Chapter 2

The Wesleyan Chapel and the Community: 1862 to 1865

No attempt has been made in this paper to address the Glen Iris Wesleyan Church's place within the structure of the Methodist Conference nor the spiritual journey of its congregation. Much however can be learnt by the interested reader from William Lambert's account in Three Score Years and Ten, The Wesleyan Chronicle, and from other relevant documents in the Uniting Church archives. Similarly, no attempt has been made to give due deference to the people who achieved so much in the early days of the district, although again information is available, particularly from William Lambert's book, the Church minute book, and the published research of local historian, Gwen McWilliam. It is germane however to discuss the church building's use by the wider community. There is no doubt that it was used, from time to time, as a community hall; it was certainly shared in the late 1890s and early years of the twentieth century with the Church of England;14 and it may have been intentionally built to double, initially at least, as a rural school. When an application for State Government aid for rural schooling was made in August 1865, only two or three months after the church opened, the eight committee members who signed were headed by James S. Waugh, Wesleyan Minister of the district, and included the names Bainbridge, Pepperill and Robinson. The building described in the application was clearly the Wesleyan Church and the committee stated that there would be “free use of the Glen Iris Chapel”. Correspondence with the Government over the next six years continued to describe the church as the school until in April 1872 tenders were called for a school at Glen Iris on “two acres part 136A commencing at north east angle of the Wesleyan Church site...”15 Further details about the early years of the Glen Iris school can be found in A School for Glen Iris by Gwen McWilliam. What is truly remarkable is that there has been regular use by the Primary School of one or other of the church's suite of buildings at 200 Glen Iris Road from 1865 until the year 2000 when all but the chapel were demolished. As soon as the new complex is built that relationship of shared facilities will resume.

At a Church Building Committee meeting, on January 23rd, 1873, a letter from Messrs. Crouch and Wilson was read giving an estimate of the cost of “sundry additions, alterations and improvements to the church - Total £241”. The subcommittee were then instructed to communicate with the architects and “agree as to the mode of ventilation and advisability or otherwise of plastering - specifications to be prepared and tenders called for”. There must have been some dissension about the way to proceed on this matter because William Mann, the builder of the church in 1865, “refused to act upon the subcommittee”.16

Four months later, on May 15th, the committee resolved that “the seats of the church should now be let for a period 12 months for any person requiring them at the rate of 20/- per seat, or 4/- for single sittings - payable quarterly, half yearly or yearly, in advance”.17 Perhaps pew rental was one way of raising funds to help pay for the improvements to the church, although William Lambert comments that much of the cost was raised by tea-meetings.18

Subsequently, between 1873 and 1876, the building was extended by one third at its northern end because it could no longer accommodate the growing congregation. The bricks for this work were carted by Mr Jack Stocks from a brick kiln near High Street, just over Boundary Road (now called Warrigal Road). Mrs Bruce reported that even with the extension there still wasn't enough accommodation.19

In the minutes of a meeting of the Trustees on February 29th, 1881 different arrangements were discussed for paying off debt on the church. It was decided that “a re-loan should be applied for so that about £10 per year be paid instead of the present amount”. At the next meeting on May 23rd it was recorded that this arrangement had been made and had lessened “the burden on the Trustees”.20 Clearly these were times of increasing financial hardship.

14Lambert, op. cit., pp 10-11.

15McWilliam, op. cit., p 3.

16Minute Book of the Glen Iris Wesleyan Church, 1871-1910.


18Lambert, op. cit., p 9.

19Ibid., p 9.

20Minute Book, op. cit.