No. 1056 - Hobart - Barrack Street - City Mission Hall

Hobart’s City Mission was founded in 1852, making it the first City Mission in Australia and the third oldest City Mission in the world. It is modelled on the London City Mission established in 1835 by Scotsman David Nasmith. Nasmith produced a blueprint for Christian ministry in a large city based on experience gained in Glasgow under the influence of Thomas Chalmers, one of the first Christian leaders to experiment with new styles of ministry in the slums and tenements of the industrial revolution. The new Mission had a mandate to ‘extend the knowledge of the Gospel among the (poor) inhabitants of London and its vicinity.’

On 23 November 1852, a public meeting was held at the Mechanics' Hall, on Melville Street, with the purpose of forming a mission, not associated with any particular religious denomination. A committee comprising of sixteen members of the Hobart community was formed. The Mission’s purpose was to extend knowledge of the gospel to those inhabitants who did not attend a place of worship. Missionaries visited homes, urged church attendance and distributed religious tracts, but did not from proselytise for any particular denomination.

The Hobart City Mission’s first ‘home’ was the Watchorn Street ‘Ragged School’. Mr. H. Giles was appointed Missioner, probably as a consequence of his connection with the London City Mission. Religious services were conducted in city’s churches, chapels and schoolrooms before the present Mission building on Barrack Street opened in 1911.

Construction of the Barrack Street Mission was made possible as a result of a significant donation made in 1908 by an anonymous donor. The story of this unexpected gift is recounted in an article published in the Hobart Mercury:

“Behind the construction of the Mission hall on its present site in Barrack-street lies an interesting story, and indirectly the nucleus of the fund for the building was given through a squatter in the back country of New South Wales having met with an accident. Prior to 1910 the Mission possessed no permanent headquarters. It was indebted to trustees of various buildings in the city for accommodation. These included the trustees of the Memorial Congregational Church for the use of Berea Sunday-school in Upper Liverpool-street, and the trustees of the Central-street kindergarten for the 'use of that building, then known as the Ragged School. In 1908 the visitor from New South Wales, who was interested in missions, came to Hobart. On June 21 of the same year, be advised Mr. William Lake, then City Missioner, that he was sending £400 as the nucleus of the fund to build a hall for the Mission. The sole condition he imposed was that the name of the donor should not be divulged. An extract from the letter containing this advice said: "This amount is portion of a sum left in my care to be used for the furtherance of objects such as the one under discussion. At all events that is how I have been led to look upon it. It is merely by chance that your need came under my notice. On Easter Monday whilst putting up a fence I chopped my foot, which meant four or five weeks off duty, and it was during this time that the Sydney 'City Mission Herald' came into my hands with an account of your needs.” With a commencement such as this a special effort was made to obtain the balance of the money necessary to build a hall suitable for the purpose and two years later this object was realised….”.

Two years after the anonymous donation the foundation stone for the Mission’s first hall was laid by Governor Sir Henry Barron on Tuesday 25 October 1910. The Mercury reported:

“The new hall is being erected just above Liverpool-street, and a string of bunting across the road guided a fairly large number of visitors to yesterday’s function, while a number of people in the neighbourhood assembled to see the foundation-alone of the building placed in position. The ceremony was performed by the Governor, who was accompanied by Lady Barron, and attended by Major Cadell. ….The Rev. E. H. Jones (hon. secretary)….mentioned that the Hobart City Mission would he celebrating its diamond jubilee in two years time. It had been established in 1852, and had for nearly sixty years been doing the good work in extending a helping hand to the burglar, the drunkard, and, in fact, to all kinds of transgressors, and to those who needed help”.

The hall was officially opened on Sunday 19 February 1911. An article appearing in The Mercury described the newly completed building:

“The hall is a substantial brick building situated in Barrack-street, on the rise between Liverpool and Goulburn streets. The main entrance has been treated as the leading feature of the front, and is arranged under a boldly arched recess. A moulded and enriched cement architrave surrounds the door and is also carried around the main tablet above ,which bears the words “Hobart City Mission” with the text underneath, “Jesus Christ receiveth sinners”. The entrance is protected by an inner porch, with double swing doors. The hall will hold between 200 and 100 people, and is simple treated with a solid looking open roof. This is lined with Tasmanian hardwood, the plain brick below being merely coloured in two tints….”.

The brick Federation Romanesque style hall was designed by architects Ricards and Heyward and built by Mr David Williams of Argyle Street.

In 1927 the building was extended at the rear and a second commemorative stone was laid by Governor Sir James O’Grady.

Now in its 101st year, the Barrack Street Hall still houses Hobart City Mission's headquarters.


Tasmanian News, Tuesday 25 October 1910, page 4
Mercury, Wednesday 26 October 1910, page 2
Mercury, Saturday 18 February 1911, page 3
Mercury, Monday 20 February 1911, page 6
Daily Post, Wednesday 22 February 1911, page 7
Mercury, Wednesday 22 February 1911, page 2
Mercury, Wednesday 10 November 1926, page 5
Mercury, Monday 6 June 1927, page 3


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