Baptist Churches

Opening ot the Yolla Baptist Church, 1910 (AOT, PH30/1/5344a)

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 was at the beginning of the 1870s that Baptist work began a new chapter. The eminent London preacher, the Rev CH Spurgeon, had begun sending out young students from his Pastors' College. The active interest and generosity of Mary Ann and William Gibson, wealthy pastoralists of Native Point, Perth, made this possible, as the Gibsons paid for the passage of these men. The Gibsons also built churches, chapels, halls and manses. Spurgeon's son, Thomas, visited the island five times between 1878 and 1890. By 1901 there were sixteen men from the Pastors' College working in Tasmanian Baptist churches.

In 1884 the Baptist Union of Tasmania was formed, a General Baptist work with a combined membership of 305. By 1900 there were 720 members. Baptists went through another boom period following the Second World War. In 2004 there were 32 Baptist churches in the State, with a combined membership of 1901.

Further reading: L Rowston, Baptists in Van Diemen's Land, Hobart, 1985.

Laurie Rowston