No. 1000 - Hobart - The Collins Street Independent Chapel (1837-1857)

 The former Collins Street Independent Chapel is one of several Hobart churches associated with businessman and philanthropist, Henry Hopkins (1787–1870). The chapel, which was located at 56 Collins Street, is now hidden behind a facade of a new building constructed in the early 20th century. 

Henry Hopkins and his wife Sarah settled in Van Diemen’s Land in 1822. As a result of their efforts Reverend Frederick Miller arrived in Hobart in 1830 to become the first settled Independent minister in Australia. Financial support provided by Hopkins facilitated the building of Congregational churches across southern Tasmania, including the Independent chapel on Collins Street. By the 1850s the chapel was considered too small for the growing congregation and was replaced by a new Congregational church built on Davey Street.

The story of the Collins Street chapel began on 11 March 1836 when a number of individuals, who had been members of congregational churches in England, met at Hopkins’ home where the group constituted themselves into a church. Two days later the group elected Rev. J. Nesbit as pastor. Services were held at premises in Liverpool Street until a permanent place of worship was built at Collins Street.

In the 1830s the district around lower Collins Street was an insalubrious part of the town being close to the docks and markets and where the Hobart rivulet was effectively an open sewer. In April 1836 the construction of the chapel is mentioned in the ‘True Colonist’:

“We were last Wednesday passing along the bottom of Collins-street with a friend, who directed our attention to a foundation that was digging out. We expressed our satisfaction at finding that a new tenement was about to take the place of the rattle-trap huts which had so long disgraced that part of the town, and we enquired for what purpose the building was intended. Our friend replied, that it was a speculation of Mr. Hopkins's, who was there erecting a chapel or temple for….a new sect that had just started…”.

The chapel’s progress is further mentioned in the Hobart Town Courier in August 1836:

“The beautiful new chapel now building at the old market place is roofed in, and will in a few months be open for public worship. It will be a lasting monument of the christian philanthropy which characterises the benevolent projector. …”.

The chapel was officially opened on 1 January 1837. No published description of the opening service exists. In 1837 Sunday school work was begun under the superintendency of Hopkins and a branch school was opened in the nearby Wapping district. Reverend Nisbet served the congregation until December 1851 when he was replaced by Reverend George Clarke.

Early in Clarke’s ministry a decision was made to build a new church on Davey Street which opened in 1857. In the same year the Collins Street chapel was sold to the congregation of Reverend Down for an amount of £1400 and reopened as the Knox Chapel. Then in 1861 the chapel was taken over by the Primitive Methodist church which occupied the building up until Methodist Union in 1902. The chapel was sold in June 1903 and soon after this was incorporated within a new building. The eastern wall of the original chapel is visible from Market Place.

Cover image. See photos below.

The Collins Street Independent Chapel (undated) - Source: Libraries Tasmania

Source: Libraries Tasmania

The Tasmanian, Friday 30 December 1836

Lower Collins Street c.1910.  Part of the chapel can be seen behind the facade of a new building and directly below the Post Office clock tower. (Libraries Tasmania)

Google street view from Market Place - the 'east' wall of the chapel is visible in the top left of the screenshot image.

The facade of the 'new' building in front of the Independent chapel. (Google street view)

The original building behind the facade as viewed from above - Photograph supplied by Colin Chick

The original building behind the facade as viewed from above - Photograph supplied by Colin Chick


True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch, and Agricultural and Commercial, Friday 8 April 1836, page 110
The Hobart Town Courier, Friday 19 August 1836, page 3
The Tasmanian, Friday 30 December 1836, page 3
Courier, Friday 10 June 1853, page 2
Colonial Times, Saturday 3 September 1853, page 3
Tasmanian Daily News, Monday 12 October 1837, page 2
Mercury, Wednesday 4 March 1936, page 3

Sharples, Theo E. and Congregational Union of Tasmania.  Congregationalism in Tasmania, 1830-1977 : a brief history / compiled by Theo E. Sharples  Congregational Union of Tasmania Hobart  1977


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