History of Providence Place Primitive Methodist Church


Written and researched by Ken Unwin whose Great Great Grandfather Nathan Unwin and other family members were married in the church.  The Unwins were prominent members of the church in the years they lived at Greenvale.

The Church, although the building that we recognize today, was established during the 1850’s and has a long history in terms of its existence in relation to permanent settlement of the Colony of Port Phillip in 1835.

The present building has changed little since its opening in 1869, two stained glass windows at the front of the building having been replaced, seem to be the only visible signs, as all around is changing with the subdivision and construction of modern homes.

In 1843, Leonard James and George Wolfender Machell bought from the crown, “Portion of land, some 344 acres for the price of one pound per acre. Bounded by the Broadmeadows Road, Providence Place and stretching to the now Somerton Road, this land was later subdivided and sold to Messrs, Lavers, Bond, Salisbury, Johnson and Davidson, and in 1854, lots six and seven, to John Lawrence. Portion of six was later to become the plot of land that the Church was built.

As early as 1850 the records in the book of baptisms solemnized by Rev. John Ride in the Parish of St. Peters, County of Bourke, District of Port Phillip, reveal that one of the first entries, refers to the birth of Esther Wright, born February 2nd 1851, daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann Wright of Yuroke and baptized July of that year.

Several other familiar names associated with the Primitive Methodist Church, which was later to be erected in Providence Place, are also to be found in this volume, Sarah Jane and Martha Ann, daughters of Henry and Elizabeth Papworth (nee Johnson), Mary Ann, William and Elizabeth, children of James and May Lancaster (nee Bond) and David, son of William and Susannah Bond, all born during the 1850’s, the Papworth’s and Lancaster’s living in Providence Place and the Bonds further north along Broadmeadows Road (Mickleham Road).

There is no evidence of a Chapel in Yuroke at this time although one existed at Mickleham and in the obituary column devoted to John Lawrence (who died in 1874), Rev. Clarke writes “we had no Chapel in the neighborhood, but he (Lawrence) cheerfully opened his home for worship”.

The name Greenvale was not in use until 1869 when the new School took this name from John McKerchar’s property “Greenvale” situated opposite the Greenvale Primary School.

In August 1858, although no specific mention is made of a Church building, the reference to “Providence Place” is recorded along side the baptisms of David Bond and Martha Papworth and as a sum of 87 pounds 9 shillings had been entered in the accounts book as being spent on materials and labour for a Chapel, we can assume that some kind of structure housed this congregation until a more permanent chapel was completed in 1869.

In 1867 a contract for sale of a small area of land (from lot 6) was drawn up between the owner John Lawrence, William Bond, and Henry Papworth, farmers, Thomas Mallows, hawker, and others from outside the community, Thomas Stranks of Pascoe Vale, Thomas Colett, of South Brighton, John Kingshott, of Broadmeadows and William Edis, of Mickleham, for “the sum of 5 pounds of lawful British money, upon Special Trust and to the intent that a Chapel of meeting house and School shall be erected thereon by the members of a society of Community and Religious persons called “Primitive Methodists” belonging to Primitive Methodist connection resident at Providence Place, Yuroke.

Having spent many years ministering in the North of England, Rev. Clarke accepted the appointment from the General Missionary Committee asking him if he were willing to go to the Melbourne Mission. Moving from place to place through out the countryside, holding services and opening Churches throughout the Goldfields areas and taking up appointments in Castlemaine and Geelong, he eventually returned to Melbourne in 1864.

His next station was Cambellfield on which he laboured successfully for several years as minister in the Circuit, distances of up to 2o miles were covered on foot with two and sometimes three services being preached, returning to Town after each such a day, around midnight. No easy matter in the heat of the summer or depth of winter, says Clarke in his writings of these times in his missionary undertakings.

An energetic and dedicated man in his work for the Church, still serving the Methodist cause until his death in 1892 (1) Michael Clarke of course, played a large part in the establishment of the present church building which stands at Providence Road, Greenvale. Under his direction a building committee was formed and held their first meeting on November 10th, 1868. Tenders were advertised in the “Age” and the hope expressed that the work would be completed three months after the signing of the contract.

The architect was Mr. McIvor (who was apparently responsible for the design of many of the Churches in the area, in particular the design and and plans of the new Chapel at Mickleham completed in 1877 replacing the original Church built 18 years earlier.

On November 30th at a meeting of the building committee, Mr. Grants tender for the erection of the Church at a cost of 376 pounds 10 shillings was accepted. His purchase of material from the “Old Chapel” for 15 pounds, bringing the cost of the building back to 360 pounds 10 shillings. Bricks for the construction were purchased in Brunswick and interestingly “the remainder made on the back section. (Section road are)

The decision was made to scrap the inscription stone and porch, saving 30 shillings and reducing the costs further. John Lawrence and Michael Clarke were requested to inform the contractor during February, 1869, that if the building was not finished by March 20th, the penalty of 10 pounds per week would be enforced and, as by April 14th the Church was still uncompleted, “that the committee at your expense will take steps to complete the work on or before Saturday instant”. Completion with in sight, the meeting resolved “that the donations as promised be collected as soon as possible, Messrs Bond and Clarke take a day or two amongst the friends”.

Unfortunately, an account of the actual opening service has proved to be most elusive, but I think that it is safe to assume a date late in April 1869, would be very close, as the last meeting of the building committee took place on May 4th and discussions as to lighting and cleaning costs, together with a recommendation “that one inch and a quarter be taken off the width of the seats and that they be stained and varnished” are the only items from the agenda.

*The above information came from the Methodist Miscellany Church Archives, 150 Little Collins Street, Melbourne.

Also extracts from “Links with the past”, a local Greenvale history, written by Annette Ferguson.


(1)   The Rev. Michael Clarke married Nathan Unwin and Jane Stanlake on the 22nd January, 1868, at “Glen Arthur”, the property owned by Joseph and Celia (Stanlake) Trotman. This would have been only months prior to the opening of the Church.

(2)   Sarah Jane Unwin, eldest child and daughter of Nathan and Jane (Stanlake) Unwin married William Ernest Manasseh Bond 1892, of the Bond family.


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