This site has been continuously occupied since April 1854 where the Reverend William Butters chaired a meeting on the premises and proposed by Charles WIlliams and by appointment by the Wesleyan Church, the Rev. Charles Akrill to this neighbourhood.
They resolved immediately to erect a building to be used as a place of public worship and school room.
The meeting established a committee to secure the erection of a building suitable for these purposes on the land granted by the government to the Wesleyan Church.
It was noted that some £300 had been raised for this purpose.
By July it was being reported that a “new and handsome Weslayan Chapel’ was under construction. It was completed by the end of the year as Christian Haeffner, an early hotel keeper, and Mary Conway were married there on 24 December, 1854.
In September 1855 the governor of SA visited Beechworth and noted “the largest and most conspicuous place of public worship at present is that belonging to the Wesleyan’s… it is a plain wooden structure at a cost of about £1500”. An early photograph shows a dark, wooden building with a high pitched roof and relatively squat walls and windows.
The Wesleyan Chapel was soon found to be inadequate because it was ‘not large enough and insufferably hot’. It was therefore decided to build a new chapel, on the adjoining land and use the redundant chapel as a school room.
The new Wesleyan Chapel was opened on 12 April 1857 and after that date the former chapel on this site was used as the Wesleyan School. Just over 12 yrs later on August 17 1869, the Ovens & Murray Advertiser carried this report;
“Demolition of the Wesleyan School. – one by one, the old landmarks of Beechworth are disappearing. The wooden building in Ford Street, locally known as the Wesleyan School, but for some years used as a place of worship – in fact, the first place of worship in the town and subscribed to by persons of all denominations – has been doomed to demolition. For some time, the building has been considered unsafe, and at a committee meeting held last evening, it was determined that it should be taken down, and a new brick structure was erected in its place. Tenders for constructing the building are called for and will be received up to Tuesday next, 24th instant.”
Four tenders were received and on 26 August 1869 the Advertiser reported that;
“The tender of Mr J. Kyle for £287, was accepted. The removal of the present building is included in the conditions of the contract’. Demolition began on 30 August and the advertiser commented that “The building now being taken down was, we believe, the first public edifice erected on the Mayday Hills – as the locality was termed before “Beechworth” was named. It is intended to replace it with a neat brick structure.”
On 13 November 1869, the advertiser reported that the building had been completed on the previous day and would be reopened on 14 Nov when sermons would be preached in the church by the local Presbyterian Congregational and Wesleyan Ministers. In addition to the £287 paid to Mr Kyle, £14 was spent on furniture for the school and £47pounds on ‘other expenses’ – a total of £348.
The sum of £168 pounds had already been raised through donations and monthly subscriptions, leaving £180 still to be found.
On Nov 15 1869 ‘about 250 ladies and gentlemen attended a tea meeting in the new school room at which the Wesleyan Minister Rev James D Dodgeson and others spoke. It is also recorded that Mr Ah Ling ‘sang a hymn in Chinese and delivered a few remarks in English.