History of Ranters Chapel Retreat in Lyon St. Newstead
The Chapel was built in 1860 for a new Primitive Methodist Church, the first in the thriving gold mining town. The Primitive Methodist movement began in England in 1811 and meetings were often held in open fields, the local miners were free spirited folk and often referred to them as ‘Ranters’. Prior to the Chapel’s construction, the followers held services in the home of William Ibbotson, who owned and later partly donated the chapel land to the Church. The Castlemaine Advertiser reported that on 30 November 1860 the chapel bell was sounded to announce the opening service: “The sound of the Church bell, these valleys and rocks never heard”. The chapel was built in the Gothic style, “devoid of ornament, eminently characteristic of the unostentatious mode of worship followed there”. It was said to seat 100 comfortably and to give “grace and respectability to Newstead”.
In 1906 the Chapel was sold to the Mackenzie Lodge of Freemasons who had formed in 1857. The Methodists moved to a larger new Church further along Lyons Street on the corner of Wyndham Street, now the Uniting Church.
The Freemasons held their first meeting at their new lodge on 27 February 1907. They added a rear brick hall to the old Chapel in the 1970’s. In 2003, after almost a century of occupying the property, the Freemasons sold the property to join with the Southern Cross Lodge in Maldon.
The Chapel was restored and renovated in 2004–5, recovering original windows and glass, Baltic pine floor and lining boards which had been boarded up, painted and covered for almost a century. Further restoration has taken place by current owners and is now operating as self-contained accommodation, the light and character filled space feature high quality furnishings, décor and utensils and is available to be enjoyed by guests encompassing its historic charms juxtaposed with contemporary living in a vibrant and charming rural township.