No. 1423 - Black River - Wesleyan Methodist Church (1871-1911)

Black River is a location on the Bass Highway approximately 10 kilometres south east of Stanley. In the 1850s a settlement was established about a kilometre inland from the river’s mouth. Timber was processed at Black River and exported to Victoria. At its peak the settlement had a hotel, school, post office and two churches.

Little is known about the establishment of Black River’s Wesleyan church. The only reference to this is found in a report of a Wesleyan District Meeting held at Launceston in November 1871. The report mentions that a “small wooden church” had been built at Black River in the Stanley District. Presumably the church had been built earlier in that year or in late 1870.

Other information about the church is derived from a handful of newspaper reports published over a period of 30 years, a few of which are reproduced in this article. Services at the church seem to have ended shortly after 1900 and in 1911 the Mersey District Methodist Synod gave permission to sell the church at Black River. In 1913 the Methodist Synod granted permission for the sale of land at Black River so it may be assumed that the building had been previously sold and removed in about 1911. There is no record of to where the church was removed.

In the remainder of this article I have reproduced a few articles published about the church which provide some insight into the life of Black River’s Methodist community.

1887 - Daily Telegraph:

“School anniversary services were held at the Black River Wesleyan Chapel last Sunday morning and evening. The attendance was fair in the morning, and in the chapel was well filled in the evening. The children, under the management of the teachers and Misses Pegg (visitors), were arranged on each side of the pulpit, and sang some of Sankey’s hymns very nicely”.

1888 - Daily Telegraph:

"Mrs W. Haywood passed away on Friday, 9th inst., after a very long illness, and was buried on Monday at the Wesleyan Church-yard, Black River, very many attending the funeral of the deceased lady from all parts, making one of the largest funerals that has taken place at Black River. The service in the chapel was conducted by the Rev. W. Kyd, and at the grave by Mr.Jackson”.

There are only a few references to the church in the remainder of the 1890s. One of these appears in a report by a visitor to Circular Head in 1891:

“We come back, take a private road over the farms, and are astonished to find great stretches of land again, between the South-road and the Black River road. We see the absolutely stump-less paddocks of Mr. Edwin Medwin, and the grounds that would do credit to an English park, which surround his beautifully situated house. Then we notice a really well built, roomy public hall, with a picturesque avenue beside it; we cross over to the township reserve, note the roomy Wesleyan Church, with its yard where — “Each in his narrow cell forever laid, the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.” We see the English Church, where worship every Sunday the men of the present, close beside the mouldering remains of the men of the past. Several houses with orchards meet our view, also a late public house, whose dilapidated state is (thank Heaven) one amongst many proofs that the district is not decaying…”.

By the 1890s Presbyterian services were held in the church once a month. The final two references to the church date to June 1900 and May 1902, both of which concern Presbyterian marriage ceremonies.

I have not found any photographs of the church although these may exist given that the church was still in use after 1900. This article will be updated as further information comes to hand.

Report of the Wesleyan District Meeting - Cornwall Chronicle 1871 

The Black River district 


Cornwall Chronicle, Tuesday 21 November 1871, page 5
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 8 March 1887, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 22 March 1888, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 16 June 1900, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 13 May 1902, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 4 November 1911, page 8
Examiner, Friday 21 November 1913, page 6


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