No. 716 - South Riana - Uniting Church (1903-2014) - "The honour of carting the first logs"

South Riana is a small rural settlement which is centred around the junction of Pine Road and Masters Road approximately 20 kilometres south of Penguin. The settlement began as a base camp for loggers and cutters before farming developed. At the close of the 19th century the Riana district was described by a correspondent for the Launceston Examiner:

“…The district is a rising and most promising one. Riana is the southern portion of the Pine road, Penguin, and, has been opened up only within the last six or seven years… The soil is a good dark chocolate and black, and yields excellent crops. For the first eight miles from Penguin the timber is almost solely stringy bark, beyond that myrtle, sassafras, celery top pine, and blackwood are the most plentiful. The Dial Range is said to contain various minerals, but nothing of importance has yet been discovered…..The chief industries are farming and timber getting. Potatoes and oats are the chief crops”.

South Riana once had two churches, an Anglican church hall (which was removed in the 1940’s) and a Methodist church which opened in 1903. 

The first Methodist services were held in homes and later in moved to a barn. A Sunday school commenced in a shed at Robson’s camp. Plans to build a church were well underway by early 1901. In May The North Western Advocate and the Emu Times reported:

“On Friday night the second meeting in connection with the building of a Methodist Church at Riana was held at Mr S. Clark's residence. The Rev C. Mason, from Penguin, occupied the chair. It was carried that the Rev Mason forward the survey fee to the Government for a piece of land opposite Mr Rowsthorne's that being the most suitable site for a church. It was also decided that the building be wood upon a stone foundation. Five young men present offered to scrub and get the land ready for building upon. Several donations were received towards the building fund. The collectors were requested to visit all friends as soon at convenient for donations, so that the plan of building could be decided upon, and the work proceeded with….”.

Further progress was reported in February 1902:

“Those interested in the erection of a Methodist Church are making a move. The logs are cut ready to be put together to burn, so the land will be in readiness for those who are going to cart the timber. At the meeting held on Saturday it was resolved to go on with the building at once. The Rev C. Mason was requested to visit all those who had promised to assist, and on Wednesday he called upon some of the friends with the result that the logs will soon be carted to Mr Fielding's saw mill, he having promised to cut all timber required free of cost. Mr Alex Smith, of Pine Road, will have the honour of carting the first logs”.

By May substantial progress had been made:

“The foundation of the new Methodist church is finished, it being the gift from Mr S. Clark. The contractors will soon be making a start to erect it”.

The contract to build church was awarded to Mr M.J. Garland of Ulverstone while the interior work was undertaken by Mr William Rowsthorne. The official opening took place on Sunday 22 February 1903:

“The opening of the new Methodist Church took place on Sunday when three services were conducted by the Rev M Lowther of Penguin….There were large gatherings at each service, collections being taken up in aid of the building fund…A public tea, held the following day was much interfered with by rain and only £2 8s. was taken at the door. A second tea, held on Tuesday, proved more successful, resulting in a return of over £10. Mr Sargent, of Launceston, took several photos during the evening of the church and visitors…”.

Almost to the day, 111 years after the church’s opening, a final service was held on Sunday 9 February 2014 . The Advocate’s report on this historic occasion provides an interesting survey of the church’s history:

“A huge congregation packed in to witness the closing service of the South Riana Uniting Church on Sunday, February 9. The service included a range of guest speakers including Pam Ingram, the congregation's final elder. All speakers represented families from the South Riana district and included Elaine Prewer, Mary Brain, Sally Cotterell and former minister Peter Cotterell. Mr Cotterell said the group reflected on the rich history of the church. "Stories were shared of inspirational pioneers, weddings, baptisms and funerals," he said. "Of the memorable Sunday school anniversaries, stories of new dresses, new hats and new gloves for the girls were shared.  "Trips to Buttons Creek for the annual picnic and a range of youth events and romances were also remembered." Mr Cotterell said the Methodist Church at South Riana began in the kitchen of Stephen Clarke and his wife in 1895. "As the congregation grew too big for the kitchen, they moved to the barn and then in 1902 the decision was made to build a church," he said. "Mr William Rowsthorn, Mr John Barker, Mr Stephen Clarke and his son Walter formed a building committee and the church was officially opened in February, 1903. "An old school building was added in 1916 and in 1928 a kindergarten was started, complete with sandpits for the little ones.  "In 1977 the Uniting Church was inaugurated and the South Riana congregation became part of this new Australian church." Mr Cotterell said music had played as an important part in the life of the church. "At the closing service an emotional rendition of The Church in the Wildwood - a perennial favourite of anniversaries - was sung by the gathered throng," he said. "The closing service was led by the current ministers, the Reverend Brian Cole and the Reverend Deacon David Webster. "Mr Webster reminded the congregation that though the building was closing the church would still continue."The afternoon gathering was completed with an amazing afternoon tea and an opportunity to catch up with old and new friends."

The South Riana Uniting Church has since been sold. Additional information and sources about the church and building are most welcome as all articles are updated. I can be contacted through this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: <Churches of Tasmania>

A photo of the church at the time of its opening - The photograph was most likely taken by 'Mr Sargent of Launceston' as mentioned in The North Western Advocate and the Emu Times

The church in 2008 - Photographer: Graeme Reid - Bonzle.com

The interior of the church at the time of its sale - Real Estate photograph - courtesy of Elders

Real Estate photograph - courtesy of Elders

The final service February 2014 - Photo: Courtesy of The Advocate

Photographer: Graeme Reid - Bonzle.com


Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 30 May 1901, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 8 February 1902, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 25 February 1902, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 13 May 1902, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 27 February 1903, page 2
The Examiner, Friday 27 February 1903, page 6
The Advocate, February 25 2014, Mark Acheson 'South Riana Uniting church Closes'

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

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