No. 725 - Huonville Congregational Church (1872-1965)

Huonville is a small town on the banks of the Huon River which is situated approximately 35 kilometres south of Hobart. Huonville was not originally intended to be the site of a town as a nearby settlement at Ranelagh (then called Victoria) was planned as the main centre of the district. However Huonville’s location at a bridge crossing the Huon River led to it supplanting Ranelagh as the larger of the two settlements.

Huonville’s former Congregational church dates back to the late 1840s when a simple wooden church was built by Thomas and William Walton. In 1838 the Walton’s acquired 640 acres of land which covered much of modern Huonville. In 1845 William Barnett, “an agent of the Congregational Union”, was appointed to minister at the nearby settlement at Franklin. It was shortly after Barnett’s appointment that the Walton’s built a chapel at Huonville.

In 1859 a report in the Hobart Courier mentions that a “great improvement has been effected in the Congregational Chapel originally built by Mr Thomas Walton”. It was this church that was destroyed in a fire in February 1872. The Weekly Examiner reported:

“The Congregational Chapel at Victoria, Huon district, has been destroyed by fire. A fire had been burning for two or three days near the building; precautions had been taken, and the fire was supposed to be extinguished; a log, however, in which the fire lay dormant was rekindled by some violent gusts of wind, and sparks from it appear to have ignited the chapel. It has been determined to rebuild the chapel on an eligible site presented by Mr Walton”.

The Weekly Examiner’s reference to an “eligible site” suggests that the original chapel stood on a different site from the sandstone church which replaced it. The new church was built at the intersection of Wilmot Street and Main Road. It can be seen in the photographs accompanying this article along with a timber Sunday school building. The site of the church and Sunday school were later the location the Huonville Westpac bank.



As Huonville developed the site of the church became an issue with the intersection called “bottleneck corner”. In 1942 several proposals were put forward to resolve the issue. One proposal was that the church remain on the site “on an island” with traffic directed behind the church. An alternative proposal was to remove the church to a new site.

In 1945 the Huonville Council approached the church trustees with an offer to purchase the site which was accepted. However, it was agreed that the church continued to be used for services until a replacement was built. In June 1947, the Mercury reported that a new “brick church” and a Sunday school and kindergarten were to be built on the Main Street and that the old church was to be demolished. However, the move seems to have been delayed for some considerable time for reasons which are not clear.

In June 1965 a new brick church, the Huonville Memorial Congregational Church, was finally built and opened on Main Street. Stone from the original church’s entrance was used to construct a ‘memorial’ gateway built in the style of lychgate. After the establishment of the Uniting Church in 1977, the Congregational church was closed. The new building, which is built in a style resembling that of an Adventist Church, now houses the Huonville Community Church.

Additional information about this church is welcomed as all articles will be updated. I can be contacted through this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: <Churches of Tasmania>



The Huonville Congregational Church situated behind houses on the banks of the Huon River. Detail of taken from a photo - (see bellow)


A detail of a photo of Huonville with the Congregational church and Sunday school to the centre left.  The full photograph is reproduced below.

An early photo of Huonville - the Congregational Church is situated in the centre of the photograph behind the houseson the river bank.  Libraries Tasmania NS1013-1-741 - Glass Plate Negative collected by E.R. Pretyman

Libraries Tasmania NS1013-1-741 - Glass Plate Negative collected by E.R. Pretyman

Libraries Tasmania NS4077-1-215
A photograph of a postcard of the church (undated) - supplied by Heather Bond.

The Memorial Lychgate - my photograph

The former Huonville Congregational church. (my photo)

Memorial stone - (my photo)


Sources:

The Courier, Friday 29 April 1859, page 2
Weekly Examiner, Saturday 24 February 1872, page 2
The Mercury, Friday 28 September 1877, page 3
Huon Times, Friday 12 October 1923, page 2
Huon and Derwent Times, Thursday 28 February 1935, page 17
Mercury, Saturday 12 August 1939, page 9
Huon and Derwent Times, Thursday 17 August 1939, page 1
The Mercury, Wednesday 8 August 1945, page 16
Mercury, Thursday 26 June 1947, page 6
The Mercury, Thursday 6 August 1948, page 6
The Mercury, Tuesday 14 December 1948, page 6

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