No. 981 - Flowerdale Methodist Church (1891-1965)

Flowerdale is a rural settlement approximately 7 kilometres west of Wynyard. The settlement is centred near the confluence of the Flowerdale and Inglis rivers. Flowerdale Creek was named by the Van Diemen's Land Company and first appears on the Franklands map of 1837.

The first Methodist service at Flowerdale took place in about 1870 in the home of Mr John Ridge. Mr Ridge later built a small hall for use by anyone who wanted to preach the Gospel. The Methodists used this hall for a time before building their own church in 1891.

The opening of the Flowedale Methodist church was recorded by Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette and this report provides some detail about the the building:

“Quite an event in the history of Flowerdale has taken place during this week, and may justly claim to be the most important ceremony in regard to the numbers concerned, and the object achieved, yet attempted in this picturesque and flourishing district. Any one unacquainted with the cause of commotion who may have chanced to visit Flowerdale, either on Sunday or Wednesday last, must have felt a vast amount of surprise and curiosity at the number of vehicles congregated in front of a modest little wooden structure, as well as at the alarming assemblage awaiting admission thereinto. Well, the fact was, that Flowerdale people en mass had assembled to celebrate the opening of the new church recently erected for the United Free Methodists in that that locality. The opening of the building had a more general interest than to those only who are connected with the denomination named, as it serves as the only means for holding religious worship in the now populous Flowerdale district”.

“The church is a neat wooden structure 25ft. x18ft., nicely painted, and lined throughout with T. and G. pine. The land upon which it is erected has been granted to the Flowerdale people as a free gift, so long as they continue to worship there — by Mr J. Ritter. Should circumstances ever arise to cause a removal of the church to another site, the trustees have the power to do so, in which case the present site reverts to the owner of the properly of which it forms a part”.

“Mr J. Cummings, of Wynyard, erected the church in a substantial and workmanlike manner for the small sum of £12/16/ (for labor only). This price was at least £10 under what the trustees expected to have to pay, and to Mr Cummings and his son their best thanks are accorded. Mr Allomen has also received sincere thanks for painting the church at half price. The total cost of the church and fittings has been £76, of which £35 has already been raised. The interior arrangements are very satisfactory, the seats being commodious and comfortable, and the ventilation and lighting of a suitable character. The trustee are Messrs. Gates (2), Langham, Dobson, Poke, Ritter, and House”.

“The opening services were held on Sunday last when the Rev. R.S. Carson preached in the afternoon at 2.30 and also at 7 p.m. At the afternoon service the church was densely packed and very many had to be content to listen outside. The rev. gentleman preached an eloquent sermon…. On Wednesday the opening ceremonies were continued, when a tea meeting, followed by a free entertainment, took place….. Visitors from nearly every district within a radius of twenty miles were present and a thoroughly enjoyable day was spent…..”.

In 1907 the church was extended and officially reopened on Sunday 22 September:

“On Sunday the anniversary of the Methodist Church was celebrated. The building has just been enlarged by an addition of about 12ft to the end, and was re-opened on Sunday. Eight new seats of an improved type have also been added, and a platform erected. These improvements are greatly appreciated, as the former building was far too small. The Rev. A. E. Davey preached in the afternoon and evening, and the church was filled on both occasions. The offerings for the day were in aid of the building fund, ….”.

Unfortunately the occasion was somewhat marred by the activities of local larrikins on the night before the church’s reopening:

“A most disgraceful piece of vandalism was perpetrated during Saturday night. Some person or persons smashed about fourteen panes of glass in the church windows, and when the building was opened for the Sunday service the seats and floor were found to be covered with fragments of broken glass. Some delay occurred in clearing up the mess and covering the broken windows before the service could begin. As this sort of thing has occurred over and over again in Flowerdale, it is quite time the Commissioner of Police sent a detective in plain clothes into the district to find out and bring to justice the larrikins who are responsible for this and other mischief”.

The problem of Flowerdale’s “larrikins” had been an ongoing one. In July 1907 Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported:

“On Monday evening Mr Simmons gave his interesting address on “Japan and the Japanese” in the Methodist Church. The building was crammed and all seemed to enjoy the address, which was illustrated by fine lantern views displayed by Mr Simmons. The evening was slightly marred by the presence of a few of the larrikin element, which caused the lecturer and audience some annoyance. It is a pity the authorities do not put a stop to such proceedings. As the lecturer said it is giving a bad name to the district, and it is certainly setting a very bad example for the young ones to follow. Unfortunately, they do not stop at this, but are continually breaking the church windows, so that notwithstanding the fact that they are constantly being mended, one invariably finds a broken pane or two”.

And in 1909 the Launceston Examiner reported:

"The larrikin element has again commenced the work of destruction at the Flowerdale Methodist Church. A few weeks ago they wrenched the new gate off the post to which it was hung. Now they have smashed a number of panes in the church windows".

A decade later the larrikin problem seems not to have abated. In mid January 1918, The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times reported:

“An incident that occurred at a concert in the Methodist Church, Flowerdale, on 4th December, during which it was alleged that a youth was stamping, kicking, bellowing and otherwise causing an uproar, had its sequel at the Wynyard Police Court yesterday morning, when the culprit was proceeded against for having caused a nuisance on this occasion. It was stated during the hearing of the case,…that owing to the conduct of larrikins in this district people refused to go to these concerts. A fine of £2 was imposed, with £1/4/ costs; a fortnight was allowed for payment. The defendant was warned that he would be treated more severely if he offended again, and was told by the bench that the purchase of a ticket did not give him a right to do as he liked and annoy other people. There was too much of this kind of thing going on in some of these country places”.

With time, Flowerdale’s larrikin problem disappeared but a more serious problem was rural depopulation and declining church attendance in the decades following World War Two. The creation of the the Uniting Church in 1977 was an attempt to reverse the problem of growing irreligiosity but this was not enough to prevent the closure of many rural Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. 

By the mid 1960s regular services at Flowerdale had ceased. In 1965 the congregation joined with the Wynyard Methodist church. For a time the Flowerdale church was leased to the Girl Guides Association. The land and church was sold in the 1980s and subsequently converted into a house. While the church still exists, it has been modified significantly over the years and no longer resembles the building in the photograph used to illustrate this article. 

Flowerdale Methodist Church c.1950.  Image credit: Wynyard a Pictorial History


Sources:

Daily Telegraph, Thursday 22 August 1891, page 4
Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette, Saturday 3 October 1891, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 18 July 1907, page 7
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 26 September 1907, page 3
The Examiner, Tuesday 29 June 1909, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 17 January 1918, page 2
Advocate, Monday 22 September 1941, page 2
Advocate, Friday 21 September 1951, page 13

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

Wynyard Historical Society.  Wynyard : a pictorial history / a Wynyard Historical Society Publication  Wynyard Historical Society Wynyard, Tas  2004



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