Wesleyan Methodist Church, 2 St Judes Street, Willunga

Willunga’s large Cornish population saw the town become part of the first country circuit for the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church in South Australia. It ministered to many Cornish quarrymen and their families who had settled in the area, as well as the leading townspeople such as the Saras, Henry Dowty and Goodes.

This church is not the original Wesleyan church on this site. The first was built here in 1844. A few short years later, it was decided it was not large enough for the growing congregation. In 1848 a second, much larger, church was built next to the first . This eventually became the Sunday School Hall (still in use, fronting St Andrews Terrace). At that time, two Sunday Schools were held – one for boys in the hall and the other for girls in the church.

Between 1856 and 1857, a third and much larger church was built on the current site. Unfortunately during its construction, a wind storm blew off the roof and weakened the walls. Eventually the walls of the third church were deemed unsafe, and it was demolished to its foundations. The fourth (present) church was constructed on the remaining foundations in 1895. This church was designed in the Gothic style with brick and cement dressings. The Church was officially opened in April 1896 with the pastor of the Church Rev. I. Perry presiding. The total cost of demolishing the old building and erecting the new one was stated to be about 400 pounds, of which about 200 had been raised by subscriptions and the proceeds of the opening services. It is now the Willunga Uniting Church.

The nearby Sunday School Hall, originally built as the second church, dates from 1848. The foundation stone from the first 1844 Church is positioned above the Hall doorway on St Andrews Tce. In 1930 a Kindergarten and kitchen were added to this building and opened by Miss Alice Dowty, for 21 years the Superintendent of the Sunday School. An upgrade was eventually required and a major renovation project was completed in April 2009 with the opening of the redeveloped Uniting Church Hall (Bethany Hall).

Nearby is the Church Bell in a gum tree.

The cemetery behind the church is the final resting place of many important Willunga residents, and a number of the headstones are made from local slate. Many of these were carved by the master local stonemason George Sara.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5512)

References:

The Advertiser 14 December 1895:10
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/34543450
R Baxendale & F Lush Willunga Walks Willunga National Trust Willunga 2010 (1989)

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