No. 1300 - Oatlands - 'Campbell Memorial Church' - Presbyterian Manse (1860)

This article is one of a series about buildings associated with Tasmania’s historical churches and religious orders. These buildings include Sunday schools, parish halls, convents, orphanages, schools and residences of the clergy. Ancillary buildings are often overlooked and rarely feature in published histories. My aim is to create a basic record of these buildings, including of those that no longer exist.

The town of Oatlands acquired its name in 1821 when Governor Lachlan Macquarie passed through the area. He noted that it was “a very eligible situation for a town, being well watered and in the midst of a rich fertile country”. A settlement was well established by the late 1820s by which time several cottages, a barracks, gaol and a church had been constructed.

The old Presbyterian Manse is situated on the south side of the Uniting (Presbyterian) Church on High Street. Oatlands’ first Presbyterian church opened in 1856 but within two years the building was reduced to rubble when the tower collapsed during a storm. The construction of a second church was made possible due to a generous donation by John Wilson of Springfield, brother of the wealthy Scottish grazier, George Wilson of Mount Seymour, who had donated the land on which the original church was built. The new church was completed and reopened on 6 May 1860. In addition to the rebuilt church, Wilson also paid for the construction of a manse which was completed in the same year. Wilson’s daughter Margaret, was married to the church’s minister, Reverend Lachlan Campbell, which might explain the extent of Wilson’s benevolence. The manse was designed by architects Davidson and Spong of Hobart.

For 47 years the Manse was occupied by Reverend Lachlan Mackinnon Campbell, son of Captain John Campbell, of Duntulm, Skye and Isabella Macrae of Glenshiel. In 1907 Reverend Campbell’s obituary, published in the Mercury, noted that:

“His personality bore all evidence of his Scotch extraction; he was bluff and hearty of demeanour, shrewd and acute in judgment, of large powers of body and mind. His disposition was kindly, and his energies in the best years of a long ministry unflagging. In the early days of his ministry he occasionally preached in Gaelic. Amongst the first seceders, he was sent out by the Free Church in 1852, to take up the Oatlands ministry….He was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Wilson, of Ashgrove, near Oatlands: and his second, the widow of Mr. James Wilson, of the same district….”.

In 1908, a year after Reverend Campbell’s death, the church was named the “Campbell Memorial Church”.

In the remainder of this article unusual aspects of the manse’s history are drawn from a diverse selection articles taken from Tasmanian newspapers. These are reproduced as follows:

1921 - A proposal to use the manse as a maternity hospital:

“The proposed establishment of a maternity hospital at Oatlands is giving the Oatlands Municipal Council more trouble than was anticipated when the proposal was brought forward by the District Health Officer (Dr. H, B. Moorhead)…. A few weeks ago it was expected that the Presbyterian manse, an ideally, situated home on the outskirts of the township, would be made available for the hospital. A committee of councillors was deputed to confer with the church trustees on the matter of securing a lease of the property. The outcome of the conference has not been at all satisfactory from the council's point of view as regards obtaining a lease, and the maternity hospital scheme has received a decided setback. The urgent necessity of a nursing home in the municipality was strongly stressed by the deputation, who pointed out that the manse was practically the only house in Oatlands suitable for the purpose. After full discussion on the subject the Presbyterian board of management intimated that they were not prepared to lease the manse, but were willing to submit a proposal to the council on the question of purchase. It is understood the price asked for the manse is £1,500, and the matter will be dealt with at the next council meeting. The consensus of opinion is that, in view of other important works the council have in hand, and in view of the price asked for the Presbyterian manse being far beyond the finances of the council and means of ratepayers, the prospect of the Oatlands municipality residents securing a maternity home are not now good". (The Mercury)

1925 - Fire at the manse:

“A disastrous fire involving the total destruction of a Ford motor-car and four bicycles, two of which were fitted with Smith auto-wheels, and seriously damaging the building in which they were housed, occurred at the Oatlands Presbyterian Manse, occupied by the Rev. G. Harrison, in the early hours of this morning. The outbreak was first noticed by a baker (Mr. Geo. Fish) when he rose at 2 a.m. to mix his dough. He hurried to the manse and. aroused the Rev. Mr. Harrison, who had not been awakened by the fire, as the affected building is 80 yards from the residence. The flame’s had obtained a good hold, and by the time Mr. Fish and the Rev. Mr. Harrison arrived on the scene it was too late to save either the buildings or any of its contents….The building which was burnt was a very fine one. It comprised a stable and loft, with a carriage-house at each end, and measured 60ft. by 20ft. The walls, which were of stone, are still standing, but the stonework is badly cracked by the heat. There was hill a ton of chaff in the loft, and some hay in the stable. There were also two case of benzine and a few gallons of oil in the building….”. (The Mercury)

A further report in the Mercury noted that:

“…A meeting of the board of management of the church was held on Friday night to consider the position. It was decided to purchase a new car for the church…Deep sympathy was expressed on all sides with the Rev. G. Harrison in his loss, and it was decided that anything over the amount required for a car which was subscribed should be devoted to reimbursing him….So far, no light has been thrown on the mysterious cause of the fire”.

1934 - A tragic drowning at the manse:

“An inquest on Alexander Spencer Finlay, aged 1 year and 11 months, who was drowned In a waterhole at Oatlands on Wednesday afternoon, was held at Oatlands yesterday before the Coroner (Mr. W. J. B. Temple). Inspector W. D. Kirkham represented the police. Dr. H. B. Moorhead, Oatlands, said that about 4.20 p.m. on July 25, he was summoned to the Presbyterian Manse, where he saw the body of the child. He applied methods of resuscitation. There was a small contusion on the head, but it was insufficient to have caused death. He considered that death was due to drowning. The father of the child had acted wisely in his efforts at resuscitation. The Rev. J. A. Finlay, residing at the Presbyterian Manse, Oatlands, said that on July 25, with his two sons, he was watching wood being unloaded in his yard. About 10 minutes after the departure of the lorry he was called inside to afternoon tea. He immediately looked for his son, Alexander, going first to the paddocks surrounding the church. He glanced into a small dam near the Manse, and recognised his child's sweater. He waded into the dam, and recovered the child from about four feet of muddy water. In his opinion the child had wandered to the unfenced side of the waterhole, where there was a straight drop of about eight feet into the water. The child while falling had apparently hit its head on a projecting rock.,,,,The Coroner found that death was accidental. He thought that steps should be taken to have the waterhole covered in”. (The Mercury)

1942 - The manse was commandeered by the government during the war:

“Miss Agnes Hodgson, director of the Women's Land Army in Tasmania, accompanied by Mrs. J. L. Strickland, district officer of the army at Oatlands, inspected the Oatlands flax mill yesterday. Women flax workers at the mill were enrolled in the land army….During the summer months the girls work in the field, spreading flax for retting, and from May to December they work in the mill at the scutching machine and grading the fibre. In January, when de-seeding begins, women are employed on light jobs in the shed and in keeping the men supplied with sheaves. Girls at the Oatlands mill like working to music and are buying their own wireless….In order to overcome the difficulty of accommodation for women flax workers, the Commonwealth Government has taken over the Presbyterian manse at Oatlands for use as a girls’ hostel. The hostel will be under the supervision of the Women's Land Army and will accommodate 30 girls, who will be provided with adequate and comfortable board. Considerable alterations are to be made to the building, which will be ready when needed early in the new year”. (The Examiner)

1947: The pathway to the manse is dedicated to the memory of a local serviceman:

“A new path from the street to the Presbyterian Manse, Oatlands, was dedicated by the Rev H. Henderson to the memory of Pte John Henry Bailey, who lost his life at sea during the Second World War. Pte Bailey was the son of Mr and Mrs H. L. Bailey of Tiberius". (The Mercury)

1953 - Potatoes were grown to finance repairs to the church and manse.

“Potatoes grown by members of the Oatlands Presbyterian Church will aid the church improvement fund. Land which has been lying idle near the manse at Oatlands has been cultivated and put to good use this year. Members decided to crop the land with potatoes to raise finance to carry out improvements to the manse, church, and other church buildings. About one and a half acres of potatoes have been planted by working bees, and prospects are bright for a good crop. One member made his tractor available to plough the potatoes in. Some of the land has not been cropped for about 40 years, and should suit the potatoes. The potatoes will be looked after and harvested by voluntary working bees”. (The Mercury)

The church and manse c.1870 - Photographic Carte-De-Visite Collection - Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office - Libraries Tasmania online collection NS1442/1/17

The Manse (1966) Sir Ralph Whishaw - Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office - Libraries Tasmania online collection NS165/1/336

The "Memorial Uniting Church" (2018)

Reverend Mackinnon's headstone in the Oatlands' cemetery


Launceston examiner, Tuesday 17 January 1860, page 2
Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Friday 11 May 1860, page 2
Mercury, Thursday 30 October 1902, page 6
Mercury , Tuesday 20 August 1907, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 26 October 1921, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 19 March 1924, page 6
Mercury, Tuesday 7 July 1925, page 2
Mercury, Monday 13 July 1925, page 2
Mercury, Friday 27 July 1934, page 6
Examiner, Friday 11 September 1942, page 6
The Mercury, Monday 6 January 1947, page 5
The Mercury, Thursday 8 January 1953, page 6


Popular posts from this blog

Welcome to Churches of Tasmania

No. 624 - Dunalley - St Martin's Anglican Church - "In grateful memory of the men who fought in the Great War"

No. 592 - Gretna - St Mary the Virgin - "Worthy of Imitation"