Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Wesleyan Chapel

The Wesleyan Church c.1902

You might have driven or walked past this building and wondered about its history. The old Wesleyan Chapel has stood on the corner of Allman and Oxley (now Moore Oxley Bypass) Streets for over 177 years. Built in 1846, it has been known by three different names since its opening.

On 30 June 1843 the colonial government made a grant on the north-eastern corner of Oxley and Allman Streets. It was for a school, church and residence. A sandstone chapel was built, and it measured only 8.5 metres by 5.5 metres inside. About 40 people were present for the opening in October and the service was conducted by Rev W.B. Boyce. Remarkably, considering the small membership, the church was paid for only two years later.

The simple building was built of Ashlar stone and cost one hundred pounds. Its features include round headed windows and a gabled roof with barge boards. Early photos show a picket fence surrounding it. 

Around 1856 some members stopped attending the Wesleyan Chapel as they did not like the doctrine that was being preached. Some of the disaffected members joined the newly formed Congregational Church established by James Bocking and John Cobb. They built their church nearby in Allman Street in 1859. This disaffection resulted in the Wesleyan Chapel eventually being closed down for twenty years from 1865 and the result was a building left dilapidated and rundown. It re-opened in 1885 with a "Friday night tea meeting and concert" following a service. "Oranges and lollies were freely distributed during the intermission!

In 1900 the church building was extended by six metres at the rear and a front porch was added. Other improvements were made, and the The Campbelltown Herald wrote "The improvements consist of a commodious room so built for extension of the church accommodation at any time, while from outside appearance the old church has entirely disappeared, giving place to a modern appearance." Two years later the Methodist Union of Australia was formed and so the Wesleyans became Methodists. Around this time a fervid and zealous Methodist, Thomas Henry Reeve came to live in the town. The church revived under him, and membership gradually rose. 

In 1947 the parsonage was built, and the vestry enlarged in 1950. A new hall was built in 1961 to serve the needs of the Sunday School and the church was renovated with the installation of new pews.

With the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches in the 1970s, it was renamed again in 1977 as the Campbelltown Uniting Church.

A new church building was later opened in 1982 (the old 1846 building only seated 90 and was therefore grossly inadequate for special occasions) and was used as a multi-Purpose Centre. It was the talk of the town and proved to be a useful but also aesthetic building. In 1993, Hurley House was built in Allman Street to provide residential care for disabled young adults.

The church in 1979, not long before it became the Campbelltown Uniting Church

Written by Andrew Allen


Campbelltown Clippings by Jeff McGill 1993

Campbelltown Ingleburn News 14 September 1971

The Campbelltown Methodist and Uniting Churches: A History by Wayne Williams 1996

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