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The Chapman Memorial Hall

by David Thompson

The red-brick Chapman Memorial Hall has stood in Ross Street for over one hundred and twenty years.

When the foundation stone was laid on the afternoon of Saturday 24 January 1903 The Standard reported that many who had attended ‘were surprised to find that the new building was at an advanced stage of construction’.[1] It was already identified as the ‘Chapman Memorial Hall’ and would soon serve as the new church for the Port Melbourne Baptists.

The Chapman Memorial Hall, Ross Street, 1990s. Photograph by Ron Laing. PMHPS Collection, Cat No 1286.05.

According to Margaret & Graham Bride in The Borough and its People, ‘the beginnings of the Baptist Church in Port Melbourne is unclear’.[2] It seems that their opening services were held at the Port Melbourne Temperance Hall on Sunday, 17 August 1884 as a branch of the South Melbourne Baptist Church with further services and a Sunday school planned for future weeks.[3]

Within a year the Port Melbourne Baptists had established their base in Clark Street with The Standard reporting that Mr J B Drew had presented a lecture on ‘Christianity v Infidelity’ at the church on the evening of Thursday, 25 June 1885.[4]

However, a Baptist Mission Church was not formally established in Port Melbourne until 1898. To serve this purpose, Rev Samuel Chapman of the Collins Street Baptist Church conducted a meeting on Monday, 11 July 1898 where office bearers were elected, and the church formally opened.[5]

By October 1900, the Baptists had raised enough money to obtain a piece of land in Ross Street, near Graham Street and to commence building a new church.[6] Fast-forward to Saturday, 24 January 1903, where we started our story, with the laying of the foundation stone by the Hon Robert Reid, MLC, Minister for Education.[7]

The inscription on the foundation stone reads …



JAN 24 1903



On Sunday, 3 April 1904, a service was held to mark the first anniversary of the new church.

About twelve months ago the Baptist denomination in Port Melbourne removed its headquarters from Clark Street to Ross Street. For a number of years, services had been conducted at the hall in Clark Street with varying success, and a good Sunday school had been established. But notwithstanding this, it was felt a permanent home should be secured, as the Clark Street property was only rented.

‘The land in Ross Street was therefore secured, and the pretty little church – modestly called a hall – was erected; and besides being useful for the purpose for which it was intended, it was also made a memorial to the Rev Samuel Chapman, who had done much to establish the church.” [8]

Samuel Chapman was born on 28 November 1831 in Sheffield, England. He attended school until about the age of fifteen and then went to work for a merchant and manufacturer, later becoming a commercial traveller. He was baptised into the Baptist Church in Sheffield when he was twenty-four and in 1859 left his job to study at Edinburgh University. He then went to the Baptist College, Rawdon in West Yorkshire. Leaving the college he preached in Birmingham, Rochdale and at Hope Street in Glasgow. At Hope Street his fame as a preacher soon spread and a larger church had to be built.[9]

Following the death of Rev James Martin of the Collins Street Baptist Church in 1877, Rev Chapman came to Melbourne to take over as pastor of the church.[10] A welcome service for him was held on Wednesday, 21 November 1877. When introduced, Rev Chapman was received with prolonged applause and said ‘from the moment when he had the question of coming to Melbourne brought before him, he was assured that if he did come he should meet with a cordial and enthusiastic welcome, and he had not been disappointed. He thanked the church and the Christian friends for this welcome. … He desired to return his very sincere thanks to Mrs Martin and the Christian women of that congregation who had given such a kindly welcome to his wife and children. Robert Burns had written as a Highland welcome, and he [Mr Chapman] regretted that that poet had not the opportunity of knowing what an Australian welcome was like, as he might have furnished him with words to express his feeling that night. … He intended to learn to love Australia. Dear old Scotland held a sacred place in his heart. It was not easy to get away from old associations. The most difficult tie to part with was a little spot eight feet by three on a bleak hill side in Lancashire – the spot where his firstborn was buried.[11]

Rev Chapman served as pastor of the Collins Street Baptist Church for twenty-one years until illness forced him to retire. He died of heart disease at his residence in Derby Street, Camberwell early in the morning of Sunday, 10 September 1899. He was President of the Baptist Union of Victoria on several occasions and at the time of his death he was regarded as the head of the Baptist church in Victoria.[12]

In accordance with his wishes, Rev Chapman’s funeral was modest. The oak coffin which bore a simple inscription, “Samuel Chapman, died 10th September, 1899” left his former residence, “Hillsborough”, and proceeded to Boroondara Cemetery, Kew. The procession was a lengthy one comprising of about one hundred vehicles and included a number of ministers from other denominations and Members of Parliament. Floral tributes were not permitted, by special request, but a laurel wreath was laid on the coffin by relatives.[13] [14] [15]

The Late Rev Samuel Chapman was survived by his widow, two sons and six daughters.[16]

The Late Rev Samuel Chapman, Weekly Times, 16 September 1899.

[1] 1903 ‘NEW BAPTIST CHURCH.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 31 January, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[2] 2013 Bride, M. and Bride, G. The borough and its people: Port Melbourne 1839-1939. Port Melbourne, Vic: Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society, p. 114. 

[3] 1884 ‘Advertising’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 16 August, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[4] 1885 ‘No title’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 27 June, p. 2. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[5] 1898 ‘BAPTIST MISSION CHURCH’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 16 July, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[6] 1900 ‘Items of News.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 6 October, p. 2. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[7] 1903 ‘NEW BAPTIST CHURCH.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 31 January, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[8] 1904 ‘CHURCH ANNIVERSARY.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 9 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[9] 1899 ‘THE LATE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 16 September, p. 14. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[10] 1877 ‘THE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 19 November, p. 3. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[11] 1877 ‘Welcome to the Rev. S. Chapman.’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 24 November, p. 15. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[12] 1899 ‘DEATH OF THE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 11 September, p. 5. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[13] 1899 ‘THE LATE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 13 September, p. 5. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[14] 1899 ‘REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 12 September, p. 4. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[15] 1899 ‘FUNERAL OF THE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 13 September, p. 9. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,

[16] 1899 ‘THE LATE REV. S. CHAPMAN.’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 16 September, p. 14. , viewed 12 Mar 2023,


  • Glen Cosham
    Posted May 19, 2023 11.00 am 0Likes

    Regarding the hall that the Baptists were using in Clark Street (at the current Number 150) prior they moved to Ross Street, this was purchased from the Estate of G. McNaughton and transported to Hampton, where it still stands behind 2 shops at 368 Hampton Street. It is still used by the Girl Guides, but over the years has been used as a polling booth, Sunday School, for public meetings, dances, picture shows, etc. (information provided by the Sandringham & District Historical Society).

    • David Thompson
      Posted May 19, 2023 11.44 am 0Likes

      Thanks Glen. I was wondering where they were located in Clark Street.

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We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.