…the small chapel, built with slab walls and a bark roof, stood below the present church at the north-east corner of Chapel Lane and Yan Yean Road…
Methodists was the name given to members of the Holy Club at Oxford University which included the 18th century Anglican evangelist John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The term arose ‘from the methodical manner in which they regulated their study and religious observance’. In 1795, four years after the death of John Wesley, the Methodist movement formed a separate church.
Open-air preaching was a conspicuous feature of early Methodism. During the unsettled gold rush era of the 1850s, the Wesleyan Methodists were able to use lay preachers to stay in touch with their adherents. Open-air services, private homes and buildings such as barns were used for worship before the building of a permanent Chapel and Sunday School to meet community needs. Hymn singing was also an important feature of meetings and services. Prior to the Methodist Union of 1902, the principal Methodist sects existing in Victoria were the Wesleyan, Primitive, Bible Christian and United Methodist Free Churches.
The first Superintendent Minister for the Preston and Heidelberg Wesleyan preaching circuit, formed in 1863, was the Rev. F.E. Stephenson. The circuit consisted of the following preaching places―Preston, South Preston, Heidelberg, Thomastown, Woodstock, Wollert, Yan Yean, Linton, Eltham and Greensborough. ‘One of the first responsibilities of the (circuit) Meeting was to purchase a horse for the Minister―the price not to exceed 10 pounds.’
The original Linton (Hazel Glen) Wesleyan Chapel (known as Yan Yean East) was built on land acquired from Sunday School Superintendent, Thomas Stockdale, in 1863. The small chapel, built with slab walls and a bark roof, stood below the present church at the north-east corner of Chapel Lane and Yan Yean Road. The Trustees of the old site were James Reid, Hugh Reid, John Lucas, Aaron Grimshaw, Brian Abbey, Henry Dosser, William Baldwin, Francis Thomas and Thomas Stockdale.
In June 1863, The Wesleyan Chronicle included a report of activities held to celebrate the ‘Linton Wesleyan Sunday-school Anniversary’. ‘On Sunday, May 31st, an excellent sermon was preached by the Rev. F.E. Stephenson, minister of the circuit’ On Monday 1 June 1863, ‘a good tea’ was followed by a public meeting, held in the chapel. The attendance ‘though not numerically large, was good, when the thinly-populated character of the neighbourhood is considered’. Local preacher and Sunday School class leader, Mr. Brian Abbey, presided. ‘Addresses were delivered in the course of the evening by Messrs. Reid, Sharp, Dosser, Longhurst, Stockdale and Newman.’
In March 1872, The Wesleyan Chronicle, under the heading ‘Anniversary of the Linton Church’, affirmed that ‘This building has stood longer than most expected, and has witnessed, we trust, a final anniversary.’ A public tea meeting held on Tuesday 20 February 1872 was presided over by Mr. Dosser of Whittlesea, ‘to the satisfaction of all. The Rev. C. Dubourg (superintendent of the Preston and Heidelberg circuit) gave the first address; he found no difficulty in showing a distressing need for a new church.’ The Rev. W.J. Watkin from New Zealand, urged the people ‘to arise and build’. A subscription list was raised at the meeting. ‘This was headed by the generous gifts of our kind friends, Mrs. Ford, and Messrs. James and Hugh Reid…’ The report of this ‘excellent meeting’ concluded with the ‘gentle hint’―‘We are sure, did our wealthy City friends once see our present rude structure―all rents and rifts―they would say that the nearest Wesleyan church to the Yan Yean Reservoir shall be no more.’
In December 1872, The Wesleyan Chronicle reported the Opening of a Wesleyan Temporary Church at East Linton. ‘At this place (on the upper reaches of the Deep Creek) where our old friend Mr. Aaron Grimshaw has been residing for some time, there are a few Wesleyan families scattered about. For some time these, in connection with those of other churches, have been holding cottage prayer-meetings:’ Mr. Grimshaw’s son-in-Law, Mr. H. (Henry) Dosser, ‘offered an eligible site’ for ‘a central place of meeting’. ‘Messrs Dosser and Walk, having canvassed the neighbourhood for subscriptions, with some success, the work was let to Mr. D. Young.’
The temporary church, located at the foot of Walk’s Hill near the entrance to the Murphy’s ‘Bradefort’ property in Deep Creek Road, was opened for worship on Sunday 17 November 1872. The wooden, weatherboard church building was later purchased by the Sims family and incorporated into the family home at McSweeney’s Corner, where Ridge Road meets Coombs Road leading up to Howat’s Lookout.
Approximately one acre of land for a new Linton Wesleyan church was donated by Mr. Henry Walker, an industrialist engaged in soap and candle manufacture, who in 1873 became Chairman of the Collingwood Town Council. The new church was erected in a prominent position, opposite the site of the old church, on the southern side of Chapel Lane. The church ‘was built with brick walls on bluestone footings and roofed with shingles split from Mountain Ash timber from the Kinglake Ranges’. A tablet on the church wall, above the entrance porch, is inscribed ‘Wesleyan Chapel 1872’.
The new Linton Wesleyan church was opened for worship on 16 March 1873, with ‘the Rev. C. Dubourg, superintendent of the circuit, officiating during the day. On Tuesday, one of the largest social gatherings ever held on the Plenty took place, the tables being filled four or five times. …Mr. John Cramp, of Fitzroy, who had greatly interested himself in the erection, ably filled the chair. A letter was read from Mr. Marsden enclosing a cheque. A most satisfactory financial statement was presented to the meeting by the Rev. C. Dubourg; it was a pleasing record of generous giving, and self-denying labour. … Messrs. James Reid, Canteril, Hugh S. Reid, Abbey, P. Reid, Horner, and H. Dosser, took part in the meeting. Besides the usual votes of thanks, there were two special votes, one to the Mayor of Collingwood, H. Walker Esq., for the gift of the site on which the church is erected. The position is one “beautiful for situation”. Another vote was carried to Mr. C.H. Robinson, who had gratuitously prepared the plans and specifications. The contractors for the building were Messrs. Nelson and Young. The opening services were an unqualified success.’
Early Trustees of the new Linton Wesleyan church, recorded in the Trustee Register, were James Reid, Patrick Reid (jnr), Hugh Sterling Reid, Charles Walgate Smithson jnr, Samuel Grimshaw, Thomas Ireland and James William Dosser. Trustees appointed in 1910 included William John Lobb, Francis Harold Bassett, Ernest Edward Lobb, Davis Edge and Richard Maurice Bassett.
The name of the church was changed from Linton to Hazel Glen Wesleyan Church in 1886, to avoid confusing the name for the Parish of Linton with the small township of Linton near Ballarat. The country extending eastwards from the Yan Yean Road to the Arthurs Creek, was part of the original eight square-mile ‘Hazel Glen’ pastoral run, occupied by Patrick Reid on 1 January 1844. For many years, the area covered by the run and adjacent lands was known as the Hazel Glen district.
A number of families, including the Reid’s and Bassett’s, have had a long and close association with the Hazel Glen church. Mr. Harold Bassett of ‘Tregowan’, Doreen, who celebrated his 100th birthday on 1 August 1970, was a church officer for over 80 years. More recently, his daughter-in-law Mrs. Kath Bassett served as church organist for more than 60 years.
In the 1990s under the guidance of Church Elder Jim Barr, ‘the southern extension of the church was replaced with a structure more in keeping with the architecture of the church and providing modern facilities including toilets’. The scroll and lettering on the wall above the Communion Table was repainted by the notable landscape artist, the late Kenneth Jack. A mosaic window of stained glass by his son David was installed in the porch when it was enlarged in 1993.
At the 125th Anniversary of the Hazel Glen Church, celebrated on 21 September 1997, new entrance gates were dedicated in remembrance of the late Mr. Jack Bassett of Tregowan, Doreen, ‘who worked tirelessly and enthusiastically for Hazel Glen Church throughout his life’.
The Uniting Church in Australia was formed as a union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches on 22 June 1977. The Hazel Glen church has been a part of the Uniting Church in Australia, Parish of Mernda, since 1977. The small gothic revival style chapel in its attractive rural setting is a living memorial to district pioneers and continues today as a ‘steadfast landmark’ for the Doreen area.