No. 1122 - Zeehan - Methodist Church (1897-1954)

Zeehan is a town on the west coast approximately 40 kilometres from Queenstown. As a mining town it became the administrative centre for a number of mining companies in the region. Zeehan was established in the early 1880s and by the turn of the 20th century it had become Tasmania's third largest town. Zeehan takes its name from Mount Zeehan which had been named by George Bass and Matthew Flinders after Abel Tasman's brig ‘Zeehaen'.

Since Zeehan was established, five Methodist churches have been built in the town:

1. A small Wesleyan-Methodist chapel (1890)
2. A large Wesleyan Methodist church replaced the chapel in 1897.
3. The 1897 church was demolished in 1954 and replaced by a smaller church.
4. A small Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1891.
5. A larger Primitive Methodist church replaced the original chapel in 1895.

The focus of this article is on the second Wesleyan Methodist church which opened on Sunday 14 November 1897.

The Wesleyan-Methodist presence at Zeehan dates back to 1889 with the arrival of Mr Norman Foote as missionary. A small church was built in 1890 which was quickly outgrown as the town’s population boomed. Construction of a much larger church commenced in mid 1897 with the foundation stone being ceremonially laid on Wednesday 11 August.

The opening services were conducted by Reverend Samuel Cuthbert of the Hobart Methodist circuit. The Launceston Examiner reported that the “three services were crowded to suffocation, and it is estimated that over 800 were present at night”.

The Zeehan and Dundas Herald published a lengthy article at the time of the opening describing the new church. Sections of this report is reproduced here:

“Rather more than 12 months ago the Wesleyans of Zeehan began to feel that the church in use was inadequate for their needs, … various schemes were suggested for the renovation of the old church, but at last, in January of the present year,…it was decided to erect a new building altogether on the site then occupied by a small housed used as a minister’s dwelling-house…..”.

“The new church, which is of Gothic design, presents an imposing appearance to Main-street. It rises to a height of 50ft above the footpath, and in front there is a large porch with three entrances. Over each entrance there is a rose window surmounted by neat panelled barge boards, and in the main gable there is a triple light window and above that a large rose window and barge boards similar in design to those of the porch gables….The body of the church is entered from the porch by two pairs of large swing doors, which open outwards”.

“The size of the church is 65ft. by 35ft., and the height from floor to ceiling is 28ft. There is a varnished blackwood dado 6ft. high around all the walls, and above that the walls are plastered to the ceiling…The Gothic-headed windows of which there are twelve single lights and one triple light, are glassed with stained cathedral glass, which throws a beautiful light throughout the church edifice. They are the first of the kind that have been used on the West Coast. At the end of the church there is a choir platform…at the back there is a class-room 14ft. by 14ft., and a vestry…. The foundations of the church and the handsome steps which lead up to the entrance are all of cement construction. The painting of the building is finished in terra cotta and cream, with doors and windows of olive green”.

The church was designed by the architects ‘Messrs A. and S. Luttrell’ and was it was built by Mr James Wilson. The building was designed to seat 500 worshippers. The church cost £987 and in addition a parsonage was constructed for £343.

The history of the church is closely bound up with the fate of Zeehan’s mines. The decline of mining activity began in 1907 and by 1913 the smelters had closed. The church struggled on but the building was too large for the ever decreasing population and it fell into a state of disrepair. In 1954 a small chapel was built and the old church was demolished. At the end of 1974 Methodist services at Zeehan were discontinued.

Publication copy - see high resolution photo below for details

Zeehan Methodist Church - The Weekly Courier July 1908


Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Friday 13 August 1897, page 3
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Monday 15 November 1897, page 2
Examiner, Monday 15 November 1897, page 6
The Mercury, Monday 15 November 1897, page 3
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Thursday 18 November 1897, page 3

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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