Chapter 3

The Growth of a Suburb: 1890 to 1932

From the mid 1890s until the mid 1920s it seemed in retrospect to one member of the congregation that “a calm prevailed over Glen Iris”. Congregational numbers began to drop and the very small attendances by 1910 led to talk of closing the church.21 A range of reasons should be considered. Firstly, in the 1890s there were very real repercussions to the collapse of the land boom. Secondly, other denominations began to build their own churches in the district. And thirdly, there were the usual losses to the congregation through death and removal from the district, as well as less interest shown in the church by newer settlers. However optimism prevailed and in 1919 a new kindergarten hall was built to house the increasing Sunday School scholars. Then in 1922, the year of the congregation's 60th anniversary, it was decided, despite meagre funds, that major renovations to the church were imperative. This was at a time when the market gardens and farms were gradually giving way to subdivision into allotments. Glen Iris was becoming a residential suburb.22

William Lambert was one of the band of tireless volunteers who worked each Saturday afternoon and four evenings a week on the building until the task was complete, so his is a first-hand account. He says, “the old porous bricks were allowing the damp to come through, leaving ugly disfigurements on the walls, the old dado was decayed, and the seats in poor condition... The work comprised relining the inside walls with fibro cement sheets, erection of a new dado and vestry, renewing window panes, painting and repairing seats”. The pulpit was “badly damaged by white ant” and was rebuilt, and a new dais for the choir was installed. The gas lights were replaced by electric lights and the walls whitewashed. The minister of the day, Reverend Apted, who had some “architectural experience”, designed and superintended the renovations and roughcasting to the dilapidated exterior of the church.23 In 1932 Ivern A. Jacobs, pastor of the Glen Iris Methodist congregation from 1926 to 1929, wrote a letter of congratulations to the congregation on the completion of the new church built in that year, saying in part, “I cannot help looking back over the tasks performed by the stalwart workers of the past, who had no immediate prospect of consummating such a task, but because they felt it necessary... cleared up the initial difficulties of repairs to the old building and property at a cost of many hundreds of pounds in preparation for this magnificent structure. They laboured without prospect, and sometimes with little encouragement, but with a firm faith and a keen appreciation of the needs of the future generation...”24

Over the next ten years, as the suburb filled, new people gradually joined the congregation and through increased, regular subscriptions the financial burden started to ease. The kindergarten hall was twice extended and sewerage, fencing, roadmaking, the erection of a new entrance, concreted paths and construction of a tennis court were undertaken. Nevertheless, by 1931 the trustees proposed a new building, designed to double as Sunday School accommodation and the new church.25

21Lambert, op. cit., p 9.

22Ibid., pp 11-12, 19.

23Ibid., p 20.

24Glen Iris Methodist Church, “Church Notes”, Vol. 2, No. 1, December 1932.

25Lambert, op. cit., p 21.