No. 1424 - Kingston - Wesleyan-Methodist Church (1838-1911)

Kingston is a large town located approximately 12 kilometres south of Hobart. The area was first settled in 1804 and was known as Browns River, after Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who had visited the area. The settlement was developed as a town in the 1830s which officially adopted the name Kingston in 1882.

Kingston’s original Wesleyan-Methodist church was the first church of any denomination built south of Hobart. The Methodist cause was led by Jesse Pullen, who arrived in Hobart in 1822 as one of the colonies first Methodist preachers. In 1834 Pullen settled at Browns River where he worked as a blacksmith and acted as the local postmaster. The first Methodist services were held in Pullen’s home which was located at Browns River ford. In 1838 land for a church and cemetery was donated by local landowner James Firth. The site of the church was alongside Settlers Park Cemetery on the Channel Highway.

On 7 December 1838 a small weatherboard chapel was opened and dedicated. It was built by Joseph Fisher, a local carpenter. Jesse Pullen continued to minister at the church until he moved to Sydney in 1839. Regular services continued to be held until the 1860s when a decline in the congregation led to the church’s closure in 1871. The building fell into a state of disrepair but was reopened and restored in 1890s. In September 1897 the Mercury reported that the renovated church had reopened:

“The Wesleyan Church at Kingston has been renovated, and with the alteration made in the shape of the building and windows, and new paint, it now presents a very creditable appearance. A series of working bees to improve the burial ground (surrounding the church) has been organised, and some trees have been planted which will add to the improvement”.

The church’s revival was however short-lived as the building proved to be too small to accomodate a rapidly growing congregation. In 1904 land for a new church at Kingston Beach was donated by Joseph Bidencope. Services at the old church ceased after the new church opened in December 1905. [see No. 1414]

In 1911 the old church was lost in a bushfire which swept through the district. In 1976 a Methodist Home for the Aged (now Uniting Agewell) was built on the site of the original church.

Interpretation signage at Settler’s Park Cemetery provides the following information about the church and cemetery as well as details about the pioneering families associated with the early Methodist cause. The following extracts are taken from the signage:

“This little cemetery gives a glimpse into the stories behind some of early Kingston's pioneer families – and also into the district's pioneer Wesleyan and Methodist community, who once met for worship in a tiny timber chapel that stood close to this site.

While known as Settlers Park today, this little cemetery was alternatively known as the Wesleyan or Methodist Cemetery and was used for well over 120 years by local Browns River and Kingston families from the 1830s until well into the mid 20th century.

The site of the Settlers Park Cemetery was once part of W.T. Firth's grant, donated to the Wesleyan Church by his father J. Crossley Firth in the 1830s. In 1838, the cemetery contained a small weatherboard chapel which was erected on the south-eastern corner of the property. A 1868 plan of the cemetery also shows a small shed on the eastern side of the property.

Today the cemetery is no longer used but still contains the remains and sometimes ornate Victorian headstones of prominent local families including the Firths, Jamses' and Dixons…. Joseph Crossley Firth, who is buried in this cemetery, was a Luddite – he escaped the gallows to become a respected citizen in the new colony. Ned Ludd's name lives on, even today – in the 21st century, someone who hasn't kept up with the age of computers and the internet might describe themselves as 'a bit of a Luddite’.

Joseph's first assignment in Hobart was as gatekeeper of the timber yards behind the old wharf on Hunter Street. In the same year he arrives (1822) his wife Tabitha joined him in Van Diemen's Land, bringing their children Joseph and Mary Ann.

The Firths were a Colonial success story – after only ten years, they owned property in Hobart, Sandy Bay and near here at Brown's River, where the house 'Wharncliff' still stands. They had firm religious beliefs and were strong supporters of the early Wesleyan community, donating land at this spot for the district's original Wesleyan Methodist Chapel – the first place of worship constructed south of Hobart.

This little burial ground once lay alongside the timber chapel, which welcomed worshipers every Sunday until 1910. Today, only the grave markers and the Firth family vault remain, echoes in stone of pioneers who crossed the world to make new, successful and useful lives in Tasmania; and of people from the early Methodist community who followed them through the years….

When members of the early Wesleyan community in the Browns River area were planning to build their first place of worship, a supportive settler named Baynton generously gave money and sawn timber worth £50. It was a significant donation – but his fresh-cut hardwood boards were never nailed to the framework of the little chapel.

Overnight, the pile of timber vanished! Next morning Mr Baynton noticed traces of fresh sawdust on his own bullock dray – and was puzzled that his bullock team seemed exhausted. No wonder – they had been busy during the night! In the hours of darkness, an assigned servant had loaded up the timber, hitched up the bullocks and carted the stolen goods to North West Bay, where the planks were sold to a sawyer, to be sold in Hobart. But the community didn't give up – inspired by Hobart's Wesleyan minister, Rev Joseph Orton, they cleared the land that had been donated by Joseph Firth, arranged new donations of timber from local sawmillers and engaged carpenter Mr Fisher to finish the job. While the building work continued, Wesleyan services were held in Mr Baynton's own house – no doubt without the presence of the untrustworthy convict servant”.

Kingston Wesleyan Methodist Church - image taken from signage at Settler's Park Cemetery. Source not given.

Settler's Park Cemetery - site of Kingston's first Methodist church - photo: Sue McC (Find A Grave)

Jesse Pullen. Original source not known.


Mercury, Saturday 4 September 1897, page 1
Mercury, Thursday 21 September 1905, page 5
Mercury, Monday 18 December 1905, page 6
Weekly Courier, 15 September 1906, page 19

Blacket, John. Missionary triumphs among the settlers in Australia and the savages of the South Seas : a twofold centenary volume / by John Blacket Charles H. Kelly London 1914

Gardam, Julie and Rotary Club of Kingston (Tas.). Brown's River, a history of Kingston and Blackmans Bay / by Julie Gardam Rotary Club of Kingston Kingston, Tas. 1988

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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