On 17 March 2019, the Cherry Gardens Uniting Church will celebrate its 170th anniversary.
The English name of Cherry Gardens was given by Isaac Jacobs, Henry Field and Edward Burgess circa 1839, when they went into the hills to cut kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra) for stock fodder and came across an abundance of native trees, with small cherry-like fruit.
The early pioneers initially met in each other’s homes, but the first minister, Reverend Daniel Draper realised the need for a place of worship. In 1847 he encouraged the congregation to start erecting a church and land for that purpose was donated by Mr Field on Hicks Hill Road, and whilst they were endeavouring to erect a Chapel, religious services were held at the homesteads of Mr Field, the Broadbent’s and other families in the district.
With the true pioneering spirit the Bible Christians and Wesleyan Methodists amalgamated to erect a chapel which first opened in March 1849 and that building, with additions, is still being regularly used for services, and holds the honoured record of being the oldest former Methodist Chapel south of Adelaide still being used for its original purpose. Up to 1847, the congregation was in the Southern Adelaide Circuit, but that year became part of the Willunga Circuit, then in 1855 was in the newly created Clarendon Circuit with Clarendon, Coromandel Valley, Reynella, Meadows, Kangarilla, Mount Ephraim, O’Halloran Hill, Scott’s Creek, Upper Sturt and Wardlaw Vale.
The consecration of the newly erected Wesleyan Church is reported in the Register, 28 March 1849, page 2e: “The congregation of the newly erected Wesleyan Chapel assembled in public worship in March 1849. About 120 sat down to tea in celebration. The chapel which is a perfect model of neatness is capable of accommodating about 150 persons and the worthy and indefatigable superintendent has the satisfaction of knowing that not one penny of debt encumbers the building.”
The only way that small chapel could have accommodated 150 persons was for them all to be standing up! Rene Harvey told us that for many years the little chapel did not have pews. The Circuit minister at the time of the opening was Reverend Nathaniel Bennett.
During the early days, the mode of conveyance was by horseback. It would be interesting to know how a heavy man such as Daniel Draper was able to mount and dismount a horse! The first marriage that we have a record of was solemnised between Lucy Middleton and Joseph Boothey on 25 December 1849. The first person to be baptised in the chapel was Caleb Lewis in 1850.
Cherry Church Contacts
• Chairperson Congregational Council: Darryl Dyson, 0412 075 063