No. 698 - Montagu Bay - Former Congregational Church (1933-1964)

Montagu Bay is a suburb of Hobart located on the eastern shore of the Derwent River, about four kilometres from central Hobart. The name "Montagu Bay" appears to come from Algernon Montagu, who was an Attorney General and the judge in Van Diemen’s Land. He established a property, Rosny House in the Montagu Bay area.

The building featured in this article is better known as St James Anglican church which was established in 1966. However the building was originally a Congregational church that was built and opened in 1933. This article will focus on the period in which the building belonged to the Congregationalists and the history of the Anglican’s at Montagu Bay will be the topic of a seperate article.

When the church opened in August 1933, the Hobart Mercury’s coverage of the ceremony provides some interesting detail about the churches origins:

“The newly-erected Congregational Church at Montagu Bay was opened in the presence of a large crowd, including many visitors From Hobart and surrounding districts, yesterday afternoon. For the first time since the end of 1926, or early in 1927, the ferry steamer called at Montagu for the purpose of setting down and picking up visitors from the city”.

“Some years ago the Rev. David Milne, in conjunction with Mr. W. Jennings, of Bellerive, secured from the Rosny Estate Ferry Co. through the offices of Mr. James O'May, the gift of a block of land at Montagu Bay for the erection of a church, and last year, when the Rev. G. M. Scandrett became minister of the Bellerive district, the matter was revived and efforts launched for the construction of the building. The church was erected practically by voluntary labour, and is a commodious edifice, and is the only community building at Montagu Bay. The plans were prepared by Mr J. A. McKenzie, as honorary building adviser, and the work was supervised by Mr. Jennings. The appearance of the church is enhanced by two large lead light windows presented by Mr. McKenzie. The building will seat about 280 persons, and cost In the vicinity of £200. The Congregational Union of Tasmania assisted with the financing of the scheme”.

“The Jetty at Montague Bay was also repaired by those responsible for the erection of the church, and that will make it possible for the ferry steamer to call at the Bay when desired. Instead of bi-monthly services the people of Montague Bay will have a service in the new church every Sunday” afternoon….”.


The Mercury’s report continues with a description of the opening ceremony:


“More than 230 persons assembled for the opening service, at which the address was given by Mr. Richard Geeves, chairman of the Congregational Union of Tasmania. Others who participated in the service were the Revs. David Milne, H. J. Ralph, G. G. Nelson (Sorell), and G. M. Scandrett (Bellerive). Greetings were received from various Congregational Churches In the State. Mr. Geeves, who made special reference to the erection and purpose of the new building, spoke on the theme ‘All things being possible’ …”.

While all things may have been considered possible in 1933, the Montagu Bay Congregational church found it impossible to counter a steady decline in the numbers of the faithful by the late 1950’s. Services were conducted until 1964 when the Anglican community began renting the building. The Anglican’s purchased the church in 1966 and soon thereafter moved their own place of worship, an old Army hut, onto the site. This was attached to the church and used for Sunday school activities. 

The former Congregational Church - until recently St Jame's Anglican church (sold in 2019). The building attached to the side of the church is an old Army hut used by the Anglicans and bought onto the site after the church was purchased in 1966.  Photograph - courtesy of Petrusma Property - Real Estate (2019)

The interior of the church - Photograph - courtesy of Petrusma Property - Real Estate (2019)

Notice published in the Mercury advertising the church's opening in August 1933


Sources:

Mercury, Wednesday 9 October 1932, page 11
Mercury, Saturday 12 August 1933, page 3
Mercury, Monday 14 August 1933, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 17 August 1933, page 8

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

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