No. 818 - Waratah's Second Methodist Church (1912-1950)

Waratah is a former mining town located approximately 80 kilometres south of Burnie. For a brief time Waratah was the site of the largest tin mine in the world. The town had its beginnings in 1871 when James "Philosopher" Smith discovered tin at Mount Bischoff. The population of Waratah reached 2500 at its peak but is now under 300.

Six religious denominations were established at Waratah including the Methodists who built three churches:

A Wesleyan Methodist church (1878 -1912) [see No. 778]
A Primitive Methodist church (1882-1894) [see No. 616]
A new church built after the Methodist Union of 1902 (1912-1949)

The focus of this article is Waratah’s second Methodist church which opened in 1912 and was later removed to Upper Burnie in 1950.

Waratah’s first Wesleyan Methodist church, a small weatherboard building, opened on Sunday 14 April 1878. A report at the time of its opening noted that: “The building, though small, is a very neat one, and no doubt suited to present requirements. It occupies a convenient site not far from the Stanhope Smelting Works…”. There were plans to extend the building but these appear not to have proceeded and over time the structure of the building gradually deteriorated. In June 1910 a report in the Zeehan and Dundas Herald described the perilous state of the church and the urgent need for its replacement:

“….A structure [is] very urgently required, as the one now in use stands a very good chance of being condemned as unfit for occupation”.

In fact plans for building a new church had been underway since September 1909. Hobart’s Daily Post reported:

“Mesdames James Thorne, senior, and W. H. Camps, who are busy collecting for the new Methodist Church, are meeting with very encouraging support. The old building is very badly situated, and has long been an eyesore. It Is proposed to erect the new church at the top end of Main street, on the site of the buildings which were burnt down some few years ago”.

The new site was that of the old Methodist parsonage which had burnt in March 1906 taking with it an adjoining shop. The construction of the new church began in late 1911. It was a significantly larger building “measuring 50ft x 25ft, with a large porch added” with plans to add a vestry at a later date. The church was built by Mr. Hans Nelson of Waratah at a cost of £500.

The church was officially opened on Sunday 28 January 1912. The occasion was reported in several newspapers, including Launceston’s Daily Telegraph:

“On Sunday morning the first service was held in the new Methodist Church, the Rev. F. S. Woods officiating. In the afternoon a special service was held, at which members of all denominations were present. Mr Woods also conducted a service in the evening. At the afternoon service there were baptisms”.

“The new church is a handsome wooden structure, situated at the north end of Main Street. which it greatly improves….It is built on concrete, which in turn is bedded in solid rock.… The Bischoff Company have generously given the electric lights - twelve lights, of 50 c.p. [candle power] each. The work of getting a new church was started by Rev. Cleverden, but he was moved before the building was started, and the Rev. Woods is to be congratulated on so ably finishing the work commenced by his predecessor….”.

The new church had a relatively short although active life at Waratah before it closed in the early 1940s. The end of the mining boom spelt an end to the town’s churches which closed one by one over several decades. In 1950 the Methodist church was moved to Upper Burnie:

“A big semi-trailer in the service of F. H. Stephens Pty. Ltd; brought the Waratah Methodist Church from Waratah to Upper Burnie on Saturday for re-erection. The steadily diminishing population of the old mining town and the increase in the church activities of the Burnie suburb influenced the decision to make the transfer. The main part of the wood and iron building, 25ft. long and 12ft. wide, was brought to Upper Burnie on Saturday. The remainder, with the interior fixtures, will follow. A particularly difficult transport job was represented as rain in the Waratah area made travelling on an area of the road recently top dressed very difficult. The job took longer than expected. It had been necessary for the company to advertise its intention of making the trip with an over-width load”.

The Waratah church reopened as the Upper Burnie Methodist Church on Saturday 1 December 1951. This church too has closed but it still survives as the home of the Burnie Coastal Art Group’s Studio 2 Eleven. And article of the Upper Burnie Church can be read HERE.

                                 The Waratah Methodist Church c. 1912 - Source not known

      The former Waratah Methodist Church at its new site at Upper Burnie - photo courtesy of Val Fleming

          The church in 2019 - the weatherboard has been replaced with Colorbond  sheeting. (my photo)

Sources:

The Mercury, Saturday 31 March 1906, page 6
Daily Post, Monday 13 September 1909, page 2
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Tuesday 21 June 1910, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 23 May 1911, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 21 September 1911, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 3 February 1912, page 4
Examiner, Saturday 3 February 1912, page 9
Daily Post, Tuesday 6 February 1912, page 6
The Advocate, Tuesday 21 February 1950, page 4

Stansall, M. E. J & 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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