Monday, 30 December 2013

Methodist Church, Nicholls Rivulet

The former Methodist church at Nicholls Rivulet has a direct association with the Tasmanian Aboriginal race through its very strong association with its principal benefactor, Fanny Cochrane Smith. It also provides some physical evidence of the influence of the Methodist home missions in late nineteenth century rural Tasmania.

Early Methodist services in the district of Nicholls Rivulet (formerly Irish Town) were held in the home of William and Fanny Smith. Fanny Cochrane Smith (1834-1905) was recognized by the Tasmanian government as 'the last survivor' of the Tasmanian Aboriginal race, and was granted 305 acres of land at Nicholls Rivulet in 1889. The Smith family became leading members of the Methodist community. One of the sons, William, became a lay preacher. Fanny, in particular, was regarded as a tireless worker, and in late 1895 or early 1896 she gave half an acre of land for the purposes of building a church. It was intended 'to hold the land until the necessity arises for us to erect a church'.

Within five years the Methodist congregation had outgrown the accommodation afforded by Fanny's kitchen, and the foundation stone of the church was laid on 6 November 1900. The construction of the church took six months, and the first services were held in the new church on Sunday 5 May 1901, when the Reverend CW Atkinson preached in both the morning and afternoon.

The building is a small rectangular timber structure (8.5 x 5m), set on rubble footings with weatherboards to external walls. The building has minimal decoration, the most obvious embellishment being the elaborately decorative barge board to the north end of the gabled corrugated iron roof. The entrance doors are framed and sheeted, and consist of two leaves within a pointed arch frame.

Each side of the building has two timber framed multi-paned windows, with pointed arch heads. The wall lining above consists of horizontal boards, to a height of 2250mm. There is no evidence of any lining having existed above this level, suggesting that the interior lining may have been left partly finished. The exposed roof framing includes rafters. There is a raised platform or dais at the southern end, with a rail supported by three turned timber posts (partly damaged).

It is not known when the Methodist church ceased to be used for worship. In recent times, as of 1990, the building was used for the storage of hay. The building is now used as The Living History Museum of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage & Gardens of the South East Nation and run by the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation.

Main Text & Information Source
Australian Heritage Database