No. 622 - Kimberley Gospel Hall - "The evil-doers are well known"

Kimberley is a small settlement approximately 20 kilometres northwest of Deloraine that established at a fording point across the Mersey River. The area was previously known as Kimberley's Ford when it was the site of a convict probation station established in 1845. Kimberley was once a thriving village with a school, railway station, a store, a public hall, a hotel and three churches.

The Gospel Hall was the first church established at Kimberley (although the short-lived probation station had a chapel). It was built by the Plymouth Brethren in 1903, before the establishment of an Anglican church in 1912 and a Catholic church in 1926.

The Christian Brethren (also known as the Plymouth Brethren) once had a significant presence in the Deloraine and Sheffield region and Gospel halls were built at Kimberley, Mount Roland, Paradise, Railton, Beulah and elsewhere. The Brethren place an emphasis on weekly communion, the baptism of believers by immersion, and evangelism. The Christian Brethren should not be confused with the 'Exclusive Brethren, a restrictive group which broke away in 1848. In Tasmania, most Brethren are ‘open’, unlike the 'exclusive' Brethren who avoid contact with outsiders to the religion.

The official opening of the Kimberley Gospel Hall is not recorded in local newspapers however the first mention of it is made in the North West Advocate in September 1903:

“This hitherto quiet village is assuming quite a lively aspect, and bids fair to become a prosperous township. The new station and station-house have given the place quite an imposing appearance. …There is a rumour afloat that we are soon to have a public hall erected, which is badly wanted, for there is no place of the kind except the State school, which is very small. That we are to have two churches is an established fact, one for the Plymouth Brethren which is to be started at once, all the necessary timber being now on the site…”

The completion of the hall is confirmed by a report from November 1903:

“The church which has been erected for the Plymouth Brethren is just about completed and will be opened for Divine service within a few weeks…”

The church was in a prominent location on a hill above Kimberley. The hall’s setting is mentioned in a report in 1911 which describes the village in some detail:

“…Leaving the school we come to M. W. J. Cullen's natty store and pretty dwelling. Behind this Mr. Cullen has had a fine hall built…. Next door is a new dwelling built by Mr. J Balduck, and right in front is Mr. W. Walker's Kimberley Hotel, built on the main road to Deloraine…. Right up the hill is the pretty church in which the Brethren worship. It is evident that climb does not frighten them from attendance there. They occupy the sort of site usually chosen for R.C. and Anglican churches….”.

There are few newspaper reports about activities at the Gospel Hall, however from the time of the Great War until the early 1920’s it is mentioned in relation to a spate of vandalism and violence perpetrated by the local larrikins.

Larrikinism was an ugly phenonomen which plagued many towns and villages across Tasmania from the 1870’s until well into the 20th century. Typically, bored and disaffected youth would target vulnerable and unpopular individuals and disrupted public gatherings. The Brethren were not the only group targeted at Kimberley and elsewhere Methodist and Salvation Army gatherings were singled out for harassment.

Larrikinism at Kimberley became a problem around the time of the Great War. In October 1917 the Examiner casually mentions the issue in a general report report on social activities in the village:

“Wednesday night being a beautiful moonlight night, a nice gathering of people met at Cullen's Hall, where the Rev. W. J. Eddy gave a most interesting and instructive lantern lecture in connection with the mission to lepers. Mr. Alf Murfett [the station master] opened the service with prayer. The pictures were very impressive. The larrikins outside made some disturbance. It is a great pity these lads have nothing better to do…”.

Then in 1922 the Advocate reported:

“A crowd of larrikins paid a visit to the Gospel Hall on Sunday night while Mr. E. O. Blackwell was giving a gospel address. A number of stones were also thrown and a general disturbance caused. This kind of thing wants nipping in the bud. Residents consider it is also time a policeman was stationed here”.
In the following year the Advocate carried another report of the Gospel Hall being targeted:

“During a gospel service at the Gospel Hall last Sunday night larrikins threw stones at the building. One stone was thrown with considerable force through a window, and hit a man sitting in the hall on the ankle, and glass fell on several others. The evil doers are well known, and it is high time a policeman was station here”.

The Christian Brethren were not the only target of the Kimberley larrikins. In another report from 1922 the Advocate described further incidents:

“Mr. W. J. Cullen had a rather unpleasant experience late on Saturday night when motoring home from a friend's place. A piece of strong barbed wire was put across the main, road near the White Rock bridge, between it and the hotel. The wire was taut, but fortunately was caught by the front of the car and was snapped. A number of stones were also thrown at the car. It may also be mentioned that some months ago some persons placed spars across the road in front of the same car but they were seen and the car stopped before any damage was done”.

In October 1923 Police Court records from Deloraine record two individuals convicted of disturbing the peace at the Kimberley Gospel Hall. After this reports of larrikinism cease although by the mid 1920’s this phenomenon was already in decline across Tasmania.

Little else is known about Kimberley’s Gospel Hall as the Brethren tended to shun publicity. After the 1920’s newspaper reports on its activities cease and I have not managed to establish when it was closed. The only photograph I have found of the building is from the Weekly Courier in 1918. It can be seen on a hill behind the Kimberley Hotel. The fate of the building is not known but it is possible that the Brethren removed to be used at another location.

Additional information and sources about the hall is most welcome as all articles are updated. I can be contacted through this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: Churches of Tasmania.

The Kimberley Hotel with the Gospel Hall visible to the top right of the photo. Source: Weekly Courier 1918

A detail of the Weekly Courier photograph with the Gospel Hall highlighted

The location of Kimberley in Northern Tasmania - placenames.gov.tas.au

Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 8 September 1903, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 4 November 1903, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 2 December 1908, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 13 February 1911, page 2
Examiner, Friday 26 October 1917, page 3
Advocate, Wednesday 19 April 1922, page 2
Advocate, Thursday 20 April 1922, page 2
Advocate, Friday 3 November 1922, page 4
Advocate, Thursday 3 May 1923, page 4
Examiner, Wednesday 10 October 1923, page 4

Other readings of interest:

Dyer, Alan, God was their rock, Sheffield, Tas. : Pioneer Publishers, 1974.



Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. William John Cullen was my great grandfather.

    ReplyDelete

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