A Brief History of the Diamond Valley Parish

The Diamond Valley Parish traces its origins to the Heidelberg Primitive Methodist Mission, which dates from 1854. The Primitive Methodist Church was a nineteenth century evangelical revival grounded in the teachings of John Wesley. A branch of Methodism, Primitive Methodism originated amongst the poorest farmer labourers and miners of the English midlands, and spread throughout England and eventually to the colonies. The first Primitive Methodist service was held in Melbourne in 1849. The Heidelberg Mission opened a church Eltham in 1860, then reached out to Diamond Creek. It is believed that services commenced in a barn, near the site of the present Diamond Creek East Primary School, in the September quarter of 1861. In March 1862 a small chapel was built on a site 500 metres east of the present church. That little chapel was the first church, and possibly the first public building, in the Diamond Creek district. It also housed the district’s first school.

Alluvial gold had been discovered at Diamond Creek in the 1850s, but it was the discovery of gold bearing quartz reefs that led to the establishment of the Nillumbik township in 1866. The Heidelberg Primitive Methodist Mission built a small timber chapel in the township in 1871. This chapel, on the corner of Diamond and Chute Streets, served the town and surrounding community for 92 years. Meanwhile, in the tradition of Primitive Methodism, the Mission initiated further “causes”, or church congregations, in the small farming and fruit growing communities of the Diamond Valley. Some causes were short-lived, others prospered. Chapels were built at Arthurs Creek in 1873 and Cottles Bridge in 1894. The Nillumbik Church became the head of the Mission Station and Heidelberg and Eltham churches were closed.

In 1902, following the union of all branches of Methodism in Australia and the renaming of Nillumbik township, the Mission became known as the Diamond Creek Methodist Home Mission Station.

Primitive Methodist worship services had been held at a place called Upper Diamond Creek (between present day Wattle Glen and Hurstbridge) in the 1890s, but were discontinued. The township of Hurstbridge only began to take shape after the arrival of the railway in 1912. The Diamond Creek Methodist Mission commenced services in the Hurstbridge hall soon after, in 1913. Population growth, together with a spiritual revival in the 1920s, resulted in a boom for the Diamond Creek Mission Station. Churches were built at Hurstbridge, Wattle Glen, Plenty and Panton Hill, and a new parsonage was built at Diamond Creek. During the 1930s and ’40s there were nine churches in the Mission, and despite depression and war, members enjoyed an active spiritual and social life.

The Diamond Valley remained a rural backwater until the 1960s, when suburban development reached the district. The congregation outgrew its little 1871 Diamond Creek chapel, so they built the new brick worship centre on the Wensley Street site in 1963. The old chapel was moved to Arthurs Creek, where it still serves as a Sunday school hall.

When the Uniting Church was formed in 1977 there were four churches left to make up the new Parish, the others having been closed or transferred to other parishes. In 1984 the present mud brick chapel was built using the voluntary labour of parish members. A rationalisation of resources resulted in the closure of the churches at Wattle Glen and Plenty, leaving only Diamond Creek and Hurstbridge congregations. Subsequently the old Plenty hall was moved to Hurstbridge providing improved facilities for that congregation, and a new manse was built at Diamond Creek.

Founded by pioneers of the Diamond Valley, the Parish, under its various names, has given 142 years of service and witness to the communities in which it has belonged.

Lesley Alves

The book A History of the Diamond Valley Uniting Church, Volume 1: A Century or Methodism, is available from the church. Price: $10.