No. 1495 - Cygnet - Wesleyan Methodist Church (1879)

Cygnet is a small coastal town situated about 70 kilometres south of Hobart. It is named after the adjacent bay of Port Cygnet which was 'discovered' by D'Entrecasteaux and named ‘Port des Cygne’ (meaning the port or harbour of swans). The settlement was known as Port Cygnet until 1895 when it was changed to Lovett. In 1915 the town’s name was changed again becoming Cygnet.

In 1875 a ‘special correspondent for the Hobart Mercury wrote a detailed description of the settlement at Port Cygnet:

“….For beauty of situation and convenience of approach, the township can hardly be surpassed by any of the ports on the Huon. The houses of Port Cygnet, nearly all built of wood, are somewhat scattered, but the nucleus of the township consists of some thirty or forty tenements clustered near the head of the bay, and containing, perhaps, a hundred and fifty inhabitants. Here all the business of the town is transacted. There are two hotels (one near the wharf, kept by Mr. John Russell, and the other at the junction of the Cradock road, by Mr. William Allen), four stores (the storekeepers being also butchers), one jam manufactory, two small brick yards, three shoemakers, two carpenters, three blacksmiths, two bakers, and representatives of one or two other handicrafts. But though the population of the township itself is comparatively small, Port Cygnet is the centre of a large and flourishing district, dependent upon it for supplies….Port Cygnet was formerly a penal station, no fewer than six hundred or seven hundred convicts having been located there at one time. But none of the prison buildings remain, excepting the Old Bush Inn, now turned into private residences, and the large assembly room behind the Port Cygnet Hotel. The latter edifice, by the way, has been fitted as a hall of entertainment by its owner, Mr. Russell, and is a decided acquisition to the township…..Coming now to religious and educational establishments, there are in Port Cygnet an Anglican and a Roman Catholic Church and two schools, one under the Board of Education and the other a private establishment recently opened under the auspices of the Catholic community…..Methodists and Independents are also well represented at Port Cygnet. Their services are generally conducted by lay preachers in private buildings….”.

In May 1876, a report on the work of the Wesleyan Home Missions in the Huon district reveals the progress made by the Methodist missionaries:

“Mr. Thomason, bush missionary, gave an account of his work at the Huon subsequent to the period embraced in the report. On the 10th January last he entered upon his work, and from that time to the 7th of this month—a period of a little over four months—he had preached 102 times in Franklin, Port Cygnet, Irish Town, Castle Forbes Bay, Wattle Grove, Gardiner’s Bay, Surge’s Bay, Port Esperance, Hastings, Recherche, Southport, and other places. Although the distances had been long, he had every reason to be thankful with the success of his labours. He had met with the greatest kindness and hospitality ; and he had had the happiness of seeing no less than 34 souls converted to the truth…..At the Huon there were 102 members in connection with the Wesleyan Church. With regard to finances, he might mention that the people of Port Cygnet, Irish Town, Gardiner’s Bay, and Wattle Grove had guaranteed to provide a sum of £42 a-year towards the bush mission in the district…..As regards the attendance, the average at Franklin was 90, and at Port Cygnet, the last two or three times, there was not sufficient room for the people. The success of the work was not, however, due to him, but to men who had been labouring there for years for the salvation of souls. They had been ploughing, and sowing, and harrowing, and he had come in to help them to reap a little”.

Within four years of this report the Methodist community at Cygnet had built a small wooden church. A report in the Hobart Tribune describes the official opening of the church which took place on Sunday 16th February 1879:

“The new Wesleyan Church was opened for public worship on Sunday inst. On Monday a tea-meeting was held, the proceeds of which were devoted to the building fund; there were fully 150 persons present and congratulatory addresses were delivered. The building is a very tasteful structure, and speaks volumes for the builder - Mr. Thompson – and it certainly is a great ornament to our little township, its dimensions are as follow[s]: - Length 27 feet, width 17 feet, 10 feet studs, 13 feet rafters, lined three feet high with blackwood, and the remainder of the building is lined with Huon pine. There is a tablet erected in the church to the memory of the late Mr. C. F. Glover, who became a local preacher in 1865, and died in 1873 in Victoria; there is no pulpit in the building, but in its stead a neat platform has been erected. The front of the building is nicely ornamented, and altogether it is a neat and compact structure, and has been erected more expeditiously than any other building in Port Cygnet for some time”.

In 1890 the Methodist bought Cygnet’s much larger Cygnet Congregational Church (that had also been built in 1879) for an amount of £300. [See No. 720]. The old Methodist church was moved to the rear of the Congregational church to be used as a Sunday school and hall.

The old Congregational church was sold and removed in 1952 to make way for a new Methodist Church. The old Methodist Sunday school was retained and now houses the Cygnet Living History Museum.

A further article on the new Methodist, (now Uniting Church) will be published in an upcoming article on the Churches of Tasmania blog.

The old Wesleyan Methodist Church behind the Congregational church purchased by the Methodists in 1890. Source or photographer not known.

The old Methodist church now houses the Cygnet Living History Museum. Photographer: Gary Houston (wiki commons)

The construction of the new Methodist (Uniting) Church in 1952 with the old Methodist church on the left. Photograph: Cygnet Living History Museum

Undated postcard showing the old Methodist church behind the Congregational church


The Mercury,Saturday 19 June 1875, page 3 
The Mercury, Tuesday 16 May 1876, page 2 
Tribune, Thursday 20 February 1879, page 3
Huon and Derwent Times, Thursday 3 October 1935, page 6

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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