No. 677 - Stirling Methodist Church (1910-1917)

Stirling is the former name of a small settlement contiguous to the township of Ridgley in Tasmania’s North West. Stirling was also known as ‘Nine-Mile’, a reference to the distance from the settlement to the town of Burnie. At the turn of the 19th century Stirling was described as having a post office, general store, school and church. By the time of the Great War the name Stirling was dropped as the larger settlement at Ridgley overshadowed and absorbed its smaller neighbour.

The first Methodist service at Sterling was held in May 1891 in the home of Mr and Mrs William Coventry. Between 1891 and 1897 regular services continued to be held in local homes until a paling hall with a shingle-roof was built on the property of Mr Cowling. The simple church hall also served as a school and this remained in use until a new church was constructed in 1910. The new building was erected on the site of the old “dilapidated” church hall which was pulled down. Seven years after the new church was opened it was moved about half a mile to a site in Ridgley and thereafter became known as the Ridgley Methodist church.

The foundation stone of the new Stirling Methodist church was laid on Thursday 29 September 1910, the event being recorded by the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times:

“A very interesting ceremony took place on Thursday afternoon, when a number of the friends and adherents of the Methodist church, Stirling, met for the purpose of laying the foundation stones. The proceedings were opened by the singing of a hymn, after which the Rev. T. Riding, of Wynyard, offered prayer. The Rev. A. R. Cocks, when addressing the gathering, referring to the work of Methodism in the district, and the splendid response which had been given to the appeal made on behalf of the new church. He then called upon Messrs. J. Bramich and A. A. Lucas to place the stones. When they had completed the pleasant task, those named made suitable speeches, Mr. Bramich especially referring to the history of the church in the district….”.

The church was built within a matter of months and was officially opened on Sunday 4 December 1901. ‘The North Western Advocate’ once again provides details of the ceremony:

“The opening ceremony in connection with the new Methodist Church at Stirling was held yesterday, services being held in the afternoon and evening. In the afternoon the Rev. A. R. Cocks conducted the dedication service. Mr. J. Bramich also delivered an address suitable to the occasion. The Rev. Cocks in an impressive sermon…. referred to the present day need for enthusiasm, that the church might prosper as in the days of old. He commended the congregation for the spirit of loyalty and warm-hearted enthusiasm displayed in the work of providing their new church, and trusted that it would be a place where a lot of good would be done and be the happy spiritual home of the people”.

The new church was described in another report in the ‘North Western Advocate’:

“The building is a very neat structure, and stands on the site of the old one. It is 32ft x 21ft, with Gothic windows and doors. The painting has been very tastefully done and gives a nice finish - both outside and inside. The pulpit railing is of blackwood, prettily designed, and reflects credit upon Mr. C. Clark, who designed and erected it. A picket fence is to be erected and when this is completed, the Methodists…will have one of the nicest churches in the district, a fact of which they are proud, and one which is highly satisfactory to Mr. M. Young, the contractor, and to Mr. W. A. Greenhill, who prepared the plans and specifications and superintended the work for the committee….”.

The church indeed proved to be a “happy spiritual home” but the decision to rebuild at Stirling was not a wise one. Even by 1910 it had become apparent that nearby Ridgley would become a more important centre, and it was not long before Stirling’s name would be lost to history as the settlement was absorbed into its more populous neighbour. In March 1917 the ‘North Western Advocate’ reported:

“The Methodists have decided to remove the church from Nine Mile (or Stirling) to Ridgley, where a block of land has been purchased for that purpose”.

In late April 1917 the church’s successful removal over a distance of half a mile to its new site was described by the ‘North Western Advocate’:

“There was something in the nature of a stir at Ridgley on Good Friday, when the Methodist Church was removed from its old site at Stirling to one at Ridgley which had been cleared by a working bee. The building, which is a large one 21 feet wide, was pulled along the metal road by means of two of Mr G. Adams’ traction engines, on a sledge made of two long poles. In one place the road was only 18 feet wide and the contractor had to widen the cutting and pull down the fence along the Ten Mile Creek. Only four hours were occupied in the removal, the road was in no way injured, while not a pane of glass in the window was cracked”.

The photograph used in this article shows the Stirling Church at its new location at Ridgley on the occasion of its official reopening in late 1917. The history of the Ridgley Methodist Church will be the subject of a future article.

The Stirling Church at its new site at Ridgley (1917) Libraries Tasmania (NS6575)


Sources:

North West Post, Saturday 30 July 1910, page 5
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 3 October 1910, page 2
North West Post, Thursday 10 October 1910, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 5 December 1910, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 12 December 1910, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 7 March 1917, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 21 April 1917, page 2
Advocate, Monday 2 June 1941, page 4
Advocate, Tuesday 26 June 1951, page 7

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