No. 861 - Wivenhoe - The former Presbyterian Church Hall (1915-1919) "Practically the Wivenhoe Town Hall"

Wivenhoe is a suburb of Burnie situated on the east bank of the Emu River. It has developed into an industrialised area less than 3 kilometres south-east of the city centre. In the 1850s the area was named after the town (and parish) of Wivenhoe in Essex County by Captain Henry Butler.

Perhaps older residents of Burnie will remember Wivenhoe’s old Anglican church, St Chad’s, which stood on the corner of Corcellis Street and Main Road. The building still exists although it is now barely recognisable as a church. Since the church’s closure in the 1970s it has been clad in ‘colorbond’ sheeting and has been shifted to the rear of the corner block. The building is a lot older than it appears and in fact dates back to 1915 when it was erected as a Presbyterian church.

The building’s origin is revealed in a report in the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times concerning the church hall’s opening on Tuesday 9 February 1915:

“The opening of the new Presbyterian Hall at Wivenhoe was performed by the Rev. G. Elliott on Tuesday evening….The Rev. Elliott referred to the need for a Sunday school in the suburb of Wivenhoe in connection with the work of the church at Burnie. A little over two years ago, at the request of the Rev. Leckie, Mr. John Wright had started a Sunday school with half-a-dozen children in an old building kindly loaned by Mr. C. Beveridge. Under Mr. Wright's able superintendence, the number of scholars had increased to 47…..The board of management of the Burnie Church had purchased from Mr. Hall for the sum of £30, a block of land on which they erected a Sundav school hall, the cost of which, with furnishing and fencing was another £130. The contractor was Mr. F. J. Tallack. The Rev. Elliott gave the crowded audience all particulars, and urged upon them their responsibility in making an effort to reduce the debt….”.

For reasons which are not entirely clear, barely three years after the Hall opened, the Presbyterians sought to withdraw from Wivenhoe. This decision was to give rise to unease amongst residents of Wivenhoe as the building had also been used as a public hall. However, it also presented an opportunity. In November 1918 the ‘North Western Advocate’ reported:

“At yesterday's meeting of the Emu Bay Council the matter of the public hall at Wivenhoe was considered. The'Warden (Cr. Norton) said that the hall was erected by the Presbyterian Church, and numerous persons subscribed to the fund for the purpose on the understanding that it was to be used for public affairs. This had been done, and public meetings, concerts, etc., had been held there as promised. In fact, the hall had become practically the Wivenhoe Town Hall. Now there was some some talk of moving it to Burnie, and naturally the residents did not want this to happen. The hall was ideally situated and stood in a quarter of an acre of land. It had been said that the church authorities were willing to sell the hall to the people for about £200. A meeting of residents had requested him to place the matter before the council, and ask if it felt agreeable to purchase it on behalf of the people. The question was discussed conversationally, and it was decided to empower the Warden to call a public meeting and place before the residents…”.

In January 1919 a meeting of residents voted for council to purchase the building for a sum of £220. However, the council did not accept the proposal as it now considered the hall to be too small.

By mid 1919 the issue of a securing a public hall had still not been resolved and a further public meeting was held in the Wivenhoe State school. The Burnie Advocate reported that residents had petitioned council to build a new hall and submitted plans for a building at a cost of £550. However, the cost of the the proposal was considered excessive thus the original plan of purchasing the Presbyterian church hall was revisited:

“… The scheme was bigger than they expected. The Presbyterian Church (30 x 20 feet) and land had been offered them for £220, and for £100 it could be enlarged to meet their requirements…. if another 15 feet were placed on the church it would do Wivenhoe for many years….”.

It was suggested that the Presbyterian property be purchased and the hall be moved to the Wivenhoe Show Ground and that land be sold to defray expenses. However at a council meeting held in June 1919, it was decided:

“To take no action respecting the application to erect a public hall at Wivenhoe, as the estimated cost was too heavy, considering the local conditions”.

By July 1919 the Anglican’s had acquired the hall although it continued to be used as a public venue until the early 1930s. From 1919 it is generally referred to as the “Wivenhoe Church Hall” until 1922 when it became known as St Chad’s Church Hall. It remained in use as a church until 1974 when it was sold. The history of the hall as “St Chad’s” will be the topic of a follow-up article on ‘Churches of Tasmania’.






   
This is the only photograph I have come across with the church hall on the corner of. 
      Corcellis Street and Main Road Wivenhoe. At the time the photo was taken the hall operated 
      as St Chad's Anglican Church. Photograph supplied by Robyn House.

Sources:

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 11 February 1915, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 19 November 1918, page 3
Advocate, Thursday 12 June 1919, page 3
Advocate, Saturday 4 January 1919, page 2
The Mercury, Thursday 19 January 1919, page 2















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