No. 715 - Evandale - Mrs Reed's Mission Hall (1883-1884) - 'Not riding in the same carriage'

Evandale is a historic town approximately 20 kilometres south east of Launceston. Originally established as a military post in 1811, the general area was variously known as Collins Hill, Patersons Plains and Morven. The settlement’s name was changed to Evandale in 1836 in honour of Tasmania's first Surveyor-General, G.W. Evans.

By the 1880’s four religious denominations had built churches at Evandale. These included the Anglican and Presbyterian churches on High Street, a small Wesleyan chapel on Logans Road and a Catholic church on Macquarie Street. There was also a congregation of “evangelistic” Christians that had used the Council Chambers for religious services from the 1860’s.

In the early 1880’s representatives from the ‘evangelists’ approached Mrs Margaret Reed, widow of Henry Reed, the founder of Launceston’s Mission Church, seeking funds to build a Mission Hall at Evandale. Thus in 1883 a Mission Hall with a “capacity to seat between 150 and 200 people” was built on Macquarie Street. Describing the new hall as “an ornament to the township”, Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported the Mission Hall’s opening on Sunday 21 October. The report also provides some detail as to how the building came about:

“The new Mission Room was opened last Sunday, at 3 in the afternoon, by Mr Hiddlestone, of Launceston... Considering the inclemency of the weather there was a fair muster. Before the sermon Mr Smith made a statement regarding the erection of the building. He said that some 27 years ago they found out the difficulty of obtaining a suitable room to hold evangelistic meetings in, when himself and Mr Russell interviewed the Council, on behalf of the people, in obtaining the Chambers. Difficulties were in the way, and in one of his communications on business to Mrs Reed he told her of the impediments in the way, but did not ask that lady for aid. Mrs Reed at once wrote to him, and offered, in the event of their building a room, to give £300 towards such a laudable object. He replied, thanking her, but put her in mind that if she would put a little more to it the property would be her own. Mrs Reed wrote him [Mr Smith] to go on building, and she would defray the cost. Hence the building was just as much that lady's as Mount Pleasant”.

The Examiner’s report on the Hall noted that:

“The building and site are the property of Mrs Reed, and will be available for use of any religious community, the members of which are not satisfied with the opportunities offered by the other four places of worship in the township”.

However, Mrs Reed’s Mission Hall was not welcomed by everyone in Evandale and became source of some dissatisfaction in the community. The Mercury commented:

“A good deal of difference of opinion exists over this hall, many thinking that there are four churches in the township and the building of a Mission Hall was unnecessary”. 

In 1884 a report in the Daily Telegraph suggests that Evandale had become a battleground with the Wesleyans and Christian Mission competing for the lost souls of the township:

“We are having a surfeit of religious services of one sort or another, as there seems to exist a kind of rivalry between one or two religious bodies here. I notice the Wesleyans are fast merging into the Salvation Army style of procedure. They have placards stuck up announcing a week of special services, at which knee-drill is announced every Sunday evening. On Monday evening they marched down the street singing “The home over there”. If they had a band of music the effect would be greater. Last Friday evening we also had a parade and music from a detachment from Launceston in connection with Mrs Reed’s branch of the Mission Church here. I would advise the Salvation Army to send out a detachment of soldiers and open a campaign. I believe they would get some recruits, as it seems their style appears to take with some here”.

A report by The Daily Telegraph’s Evandale correspondent in January 1884 suggests that the new Mission Hall was thriving:

“There was a monster meeting at the new Mission Hall last Friday night Mrs Reed was out, and with her brass band and big drum paraded the streets, which of course drew a large concourse of people to the public meeting ….Among the speakers were Mrs Reed, Messrs. Williamson, Wood and Harrison. The audience gave great attention”.

It is therefore somewhat surprising to learn that only a year after the Mission Hall’s opening, the Daily Telegraph’s report of its closure in November 1884:

“The new Mission Hall lately erected by Mrs Reed is closed. There was no service held in it on Sunday”.

The Hobart Mercury reported:

“The Mission Hall has been closed, and those who who took an active part in the services held in it are talking of building a Baptist Church. It is to be hoped that they will will soon be satisfied. It appears they cannot work with any other body, yet they say all ought to be invited”.

The reason for the Mission Hall’s sudden closure was not reported at the time. In late November 1884 The Tasmanian reported that the building “was on the market”. Shortly after it was sold to the Wesleyans who inaugurated it as a new chapel in May 1885. In the following year a report in the Mercury reveals the reason for the Mission Hall’s sudden closure:

“Services took place in connection with the new Wesleyan Church…. This church was built about two years since by Mrs Reed at a cost of £500. No doubt her motives were of the purest character, and she erected the edifice for the glory of her Master, but a clique had the management, and their objects being different from Mrs Reed's, consequently the two parties did not ride in the same carriage, hence the church was closed up by the above named lady when she saw the probable result. Mrs Reed having closed the building subsequently offered it for sale to the Wesleyans for £300, which they accepted, and paid cash for the purchase. Thus was threatening social trouble well ended”.

The Methodists used the hall as a church up until the 1950s or 1960s. The date of its closure is not known. The building no longer stands on Macquarie Street and I have yet to discover if it was demolished or removed to another site. The subsequent history of the building’s use as a Methodist church will be described in a follow-up article on Churches of Tasmania.

The Evandale Mission Hall - which was a Methodist Church by the time this photograph was taken. Source: Libraries Tasmania (LPIC147-3-00027)


Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 27 October 1883, page 2
The Mercury, Wednesday 31 October 1883, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 January 1884, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 11 November 1884, page 3
The Tasmanian, Saturday 22 November 1884, page14
The Mercury, Friday 5 December 1884, page 2
The Mercury, Thursday 18 March 1886, page 4


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