No. 1042 - Waratah - The Salvation Army Hall (1890)

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.

Information about the establishment of Waratah’s Salvation Army hall has been an unexpected challenge. Margery Godfrey’s “Waratah - Pioneer of the West” has a detailed chapter on the town’s churches but offers no clues as to when the hall or “barracks” was built. A thorough review of newspaper articles from the late 19th century provide a wealth of information about the Salvation Army’s activities but very little about the establishment of its hall or ‘barracks’. A single report from the Launceston Examiner’s Waratah correspondent in March 1890 states that: “Salvation Army progressing, the new barracks near completion”. It is safe to assume that the hall was completed and opened before mid-1890.

What is well established is that the Salvation Army first appeared at Waratah in early 1884. Initially the ‘Army’ used the Wesleyan Methodist and Primitive Methodist churches for its meetings and for worship. As elsewhere in Tasmania, the ‘Army’s’ appearance at Waratah was met with mixed feelings arising from its practice of holding noisy street processions which often attracted ‘undesirable elements’. In 1884 the views of Waratah’s correspondent for the Examiner and the Tasmanian News are typical of those at that time:

“I would like to say a few words respecting this marching round business. In my opinion it should he put a stop to. The way in which it is conducted at Waratah must to all good Christians be a disgusting sight. The fact of a lot of men and women parading the streets singing hymns and shouting the name of the 'Almighty and of the Saviour, accompanied by a host of larrikins and little boys, bawling at the top of of their voices, and making a mockery of the whole affair, is a sight not to be tolerated by decent people, and should meet, with the interference of the police. I am not a scoffer of religion; on the other hand I admire it, but not such religion as is manifested by parading the streets and making the most hideous of noises”.

A further report in the Hobart Mercury from March 1884 reveals the extent of the disruption brought to Waratah:

“The Salvation Army are increasing their numbers daily, and heir movements causing no little excitement. There are also two other “armies” recently formed here, the “Protection” army and “Skeleton”, the former being composed of persons who sympathise with the Salvationists, yet will not join them, and the latter of persons opposed to them. The three “armies” march in processional order every evening, headed by several members of the local brass band, the streets being generally thronged with spectators. Last evening much amusement was caused through the leader of the “Skeleton” army being mounted on a sprightly steed, slightly in advance of his soldiers, whose numbers are apparently increasing. Police court cases between members of the different armies are nearly a daily occurrence”.

The Salvation Army’s meetings regularly attracted trouble makers or larrikins. In March 1884 the Launceston Examiner reported:

“Two young men, named Sumlers and Henry, created a disturbance at the Salvation Army meeting held yesterday evening in the Primitive Methodist Church. The former has been a prominent member of the Skeleton Army. Both have been summoned, and will appear before the magistrates tomorrow”.

Enthusiastic supporters of the Salvation Army also fell foul of the law:

“John Collins was charged by John Hayes with stealing a drum, the property of the Mount Bischoff Brass Band, from the band-room. It appeared from the evidence that Collins took the drum for the purpose of assisting the Skeleton Army’s laudable endeavours. He-removed the drum on his own responsibility. This did not meet with the approval of Hayes, who gave him into custody on the above charge”.

Despite the initial disruption, by the late 1880s the Salvation Army had become an accepted and valued part of the Waratah community. 

After the opening of the Waratah hall in 1890, the Salvation Army’s fortunes, along with the town’s other churches, was allied with those of the Mount Bischoff mine. After World War One, the Salvation Army ceased its activity in Waratah but briefly reestablished itself again in 1936.

Shortly after World War Two the hall was moved from its original location at Ritchie Street to Main Street.

The Salvation Army no longer has a presence at Waratah and withdrew from the town many years ago. However, its hall still stands and is currently used as a business premises.

Waratah Salvation Army Hall (undated) William Roberts at left with Cornet and Bandmaster; his younger brother, Frank, is 5th from the right in the second row. Photograph and information supplied by Anne Dunham

Waratah Salvation Army Hall (undated) Photograph supplied by Anne Dunham

An undated photograph showing the hall's removal from Ritchie Street to Main Street -Photograph supplied by Anne Dunham

Harvest Festival  display in the Salvation Army Hall. Exact date unknown. John H Robinson photograph.

 Children with floral decorations. John H Robinson photograph.

Salvation Army Band 1918 - Photo supplied by Anne Dunham

The former Salvation Army Hall in 2018


Daily Telegraph, Friday 7 March 1884, page 2
The Mercury, Thursday 13 March 1884, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Friday 21 March 1884, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 26 March 1884, page 2
Tasmanian, Saturday 22 March 1884, page 14
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 2 April 1884, page 3
Tasmanian News, Tuesday 26 May 1885, page 4
Launceston Examiner, Monday 16 December 1889, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 19 March 1890, page 2
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Monday 6 October 1902, page 2
Advocate, Wednesday 13 May 1936, page 8

Godfrey, Margery. and Waratah (Tas. : Municipality). Council.  Waratah -- pioneer of the West / Margery Godfrey  Municipality of Waratah in association with Morvale Investments Waratah, Tas  1984


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