No. 645 - Mooreville Road Methodist Church - 'Stories in the Stones'

Mooreville is a small settlement situated approximately 5 kilometres south of Burnie. The name of the settlement as well as the road to Burnie was given by a local landholder, Mr James Henry Munce, in the late 1850s. The name comes from a location in England known to him.

The Mooreville Road Methodist church is now located on Mount Road in Upper Burnie. After the Waratah Methodist church was removed to Upper Burnie in 1951 for use as a new place of worship, it was joined by the Mooreville Road Church in the 1960’s where it was converted into a church hall. In recent years the old Mooreville church has been clad with Colorbond and in the process its gothic windows have been lost which has completely altered the appearance of the historic building. When the church was moved to Burnie its memorial ‘foundation stones’ were brought with it and these are now one of a few hints as to the refurbished building’s original purpose.

One of the foundation stones bears the inscription “In memory of Thomas Lister Freer”. Thomas was the son of John Freer who was born in 1840 at Otley, Yorkshire. The family were devout Methodists and played a crucial role in the establishment of the Mooreville church. Thomas, the eldest son, died of tuberculosis in September 1905 while in Adelaide. He had been suffering from ‘consumption’ and was sent to Adelaide to recover but his health deteriorated after admission to a sanitarium. The Freer’s role in the church is mentioned in a lengthy report, published the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, concerning the laying the church’s foundation stone in November 1906:

“A unique event took place on Friday at Mooreville Road, …the occasion being the laying of the foundation stone of a Methodist Church. In 1903 fortnightly Sunday services and a Sabbath school were commenced in the State school by a small band of ardent workers, and the attendances were so satisfactory that a year later weekly services were started. The late Mr Thomas Freer, Mr Josiah Freer and Mr Richard Hilder have been closely identified with the work apart from the ministers of the circuit. The new church, which will hold about 100 people, is to be built on a ½ acre block purchased from Mr Gilbert Greenhill and adjoining the State school….”.

“By 4.30 p.m. on Friday there was a large gathering of country folk and visitors, and the grounds presented a holiday appearance. After two or three hymns had been sung by the Sunday school children and Mr Richard Hilder had opened with prayer, Rev. J. A. Gault addressed the gathering. When he came to the district about two years ago, the speaker said he found that plans for a church had been left by the former minister (Rev T. B. Reed). Friends had so nobly responded to the enthusiastic efforts of the collectors on behalf of the fund that a sum of £100 had been secured toward the building, and they were able to undertake a more extensive erection than was first intended….”.

“The proceedings were not to be without a touch of sadness, for at the conclusion of his address Rev Gault requested Rev W. H. Walton to lay a stone bearing the following inscription: 'In memory of Thomas Lister Freer, who commenced the cause in 1903.' In touching language the veteran minister referred to the commencement of the cause three years ago by their late brother, who, in the prime of manhood, was called home on September 25, 1906, while visiting Adelaide.”

The church was completed in a matter of months and was officially opened on 10 February 1907. Once again, the ‘North Western Advocate’ provides details of the service as well as a description of the new building:

“The Methodist cause at Mooreville road is becoming firmly established. Two or three months ago an article in these columns recorded a successful ceremony in connection with the foundation stone laying for a church, and Sunday last witnessed the opening of the new edifice. There were good congregations at morning, afternoon and evening services, all parts of the district being represented. All expressed pleasure with the neat little building (34 x 23ft) situated on the western side of the Mooreville road.… A striking feature of the interior, after the neatly painted walls and blackwood scrolling have caught the eye, is the lighting appointments — eight large windows and six acetylene gas lamps. A movable platform, a handsome black wood pulpit and comfortable seats capable of accomodating over 100 adults are also provided. In fact, Mooreville road can boast of one of the best country churches for miles round, The morning service on Sunday was conducted by the Rev. A. P. Watsford, of Wynyard, who preached a thoughtful, suggestive sermon….Rev. W. H. Walton, the veteran pioneer Methodist of the circuit, preached in the afternoon,….Mr G. G. Pollen had charge of the evening service…”.

The church remained active until the 1950’s after which a decline in the congregation led to its closure and eventual removal. Like many early churches it has survived through being used for new purposes and it is now a part of the Burnie Coastal Art Group studio.

* Another memorial stone can be seen close to that of Thomas Freer. It is a granite stone now barely legible - in memory of Brian Clarke, an 18 year old boy from Burnie who was killed in a car crash in 1952. The tragic accident was widely covered in the press and one of the articles can be found <HERE>

The Mooreville Road Methodist church at the Mount Road site before its renovation - photograph courtesy of Val Fleming

The re-clad and renovated church in 2020

A Google street-view image of the church (2010)

Memorial stone and foundation stone of the Mooreville Road church

The barely legible memorial stone in memory of Brian Clarke

The location of Mooreville and Mooreville Road near Burnie. source: placenames.gov.tas.au

Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 25 September 1905, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 27 September 1905, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 19 November 1906, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 14 February 1907, page 4
The Mercury, Saturday 2 September 1911, page 10
Advocate, Wednesday 12 July 1933, page 2

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/5019153/renovation-keeps-gallery-going/

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