Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel and site | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel and site

Item details

Name of item: Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel and site
Other name/s: Wesleyan Chapel Gunderman
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Chapel
Location: Lat: -33.4217921179 Long: 151.0344185450
Primary address: Wisemans Ferry Road, Gunderman, NSW 2775
Parish: Spencer
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Gosford
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT4 DP599807
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Wisemans Ferry RoadGundermanGosfordSpencerNorthumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical SocietyCommunity Group 

Statement of significance:

The Gosford Heritage Review of 1977 in Evaluation of Significance judged the Chapel to be rare in terms of historic, aesthetic and social as far as the local area is concerned. Of particular note are the two stone finials and the stone block and date carved above the door.

The Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel site is of rare local significance. It is significant for its association with the development and practice of Wesleyan Methodism in the Lower Hawkesbury area. It is also significant for its association with early European settlement in the Lower Hawkesbury. Through its use by the community for social, historical, tourist and educational events it maintains this significance.

The Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel is therefore a rare example of places of worship for the Wesleyans in the Lower Hawkesbury area in the 19th century. As the oldest intact usable stone chapel of this era in the area, it is a rare example of its purpose.

It is associated within settlement in the area and has been almost continuously used by the community from 1855 to the present day.

(Cox 2003:20)
Date significance updated: 11 May 11
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Local Methodist Congregation
Builder/Maker: Greentree Brothers
Construction years: 1852-1852
Physical description: The sandstone chapel is built on half an acre of the property "Greens" donated by George Everingham. The shingle roof has been replaced by a corrugated steel roof and the windows have recently been replaced as per the original ones. The inside has a number of pews and a holy table. The grounds also have a small building complete with toilets that serve as a meeting area and amenities block for tours.
(Kofron, 2002)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The physical condition is good, as the Society has replaced the roof and windows, which were termite affected. There is subsidence in the front corner and a major drainage problem as the building has not drainage underneath and no space for air to circulate. Work on Wisemans Ferry Road raised the level and this increases the problem.
(Kofron, 2002)
Modifications and dates: No changes to the chapel itself. A small amenities block has been built further up the property.
(Kofron, 2002)
Current use: Historic tours; meetings, church services on request
Former use: Wesleyan Chapel and Roman Catholic Chapel (Divine Word Missionaries)


Historical notes: 1818 Wesleyan Methodism spread along the Hawkesbury. Many settlers were from Sussex, Kent and Cornwall. People met in private houses. Ministerial care directed from Windsor.

George Everingham was the first Australian born Wesleyan preacher. A son of first fleeter Matthew Everingham and Elizabeth Rimes George married Keturah Stubbs and in 1832 bought the property known as 'Greens' at Lower Hawkesbury. George always walked or rowed a boat to his religious appointments sometimes taking 3 days. Part of 'Greens' was leased to George William Douglass. From 1841 local meeting were organised at 'Greens' by George Everingham, John Laughton and George Douglass. In 1838 George Douglass was converted to Methodism.

By 1852 the congregation was too large for private homes and George Everingham donated half an acre of 'Greens' property to the church for a Chapel and school. The sandstone Chapel was built by Greentree brothers for 300 pounds. A tea-party had raised 200 pounds before work started and on June 9 1859 another tea-meeting raised 61 pounds to clear the debt

The first service was held on Monday April 22 1855. The congregation had arrived on Sunday but the Minister John Watkin had got lost and didn't arrive until Monday. Congregations mostly came by boat. Methodism thrived into the nineteenth century and many local lads became preachers.

By the 1950's attendances were well down and the last Methodist service was conducted at the Chapel in 1963.

The Divine Word Missionaries leased 'Greens' and the Chapel at a peppercorn rent for 10 years. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday June 25 1965.

The lease was not renewed and the Chapel was unused for many years. The Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historic Society leased the premises from the Uniting Church in 1984 for a peppercorn rent. In 1986 they received a Bicentennial Grant, which together with substantial fund raising allowed for the purchase of the property. The Chapel and grounds are used for meetings social events and are part of Historic tours conducted in the area. The Chapel has also had Services conducted on request.

Author flyer produced by the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historic Society cl-P.O.Wisemans Ferry 2775.
(Kofron, 2002)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Orthodoxy-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site on which the lower Wesleyan Chapel stands has been involved in the history of the Lower Hawkesbury area from the early nineteenth century. It was initially the home of Richard Woodbury, the first police constable for the area and subsequently the home of George Everingham who as a local preacher was intimately involved with the development of Wesleyanism in the Lower Hawkesbury. The Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel built in 1855 on land given by George Everingham is an integral part of the history of the early settlement, of the local community and of the development of Wesleyanism in the Lower Hawkesbury.

There have been a number of prominent figures associated with the Chapel either as preachers or as attendees of the Chapel but of particular note are the lay preachers George Everingham and his wife Keturah (nee Stubbs), John Laughton and his wife Charlotte, and George Douglas and his wife Elizabeth.

George Everingham was the first Australian born Wesleyan preacher. He was born on 9 December 1799 and was the fifth born of the ten children of First Fleeter Matthew Everingham and Elizabeth (nee Rymes). On 17 August 1821 George married Keturah Stubbs, herself the only Australian born child of the four children of the pioneer couple, William Stubbs and Sarah (nee Wingate). N a June afternoon in 1816 George had journeyed firstly to Ebenezer and in the afternoon to Rose's cottage at Wilberforce to hear the missionary Samuel Leigh preach. George was so moved by the preaching he became a lay preacher and for thirty years (1838-1867) preached along the Hawkesbury. George was described by the Reverend William Schofield, the first Wesleyan minister appointed to Australia, as "punctual to his appointments and acceptable to the people. This man whose name is George Everingham has been very useful and as a natural consequence is highly esteemed:. George was appointed as a local preacher (a Wesleyan Methodist title). His wife, Keturah also served God and was known along the river as the "Mother of Israel" for her compassionate nature. In 1845 George and Keturah gave the half acre site known as the 'Green's' to the Wesleyans and in 1855 the Chapel was built. George and Keturah had eleven children. In 1867 they moved to Ulmarra on the Clarence River where they had joined their son Cyrus. Keturah died there in March 1880 and George in April 1881.

John Laughton was born on 30 January 1815 at Stromness in the Orkney Islands. He arrived on the Stirling Castle and settled in the Hawkesbury River area being over time boat-builder, skipper, trader, storekeeper and orchardist. Peter Beale in his book has reproduced a long eulogy to John Laughton written after his death in 1901 in which it is noted that "Scotch Presbyterians, it has been said, make good Methodists, when to stability of character, strength of conviction and knowledge of the scriptures they add Methodist fire and fervour. In Mr John Laughton these qualities were all combined"/ Later in the eulogy it is stated that "those were the days of stirring revivals" and "…says Mr Watsford (the preacher) ..At one place, then called 'Green's', when we went to prayer at the opening of the service, the power of God came upon us that the people could not rise again from their knees for two or three hours. These were true revivals". John Laughton went to "Green's" to observe this for himself and found George Everingham to be the preacher. During the service he found the Saviour and gave himself to God.

In 1845 John Laughton was put on the plan of the Windsor Circuit and his fine presence, accompanied by a voice of excellent qualities made him acceptable in every pulpit. Although he caught the gold fever and went to the Turons diggings he maintained his piety and preached to the miners about righteousness and the judgement to come. He lost his money, returned home, married Charlotte Gutsell in 1838 and fathered fifteen children. John Laughton assisted very materially in the building of the Chapel, bore his full share of the annual tea-meetings and filled with credit every office of the layman. He guarded the circuit finances and sought to make the returns from his part of the circuit as high as possible. He always set a good example by his liberality and he was always the preacher's friend. He died on 14 September 1901 at the age of 86.A memorial plaque in the chapel attests to his commitment to the area and Wesleyanism.

George William Douglass was the son of William Douglass who had been transported for life in 1802 or 1804. William Douglass died on 11 November, 1852 and is buried in Wisemans Ferry Cemetery. George Douglass was born in 1818 and he lived in the Lower Hawkesbury. He was converted during a visit to the 'Greens' by the Reverend John Watsford in about 1838. The Reverend Watsford was the Superintendent Minister of the Windsor Circuit. From 1841 local meetings were organised at the 'Greens' by George Everingham, John Laughton and George Douglass. George Douglass was of great assistance in the building of the Lower Hawkesbury Chapel in 1855.

The local Wesleyans raised all the funds for the construction of the Chapel as a place of worship and it was the principal religious and social centre for the community from 1855 to 1963. The present owners the D&LHHSI raised considerable funding (plus a grant) to purchase the Chapel in 1986. A number of the earliest members of the D&LHHSI, in particular Louise Prince and Freda Deas, now in her mid-nineties, grew up in the Lower Hawkesbury area and vividly recall attending church services and tea parties at the Wesleyan Chapel. Since purchasing the property the Historical Society has carried out much restoration work of the Chapel and improvement of the surrounding grounds. The society continues to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the chapel.

The site is the only remaining intact stone church built in the mid-nineteenth century in the Lower Hawkesbury. It is therefore of local historical significance.

(Cox 2003:15)
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Strong association with the early pioneering European families of the lower Hawkesbury Valley.
(Kofron, 2002)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Chapel was a visibly prominent landmark in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century prior to the road construction. The Chapel is oriented to the Hawkesbury River as this was the point of arrival and departure for the members of the early congregations. The descent on the left hand side through bush to a natural rock landing and the iron rings driven into the rocks would have been used by the Churchgoers particularly after George Everingham acquired the Woodbury property. The Chapel itself is set on the eminence on which the Woodbury house itself would have been located in 1827. The worn steps show evidence of constant use for over 130 years. As the oldest usable intact stone chapel in the Lower Hawkesbury, it significantly contributes to the nineteenth and twentieth century aesthetics of the area. Although it now appears to be set down from the current road it is still a prominent landmark which can be seen from both the road and the Hawkesbury River. It is therefore of local aesthetic significance.

(Cox 2003:17)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Chapel was used as a principal venue for the religious and social activities of the Wesleyan community from 1855 to 1963. From 1965 to 1973 the Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic order, used it for religious purposes. From 1984, it has been the home of the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society Incorporated. This culminated in their purchase of the Chapel in 1986. Since then it has been used regularly for historical activities and it houses the Society's archives which document the history of the Lower Hawkesbury in written and pictorial form. It is therefore of local social significance.
(Cox 2003:18)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site would contain archaeological evidence of its operation as a Wesleyan Chapel. A Gosford Heritage Review conducted in 1997 records the two sandstone finials and the circular motif head and vent on the front façade as being unusual details. They could be of future research value. There is a large, single stone lintel and carved stone with date above the door also with research value.

The Chapel also contains the archives of the D&LHHSI which incorporate Wesleyan history as well as tapes and original research of the Lower Hawkesbury area including research into the pioneer families of the region. It is therefore of local research significance.

As previously noted the adjacent amenities block has been assessed as of no historical, aesthetic, social or research significance.

(Cox 2003:18)
SHR Criteria f)
The Gosford Heritage Review of 1997 in Evaluation of Significance adjudged the Chapel to be rare in terms of Historic, Aesthetic, and Social as far as the local area is concerned. Of particular note are the two stone finials and the stone block and date carved above the door.

The Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel is therefore a rare example of places of worship for the Wesleyans in the Lower Hawkesbury area in the nineteenth century. As the oldest intact usable stone chapel of this era in the area it is a rare example of its purpose.

(Cox 2003:18)
SHR Criteria g)
Demonstrates the main characteristics of a religious chapel of its time.
(Kofron, 2002)
Integrity/Intactness: The chapel remains as constructed with the exception of the roof, which has been replaced in tin along the original roof line. The windows were replaced with glass matching the originals.
(Korfron, 2002)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Urgent need for drainage to be placed around the chapel as the corner of the front wall has subsided and there is no drainage. Air cannot circulate under the building. The road level has been raised and so runoff has increased the problem. (Kofron, 2002)

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act See File For Schedule

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material.
(2) Garden maintenance including cultivation, pruning, weed control, the repair and maintenance of existing fences, gates, garden walls and tree surgery but not extensive lopping.
Mar 17 1989
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementCMP for Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel at Gunderman Jun 27 2003
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0057602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0057617 Mar 89 321450
Regional Environmental PlanHawkesbury-Nepean REP No. 20 07 Nov 97   
Local Environmental Plan 0002008 Sep 89 0936868

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel and site View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel and site View detail
Management Plan (HC endorsed)Cox, Henly2003Conservation Management Plan for the Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyan Chapel at Gunderman

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045152
File number: S91/01632 & HC 872634

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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