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The Wesleyans Arrive in Stieglitz – Investigator September 2021

Shepherd, R., 1825-1885, artist. Date 1857
Image of Steiglitz SLV Shepherd, R., 1825-1885, artist. Date 1857

In 1865, Steiglitz was in the midst of its latest gold rush. The locality was home to over 2,000 inhabitants (predominantly male), many mining claims, at least five hotels, a Court-house, a Public Library and Mechanics’ Institute, a Manchester Unity Lodge and a cricket team.

There was a school, formerly run by the Church of England. The school-room was also used for services – although the Church of England mnister had left the district in April. Was it the prospect of a God-less Steiglitz that spurred the Wesleyans into action?

On Friday, 25 August 1865, the Steiglitz Guardian reported:

‘The Revd Mr Wells, Wesleyan Minister of Geelong, accompanied by Messrs Burrows and Hunt, visited Steiglitz, the object being to ascertain as nearly as possible, the number of Wesleyans in the district, and to adopt measures for the holding of two Sabbath services continually thereat. The Reverend gentleman preached in the evening in the school-room, which was well and respectably filled. The sermon was of that high order which is characteristic of that Reverend gentleman’s oratory. After service a meeting of the Wesleyan members took place, and after a great deal of general matter had been discussed, it was resolved that the Revd Mr Wells should wait upon the [Mining] Warden to request his permission to allow the Court-house to be used by them for their holding Sabbath service pro tem, failing this, that subscriptions should be entered into at once for the erection of a Chapel.’

Things moved quickly. Just three weeks later, in the issue of 15 September 1865, the Steiglitz Guardian told its readers:

‘We are informed that a building in Geelong has been purchased by the Wesleyans of Steiglitz, which will seat about 200 persons – size, 40 [ft] x 28 [ft]. The site has not been selected. Mr Wells and Mr Binks are daily expected [in Steiglitz], when a spot will be fixed upon, and the building at once proceeded with.’

The following week the Steiglitz Guardian, of 22 September 1865, reported:

‘On Monday, the 18th inst., Steiglitz was visited by the Revd W.L. Binks, Chairman of the Geelong and Ballarat District, and the Revd W.P. Wells, Superintendent Minister of the Geelong Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, for the purposes of inquiring into the prospects of the Wesleyan Church in this place, and selecting a suitable site for a Church.’

‘The plan chosen is the most central which could be obtained; it is not ten minutes walk from any part of the township, and about equally distant from Sailor’s Reef and New Chum [Reef]. The spot is situated between the old burial place and the Steiglitz bridge, and will have a commanding prospect of all Steiglitz.’

‘The Revd W.P. Wells preached to a crowded congregation in the evening. A committee was formed to carry out the erection of the Church, a considerable sum of money is already promised, and in about two months’ time we expect to see the Church complete and opened free of debt. By an advertisement in our issue this day it will be seen that tenders are invited for the erection of the building.’

On the next page of the newspaper, the following tender was advertised:

‘Tenders are hereby invited for taking and removing the Congregational Church, now in Pakington Street, Geelong, and re-building the same at Steiglitz, for the Wesleyan Church. Plans and specifications may be seen at the store of Mr Harris, Regent Street [Steiglitz]; and at the store of Mr Tomlinson, Pakington Street, where the key to inspect the building may be obtained. Tenders to be left with the Revd W.P. Wells, Geelong, not later than Monday, October 2 by three o’clock.’

True to plan, the now Geelong Chronicle and Steiglitz Guardian reported the opening of the Wesleyan Church in its issue of 8 December 1865:

‘The new Wesleyan Church at Steiglitz was opened on Sunday last. The site is well chosen, and has a very imposing appearance. The Revd W.P. Wells, of Geelong, was the officiating minister, who preached thrice during the day. The chapel was well attended by a very respectable congregation, who listened with earnest attention to the impressive sermons of the Revd pastor.’

‘On the Monday following, a tea meeting was held, which was also well attended; several local and other ministers addressed the meeting after tea, and everyone expressed themselves highly pleased with the result of the meeting. The substantial response made at the conclusion of the meeting must have been a source of satisfaction to the committee, particularly when the dull state of the times at Steiglitz is considered; the collection was far beyond what was contemplated.’


[1] The Congregational Church, Pakington Street, Ashby, was erected in 1854 (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 29 September 1854.)

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