CONGREGATION: St David's Society secretary Annette Spilsbury, president Yvonne Daly, Church Management Committee chairman Eirys Jones, St David's Society committee member Olwen Arbuthnot and Church Management Committee secretary Errol George.
CONGREGATION: St David's Society secretary Annette Spilsbury, president Yvonne Daly, Church Management Committee chairman Eirys Jones, St David's Society committee member Olwen Arbuthnot and Church Management Committee secretary Errol George. Rob Williams

Ramp latest evolution in Blackstone church

A RAMP has helped bring all levels of the Blackstone community together when it opened over the weekend.

The heritage listed, 130-year-old United Welsh Church on Thomas St, Blackstone officially opened its new access point over the weekend, illustrating what can be done when members of the community and local politicians work together.

Church secretary, Errol George said the ramp was "a dream” for about 20 years and the next step in the evolution of the historically significant building.

"We recognised people in the congregation are becoming older,” he said.

"It is a building that has evolved, it started in the old style with just the boards on the inside, then the weatherboards on the outside, at some point the vestry was done and this ramp you can say is another stage of the building keeping up with time.”

The ramp is located at the back of the church so it does not interfere with the street appeal of the church. Mr George said the idea came to him while watching kids play soccer at Blackstone Field.

"At the back it would be unobtrusive from the road and it wouldn't detract from the heritage aspects of the building,” he said.

The $90,000 ramp was paid for in part by a bequest from a former member of the church, and by State and Federal Government grants, organised by Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller and Blair MP Shayne Neumann.

"We also received a grant from the Federal Government through Shayne Neumann, and Jo-Ann Miller was supportive and we received a State grant as well,” Mr George said.

"The church has outlaid some of the money itself but the bulk of the construction has been funded by the beqeuests and the two grants.

"We are very grateful for those.

"Being a non-profit organisation, we get the GST back and the GST rebate has paid for the concrete carpark at the back.

"By the end of next week it'll be a completed project.”

Faith has always been the cornerstone of Blackstone

THE United Welsh Church dates back to 1886 and was designed by Ipswich builder and architect Samuel Shenton. The land was donated by coal-mine owner Lewis Thomas, who threw his own funds behind the community cornerstone.

It was in 1883 a group of Welsh slate miners arrived in Blackstone to work at Mr Thomas's mine. Being of Protestant faith, they held a church service under a mulberry tree on the banks of the Bundamba Creek.

After this they agreed their nationality took priority over minor ecclesiastical differences and formed the Welsh Church.

The first service was held in Blackstone, before Mr Thomas allowed the miners to use his cottage.

As the number of immigrants grew, this became too small and Mr Thomas donated the land for the church.

A pair of glass and cedar doors bearing the name "Brynhyfryd” etched in the glass were installed as a screen inside the entry following the demolition of Lewis Thomas's mansion Brynhyfryd in the 1930s. A cedar fireplace surround from the mansion has been converted into a combined Welsh pioneers/World War II memorial.

The church now holds relics from the Blackstone castle, Brynhyfryd, which was demolished in the 1930s.

Mr George said tourists often visited to see the doors taken from the castle, as well as historic photographs and memorabilia.