No. 627 - Austins Ferry - The Hestercombe Union Chapel

 Austins Ferry is a suburb of Greater Hobart situated about 20 kilometres north of the city centre. The area is named after James Austin (1776-1831), a landowner and ferry proprietor. Austin was a farm labourer from Somerset who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing beehives and honey. On regaining his freedom, Austin was granted thirty acres of land on the River Derwent. In partnership with John Earle, Austin established a very useful and profitable ferry across the river. The Hestercombe Chapel was the only church built near the small settlement that developed around the ferry.

The Hestercombe Union Chapel was the oldest Congregational church in continuous use in Australia. It was built in 1833 on the initiative of Henry Hopkins (1787-1870), a Hobart merchant and philanthropist. Hopkins is credited with founding Congregationalism in Australia. Christine Walch, a descendent of Henry and Sarah Hopkins wrote:

“The one thing this shrewd little man deemed more important than money, success or worldly goods was his religion. Brought up in an era of religious revival and missionary activity when the great missionary and philanthropic societies were being founded in England, Hopkins had a strong personal faith and that missionary spirit which impels the believer 'to go into all the world and preach the gospel', or in his case, to supply funds for spreading the Word. To all causes that appealed to him, he contributed with 'princely liberality'. The London Missionary Society and the building of Congregational churches called forth his most lavish gifts, but although firm in his own faith he was no bigot, and he gave generously to the building funds of Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches and of St David's Cathedral. When All Saints' Anglican Church was founded he was the first to come forward with his donation, while the neighbouring Davey Street Methodist Church bears his name on its foundation stone. According to his son-in-law George Clarke, 'Money he regarded as a trust and a stewardship, and all his life he acted on the principle of devoting a fixed proportion of his income to objects of Christian philanthropy”.

For the first decade after it opened the Hestercombe Chapel was supplied with Independent ministers from Hobart. From 1843 to 1870 it was shared equally between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians. Thereafter it became a Congregational church and for a time was associated with the New Town Congregational church. In the 1960’s it became a part of the Claremont United Parish which fell under Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational oversight. In 1977 it became a part of the Uniting Church. In 2015 the building was sold and has since been converted into a house.

The original church built in 1833 is limited to the timber weatherboard structure. The stone extension to the church was added in c.1860. A cemetery is located behind the church and a link to a record of headstones is provided at the bottom of this page.


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

A photograph taken before the church was sold.  Source not known.

Photograph courtesy of Nest Property - Austins Ferry Hobart

Photograph courtesy of Nest Property - Austins Ferry Hobart

Photograph courtesy of Nest Property - Austins Ferry Hobart

Notice of the Chapel's opening (Colonial Times)

Sources:

Colonial Times, Tuesday 1 October 1933, page 1
The Mercury, Monday 2 October 1933, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 7 October 1933, page 13

Sharples, Theo E. and Congregational Union of Tasmania.  Congregationalism in Tasmania, 1830-1977 : a brief history / compiled by Theo E. Sharples  Congregational Union of Tasmania Hobart  1977

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/austin-james-1727

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hopkins-henry-2197

Link to cemetery information: 
http://www.gravesoftas.com.au/municipalities/Glenorchy/Hestercombe%20Uniting.htm

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