No. 1387 - Hobart - The Berea Chapel, Sabbath School and Hall (1831)

The Berea Chapel and Sunday School was one of the earliest places of worship built in Hobart. It was located at the corner of Liverpool and Berea Streets, on a site now occupied by the Hobart PCYC. The last remains of the chapel were demolished in the early 1960s when a new building for the Hobart Police Boys Club was built.

The chapel, which was constructed in 1831, came to be known as the ‘Berea Chapel’ and ‘Sabbath School’. It was named after the town of Berea, visited by the Apostle Paul, who found its citizens to be “open-minded” and “willing to received God’s message”. At the Chapel’s Sunday-school centenary celebrations in 1933, an article in the Mercury attributes the name of the building to one of its founders who had attended a chapel of the same name in Wales:

“Over a hundred years ago a little lad in a Welsh village was one of the worshippers at a small chapel which, in keeping with the custom of an age of glowing faith and daily familiarity with the pages of Holy Writ, was named after the pious dwellers in Berea, who are described in the Acts of the Apostles as having "received the word with all readiness of mind." When that lad, John Perkins, grew up, and later in life became one of the founders of the Independent Sunday School in Liverpool Street, Hobart, the name of the chapel of his boyhood days was given to it. This interesting link with the past was not made public until last Saturday night, when Miss Giblin, a granddaughter of Mr. Perkins, disclosed it at a social gathering held to commemorate the centenary of the historic building”.

There is some confusion about the date of the chapel’s founding which is usually given as 1833. It was in fact in 1831 that the chapel opened with the Sunday-school being established two years later. This is confirmed by a report in the Hobart Town Courier announcing the chapel’s opening on Sunday 11 September 1831. A detailed report of the chapel’s origins is also recounted in an article published at the time of the Sunday school’s centenary in 1933:

“The centenary of Berea Sunday school, at the corner of Liverpool and Chapel Streets, Hobart, will be celebrated on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday next. The school is affiliated with the Memorial Congregational Church, and tender memories of three generations of worshippers in that historic church are entwined with the quaint old building, which is still serving the purpose for which it was built. As is not unusual in the case of monuments of the early days of a new land, there is some uncertainty as to the exact date on which the Sunday school was opened, but, at any rate, the year 1833 is fixed by an old diary which within the last few weeks has come into the hands of the trustees of Memorial Church. An entry dated July 16, 1920, states that the 87th anniversary of Berea Sunday school had taken place, and the note is added: "Under the name of the Independent Sunday School, Berea, was founded in 1833."

“Berea, however was originally built as an "Independent Chapel,” as the Congregational Church used to be called, and was first used for divine worship. In 1831, as is shown by an entry dated September 10, 1831, and reading: “We have pleasure in announcing that the Rev. Mr. Miller will commence tomorrow to perform divine service in the new building, which has been erected by Mr. Hopkins for the purpose, in that part of the town most remote from other places of worship, at the corner of Liverpool and Barrack (?) Streets. The afternoon service will in future be performed at the chapel, commencing at 3 o'clock, while the morning and evening service will continue to be celebrated as before in the large room at Mr. J. P. Deane's at the usual hours until the new building in Brisbane Street is finished." The "new building," of course, refers to the Brisbane Street Chapel, the forerunner of the present Memorial Church”.

At the time of the Mercury’s 1933 centenary report, Berea Street was still known as “Chapel Street”, with the change to the new name occurring in 1935.

The Berea Chapel’s “Sabbath school” was quite a substantial one and in the 1840s over 100 children were enrolled who were supported by 11 teachers. By 1863 the school accommodated 196 children and 21 teachers. In the same year the building was enlarged “making the Berea school rooms, perhaps the most ample and commodious of any in Hobart Town”. At this time John Perkins was superintendent of the school with Reverend W.C. Robinson as pastor of the chapel. While regular public services probably ceased after the construction of the Congregational church on Brisbane Street, the Berea School continued to function until the late 1930s. For much of its existence the building also served as a local hall and venue for lectures, public events and political gatherings. It was also the first meeting place of the Hobart Working Mens' Club established in 1863.

In 1941, the “Berea Hall”, as it had become known, was rented by “Slum Abolition League” as a “venue for teaching people how to live and how to use the new facilities before they move[d] into homes…built by the Government”. The Mercury reported:

“The League is renting the hall from the Congregational Union and with the consent of the Union, is prepared to make it available to the Government for any scheme conforming to the League’s aims and objects…”.

In 1943 the hall was acquired for use as a boys’ club and about two years later the building was purchased by the government at a cost of £800. In 1946 the Mercury reported:

“Now in active operation for more than two years, the Berea Youth Club has become well and favourably known to the citizens of Hobart. The club sprang from a public meeting called in October, 1943, by the Tasmanian Women Graduates' Association. Under the title of the Hobart Youth Club Movement, work was begun at the Berea Hall in Liverpool St., in April, 1944. Later the name was changed to the Berea Youth Club Association, membership of which is open to all who assist either by services or donations. The aim is to assist the under-privileged children of the district to become better citizens, and to provide them with recreational facilities. Much encouragement recently was afforded the workers by the decision of the State Government to purchase Berea Hall and make it available to the association. At least £5,000 will be needed to extend the clubroom to include a gymnasium and to provide other facilities”.

By the 1950s the Club was operating as the Hobart Police Boys’ Club. In July 1953 the Mercury reported on the imminent reopening of the refurbished hall:

“The club premises, in Upper Liverpool St., will be open for the first time tomorrow, when the club superintendent will interview prospective members…Membership will be confined to boys between the ages of 10 and 17. When it becomes fully operative the club will open daily…The Police Commissioner repeated yesterday that the chief aim of the club would be to assist the under-privileged”.

A photograph accompanying the article, focused on the preparation of the clubs’ boxing ring, also reveals that much of the old chapel and school were still intact, with three arched gothic windows visible in the background.

The last physical link with the old Berea Chapel and Sabbath school was lost in 1964 when the remnants of the original building were demolished to make way for the new Hobart Police Boys’ Club, the foundation stone for which was officially laid by Premier Eric Reece on 26 March 1964.

The Berea Chapel, Sunday School and Hall - Mercury 1933

The Mercury 1953 - The Chapel/Sunday School's arched gothic windows are visible in the background.

A section of a map of Hobart (1858) showing the chapel's location on the corner of what was Chapel Street and Liverpool Street (Proeschel Map and street Directory) Tasmanian Archives:

The site of the Chapel - Liverpool Street (2022) Google street-view


The Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 10 September 1831, page 2
The Advertiser, Wednesday 6 January 1864, page 2
The Tasmanian Times, Wednesday 11 November, page 2
Mercury, Thursday 24 August 1933, page 10
Mercury, Tuesday 29 August 1933, page 6
Mercury, Wednesday 4 March 1936, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 23 October 1941, page 6
Mercury, Wednesday 29 October 1941, page 6
Mercury, Wednesday 28 July 1943, page 7
Mercury, Friday 22 March 1946, page 7
Mercury, Tuesday 23 July 1946, page 3
Mercury, Friday 31 July 1953, page 7


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