No. 1168 - St Helens - Methodist Church (1889-1988)

St Helens is the largest town on Tasmania’s east coast. It was established as a fishing village and whaling station in the 1830s. When tin was discovered in the hinterland in the 1870s, St Helens was developed as a port for the mines. It was named by Captain Furneaux after a town of the same name on the Isle of Wight, England. In the 19th century the St Helens district was also referred to as Georges Bay.

The Methodist presence at St Helens dates back to 1871 when services were first regularly conducted by Reverend J. Graham who was stationed at Fingal. For almost 15 years the Methodists periodically worshipped in a small weatherboard Anglican church built on Tully Street in 1875. An attempt to build a Methodist church at the settlement was made in 1883. In July the Hobart Mercury reported:

“A meeting of gentlemen attached to the Wesleyan Church was held at the Telegraph Hotel….The Rev. Mr. Brown and delegates from St Mary’s and Gould’s Country were present. Amongst various matters discussed was the question of the erection of a Wesleyan Church at St. Helens. It is said that a site has been chosen, it being portion of a vacant piece of ground fronting on Cecilia-street, above the Telegraph Hotel, and that more than half the amount has been subscribed, and the remainder will be collected without difficulty”.

For reasons not known the construction of the church on Cecilia Street did not proceed and the Methodists continued to use the former Anglican church.

In 1887 the Methodist minister residing at St Marys wrote a letter to the Launceston Examiner expressing his concern about reports about a fundraising effort to repaint the former Anglican church:

“Your George's Bay correspondent informs your readers in to-day's supplement that there is a notice posted up to the effect that a ball will take place here in aid of funds to paint the church, where the Wesleyans hold their services. Will you kindly allow me a few lines just to say that I as the Wesleyan minister regularly visiting George's Bay and holding service there, have not received any information from any Wesleyans on George's Bay upon the subject of any such ball for any such purpose, and that I am most strongly opposed to money being raised in such way for any religious object. Hoping that you will kindly give me this opportunity of setting myself right in the minds of those, who, I am sure, would be grieved to think that a Wesleyan minister could countenance the raising of funds by the means of a ball”.

It is known known what became of the fundraising ball but by 1889 the Methodists had built a church of their own. The foundation stone for the new church was ceremonially laid at a site on Quail Street on Wednesday 16 October 1889. The building was officially opened on Sunday 15 December. The Tasmanian reported:

“The opening services of the new Wesleyan Church, St. Helen’s, were celebrated on Sunday. Excellent sermons were preached in the morning, afternoon, and evening by Rev. W. Presley. The congregations were very good…. The church is a neat wooden building, and an ornament to the town. It is the first Methodist Church erected beyond St. Mary’s”.

This building, along with a hall built alongside the church in 1930, was used almost unaltered for almost a century before it was replaced by the present Uniting Church building in 1988. [This church will be the subject of a separate article].

St Helens Methodist Church (see details in the full image below)

St Helens Methodist Church (undated) Photographer not known. Photo supplied - M. Hartley.


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

The Mercury, Tuesday 10 July 1883, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 9 November 1887, page 1
The Tasmanian, Saturday 19 October 1889, page 20
The Tasmanian, Saturday 16 November 1889, page 14
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 17 December 1889, page 3
The Mercury, Tuesday 18 March 1930, page 5
Examiner, Monday 9 October 1939, page 10



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