Lefroy Joss House

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Opened September – October 1874
Demolished 1900s?

Partial of Lefroy Town Chart, AF819/1/170

The site of the Chinese camp is a disused paddock bordered by Powell Street on the east, Shaw Street on the south, a tramline on the west and occupied house and garden on the north.
Tasmania’s Chinese Heritage: an historical record of Chinese sites in North East Tasmania

There is at present a population of 300 persons on the diggings, including about 50 Chinese, but fresh arrivals occur everyday, most of whom meet with immediate employment.
Examiner, 18 June 1874

From “Nine Mile Springs”
A feature in regard to new buildings is the erection of a “Joss’ House by the Chinese, who for a desire for public worship have set a praiseworthy example to those professing Christian faith, as up to the present no effort has been made by the latter to provide for religious services.
Launceston Examiner, 1 September 1874

The European population has considerably diminished of late, but the Chinese seem to be as numerous as over. These pious Orientals have lately erected a neat little Joss-house, and have thus shown, according to their light, a good example to the more favored Christian inhabitants. The door of the little temple stands open to all, to barbarians as well as Celestials. Over the table or altar, is hung a beautifully colored painting in the highest style Chinese art, of some divinity with a horrible looking demon whispering into the right ear and a mild looking angel into the left. Immediately below are placed some exquisitely carved jade figures, and upon the table a lamp is kept constantly burning. From the verandah in front are suspended some of those pretty paper lanterns familiar to all, and which are lighted up at night. The sacrifice of poultry since the dedication to Buddha has been quite alarming, and the good wives at the Springs are now kept in a constant state of dread of nocturnal celestial visitants.
The Tasmanian, 24 October 1874

Having entered the building, we found ourselves in the august presence of Joss, who sat enthroned with an evil-looking figure looking over his right shoulder, with a trident in his hand, and a correspondingly prepossessing young female leaning over his opposite shoulder, these figures being evidently intended to represent good and evil spirits respectively.
The Mercury, 4 February 1875

The population here is how some 350 souls in all; of whom some forty are Chinese; these latter having a joss house and gambling saloon of their own, both said to be well patronised each in its way.
Examiner, 18 November 1876

From “A Tour In The North”
They have a Joss House, or a “churchee,” in which John repents his moral code to the light of a kerosene lamp, much after the same fashion as do some Christians. I am not acquainted with their ritual, and the man who promised to give me a full translation of their commandments did not turn up to make the interpretation. The Joss House is a small weatherboard building, the interior of which affords standing room to about 30 persons. Facing the entrance on a broad shelf are ranged: one lamp, one candle-stick, two vases of flowers, a glass painting of a good looking Japanese woman, and some bundles of sandal wood tapers. There is a recess at the back of the shelf, partially hidden with drapery. On either hand upon the wall are some Chinese characters. Crackers are let off outside at the commencement of the ceremonies, and visitors, white heathens and others, are not forbidden to enter. I left before the collection was made. There is no sermon, and every Chinaman appears to do what is right in his own eyes. There is no harmonium, but the service is accompanied with the noise of a big gong, the noise of which is something awful in close quarters. As far as I could learn, the “Cousin Jacks” had not succeeded in converting the “heathen Chinese” to Wesleyansim, nor had the followers of Confucius succeeded in perverting the faith of Cousin Jack. The Christian religion is kept up at the Springs once a fortnight, the Chinaman’s Joss House is open every day and all night during the week. I will have others to decide who are the firmest believers and the best professors of the twain.
Tribune, 29 March 1877

Since my last the Chinese have celebrated the opening of their new Joss House with great festivities, providing a grand dinner for all who chose to partake of the same–and I can assure you, a person would have thought that numbers who went had not eaten anything for a week. Amongst those who sat at the festive board were a goodly number of the fair sex; considering our small population. Both morning and night, nothing could be heard in little China town, but the report of fireworks, and of bankers at the fan tan shops, calling the winning numbers.
Launceston Examiner, 21 July 1877

“Nine Mile Springs”:
The Joss House is the chief attraction to visitors. They see the mysteries of heathen worship, but should they smile “John” is down upon the offender like a hawk, and quietly hints that he had better travel farther or fare worse, as there will be a row in the camp. In this Joss House are many examples of Chinese ingenuity in the shape of Chinese letters made solely of gold leaf. They are worth a good round sum. Other articles of tapestry and fancy work make tho place look very pretty
The Tasmanian, 29 June 1878

Last contemporary mention (so far) , from a police court report:

Thomas Featonby, for the defence, deposed–I am a miner residing at Lefroy ; recollect the night of the Chinese New Year; was in, company. with Reed, Phillips, and O’Brien; there were others there; some 200 persons were there in front of the “Joss House; ” no disturbance took place whilst I was present; saw no damage done to Ah Gee’s door
Launceston Examiner, 1 March 1883

Miss Helen Vivian interviewing Mr Bill Gibbons 22-1-1984.
Mr Bill Gibbons born 7th October, 1899 at Lefroy
There’s a bit of discussion about the joss house and the location. These are just two extracts about what it looked like and when it was pulled down.

BG: Weatherboards not palings. All the inside I remember was painted pink. In it was an alter thing, bench whatever you call it. They had a Buddha, a big one in brass on the centre of it. Then they had all these images and animals a lot of brass ones. It was full of it. Then all around the walls was all their coloured streamers, balloons, Chinese lanterns, there were their bowls and their chopsticks standing up in the bowls.

HV: Getting back to the Joss House, it was weatherboard on the outside.
BG:-Iron roof.
HV: Did it have a chimney?
BG: No.
HV: Did it have windows?
BG: Yes in the front of it. Windows in the front under the verandah. None at the back and none at the end. Just at the front of it.
HV: On either side of the door?
BG: On both sides of the door
HV: Did it have a wooden floor?
BG: Yes.
HV: Were the walls lined on the inside?
BG: They were lined. It was pine lined. It was tongue and groove pine.
HV: It was really quite a smart building?
BG: Yes it was a nice building. I can always remember the pink paint inside.
HV: So it was pine lined with pink paint?
BG: Pine lined , painted pink.
HV: was the ceiling pine as well?
BG: Yes the whole lot. was pine all over.
HV: Did it have any support columns?
BG: No, none at all.
HV: The roof was just a normal … ?
BG: That shape the roof was, it went down, it was that shape. A big hall, whatever you like to call it with a verandah in front of it, it was all in one. One roof did the lot.

HV: Do you remember the Joss House being pulled down?
BG: Yes, I remember it being pulled down. I think somebody just bought it and put timber or something in it. There were a lot of houses pulled down and taken away. They use to get Warren Phillips and they use to put them on the big lorry thing and take them away. A lot of people (the farmers) bought a lot of places and took them out onto their farms on to their paddocks.
HV: How old were you when the Joss House was pulled down?
BG: I’d be going to school.
HV: Nine or ten?
BG: I went to school when I was seven. Yes I would be ten. I was going to school, but

(From Tasmania’s Chinese Heritage: an historical record of Chinese sites in North East Tasmania, Helen Vivian, 1985, pp.157-169)

Chinese miners were at Lefroy in large numbers, and had their joss-house; this was afterwards removed to Weldborough, and now, reconstructed, forms part of the joss-house exhibit in Launceston Museum.
North-Eastern Advertiser, 3 April 1951

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