No. 1407 - Little Oyster Cove [Kettering] - The First Union Church (1865-1900)

Kettering is a small town on the Channel Highway approximately 35 kilometres south of Hobart. It was originally named Little Oyster Cove before being renamed Kettering in the 1870s.

Three ‘union’ churches have been built at Kettering. The first church, built in 1865, was replaced by a new church in 1900. This church was lost in the 1967 bushfires and replaced with another non-denominational church in 1969. This article’s focus is on the 1865 church which was in use for 35 years.

The history of the first union church is not recorded in any detail. The church was initially built as a school promoted by Dr William Crowther, who had business interests in the area. In the early 1860s a Sunday school was established by Mary Jane Pybus, the wife of Henry Harrison Pybus a business associate of Crowther. An article published in the Hobart Mercury in January 1864 describes a Sunday school celebration held at the Prybus' home.

“I am sure you will be glad to hear that a most interesting juvenile festival took place at the house of Mr. H. H. Pybus, Little Oyster Cove, on Thursday, the 14th inst., and as it was open to all the children of the district, some of your readers may feel interested in seeing a brief account of it, having friends in that locality. Mrs. Pybus has for some years past, most diligently and perseveringly sought to advance the interest of the children thereby establishing a Sabbath school, and also, a school for teaching the girls needlework, and other useful acquirements. It may be truthfully said this is a labor of love for the only return that lady can expect, is that, which is most acceptable and grateful to truly noble and generous minds, viz., the advancement of the social and moral character of the young amongst whom providence has placed her. It was really a sight to rejoice at, to see above seventy children neatly clad, and remarkably clean, assemble at the house of their hostess to spend a joyous day in all kinds of sport, and be regaled on the most sumptuous fair”.

“Mr. Pybus's boat house was decorated most tastefully for the occasion, and the long tables groaned under the profusion of sandwiches and pastry of all kinds, as well as sweetmeats. The children assembled about 12 o'clock, when they had refreshment sent to them into the field set apart for their amusements. After bountifully partaking of the good things offered them they went in for their fun in real good earnest, leaving no doubt on the minds of the spectators as to whether they enjoyed themselves or not. I may say many of the children's parents were present as well as some of Mr. and Mrs. Pybus's own friends. At 4 o'clock the children were called to the boat house to have their tea when all sat down together, and did ample justice to the kind and liberal provision made for them”.

“Two of the Aborigines of the colony were there, the others would have been, but were from home -there was no mistaking how they enjoyed themselves. At the close of the meal the evening hymn was sung, and just before dark the children retired to their homes loaded with sandwiches, tarts, cakes, &c, after spending a day of unmixed happiness. Mrs. Pybus's labours are voluntary and gratuitous, to say nothing of the personal expense she goes to to provide material for her work school, but neither are wasted, inasmuch as the result of her exertions are clearly perceptible in the altered character and appearance of the children generally”.

“I cannot help saying Mrs. Pybus has been, and is, a blessing to the district. Her noble, generous, and well-directed exertions demand the respect and esteem of all right-thinking and right-minded persons. We wish her all success. It is only right I should say a gentleman, Mr. Holmes, for some time past has relieved Mrs. Pybus of her Sabbath school, that gentleman conducting it in connection with a day school which he established and carried on gratuitously, doing much valuable good; his health having failed, the school for the present, I believe, is closed, but the people of Little Oyster Cove have good reason to remember him with gratitude and respect”.

A month after this report, it appears that William Crowther attempted to acquire a building erected as an Inn, for use as a school and ’Sabbath school’. At the Quarterly Meeting of Licensing Justices, Crowther opposed an application for a licence for a public house, the Myrtle Tree Inn, owned by James Flight of Little Oyster Cove:

“… Mr Crisp urged that if the license were granted, the sly grog selling that prevailed would be put a stop to. Dr Crowther said he and Mr Pybus employed three fourths of the population there, and submitted that no public house was needed. He always considered it hard if a man had built a public house to be refused a license, and therefore he had offered to take the building of Mr Flight, for a school, and pay him a fair rent for a number of years, which he refused….”.

Having failed to obtain the use of the Myrtle Tree Inn for use as a school, William Crowther and Matthew Holmes set about acquiring land for the construction of a school and church at Little Oyster Cove.

Julie Gardam writes in her history of Kettering, ‘The Oyster Coves’:

“On January 3, 1865 Matthew Holmes and William Crowther requested that an acre of land be set aside for a church for the people of Little Oyster Cove. The church, called the Union chapel, was soon built and used for worship and Sunday school on Sundays. It was shared by the Methodists and the Church of England, and doubled as a school during the week….Crowther and Holmes became its first trustees…”.

At the time of Matthew Holmes’ death in 1893 the Hobart Mercury recorded that:

“[He]…was the first schoolmaster, and… the first to hold regular religious services here. It was mainly owing to his endeavours that the old school building (now used as a church) was erected, and he was one of the trustees of the building until his death”.

Services at the church were held intermittently. By the 1890s the building was deemed inadequate and plans to replace the old school-church got underway in 1897:

“A movement is afoot here to obtain a sufficient sum of money to erect a church, or, failing that, to have necessary alterations to the old building effected to make it more fitted for a place of worship and provide more room, as it is often impossible to seat all who attend the services…”.

In April 1900 a tender to construct a new church was advertised and on Friday 9th November the completed building was officially opened. The photograph accompanying this article is of the new church as an image of the old school-church has not yet been found.

The second Union Church at Kettering. Source: The Oyster Coves


Mercury, Tuesday 19 January 1864, page 2
Advertiser, Tuesday 2 February 1864, page 2
Mercury Tuesday 3 May 1864, page 2
Tasmanian Morning Herald, Tuesday 1 May 1866, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 24 February 1887, page 4
Mercury, Tuesday 4 July 1893, page 3
Mercury, Thursday 19 August 1897, page 3
Mercury, Tuesday 20 November 1900, page 4

Gardam, Julie; The Oyster Coves : a history of the Kettering-Oyster Cove area; Snug; 2005.


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"