No. 1452 - Queenstown South - "The Tin Church" (1900-1960)

Queenstown is the main town in West Coast region and is named in honour of Queen Victoria. At one time it was Tasmania's third largest town. Like all towns on the west coast it has a long history of mining. Queenstown South is a southern suburb of the town that spread along the road leading to Lynchford and straddled the Queen River.

The Methodist Church at Queenstown South was officially opened on Sunday 1 July 1900. It was a corrugated iron building that was used for about 60 years as a Sunday school and for church services. In 1960 it was decided to transport children and the congregation to Queenstown Methodist Church rather than meet separately. The building was sold and a store was built on the site.

A brief report concerning the opening of the church appears in the 'Mount Lyell Standard':

"Yesterday afternoon the church which has been erected by the Wesleyan denomination in South Queenstown, opposite the Railway Hotel, was opened by a service which was conducted by the Rev. J. A. Gault in the presence of a large congregation. The building is substantially constructed of corrugated iron, and "should admirably suit the convenience of the residents in the suburb who are debarred by inclement weather from walking into the town for devotional purposes. In the evening another service was held in the church, Mr Geo. Pullen officiating".

In 1908 the church was used as temporary accommodation to relieve overcrowding in the South Queenstown State School. A rental of 30 shillings a month was paid.

In 1920 the church became the subject of a public debate over its use as a venue for public dances. A correspondent to the Zeehan and Dundas Herald wrote:

“There has been some controversy as to whether dancing should be allowed in what is called the “Tin Church”, and at a meeting of protest held by the ladies of South Queenstown, their views have been upheld.…Can it be that this building belongs to the Methodists, or that it was intended solely for a church?…”.

Amongst the responses published by ‘The Herald’ was a letter from Keith Scarlet:

“There is no doubt that the building was reluctantly let to get friends to keep it in a respectable condition, and my sympathies are are fully with those who objected to this. I also perceive that it is necessary, some time, to be practical, as well as sentimental, and in this prosaic world ‘ways and means’ must unfortunately be considered…”.

Keith Scarlet clearly had a close connection with the church as child as is evident in the following poem published in the Zeehan and Dundas Herald:

THE TIN CHURCH

Twas just a little church of tin,
But there I learned to pray;
And learned that life has pathways twain,
The broad and narrow way!

And faces I shall never see,
In memory come to me;
Of children who have travelled both
These roads of mystery.

I used to love the winter winds,
That whispered in the eaves;
And think it was the voice that cheers
The Christian who believes!

I never saw the barren walls—
The tin roof quaint and dim;
My mind from these would soar away,
To join the seraphim!

Cathedrals I have seen since then,
With altars all aglow;
But God seemed nearer to me in
The church of long-ago!

And choirs in those cities far.
Have thrilled me with their praise;
But never as those simple hymns
I loved in boyhood's days!

'Twas but a little church of tin —
God loves a simple place;
And 'twas in a cow-shed we believe.
First saw His baby face!

No altar candles flaming there.
Simplicity to mar.
God gives a rarer light to those
Who see the Eastern Star!

The preachers in those far off days
Were earnest kindly men:
And brotherhood, and fellowship
Seemed vital forces then!

The little church made no man's fame,
For architectural worth!
But souls that sing in Heaven now,
Had there their second birth!

And if 'twas cheap, and poor, and made,
Of corrugated tin:
Those simple worshippers could there,
A way to Heaven win!

There, two or three, have gathered oft,
So God has of't been there!
So it must consecrated be.
To Him — a House of Prayer!

And must it be like some old friend,
Who helped us on the way;
Scorned and neglected now, 'tis old.
And fallen to decay!


KEITH SCARLET.
South Queenstown.

I have not managed to locate a clear photograph of the ‘Tin Church’ but it is visible in a photograph of Queenstown South taken in the 1930s.


A photograph of South Queenstown c.1935 - Source: West Coasters, Who remembers when... Facebook Group - 17 October 1913 - posted by Adrian Price - original source/photographer not known.

The location of the South Queenstown Methodist Church circled

Notice of opening published in The Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette



Sources:

The Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette, Saturday 23 June 1900, page 2
The Mount Lyell Standard and Strahan Gazette, Monday 2 July 1900, page 2
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Saturday 29 February 1908, page 6
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Tuesday 7 September 1920, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Friday 10 September 1920, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Wednesday 15 September 1920, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Friday 17 September 1920, page 4
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Tuesday 21 September 1920, page 4
Mercury, Monday 11 March 1946, page 9
Advocate, Saturday 3 April 1954, page 15

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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