No. 1459 - Hobart - Murray Street - The 'Ebenezer Chapel' (1870)

The United Free Methodist Church was formally established in Hobart on 11 December 1854*. Distinguishing features of the church were circuit autonomy and freedom to be represented in the Methodist Assembly by whichever minister or layman the congregation elected. Further congregations of the denomination were established at Wynyard, Burnie and Penguin.

The ‘Free Church’ initially met in the rooms of the Upper Murray Street Infant School. In early 1855 plans were made to build a weatherboard church adjoining the Infant School. This building was officially opened on Sunday 7 October 1855. [see No. 1440]

In 1869 a new church designed by Edward Rowntree was built in front of the old Murray Street church. It was called the Ebenezer Chapel, from the Hebrew ebhen hā-ʽezer, meaning “stone of help”; a reference from the Book of Samuel where a stone was set up in commemoration of God's help to the Israelites in their victory over the Philistines.

The foundation stone for the new “chapel” was ceremonially laid on Wednesday 14 July 1869. The Hobart Mercury reported:

“…The cornerstone of a new building to be called "Ebenezer Chapel, intended for the United Methodist body, was laid by His Excellency Governor Du Cane. The site is on the trust premises abutting on Murray-street, in front of the old chapel, and adjoining the Infant School, a block of three cottages having been removed for the purposes….”.

The building was completed by April of the following year and was officially opened on Thursday 31 March. The Mercury’s report contains a detailed description of the building:

“The structure having been completed under the contract of Messrs. Shield and Ware, the opening services were appointed to commence on Thursday last…. The building is of brick, 26 feet in height, relieved with stone columns, cornices, quoins, and strings. The plan is a parallelogram, 80ft. in length, and 45ft. in width; subdivided into portico, 20ft. by 6ft., two porches 10ft. by 12ft., chapel, 52ft. by 42ft.; class room, 16ft. by 12ft., vestry, 16ft. by 12ft., chapel keeper's room, 12ft. by 12ft., with sleeping room above….The ground floor is designed to accommodate 350 adults, or 400, mixed congregation, the doors into the porches, opening from either end of the portico. There is an incline of one foot in the full length of the chapel floor….At the east or entrance end of the chapel is a small temporary gallery intended for the harmonium, choir, &c. The front of the building is about 24 ft. back from the footpath….The lower part of the front of the building is of the Tuscan order, the upper portion being in the Italian style….”.

While the dimensions of the building were impressive, the congregation which supported it was relatively small and did not grow as anticipated. In a little over a decade services ceased and in 1887 the building was sold to the Education Department and reopened as a school in 1888. In 1899 the building was sold again and was reopened as a private school, “Queens College” (1900-1910), which was eventually incorporated into the Hutchins School.

Over the years the building has been put to many uses including a meeting place for the Salvation Army; a brief period as Reverend Arthur Bentley Worthington’s ‘Temple of Truth’; as a Masonic Lodge, a hosiery factory and a warehouse. In more recent years it has been converted into a residence.

* It was initially known as as the “Wesleyan Free Church”

The old Ebenezer Chapel - Mercury, November 2022

The old chapel before it was restored - photograph:

The foundation stone. Photograph:

A more recent photograph which I took in 2023

The chapel after it was converted into Queens College. c.1900.  The infant school was used as a Sunday school and was also the original meeting place of the Free Methodist church in 1855. The first church, a weatherboard structure, was located behind the Ebenezer Chapel. Photograph: Libraries Tasmania - Glass Plate Negative collected by E R Pretyman (NS1013)


Colonial Times, Wednesday 10 October 1855, page 2
Mercury, Friday 16 July 1869, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 6 April 1870, page 2
Tasmanian Times, Wednesday 6 April 1870, page 3
Mercury, Wednesday 1 November 1899, page 2
Mercury, 16 November 2022


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