No. 1165 - Lower Barrington - Wesleyan Methodist Church (c.1876-1890)

Lower Barrington is a rural community located about 5 kilometres north of Barrington and centred on the junction of the Lower Barrington and Sheffield Roads. It was once a tramway terminus from where timber was railed to the Don River Company’s mill on the coast.

From the late 1870s Wesleyan-Methodists services were held near Melrose Creek, less than a mile distant from the Barrington junction. Here a rudimentary building was acquired for use as a temporary church. This building remained in use for about 15 years as a consequence of unsuccessful efforts to build a new church at a site closer to Lower Barrington.

In October 1889 the local correspondent for the Colonist reported:

“The Wesleyans of this district have been for 14 years trying to choose a site for a new church, and haven’t come to a decision yet. There is a pressing need for a new church in our midst, the present one being not at all suitable. We are very divided in our opinion as to the most suitable position for a new building; the district being so extensive, it is very difficult to find a site which would please the whole of the inhabitants. The Wesleyans, as a rule, are very progressive in their ideas, and it strikes me as being particularly strange that they should be 14 years thinking of leaving such a shattered old hulk as the present chapel undoubtedly is….”.

In 1884 an attempt to build a new church came to nothing. In January of that year a building committee had been established under Reverend J. May of Sheffield to build a church on land donated by Mr John Andrews. For reasons not known this did not progress and the Melrose Creek church remained in use for another seven years. Little is known about the appearance of old church. It was a small and very basic building according to Mr William Blackett who had visited the building in the mid 1880s:

“In a few introductory remarks, [he] referred to a previous visit made some five years ago, when he officiated in the same building, although it had been considerably enlarged. At that time it was simply a hut, with a chimney in one end, the place being so crowded on that occasion that six or seven persons had to seek refuge in the chimney”.

In early 1890, a second building committee was formed by Reverend H.C. Oldmeadow, the new resident minister at Sheffield. Soon after work began on constructing a new church at Lower Barrington on a site close to the Don Company Store. The story of the new church, which officially opened on Sunday 27 April 1890, is the subject of a previous article on ‘Churches of Tasmania’.

No image of the old church is available. The building was still standing in the 1940s and it possible that a photograph of it may come to light. For illustrative purposes I have used an 1893 photograph of the Don Tramway which ran through the Melrose Valley and which was in close proximity of the church.

The Don Company tramway near Barrington (1893) Photograph: W. L. Wells - Light Railways; issue no.24, December 2014.


Sources:

Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 30 January 1884, page 2
North West Post, Thursday 7 July 1887, page 2
Colonist, Saturday 2 November 1889, page 12
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 2 April 1890, page 3
North West Post, Saturday 19 April 1890, page 2
Colonist, Saturday 10 May 1890, page 24

Methodist Church (Tasmania), Sheffield Circuit, Forward In Faith, Sheffield Methodist Circuit Stewardship Canvass 1959, Devonport

Stansall, M. E. J. & Methodist Church of Australasia. (1975). Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975. Launceston, Tas: Methodist Church of Australasia

Notes by Miss Hilda Rockcliff published in 'The days of our youth : being a brief history of Lower Barrington with memories of students from the last years of the school's life' (1985); Devonport : C.L. Richmond

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