens' lecture, which was listened to by a large and appreciative audience. The Moderator was in the chair. The lecture abounded in keen criticisms, with a masterly analysis and clever delineation, and happily chosen extracts from this favourite, author”.

The subsequent history of the church is unremarkable. In 1974 the city’s Presbyterian and Methodist congregations joined to become the ‘United Burnie Parish’ although its members retained membership of their denominations. This changed in 1977 with the establishment of the Uniting Church.

After the closure of the Alexander Street church the building was sold. Some time later it was used by the Fire Equipment Division of the Tasmanian Fire Service. In 2010 the Burnie City Council’s heritage report listed the church as a ‘place of local significance’. This was not enough to save the building which was demolished in 2014 to accomodate the expansion of Burnie’s Fire Station. As of September 2018 the site of the church was in use as a parking lot. 



Photograph: Burnie Heritage Project, Burnie City Council (2010)

Photograph: Burnie Heritage Project, Burnie City Council (2010)

Photograph: Burnie Heritage Project, Burnie City Council (2010)

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times

The site of the church in September 2018 - (Google Street View)


Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 11 October 1907, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Friday 6 December 1907, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 13 November 1908, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 18 December 1908, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 24 February 1909, page 3 (Advertising)
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 26 February 1909, page 4
The Advocate, 1 September 2014, 'Church to Go so Fire Station can Grow'

Burnie Heritage Project, Burnie City Council, Volume 3, 2010


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