No. 1261 - Marsh Paddock - Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and School (1855)

This ‘blog entry’ is one of a series of articles about places of worship which are barely represented in the historical record. Usually no images of these buildings have survived. My hope is that these brief articles may result in further information and photographs coming to light enabling a more complete history to be preserved.

Exton is a small village on the Bass Highway approximately 40 kilometres west of Launceston. When the area was first settled it was called Marsh Paddock. In 1856, the year after a church-school was built, a passing traveller described the village as follows:

“Passing on from Westbury…to the Marsh Paddock, the property of of the Messrs. Field; in place of the old dilapidated building formerly used as a Government station, is now to be seen a large three-storey building, “The Marsh Paddock Inn”, the property of Mr. Motton, with a little village of settlers surrounding it. The rich nature of the soil still renders the road bad in the winter season, while two good fences on either side prevent the traveller from escaping the holes by making a detour, as in olden time into the bush…”.

A church which doubled as a school was built in 1855. In February 1856 an advertisement for a “Wesleyan Day School” at Marsh Paddock was placed in the Cornwall Chronicle. In September 1857 the first direct reference to the chapel appears in a report in the Hobart Town Mercury:

“Mr Motton appears to be raising quite a little township in this locality. He has also given a piece of ground for a Church and School upon which a neat edifice has been erected…”.

William Motton, better known as ‘Billy Peacock’, was one Tasmania’s early jockeys, having won the Launceston and Hobart Cups. After his retirement from racing Motton settled at Marsh Paddock where he established an Inn.

Further mention of the chapel is made in 1862:

“This place is now entitled to he called a township, comprising as it does a splendid and upon the whole well-conducted Inn, a Wesleyan chapel, a public school under the Board of Education… There are also three general stores supplying every article in the trade "from a needle to an anchor," two smithies, two shoe maker's establishments, one bakery, and two butchers establishments. All this… has sprung up within seven or eight years”.

In January 1866 the chapel is mentioned in a rather unusual event:

“While Mr. Frost, of Carrick, was travelling from Deloraine, on Monday night last, in company with Mr. Walker, of Marsh Paddock, and when wishing the latter gentleman good night at the end of his lane, they noticed a beautiful meteor travelling very slowly and close to the earth. It struck, in their opinion, against the road about opposite the Exton Chapel, and flew into a hundred sparks resembling red hot welded iron”.

In 1885 the chapel was replaced by a new church which was built on the opposite of the road. The old building continued to be used for some time as a Sunday school State school. The building was by this time in poor condition:

“Speaking of the State school reminds me [of]...the disgraceful state of this barn-like structure… it was used as a church by the Wesleyans, to whom it belongs. They found it untenable in winter from its increasing age, and so put their shoulders to the wheel and built something that would keep out the weather, in the shape of a pretty little church which stands opposite their old ' gunyah.' Yet still the Department of Education continues to use this rough paling, gloomy old relic as a State school! The teacher will have to have more hardness of heart than I give him credit for if he tries to enforce the compulsory clause of the Education Act during the promised rigours of the coming winter. Awake, people of Exton, and by bestiring yourselves you may get a proper school building in a year or two”.

In 1890 a new State school was built at Exton. The old Marsh Paddock chapel continued to be used as a Sunday school before it was eventually demolished.

Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 9 February 1856

An early record of the chapel - Launceston Examiner April 1858


Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 9 February 1856
Tasmanian Daily News, Friday 4 April 1856, page 3
The Hobart Town Mercury, Friday 4 September 1857, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 3 April 1858, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 8 February 1862, page 3
The Mercury, Friday 19 January 1866, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Monday 30 September 1878, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 16 March 1886, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 15 June 1889, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 6 December 1890, page 4
Examiner, Tuesday 13 August 1929, page 8


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