No. 1335 - Hunting Ground - Congregational Chapel (1852)

Hunting Ground lies on the Clifton Vale Road about 15 kilometres west of Dysart in the Southern Midlands. The area was originally known as ‘Blinkworth’s Hunting Grounds’. The name dates back to the first years of settlement when, “during a period of near famine”, a man named Blinkworth, hunted large numbers of kangaroo in the area. A large property, Clifton Vale, was developed at Hunting Field following a grant of land made to Philip Pitt (1787-1884) in the 1820s.

The Hunting Ground Chapel was designed by William Archer in 1851. It somewhat resembles the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at St Leonards designed by Archer and which was built in 1846. The Hunting Ground Chapel recently featured in an episode of the ABC’s ‘Restoration Australia’ series in 2019 although the building's history is not well developed.

In the 1840s the Colonial Missionary Society, which promoted the Congregational (Independent) Church in Tasmania, was active in the Southern Midlands and chapels were established at Green Ponds (Kempton), Tea Tree, Bagdad and Melton Mowbray. The Hunting Ground chapel, which was built by convict labour, opened on Thursday 1 January 1852. The Colonial Times published a very brief report of the event:

“A new Independent Chapel was opened on the 1st instant at the Hunting Grounds. The services were conducted by the Revs. Messrs Miller and Anderson. The Chapel is erected on an acre of ground generously given by P. Pitt, Esq.”.

Philip Pitt lived at Clifton Vale which had been built in the late 1820s. Pitt arrived at Hobart in 1804 with his parents on H.M.S. Calcutta, which also brought out the first Governor of the colony, Colonel David Collins. Clifton Vale house lies about 300 metres south west of the Hunting Field chapel and it is likely that the Pitt family worshipped there. 

Little mention of the Hunting Ground chapel can be found in the newspaper record over the next three decades. However in 1887 the Congregational Union reported that the Hunting Ground chapel was supplied with a preacher once a month. 

In 1888 the Clifton Vale property was purchased by Alfred Hart and Congregational services appear to have come to an end at about this time. 

In 1903 a State school was opened at the Hunting Field chapel. This was known as the “Clifton Vale school”. However, within months of the school opening it was suddenly closed “owing to excessive rent charged by Mr A. T. Hart”.  The chairman of the Education Department’s Board of Advice “was instructed to write to Mr. Hart, inquiring the reason for such proceedings”. The outcome of the letter is not known, however, in 1906 the Director of Education advised the Board of Advice that the Hunting Ground school was to reopen.  The Director also mentioned that he “had received word from the secretary of the Congregational Union that the building belonged to them, and they had agreed to rent it for a small sum…”. 

It would appear that when Alfred Hart purchased Clifton Vale in 1888  he considered the chapel to be part of the property. The cessation of Congregational services at Hunting Ground in the late 1880s may have contributed to this view. 

Following the State school’s reopening in 1906 the Congregational Church appears to have reasserted their right to use the chapel and a Sunday school resumed.  The last report of religious activity at the chapel dates to June 1908:

“The anniversary of the Congregational Sunday-school, at Hunting Ground, was celebrated on Tuesday evening, 9th, by an entertainment. The programme consisted of choruses and recitations by the scholars, which showed careful training by Mesdames Cornish and Oswald, who have the charge of the school….The church was tastefully decorated, and refreshments provided by the ladies”.

The ‘Clifton Vale school’ closed in 1910. This is born out by a letter from the Education Department to the Green Ponds Council detailing a “list of goods at Clifton Vale school, and asking the council to get them carted and forwarded to Hobart”.

The last mention of the chapel dates to June 1936 with the offer of the “Hunting Ground Congregational church property” for sale by tender.

A photograph of the chapel published in The Vandiemonians : from penal settlements to marvellous Melbourne by Ian Morison

The Mercury 1936

A portion of William Archer's diary in which he makes reference to his design of the Hunting Ground Independent Chapel - information and image supplied with thanks to Brendan Lennard.

The Hunting Ground Congregational Chapel. Photo: 'The Gents Australia' Facebook 27 October 2019

Philip and Elizabeth Pitt's headstone at the Congregational cemetery at Kempton. Photo: Kevin McCloy - Find a Grave.

Clifton Vale house -


Colonial Times, Tuesday 30 December 1851, page 2
Colonial Times, Tuesday 20 January 1852, page 3
Hobart Town Advertiser, Friday 9 July 1852, page 4
The Mercury, Saturday 4 April 1885, page 1
The Mercury, Thursday 17 March 1887, page 3
The Mercury, Friday 15 April 1904, page 8
Daily Telegraph, Friday 6 July 1906, page 3
The Mercury, Wednesday 17 June 1908, page 8
The Mercury, Monday 12 September 1910, page 2
The Mercury, Saturday 13 June 1936, page 22

Sharples, Theo E. and Congregational Union of Tasmania.  Congregationalism in Tasmania, 1830-1977 : a brief history / compiled by Theo E. Sharples  Congregational Union of Tasmania Hobart  1977

Morison, Ian.  The Vandiemonians : from penal settlements to marvellous Melbourne / Ian Morison  Ginninderra Press Charnwood, A.C.T  2005


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