In 1883, the Reverend Peter Aston was in charge of the West End Primitive Methodist Church Circuit. Mr WJ Nilmer and Mr John Beetson were given the responsibility of spreading the Methodist cause around the Boggo Road area, which included Woolloongabba. They began by opening a Sunday school for 14 pupils in a building in Grove Street, Woolloongabba, while Methodist services were held in a nearby private home. In 1885, a new timber church was built at 6 Merton Street, Woolloongabba (Merton Street was later renamed Ross Street). The church was known as the ‘Merton Street Primitive Methodist Church’.
The church had a corrugated iron-clad gable roof with three ridge vents. The side windows were pointed arches with a fixed glass top and three pivot sash windows under. The eaves were supported by arched brackets. The front gable end had a collar tie and a finial that extended downwards to form a pendant. Within the gable end walls was a circular stained glass window. The front porch was symmetrical with two street-facing gables over the two identical entries to the porch and was highly decorative. The church was low-set on stumps and had a picket fence to the street.
The church was administered by the West End Primitive Methodist Church Circuit until 1924 when it was transferred to the control of the Annerley Methodist Circuit. In June 1935 Jubilee celebrations were held for the church. As a result of these celebrations, it was decided to undertake a major renovation of the building. Brisbane architect WJE Kerrison was commissioned to renovate the church, which led to the front porch becoming a vestibule enclosed with a combination of dark timber battening and sheet paneling, lending a fashionable Old English air. The side windows were replaced with fixed stained glass.
These renovations took two months to complete at a cost of £266. A rededication service was held on 14 August 1935. Reverend TC Rentoul, the Director of the Methodist Inland Mission carried out the ceremonial opening of the church doors. In later years a church hall was added to the site behind the church for the use of the Girls’ and the Boys’ Clubs, the WCH Society and for the conducting of Sunday school lessons. In 1956 a memorial brick wall was built at the front of the church and the building was repainted. The church played a central role in the religious and social life of Methodists in Woolloongabba. Family names associated with the church included Nilmer, Beeston, Peterssen, Exley, Low, Rowton, Dahl, Clarke, Block and Roe.
By the late 1960s the number of people attending the Merton Street Methodist Church had dwindled due to Woolloongabba’s decline as a residential area. By this time large numbers of migrants from eastern European countries had moved into the West End/Woolloongabba area. Members of the Serbian Orthodox religion began to use the church and on 19 April 1974 this community purchased the property and it was renamed St Nicholas (Nikolas) Church.
The Serbian Orthodox community made minor changes to the church. The porch was altered to a simple skillion roof and its cladding and windows were replaced. The rear of the church was separated from the hall and bricked. A new church hall and priest’s house were added to the site. A tall freestanding metal arch with a decorative cross finial was built at the front of the church that holds a bell. In the 2000s a large masonry church was built to the east of the original church.
Until the construction of the new church beside, the church remained the primary place of worship for the Serbian Orthodox Ecclesiastic School Community in Brisbane for more than 30 years. Many prominent Serbians have been associated with this church, including members of the Ilic, Mirkovic, Crnomarkovic, Licina, Grubnic, Milic, Bojic, Aleksijevic, Djudurovic, Popadic, Mircic, Nikolic, Crnjanin, Petrovic, Milosevic, Jovic, Kostadinovic, Jankovic, Gojkovic, Radovic, Stojcinovic families.