Detail from a painting by Frederick Strange (QVMAG collection).
Baptist Chapel, York Street c.1856
First Baptist church in Tasmania? From the Companion to Tasmanian History:
The Baptist Churches’ official presence in Tasmania began in 1834 with the arrival of the Rev Henry Dowling, who had been pastor of the Colchester Particular Baptist Church in England. Based in the north, Dowling became pastor of the Launceston York Street Chapel, which opened in December 1840. A group of Hobart Town Baptists had previously constituted the first Baptist Church in the Australian colonies in June 1835. Their Hobart chapel was officially opened in March 1841. Baptist fortunes were never great in this period. The Hobart cause never gained strength, suffering disorder and division. It closed in 1886. The York Street work struggled on until 1916.
It is interesting to recall the work of this church in Tasmania. It commenced immediately after the arrival of Rev. Harry Dowling in Hobart on December 2, 1834. On July, 1834, the Governor (Sir George Arthur) issued a location order for the site of a church in Launceston. This site was in Brisbane-street, between Tamar-street and the City Park and abutted on a grant made to Rev. H. Price for the Tamar-street Congregational Church. Later this land was sold, and the site in York-street at present owned by the Baptist Union of Tasmania was bought for £200. On this the first Baptist Church in Tasmania [this one] was erected and opened for public worship on December 27, 1840. A manse was also built adjoining the church. Mr. Dowling carried on his ministry and lived in the manse until his death on March 29, 1869, at the age of 89 years. For 63 years of his life he had been actively engaged in the Christian ministry of the Baptist Church. It was not to the advantage of the work that one so old should have continued in the pastorate, and Mr. Dowling had fully recognised this, but owing to the difficulty of obtaining Baptist ministers in Australia in those years he had to continue. He was succeeded by Rev. William White, who carried on until his death on April 11, 1913, in his 86th year. As was also the case with the Congregational churches in Launceston, the cause suffered from excessively long pastorates of very aged men. As a result the Baptists in Launceston became very weak numerically and otherwise, when through the generosity of Mr. William Gibson, of Perth, it became possible to erect the church in Cimitiere-street known as the Tabernacle in 1884.
The Examiner, 14 March 1936
We perceive the walls of the new Baptist Chapel and Mission House, in York-street, are rapidly progressing; the effects of which are now visible. The appearance and improvement of that neighbourhood, by removing several disreputable buildings, and dispersing a notorious set of low characters, heretofore infesting that part of the town, already evince the ultimate good, and beneficial results, which may be anticipated therefrom. We have seen the plan, and think the structure, when complete, will be a neat and substantial building. Economy appears lo be a principal object in the design. Every comfort and accommodation, so far as its space can possibly admit, will be afforded to the congregation.
Launceston Advertiser, 20 February 1840
Photos from a different time: