No. 1046 - Strahan - Methodist Church (1893-1899) and (1900-1965)

Strahan is a small town on the west coast lying at the western end of the Lyell Highway. It was originally developed as a port of access for the hinterland mining settlements. The town was known as Long Bay or Regatta Point until 1877, when it was formally named after the colony’s Governor, Sir George Cumine Strahan.

The Wesleyan Methodists appeared in Strahan in the late 1880s and by 1892 regular services were held in the town’s State school. A Methodist church opened in 1893 at a site on the Esplanade. In mid 1895 this building was moved to a new site Harvey Street. The Zeehan and Dundas Herald reported:

“Since the appointment of the Rev R. H. Bailey to Strahan, as the first resident minister, the Wesleyan Church there has made considerable strides. The building, which formerly stood on the Government Esplanade, has been removed to a central position in Harvey-street, and service will be conducted there for the first time on the new site by the minister next Sunday; and a few Sundays hence, when the building has been made cosy inside and out, the formal reopening will take place, to be followed by a week night social,… One very gratifying feature of this step is, that as far as can be gauged at present, the building will be opened almost, if not quite, free of debt….The whole cost of the removal and re-building will be about £40, and most of the money is already in hand”.

In 1899 the original church was replaced by a new building whose foundation stone was ceremonially laid in November of that year:

“In spite of the threatening weather a large number of townspeople attended on Wednesday at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Wesleyan Church at Strahan. At 3 p.m. the Rev Jas. A. Gault announced a hymn, and after prayer gave a short address…. The Rev W. E. Bennett, B.A., then gave an address on the progress of the new church scheme…. Mr McFarlane the architect of the building, then presented Mr Diprose with a beautiful silver trowel with an ivory handle and bearing the following inscription, tastefully engraved:—" Presented to W. Diprose, Esq., on tho occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of the Wesleyan Church, Strahan, November 22, 1899. Mr Diprose in a feeling speech referred to the honour he felt in being asked to lay the stone, and expressed the pleasure he had in seeing such a representative gathering at the ceremony. The stone was then declared to be well and truly laid.…”.

The new church was built alongside the old church which was put to use as a church hall. The new church was officially opened on Sunday 18 March 1900. A report published by the Zeehan and Dundas Herald provides a very detailed description of the building:

“The new Wesleyan Church which has just been completed in Harvey street was designed by Mr J. H. McFarlane, architect, of Strahan, and it has given every satisfaction to the congregation. The size of the building is 38ft x 23ft, and it has seating accommodation for 230 people. The flooring has a slope of 6in towards the rostrum. The edifice is entered from two porches with a vestibule between, and a large double door opens on to the auditorium, with a Gothic head in coloured glass. The style is purely Gothic. The ceiling is lined in diagonal panels and joints covered with crown moulds. There are four large pilasters to support the principals. The wainscotting is of pine, 4ft 6in in height, with deep moulding running round the whole of the interior. The top of the wall is finished with a wood cornice mould mitred round the pilasters and running the full length of the building. The wainscotting and ceiling panels are stained with oak varnish. All the pilasters, principals, and mouldings are painted in Indian red, with cut and champered work in pure white. The side walls are pierced by six windows with lancet heads, filled in with cathedral stained lights, with ruby margins set in lead framing, and they are finished at the bottom with hopper vents…..The front of the building is set off by a pretty rose window 4ft 6in in diameter, filled in with coloured Muranese glass in lead framing….The roofs are Gothic pitch, covered with corrugated iron, with six roof vent The outside is finished off in two tints of Indian red, with cut and chamber work in pure white. The choir platform is raised one foot above the floor of the auditorium, with communion rail of cedar, and Huon pine posts and panels. The pulpit or rostrum stands one foot above the choir platform, with a recess of 4ft in the back wall. The work of erection has been under the supervision of Mr D. J. Bantick, who has faithfully performed his duties. Visitors are loud in their praise of the appearance of the building. The acoustic properties are excellent, and the whole structure reflects the greatest credit on the architect and builder, for it is an ornament to the town”.

The subsequent history of the church mirrors the decline of Strahan as a significant port. Writing in 1975, Reverend Max Stansell describes the church’s decline:

“Strahan’s prosperity was of short duration. The opening of the Burnie-Zeehan railway in 1900 cost Strahan much trade. Later, the deterioration of Zeehan was another setback. Finally, both railways were closed and all shipping transferred to Burnie. Continued dwindling of population over many years, severely reduced the numbers associated with the church…[and]… the church and hall fell into gross disrepair. The church has gone altogether. Services are now held in the Church of England building”.

The church and the hall were apparently destroyed in a fire in the 1960s.

The Methodist church and church hall (1910). The hall was the original church located on the Esplanade and moved to Harvey Street in 1895. Image credit: West Coasters, Who remembers when... Facebook Group - posted by Adrian Price (September 2013)

Strahan c.1895 - Photographer Charles Rudd, The State Library of Victoria

Strahan Methodist Church (undated) Photo supplied


Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Saturday 17 September 1892, page 2
The Mercury, Saturday 21 October 1892, page 3
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Friday 17 August 1894, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Thursday 27 June 1895, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 17 October 1895, page 4
The Mercury, Saturday 2 May 1896, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Tuesday 19 October 1897, page 2
Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette, Thursday 23 November 1899, p 2
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Thursday 23 November 1899, page 3
Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette, Monday 2 April 1900, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Tuesday 3 April 1900, page 4

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


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