No. 656 - Stowport - The Baptist Mission Hall - "In true Masonic fashion"

Stowport is a village situated in the hills south east of the city of Burnie. The main part of the settlement is centred around the junction of the Stowport and Upper Stowport Road. It is an area that was first settled by employees of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

The first two decades of the 20th century saw the establishment of a number of churches in the Stowport district. A ‘Protestant Hall’ that was built in 1889 became the Methodist church that was moved next to the Stowport Public Hall in 1919. Another Methodist church opened at Upper Stowport in 1908 and St Raphael’s Anglican church, also at Upper Stowport, opened in 1910. Stowport’s Public Hall was built in 1907 and this was used by Anglicans and Baptists as a place of worship. Then in 1908 the Baptists built their own church at Stowport which functioned for about 15 years.

The foundation stone for the Stowport Baptist church, or Mission Hall, as it was sometimes called, was laid in a ceremony conducted on Thursday 30 July 1908. The event was reported in the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times:

“In accordance with a forward movement of the Burnie Baptist Church the foundation stone of a new hall was laid on Thursday last by Mr Robert Rutherford, of “Northlands”, Stowport. The Rev. P. W. Cairns and Mr W. H. Shute conducted Divine worship. There was a good attendance. In the course of an interesting address Mr Cairns told briefly of all that had led up to the event of the day. He regretted that Baptists were not more aggressive in the matter of spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land…Mr Rutherford was then called upon to lay the stone, which he did in true Masonic fashion as to the manner born. In a neat little speech he complimented his friends on erecting what he was pleased to name the Stowport Baptist Mission Hall. They had now three halls in Stowport, and he was quite sure that in preaching the Gospel and in the best work of church and Sabbath school it would be for the glory of God and the good of the whole district”.

The same article describes the location of the church:

“…..The new hall is situated on the main road opposite the post office and near the State school, on land given by Mr Rutherford. It is 24 x 18, and is in the capable hands of Mr Kenner and Mr Freeman”.

The Baptist hall was completed in two months and opened on Sunday 6 September 1908. The North Western Advocate once again provides some details:

“The opening services …. were conducted on Sunday last by the pastor, the Rev. P. W. Cairns. Splendid congregations assembled at 3 and 7 o'clock, and the offerings at both services were good. ….The service in the evening was of an evangelistic nature…”.

There are only a few references to the church in local newspapers over the following decade. One of these describes the hall’s ‘renovation’ in February 1917:

“The varnishing and painting of the interior of the Stowport Baptist church was carried out expeditiously on Saturday afternoon. A party of about ten members of the Burnie church motored to Stowport, and did this work, which was completed by 6 o’clock. Afternoon tea was provided for the workers by Mesdames Rutherford and Archie, and Miss Archie.”

This report suggests that the church was dependent on the support of the Burnie Baptist church and this is probably why the Stowport church was unable to sustain itself. The last newspaper references to the hall were in 1922. In January 1922, Reverend A. Leeder preacher a farewell sermon “to a crowded congregation” and in December of the same year there is a further reference to a meeting taking place at the hall.

In December 1925 a report in the Advocate tells of the Stowport Baptist church’s fate:

“The building formerly erected, and for many years used by the Baptist denomination as a church, has now been demolished and carted to Burnie, with a view to erection in an outlying part of that town. The beams, joists, and woodwork, altogether, are in an excellent state of preservation, and will, when re-erected, give service for years to come”.

The report gives no indication of building’s new purpose or its exact location. It is likely that the church’s timbers were incorporated into a house and it is possible that remnants of the building still remain. Although Stowport’s Baptist church had only a brief existence, it is nevertheless an interesting reminder of a thriving settlement and a Baptist community that has left no trace of its existence aside from a few reports preserved in the newspaper columns of the Advocate.

No photograph of the Baptist Mission Hall is known to exist and the image used for this article is only to illustrate the hall’s general location.

No photograph of the Baptist Mission Hall is known to exist.  This Google street-view shot shows a general view of the Stowport village.

Advertisement - The Advocate 1925

The former Stowport State School (1896-1956), now a house.  There is no trace of any building or foundations on the land opposite where the church stood, which is now an open paddock.


North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 21 February 1908, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 1 August 1908, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 10 September 1908, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 6 February 1917, page 2
Advocate, Tuesday 24 January 1922, page 5
Advocate, Saturday 23 December 1922, page 4
Advocate, Monday 19 February 1925, page 8
Advocate, Wednesday 2 December 1925, page 4


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