A chance reading of an old newspaper and an eighty-year-old aerial photograph led to the rediscovery of an historic site and lost reminders of the last two members of a long-gone congregation. Here’s the fascinating story and video.
The small chamferboard church (pictured) is nestled under tall pine trees on a grassy slope not far from the Brisbane river. The building is 131-years-old, but there’s little feeling of history because the structure was relocated in the 1960s to avoid being steamrolled by a highway. A chance reading of an old newspaper article had led me this far, but now to find the original site.
The local historical society reported the general location only. By overlaying a 1936 aerial photograph (pictured) onto a modern street map, and there’s the church clearly alone in its original location of 1888. As if by a miracle, today that site is preserved in the middle of a huge roundabout and once again covered by pine trees. A treasure hunt beckons.
My field walk through the early morning mist reveals the foundation cornerstone of the 19th century building, so now I know that I’m in the right place and walking in the footsteps of the lost congregation.
Metal detecting allows history hidden to be unearthed and given new life. Right by the cornerstone I find a 1943 Australian halfpenny and a ladies silver ring, and past lives are beginning to breath again.
The church was built in 1888 as a Primitive Methodist Church. It was opened by The Reverend William Woolcock whose son was private secretary to the Queensland premier and was later a Supreme Court judge.
The congregation thrived and enjoyed many picnics and other events, as seen in this photograph (pictured) from 1909. Amongst the group are sisters Edith and Isabel Sinnamon who are granddaughters of the first European settler in the district who arrived from County Armagh, Ireland, in the 1860s.
All their lives Edith and Isabel were spoken of together for their flowers, afternoon teas, and their continued attendance at church. By the 1950s, however, the congregation had dwindled to just two – the unmarried sisters Edith and Isabel.
The last minister was The Reverend Alfred Avery Mills who is photographed here in 1957 with his final two parishioners Edith and Isabel. Rev. Mills had been a First World War army chaplain gassed in Belgium and given the Military Cross by King George V himself. His own three daughters also never married, instead devoting their lives to the church and education in Fiji.
Edith and Isabel passed away within two years of one another in the 1960s, both aged eighty-two. It was only after Edith had died in 1966 that the main roads department came knocking to remove their church. Their cousin Hercules Sinnamon, who was later knighted for services to the community, donated some land and had the church relocated 400 metres away to its present location.
The halfpenny and ladies silver ring were most likely lost in the 1950s. I found them in the exact spot that Edith and Isabel Sinnamon are standing in their photograph with Rev. Mills during this same time.
Surely there’s a chance that they were left by Edith and Isabel and now found as a lasting reminder of the last two in Rev. Mills’ flock at this old Methodist church.
Please now watch the video.
Halfpenny, ring and foundation cornerstone – my own
Sinnamon Memorial Uniting Church 2019 – my own
Aerial photograph 1936 – Q Imagery
Sunday School picnic 1909 – State Library of Queensland
Misses Sinnamon and Rev Mills 1957 – Centenary Suburbs Historical Society