No. 1448 - Snake Banks [Powranna] - William Gibson's 'Eskdale Chapel' [1850]

Snake Banks is the former name of Powranna, a district north of Epping Forest on the Midland Highway. The name was changed to Powranna in 1913, an Aboriginal word meaning 'black snake’.

In 1850 a chapel was built by William Gibson on his property at Snake Banks. William was the fourth son of David Gibson, a convict who became a successful agriculturalist and pastoralist.

Following William’s marriage to Mary Ann Blackler in 1843, the couple settled on 634 acres of land at Snake Banks which was given to him by his father. In about 1853 William Gibson moved to his estate at Native Point at Perth. William Gibson became a successful breeder of merino sheep and exported about £20 000 worth a year to merchants in other colonies. After the move to Native Point, the Gibson’s became prominent supporters of the Baptist movement and funded the construction of several Baptist churches in the north.

The chapel built by Gibson on his property ‘Eskdale’ at Snake Banks should not be confused with several other chapels built in the district. These included a chapel at Eskvale (1846) [see No. 521]; Kirklands (1836) [see No. 170] and at Cleveland (1852) [see No. 97]

In 1850 the Launceston Examiner reported the opening of a chapel at Snake Banks that had taken place on Sunday 8 December:

“A small but convenient chapel was opened on Sunday last, at Snake Banks. It was built by William Gibson, Esq., on his estate, and at his sole expense, for the accomodation of the residents in that neighbourhood., in connection with the Eskdale Mission. A few friends of this mission are exerting themselves to procure means for the erection of a similar edifice at Cleveland. The chaplain of the Eskdale Mission who officiates at these stations, will usually conduct the services, but we are requested to say it is intended they should be open to the use of any Protestant clergyman who may be travelling, or otherwise, who can spare a week evening or a Sabbath day to minister to the people”.

While there is no description of the building, the report’s mention of the intention to construct a “similar edifice at Cleveland” suggests that it may have similar to the brick chapel built at neighbouring Cleveland in 1851. An advertisement placed in the Launceston Examiner giving notification of the chapel’s official opening mentions that the ‘Eskdale’ building was located on the main road.

For the opening services, the Revs. John West and Henry Dowling travelled the thirty kilometres south from Launceston to be present with West preaching in the morning and Dowling in the afternoon.

I have found no further mention of the chapel or the Eskdale Mission. With Gibson’s departure from Snake Banks in about 1852 it is likely that services at the chapel ceased. The precise location of the Eskdale chapel or what became of it is not known.

Notice of the chapel's official opening. 

A map showing the location of David Gibson and  William Gibson's property at Snake Banks. Source: Libraries Tasmania - Map- Parish of Eskdale - item: AF 396/1/949. A link to a high definition copy of the map is HERE

The location of Snake Banks/Powranna on the Midland Highway. Gibson property was located in the vicinity of the Powranna Feedlots and straddled the main road to Hobart.

William Gibson


Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 4 December 1850, page 2
Hobarton Guardian, Wednesday 11 December 1850, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 14 December 1850, page 5

Australian Dictionary of Evangelical [online] [accessed 14-01-24]

Rowston, Laurence F and Baptist Union of Tasmania and Spurgeon's College. Spurgeon's men : the resurgence of Baptist belief and practice in Tasmania 1869-1884 / Laurence F. Rowston Baptist Union of Tasmania and Laurence F Rowston [Kings Meadows, Tas.] 2011


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