No. 1304 - Devonport - Methodist Church (1889-1932)

Devonport was established in 1890 with the merging of two towns on the opposite banks of the Mersey River: Formby on the west bank and Torquay on the east bank. The area was first settled in the 1840s. While Wesleyan-Methodists had been active in the Mersey region from the 1850s, it was not until the 1880s that a church was built at Formby (West Devonport).

In the early years services were held in private houses and at the “Protestant Hall” which opened in 1887. When the Baptists acquired the hall, the Wesleyans set out to build a church of their own. In February 1888 a committee approved plans for a church combined with a Sunday school to be built on land donated by Robert Stewart and Basil Archer.

The building of the church did not get off to a good start. On 13 April 1889, the church’s architect, Mr Thomas Kimpton, was knocked down and killed by a railway truck being shunted along the line at the Victoria Ferry near the wharf at Formby. He had been inspecting the building site before returning to his home at Torquay via the ferry and being ‘hard of hearing’, had not heard the approaching railway truck.

The foundation stone for Kempton’s church was laid on 24 May1889. The ceremony, which was reported by the North West Post, noted that:

“Although at present it was intended to erect only a schoolroom, it was the intention in the future to build a church in connection with it… the stone, which is of bluestone, is inscribed as follows: Foundation stone of the Wesleyan Sunday School, laid by Basil Archer, Esq, 24th May, 1889”.

A description of Thomas Kimpton’s church were set out in the same report:

“It is to be of brick, with a concrete foundation and slated roof with a tile ridge. The outside measurement is 40ft x 24ft, with 16ft walls, and from floor to ceiling the height is 22ft. On the west side there will be three windows, and two on the east. The front will be tuck pointed and the inside plastered, showing a stone imitation until it reaches the dado, which is made of blackwood…The additions which have been allowed for are two classrooms, each 12 x 14ft”.

The Sunday school and church was completed in record time and was opened in October 1889 with a morning, afternoon and evening service. At the evening service “numbers were unable to gain admittance, the crush being so great”.

What was intended as a Sunday school and a temporary place of worship ended up serving as a permanent church for more than 40 years. By the 1920s it was obvious that the construction of a new church could no longer be delayed. In 1932 the church that had been envisaged in 1889 was finally realised. The old church continued to be used as a Sunday school and hall until 1958 when the building was demolished and replaced by a modern brick hall.


Postcard depicting Devonport's first Methodist church. (undated) Photographer not known.


The original church and Sunday school. Source: Devonport a Pictorial Past - Devon Historical Society (1988) 


Sources:

The Tasmanian, Saturday 23 February, 1889
North West Post Saturday 25 May 1889, page 2
North West Post Tuesday 16 April 1889, page 3
The Examiner Saturday 25 May 1889, page 2
The Colonist Saturday 19 October 1889, page 20
The Tasmanian Saturday 19 October 1889
North West Post Thursday 17 October 1889, page 3
North West Post Thursday 30 October 1890, page 3
North West Post Thursday 13 October 1892, page 4
The Advocate Monday 14 March 1932, page 2
The Advocate, January 15, 2018

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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