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"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."   1 Corinthians 1:4-9  NKJV

   IHS-WA.net       Section 1 - A History of the Christian Brethren in Western Australia

 

* PLEASE NOTE that EXTRA details have been and will be added to the internet pages of this Western Australian Christian Brethren History. These additions will be shown in GREEN TYPE, with author noted unless added in by this websites editor.  The blue type in this section is the contribution by Mr Ern West.

 

For the beginning of this West Australian Christian Brethren History - click HERE

 


 

SECTION 1 - EARLY HISTORY OF METROPOLITAN ASSEMBLIES 

 

1. GENERAL REVIEW

2. FREMANTLE  [NOW HAMILTON HILL]

3. PERTH  [NOW NORTH PERTH]

4. CLAREMONT  [NOW COTTESLOE] 

 

 

 

 

 


 

1.  GENERAL REVIEW

 

The latter part of the 19th Century and the early years of the 1900's saw a great deal of excitement in W.A. with the great “gold rushes” to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. We are not aware of any Christians specifically migrating for the gold, but we know that some were working in the goldmines although no assembly was commenced then. However, we are aware of quite a number of Christians who did come to Western Australia at that time. Apparently there was some outreach in W.A. from Brethren Assembly evangelists even as far back as 1873, for it is on record that a Mr Moyse worked for some time in Esperance. Mr Moyse came from the U.K. and laboured in Australia from 1866 to 1880 with his base in Tasmania. An obituary for Mrs A.S. Rolph of Tasmania, in 1936, reveals that she became a Christian at Esperance some 63 years before as a result of the ministry of Mr Moyse. Some older believers may remember that Mr A.S. Rolph, a full-time worker based in Tasmania, visited and spent some weeks in Western Australia in 1931 ministering the Word. The present writer has good reason to remember this visit as Mr Rolph was present and spoke at his 21st birthday celebration, and also one week later conducted his father's funeral service.

 

A Mr Thomas Manders, an evangelist from the Eastern States, also served the Lord in W.A. from 1897-1900. As a result of these visits and migration, various Assemblies were ultimately commenced - Fremantle in 1896 and Perth in 1901. Early records of the Perth Assembly briefly refer to an Assembly at Midland Junction from 1900-1905 held in the home of Mr and Mrs Dunwoodie who later moved to Perth and then later again to Claremont. The year 1910 saw the commencement of an Assembly in Claremont, but then there was quite a gap before the work in other areas opened up. About 1924 the work at Victoria Park was commenced and at Norwood in the early 1930's. The commencing dates of other Assemblies are included in their historical records. The foregoing is only a brief summary to give an overall picture of the early developmental years. More details will be given under each individual Assembly where information

is available. We have endeavoured as far as humanly practicable to check the accuracy of dates and information presented.

 


  

2.  FREMANTLE  [now HAMILTON HILL]   (This Assembly has now closed)

 

In the year 1896, Mr R.K. Scott arrived in Fremantle from Paisley, Scotland and not being able to find any of those people with whom he was accustomed to meet, he decided to step out into the street and preach the Gospel, and this he did on the first Sunday evening that he was in W.A. He preached from a vacant block of land on the corner of High and Market Streets, Fremantle. It must be realised that public transport, other than trains, was almost non-existent at that time and consequently on Sunday nights the streets were filled with people just strolling up and down and glad for something to occupy their attention. Earlier than this particular exercise, in 1893/94, Mr and Mrs Carlson and a Mr and Mrs McCracken came from Melbourne where they had worshipped at the Protestant Hall Assembly for some time. Mr William Allen also had come from Adelaide where he had been in fellowship with the Assembly there.

 

Walking in the streets, Mr Allen was attracted to the preaching and went over to listen and after Mr Scott had finished he made himself known. The following Sunday night the same thing happened together with the Carlsons and the McCrackens, no doubt with much rejoicing. As a result of these contacts, they began to meet in the Carlson's home for the Breaking of Bread meeting. Later than this, a number of other brethren arrived from Paisley, Scotland and also from other countries. The Assembly gradually built up and in 1901 Mr and Mrs Stephens and their three daughters and sister-in-law arrived from Sydney. Mr Stephens' occupation was that of a salesman and his custom was to leave samples of his firm's products in house-to-house visitation and at the same time leaving a Gospel tract with the samples and in this way he came into contact with other Christians living in East Perth. He also made contact with believers in Subiaco and West Leederville.

 

Another couple who had some influence in the growth of the Fremantle Assembly were Mr and Mrs Thomas Manders, full-time evangelists who had come from the East in 1897 and worked in the district until 1900. As the fellowship grew it was necessary to move from the private home and they began to meet in the Sailors' Rest at the corner of Essex Street and the sea front. Other names that have been carried down from early records are Mr McClure, Mrs and Miss Rhodes, Mr Smith, Mr Grace, Mrs Wisely and Mr Weaver [a Russian Christian]. Mr and Mrs Manders also conducted a Bible Reading for some Christian Chinese in a room over a Mr Varley's grocery store. There does not appear to be much information regarding the years immediately following, except that, at some stage, meetings began to be held in the Rechabite Hall, Parry Street, Fremantle. Gospel meetings were still held in the open-air, except in bad weather when they were held in the Sailor's Rest. Eventually the meetings were transferred to a corrugated iron hall in Nelson Street, Fremantle. A Sunday School was also established. It was in a fairly rough area and the corrugated iron walls were ideal for creating a disturbance during the progress of meetings.

 

The Sailors Rest hall in Fremantle.

Image sourced from http://innopac.slwa.wa.gov.au/

 

It was in this hall in the late 1920's that Mr Charlie Wilson of the Perth Assembly, when giving a talk at the Sunday School Anniversary, was interrupted by a lad from outside who called out, “Hey, mister, you're wanted on the telephone!” Outside disturbance was frequent with the corrugated iron acting as a suitable drum for sticks and stones. About this particular period Mr Alf Mairs, a migrant from Ireland, was prominent in the Assembly and also the Wilding family. Regular Sunday afternoon open-air meetings were held at South Beach in the summer months. In approximately 1930 a decision was made to move from Nelson Street, and an old Congregational Church in a back street, Baker Street, Beaconsfield, was purchased for the fabulous price of £95 [pounds] for land, church, seats and organ. For some 30-35 years all of the normal assembly functions were conducted at this location and many happy times were enjoyed there. Much transport was involved in picking up children and young people for Sunday School and youth work and to a lesser degree adults for the Gospel meetings. Many of these pick-ups were made from surrounding housing areas and arising from this, an exercise arose in 1964 to purchase land in Hamilton Hill about 3 miles distant. Agreement was reached to go ahead on this project and a very suitable building was erected on the corner of Redmond and Carmody Streets, Hamilton Hill.  [See HAMILTON HILL in Section 2]

 


  

3.  PERTH  [now NORTH PERTH]    (This Assembly has now closed)

 

The commencement of the Perth Assembly appears to have been associated with the arrival of Mr Stephens from Sydney [also referred to under Fremantle]. In the course of his daily vocation as a door-to-door salesman Mr Stephens made contact with several Christians in Subiaco, West Leederville and East Perth. They met together in one another's homes for fellowship and encouragement, sometimes travelling to Fremantle to join with the brethren there at the Breaking of Bread and also in the Gospel at the Sailors' Rest. Towards the end of 1901 it was decided to commence a Breaking of Bread meeting in the home of Mr Higgins at 17 Bennett Street, East Perth and this was done on the 22nd November, 1901. It continued there until 18th January, 1903 when they moved to more suitable premises at the Leisure Hour Club at 420 Hay Street, Perth. The names of over-seeing brethren at this time were Messrs. Porritt, Higgins and Cousins. A weekly Prayer Meeting was commenced on 29th January, 1903 and a Bible Study on 15th April, 1903. For the use of the Leisure Hour Club for these meetings the rent was £7-10-00 per week [$15.00].

 

It would appear at this juncture that quite a number of Christians from a group that had been meeting at Subiaco sought fellowship and after due enquiry, 17 were welcomed between 6th December, 1903, and 3rd January, 1904. Some of the brethren added at this time were to play a vital part in the extension of the Assembly witness in the years that followed. Amongst these were Mr Thomas Mills, Mr Alf Lewis, Mr George Nelson, and Mr Gerald Hewitt. With this large influx the Leisure Hour Club became unsuitable so that on 7th February, 1904, another change of venue was made and the Assembly moved to a hall over Veryard's shop in Barrack Street, Perth City [near the intersection of Wellington Street]. This hall had at some time been used as a flour store. For some time prior to this an open-air Gospel meeting had been held in Wellington Street [West City] opposite the then Federal Hotel. One lady, Miss Emery, was brought to the Lord through this effort and was baptised on 15th May, 1904.

 

In January, 1905, the membership records show the names of brethren other than those already mentioned, whose names had been handed down even to more recent years  Messrs. Stephens, Ward, Dunwoodie, Leach and Ormerod. Soon after this appears the name of Mr J.J. Budge. Reference was also made in 1905 to a Sunday School and the decision to buy Sunday School prizes from Melbourne, so it appears that a Sunday School operated in 1904. On 11th June, 1905, another change of location was made and the meeting place was transferred to the Oddfellows Hall in William Street, just a few hundred yards from the renowned Horseshoe Bridge over the railway, which was in fact designed by Mr Ormerod referred to above. The first Gospel service was held in this Hall on 15th July, 1905. An interesting reference is made in the records to the baptism and reception into fellowship on 29th March, 1906 of Mr Albert Hackfath who in approximately 1924 moved to Sydney and fellowshipped at the Hebron Hall, Leichardt. Our brother's continued interest in Western Australia was evidenced by quite a number of subsequent visits.

 

In 1909 many more names appear including those of the three Miss Williams who later exercised a missionary hospitality ministry whilst members of the Claremont Assembly; Miss Z. Parker, later to be Mrs Alf Lewis; Miss Wisely who passed away in 1970; and Mrs Stephenson who had moved from Midland Junction and then later to the Eastern States, returning to North Perth after an absence of many years, and who was later called home to be with the Lord at the grand old age of 101 years. In 1912 Mr and Mrs Charles Wilson arrived from Newcastle, England, and our brother right up to his homecall in 1940, was a vital influence in evangelistic work in Western Australia, making numerous country trips and helping in the establishment of country Assemblies. He is remembered by many currently in fellowship in W.A. for his evangelistic zeal to young and old alike and for his excellent and God honouring ministry.

 

In 1914 references appear to Mr and Mrs Arthur Wilson, and also to Mr B.E. Talbott whose daughter, Miss Chrissie Talbott [now Mrs Alfred Solomon] spent 27 years as a missionary in Zaire. Meetings were later transferred to shop premises nearby and remained there until 1924 when tenancy of the new Rechabite Hall, 224 William Street, Perth, was undertaken where the Assembly remained until August 1947 when the building was purchased by the Commonwealth Bank. From there, a move was made to the Manchester Unity Hall on the other side of the street, right above the original Oddfellows Hall used in the 1905-1923 period, with mid-week meetings being held in a private residence in Stirling Street occupied by Miss G. Stenhouse and Mr and Mrs A. Willy. Arrangements were made later to hold these mid-week meetings in the Manchester Unity Hall.

 

For some time a desire had been expressed to build a place set aside solely for the worship and service of the Lord. It had been a very traumatic experience for some time past to arrive at the hall on Sunday mornings for 9.30 a.m. Sunday School and to find the whole place reeking with the smell of stale beer and tobacco, and also to find the piano keys covered with spilt beer and the like. At this point it is appropriate to mention that for many years the Sunday School had been a very important part of the Assembly outreach. In the Rechabite Hall period under the Superintendency of Mr Charles Wilson, and later Mr George Cartmel, the Sunday School attained to an attendance of 110-120. This continued for a while in Manchester Unity Hall, but the increasing affluence of society generally, facilitated the purchase of motor vehicles, which made it easy for parents to take their families out on Sunday picnics. This caused a great drop in numbers. Sunday School at this time was held in the afternoon and numbers began to dwindle and so it was decided to change from afternoon to morning. Prior to the change, the highest attendance had dropped to 45 and the lowest 8. In the year following the change of time our highest attendance was in the 80's and the lowest 45.  [See NORTH PERTH in Section 2]

 


 

 

Everyone worships something.  Yes!  Even you.

 

 


 

  

4.  CLAREMONT  [now COTTESLOE]    (This Assembly has now closed)

 

In about 1910, four Christians in the Presbyterian Church, Messrs. May, Leslie, Marriott and Butterworth were apparently unhappy about the ecclesiastical position and withdrew from the Church and decided to meet on neutral grounds. Their meetings were first held in a room at the back of Mr May's boot repair shop in Diver Street, now St Quentin's Avenue. This was the humble commencement of the Claremont Assembly. After some time they moved to an upstairs room over the undertaker's premises opposite the Claremont Railway Station and were there for 2 or 3 years. Increasing membership prompted a further change to a billiard room in Bay View Terrace opposite Diver Street where they remained for 2 years. During these years several members of the Perth Assembly found it more convenient, for residential reasons, to attend the Claremont Assembly and so transferred their membership.

 

With these added numbers it was found necessary to move again and so in 1919 the Assembly moved to an upstairs room in the Princess Theatre in Bay View Terrace. The writer recalls, as a young man attending a Saturday afternoon Conference in this place. It was here that a Children's meeting was commenced by the three Miss Williams, well-known to visiting missionaries and preachers for their warm hospitality over many years. From this evangelistic outreach, a Sunday School was also commenced and later a Gospel service and mid-week prayer meeting. The Assembly grew rapidly and eventually Purchased a block of land in Gugeri Street where a Gospel Hall was erected opposite the Perth-Fremantle railway line and this was opened in mid 1926. One of the first services to be held was a mid-week baptismal service when four people associated with the Perth Assembly, including the writer, were baptised. At that time, Perth Assembly did not have baptismal facilities available although owning a baptismal tank. Some years before, Mr A.C. Lewis, the foreman of a sheet-metal factory had made a baptismal tank for use in the Perth Assembly's shop premises in William Street. When they moved to the Rechabite Hall they were unable to use this tank and it was put into storage to await developments. Mr Lewis and his family were amongst those who lived nearer to the Claremont  Assembly and who transferred their membership and so when the need arose, it was recalled that a baptismal tank was in storage and it was made available for the new Claremont Gospel Hall.

 

Although baptism is of vital and serious importance this first baptismal service at Claremont also had it's lighter side. At the rear of the Hall immediately behind the baptistery were two rooms, one used as a kitchen and the other for general purposes. The lady being baptised had changed into suitable clothing in the left hand room and the 3 males in the right hand room. Exit from the baptistery was only on the left side and after the lady was baptised she naturally went into the left room, but together with her assistant, immediately realised that the males would also need to come through that room, so her clothing was quickly transferred to the right hand room and the clothing of the males was placed in the left hand room. The first male, an active elderly man, was then baptised, and assuming that he would need to cross the hall to get to the right-hand room did not wait to walk up the steps but vaulted over the side of the tank and cut across to the right hand room, to find to his horror that the room was already occupied by the ladies. I can see him now - very embarrassed, dripping wet, standing with his hand on the old pedal organ not knowing what to do, until someone, quickly assessing the situation, led him round to the left hand room.

 

Prominent in the Assembly at this time were Mr Ernest Ward, Mr Leslie, Mr Dunwoodie, Mr Beatty and Mr R.C. Stewart. About the time of the opening of the new hall, the Moore and McKay families became associated with the Assembly. In 1928 Mr Stewart was granted a licence to marry on behalf of the Assemblies in W.A. and the first Assembly wedding took place in the Claremont Gospel Hall in that same year between Miss Lizzie Moore and Mr Preston Filmer. In succeeding years many holiday Conferences were held at Claremont which were attended by many from other Assemblies as well, although these were not unknown in the Princess Theatre days. It became a regular custom on Royal Show Day to entertain folk to tea who had attended the Show, with the hope that they would stay for the evening Conference. Many did this and the Show Day Conference became an established occasion for many years. In 1958 extensive additions were made to the Gospel Hall to cope with increasing numbers attending the various meetings. The Assembly's 50th Anniversary of the establishment of their own Gospel Hall was celebrated in 1976 and they remained in the Gugeri Street premises until 1983 when it was decided to seek other accommodation because of car-parking difficulties and the increasing railway and other traffic noises.   

[See COTTESLOE in Section 2] 

 


 

  

 

 

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