No. 953 - Austins Ferry - Roseneath Wesleyan Chapel (1836-1850)

Roseneath is the name of a former inn and property at Austins Ferry, approximately 15 kilometres north of Hobart. The inn was established by James Austin, a former convict. In 1816 Austin and his cousin James Earl established the first Derwent ferry service on the main route from Hobart to Launceston. The completion of the Bridgewater causeway in 1838 effectively bought this profitable enterprise to an end. Austin’s inn and farmstead (which he called Baltonsborough Place) was renamed “Roseneath” by Governor Macquarie while on a tour of Van Diemen's Land in 1821. Shortly after Austin’s death in 1831, Roseneath House, a large eighteen roomed sandstone building, was completed.

In 1836 a small Wesleyan chapel was built in the vicinity of Roseneath House and Austin's Inn and ferry. The opening service, conducted by Reverend Joseph Orton, took place on Tuesday 13 December, with a collection taken to ‘defray the expense incurred by the erection of he building’.

The chapel was a log structure measuring 25ft by 18ft which was plastered on the outside and contained 12 benches and a pulpit. The chapel was built following the establishment of a Sunday school in April 1835 with an enrolment of 7 children, increasing to 21 by the end of that year. Regular Sunday services began about the same time. In the minute book of the Hobart preachers' meeting, dated April 24, is was resolved:

“That preaching be commenced at Mr. Emmanuel Wellard's, Hestercombe, on Sunday next at 11 o’clock."

In 1837 the chapel’s trustees, in reply to an application for the buildings use as a day school, granted the request, fixing the rental at 2s 6d weekly. However, there is no evidence that the school was actually established, which explains the chapel’s mounting debt.

The construction of the Bridgewater causeway resulted in a sizeable community at Austins Ferry. However, the completion of the causeway and its impact on the operation of the ferry led to a significant decline in population, effecting the viability of the Roseneath Chapel.

By September 1839, local preachers were giving consideration "to the expediency of discontinuing”. Attendance returns for that year show the chapel had no income but a debt which had increased to £80. Rationalisation became necessary and six months later it was decided that ministers who "undertake the preaching appointments at O'Brien's Bridge and Roseneath on the same day, [that] a horse being provided for the occasion."

In 1841 the pastoral report of Rev. John Waterhouse makes grim reading:

"It [Roseneath] has received regular visitation, but it yields us little but disappointment and grief at present. In consequence of the principal part of the population being removed from the neighbourhood, and the responsibility upon the place being more than its value, it is respectfully recommended to the committee that they sanction its disposal."

A letter written by Waterhouse in the same year reveals that the Methodists had some difficulty selling the building:

“ The debt on the property is £50 plus £40 interest and I could not sell it for £20”.

It seems that the chapel remained unsold for the pastoral report of 1844 states:

"Roseneath has been shut up for some time, due to removals or people growing weary and absenting themselves."

Tradition has it that a huge tree fell across the old chapel in about 1850, razing it to the ground. A Methodist community was only reestablished in the district after the turn of the 20th century and a Methodist church was opened in nearby Claremont in 1914.

A view of Roseneath c.1825 - Lycett, Joseph - Libraries Tasmania

The Tasmanian 1886

The ruins of Roseneath Inn c.1880 - image: Libraries Tasmania 


Stansall, M. E. J. and Methodist Church of Australasia.  Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 / [by M.E.J. Stansall ... et al]  Methodist Church of Australasia Launceston, Tas  1975

The Tasmanian, Friday 9 December 1836, page 1
Colonial Times, Tuesday 13 December 1836, page 1
Mercury, Saturday 5 December 1936, page 9


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