No. 1214 - Hobart - Davey Street Methodist Church (1871-1973) "Simple, cleanly, safe and economical"

For most of its existence, the Davey Street church has been a place of worship for Methodists living in South Hobart. In the 1970s it became a Lutheran Church and in more recent years it was purchased by a Pentecostal congregation. The focus of this article is on church’s establishment through to the final Methodist service held in March 1973.

The church’s origins date back to 1834 when a building that had previously been used as a dwelling was secured at 211 Davey Street for use as a Sunday school. Soon after this the property was purchased and a schoolroom and chapel was built and officially opened on 1 April 1838. By the 1860s the Sunday school accommodated 152 students with 14 teachers. By this time the congregation had outgrown the chapel and the construction of a larger place of worship had become a necessity.

The foundation stone of a new Wesleyan-Methodist church was laid on 21 July 1870. The Hobart Mercury reported:

“Yesterday afternoon the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of a new church for the Wesleyans in Upper Davey-street took place according to arrangement in the presence of a large number of spectators…..Plans having been prepared by Messrs. Crouch and Wilson, architects of Melbourne, tenders were invited early in the present year, for the erection of a new church capable of seating three hundred and fifty persons, and the tender of Mr. John Anderson was accepted at £1440 for the building, seating, and fittings. ….No time has been lost by the contractor in excavating and putting in the foundations, and the work as far as it has gone is of the most substantial character. The building is to be of stone, and in the Gothic style of architecture…and will include Church, vestry, and two class rooms, ….the old school-room remaining, of course, available for school purposes. The brown stone to be used in the building is procured from the [Summerleas] quarries, and the white stone from those of Bridgewater. When complete it will be a neat building, and add one to the ornamental buildings of Upper Davey-street….”.

The foundation stone was ceremonially laid by Henry Hopkins, businessman and the founder and backer of the Congregational Church in Tasmanian. This was one of Hopkin’s last public acts as he passed away two months after the ceremony. The original contractor to build the church, Mr John Anderson, was unable to complete the contract. This was taken over by Jonathan Kipling with the supervising architect being Edward Rowntree.

The church was opened and dedicated on Friday 11 August 1871. The Mercury’s report of the opening service included the following description of the building:

“The original design appears substantially to have been carried out, and a more snug, comfortable, and well-finished church could hardly have been wished for. The fine open roof gives a cheerful appearance to the upper part of the building. Three sunlights have been provided for the purpose of lighting the body of the church, the principle of which is at once simple, cleanly, safe, and economical….Pews have been dispensed with in the new church, and instead thereof, open benches, with good wide seats and book-boards, have been provided….Another primitive adjunct of old style churches, the box pulpit, has found a substitute in a large desk on a platform, occupying the north end of the church, between the outlets to the vestries, the stairs and bulasters at each side were constructed with some regard to style and ornament, and they are none the less noticeable, us they are the generous gift to the church of Mr Kipling….The Gothic windows are relieved with coloured glass at the corners and the light afforded is agreeably tempered by the frosted or painted glass. Besides the eight principal windows there are two small memorial windows of stained glass, which add to the ornamentation of the building. Outside, fronting Davey-street, a substantial and tasteful fence has been put up, and although the church has not been completed so quickly as was at first anticipated, the extra time taken has led to suggestions of an improving character, which the trustees have not been slow to avail themselves of….”.

Almost from the start the new church was beset with financial and other challenges. These are set out in some detail by Reverend Max Stansall in ‘Tasmanian Methodism’:

“Debt was again a problem and little headway was achieved in the 1870s…At the same time, the numbers in the Sunday-school showed decline….during 1890 the country was in a financial depression and this badly affected the Church finances. Forty-four persons were on the roll and 100 scholars on the Sunday-school roll…. Methodist Union in 1902 brought a strong and favourable impact…reorganisation followed. The Davey Street minister was transferred to Princes Street. But this resulted in a detrimental effect on the Church. The membership dropped to 36 with 90 children on the Sunday school roll. From 1911 onwards agitation began for additional pastoral help and in 1913 a minister was appointed for a year. But when war broke out it was not until 1921 that another minister was appointed. The 1920s saw a period of growth…[but] …the congregation began to decline again in the 1960s. This was due to a number of factors which included the opening of the Southern Outlet Road and the business area of Hobart having moved closer to the church. The decision to close the church was made during 1973 and the final Methodist service was conducted on Sunday the 25 March 1973…”.

The subsequent history of the church, including the period when it became St Peter’s Lutheran Church, will be the focus of another article.


The church in 1934, the year of the centenary of the establishment of the Davey Street Sunday School. Photograph: Tasmanian State Archive


Tasmanian Daily News, Wednesday 26 November 1856, page 3
Mercury, Friday 22 July 1870, page 2
Mercury, Saturday 12 August 1871, page 2
Mercury, Wednesday 7 November 1934, page 10

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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