No. 1268 - Dilston - Undenominational Church (1885)

Dilston is settlement on the East Tamar Highway about 15 kilometres north of Launceston. In earlier times it was an important stop on the highway between George Town and Launceston. The name Dilston originates from Dilston Lodge, a property established by Captain George Coulson in the 1830s. Coulson also established the Friend’s Arms hotel which overlooked Freshwater Point on opposite side of the Tamar River.

Dilston’s only church originated in the home of Mr Alfred Ray who started a Sunday school. This paved the way for the construction of a church in late 1884 and which opened on Friday 23 January in the following year. A correspondent for the Launceston Examiner described how the church was established:

“A very interesting episode in the history of Dilston, East Tamar, has to be recorded for last Friday. For some time past a good work has been going on here in a quiet, unostentatious way… A number of children have been growing up without any means of obtaining either secular or religious education, but about 18 months ago, one of the residents set to work and gathered together as many of the children as he could, in a room in his own house on Sunday afternoons for religious instruction, and thus formed the nucleus of a Sunday-school. The Church of England minister, recognising the good work being done, has held a monthly week-night service in a farmhouse when the weather permitted, which has been well attended. It was felt that the time had arrived for the erection of a room, to be used as a church and school, so a meeting was called about three months ago, a committee formed, and an appeal made for subscriptions to enable them to carry out their truly laudable purpose”.

“Success has attended their efforts, and the Committee tender their sincere thanks to those friends who have so liberally responded to that appeal, and especially to those residing in Launceston. The subscriptions in money amount to £27 1s. 6d., besides material and labour voluntarily given…. A baby organ has been kindly lent for use at the Sunday-school and services, and the ground on which the building is erected has been given by Mr. W. P. Coulson, of Thorpe, honorary secretary and treasurer to the Committee, and to whom the residents are indebted for many other acts of kindness and generosity”.

“On Friday afternoon the building was opened with a religious service, conducted by the Rev. J. M. Easterling, incumbent of the parish, who, after delivering an interesting address, presented prizes to the children attending the Sunday-school….”.

The land donated by William Coulson was done under the proviso that the residents should pay the transfer fee. This was to be the cause of some embarrassment a few years later.

In 1890 the church was extended by 10ft. A report in the Colonist described the church’s reopening on Sunday 30 August 1890:

"At a meeting held lately it was decided to lengthen our church by adding 10ft. on the northern end. Mr W. P. Coulson was elected treasurer, and was deputed to superintend the enlargement. Subscription lists were opened, and were so liberally responded to by friends in the district, Launceston, and elsewhere….The timber and labour were supplied by Mr. T. Gunn and the addition was soon completed to our satisfaction, the inside being nicely finished by kind friends, who took great pains with the carpet, blinds, papering, etc. The whole on last Sunday week presented a very pleasing appearance, when a large number of persons witnessed the reopening, expressing themselves well pleased with the comfortable and nicely-finished alterations”.

Additional land needed for the extension to the church was donated by Mr Henry Law, who had acquired Coulson’s property in 1889. However, a problem arose in 1891 when Henry Law went bankrupt and his properties were liquidated. At this point it was discovered that the church’s trustees had failed to pay the land transfer fee for Coulson’s original donation of land in 1884. This embarrassing omission was however soon rectified:

“Mr. Coulson came to their aid again, and, with the help of Mr. W. Hart, bought the ground and presented it to the churchgoers under the same condition - that they obtain the transfer. This time the people did not delay in securing it”.

In 1939 the church’s 54th anniversary celebrations were reported by the Examiner:

"The 54th anniversary of the undenominational Church at Dilston, East Tamar, was marked at the week-end by "Back to Dilston" celebrations. A fair was held on Saturday afternoon, and yesterday there was a united service. For this there were as many worshippers outside as inside the church, the overflow sitting under canvas awnings…”.

In the following year the first wedding at the church took place with the marriage of Beryl Phillips, great granddaughter of Richard and Sarah Phillips, founding members of the church, to Trevor Wills of Devonport.

Families associated with the church in its early years include: Archer; Church; Coulson; Egan, Franks; Phillips; Room and Shegog.

The church was used by the Education Department as a school for about 15 years before a building was transported from Lefroy to Dilston for use as a classroom. This was replaced by a new school in 1934 which is now the Dilston Community Hall.

In the early years various religious denominations infrequently used the church but after the turn of the century it seems that it was used exclusively by the Methodists. The date of the last service is not known but the Dilston Church Trust was dissolved in 1970. The church was sold and demolished in the early 1980s.

The Dilston Church. The Photograph was taken by Trevor Wills (1961). Photograph was supplied with thanks to Darren Orr.

Dilston Bridge c.1900. The church and the Dilston hotel can be seen on the horizon. Source: Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office. 


Launceston Examiner, Saturday 22 March 1862, page 5
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 27 January 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 29 January 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 14 December 1889, page 4
Colonist, Saturday 6 September 1890, page 20
Examiner, Tuesday 4 December 1934, page 7
Examiner, Monday 6 February 1939, page 2 
Examiner, Thursday 11 January 1940, page 8

Dilston Church Trust LCC26/1/3305, 1970, Tasmanian State Archives.

Burch, Nigel. Lost Mines of the Tamar. Australia, Nigel Burch. (2017)


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