No. 1431 - Launceston - Margaret Street Wesleyan Chapel (1837-1858)

Three Methodist churches have been built in the vicinity of Margaret Street:

1. A small wooden chapel on a brick and stone foundation which opened in 1837.
2. A brick church which replaced the original church in 1858.
3. A third church opened on Balfour Street in 1918 which was originally built as a Sunday school in 1889. The church on Margaret Street (1858) was converted into a Sunday school and hall in 1918.

This article’s focus is on the first church built which was built in 1837 and was in use for just over 20 years.

The earliest reference to the establishment of a Methodist church in Margaret Street is found in the minutes of the quarterly meeting of the Launceston Circuit in May 1836 in which it was “deemed desirable to have a place in which to hold religious services in the south end of town”.

The history of the establishment of this church is set out in a lengthy article in the Launceston Examiner in 1939. The history was written by Reverend Lewis Barnard following early records of the church being ‘recently brought to light’:

“A very active Wesleyan, Mr. Isaac Sherwin, lived in the southern end of the town and was most anxious to see the cause extended, so generously donated a block of land for the purpose of erecting a chapel in Margaret-street. This piece of land is where the present Methodist school hall stands. By this block of land a little stream used to flow a stream that is unknown to the younger generation, but is clearly recalled by the old identities”.

“On May 17, 1835, a meeting was held in the home of Mr. Isaac Sherwin. At this meeting there were present. Messrs. Henry Reed, G. Gould, J. W. Gleadow, J. A. Eddie, J; Smith-Fenton, J, J. Peers, and Isaac Sherwin. All these men had been nominated as trustees of the proposed property. The meeting was presided over by Rev. J. A. Manton, who was then minister in charge of the Paterson-street chapel. It was agreed to erect a building “26ft. long by 39ft. and 15ft. high.' At a subsequent meeting plans and specifications were submitted and approved. The building committee was Messrs. H. Jenning, T. Knowles, I. Sherwin, and Rev. J. A. Manton”.

“After all this, there seemed to be a lull in affairs, but actually the committee were very busy finalising the plans and raising the money. In May, 1836, the matter was officially brought before the quarterly meeting, and permission to build was sought. This meeting "deemed it desirable to have a place in which to hold religious services in the south end of the town.” The meeting happily agreed that the building should be proceeded with. This meant that the project was now legalised, but it was not until February 1837. that the building committee met the trustees and informed them that the building was now completed”.

“The work of construction was carried out by Mr. Thomas Lucas. The accounts show that the hardwood for the building cost £23/10/-. Eight thousand shingles were used and cost 11/- per thousand. The nails cost £4, and labour £19. The brickwork and stone work were done by Mr. J. J. J. Peers. The brickwork cost £14 per rod and 4½ rods were done. The stonework cost 20/- per perch. The whole building, including 20 forms at 8/- each, cost £ 147/10/-. The entire amount was subscribed, the largest donation, one of £50, coming from Mr. Henry Reed”.

“Arrangements were immediately put in hand for the opening services, which it was decided to hold on February 10 1837. It was agreed to invite one of the missionaries from Hobart Town to conduct the services. At that time. Rev. Joseph Orton resided in Hobart Town, which was the headquarters of the work both for Tasmania and Victoria. Mr. Orton was chairman of the southern section of the New South Wales district (South Sea Missions) and was under the control of the London Wesleyan Missionary Society. Mr. Orton agreed to attend himself and open the new chapel”.


In August 1837 the Cornwall Chronicle reported that “a branch [Sunday] school is to be opened in Margaret-street, near the slaughterhouse”. By 1843 a total of 95 students were attending the Margaret Street Sunday school.

In 1858 the timber church was replaced by a new brick church built on the same site. This building now houses a gift shop. No image of the original wooden chapel exists. Sherwin’s Avenue, which is situated close to the site of the original church, is named after Isaac Sherwin, a founder member of the church and who donated the land on which it was built.

Isaac Sherwin (1804-1869) Photograph - Libraries Tasmania - Item No: LMSS/754/1/64

The church built in 1858 to replace the original wooden church that stood towards the rear of the block of land.



The site of the the three churches on the corner of Bathurst Street and Margaret Street. Sherwins Avenue is on the right adjacent to the old Methodist parsonage.


Sources:

The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 26 August 1837, page 2
The Teetotal Advocate, Monday 18 September 1843, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 9 Oct 1858, Page 3
The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 3 Nov 1858, Page 5
The Examiner, Wednesday 3 August 1938, page 5
Examiner, Saturday 22 July 1939, page 2

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

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