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Zion Particular Baptist Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

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Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australiamap
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The story of the Particular Baptist Chuch in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne is easiest told by the obituary of John Turner, its Pastor from 1849 to 1894.

Prahran Chronicle (Vic. : 1894 - 1906; 1914 - 1918), Saturday 5 January 1895, page 2

The 1836 Church Act allowed church communities who raised £300 in donations towards the building of a church to apply for a grant of land and a pound for pound subsidy (up to a maximum of £1000) towards the building, and allowing for assistance towards the stipend of the minister, according to the size of their congregation.

All the other denominations had free-grants and Turner's Church was subsequently granted half an acre of land situated on the north-west corner of Lonsdale and Stephen (Exhibition) Streets, Melbourne, and extending down Stephen Street to Little Lonsdale Street. The church site was then considered to be outside the town and had a large gully running through the centre of it. The church itself was built on the Lonsdale Street frontage. Fund raising for the building of the Chapel commenced with the holding a public tea meeting on Good Friday, April 20, 1850.

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Thursday 28 March 1850, page 3
Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Thursday 8 August 1850, page 2

The design for the chapel was unadorned and simple and of a similar style to that of the Ebenezer Church at Brighton, Sussex. The members gave their labour freely and the church was built from bluestone. The Church had pilastered (rectangular column) walls and were constructed entirely of roughly squared stone laid in courses. This was the second Baptist Church built in Melbourne (although the fourth congregation).The church was officially opened on October 20, 1850 with a 'tea meeting' and was called 'Zion Particular Baptist Church' (although other references refer to it as 'Lonsdale Street Baptist Chapel'). Later, around 1859, the Church was extended at the back with a brick vestry, and a new and ornate front was added.

Zion Particular Baptist Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 1861

JM Freeland in Melbourne Churches, 1836 - 1851, An Architectural Record describes the Church:

The front, architecturally, a mixture of Palladian, Baroque and Mannerist styles, was unique in its design, for probably no Melbourne building, and certainly no Melbourne church, was ever vaguely similar. The unknown designer was obviously determined to fight his own little battle in the battle of styles, which was at its peak about that time and, uninfluenced by the niceties of Gothic or Greek revival as the most appropriate ecclesiastical style, he sprang a vigorous, rugged and forceful, if somewhat primitive revival of his own. The rustically coupled columns, the doorway and its round pediment, the Florentine mouldings and particularly the scrolled buttresses, the windowed gable and general black and white impression of the gable portion of the wall, suggest and individual designer with a courage and forthrightness of no mean degree.

The church site is now the location of the exclusive Melbourne Marriott Hotel (formerly Rockman's Regency Hotel). However back in the 1850s, this was not such an illustrious address. The population of Melbourne had increased tenfold with the discovery of gold, and the north eastern part of the city became crowded with small cottages, factories, hotels and shops, and it was in this fringe area of the city where the poor congregated. The high proportion of men and the lack of work for women saw a sudden growth in prostitution. By 1854 the area was the centre of Melbourne's infamous prostitution or 'red light' district. The more fashionable brothels had their frontages on Stephen and Lonsdale Streets, not far from John Turner's church[1]

The reputation of the area where the church was located, for thievery and prostitution, remained for the entire time whilst the Baptist Chapel stood. In 1878 the city was preparing to host the 1880 International Exhibition. The connotations of the name Stephen Street were so poor that it was decided to change the name to Exhibition Street. At that time the area bounded by Spring, Lonsdale, Exhibition and Little Lonsdale Streets (the block directly opposite the church) had approximately two hundred resident prostitutes, although the women were no longer destitute and living in squalor, they had become highly organised and were run by 'madams'

Soon after the church was built, John Turner began introducing his doctrine - That the Holy Spirit should not be addressed in prayer, as He was the inditer of all true prayer. He brought forward much scripture to support his views and he formally declared the formation of a Church of Christ of Particular Baptists[2]. His view divided the church community and many of the old members left, leaving John Turner with a small church group.

Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), Friday 2 April 1869, page 2
Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), Tuesday 6 January 1874, page 4

When John Turner became ill, Reverend Charles Walter Hartshorn took over as Pastor.

Hay Standard and Advertiser for Balranald, Wentworth, Maude...(Hay, NSW : 1871 - 1873; 1880 - 1881; 1890 - 1900), Wednesday 27 February 1895, page 3 - part 1
Hay Standard and Advertiser for Balranald, Wentworth, Maude...(Hay, NSW : 1871 - 1873; 1880 - 1881; 1890 - 1900), Wednesday 27 February 1895, page 3 - part 2

Charles Hartshorn would later marry John Turner's widowed daughter Mary Ann (Turner) Setford in 1910, however this was a short marriage as Charles died later the same year.

The church was demolished in the mid 1930s when the land was sold for £35,000 to a rubber company who erected a factory and petrol service station on the site.

The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), 28 December 1928, p. 14.


  1. Block 25 - The Story of Melbourne's North Eastern City Corner Booklet produced by Telecom Australia, 1993
  2. Rolicker Chandler 'The Migrant Ship Harpley' 1996, p54

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