No. 32 - St Finn Barr's Church and School - Out of the Ashes

The magnificent St Finn Barr’s is the second church of this name which stood in Invermay. The first opened in 1894 at the corner of Foster and what was Gunn Street. It was a wooden building of gothic design and the architect was Alexander North. The nave was 60ft by 20ft, with sacristy attached and a tall spire which could be seen from nearly every part of the city. It served as a church on Sunday and as a school in the week. In 1905 a hall was built adjoining the church, which also served as a school.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning on 25th March 1925, the sky of Launceston was lit up by the light of a massive blaze that destroyed both St Finn Barr Church and the adjoining school. The Examiner reported:

“The origin of the outbreak is unknown. The buildings were almost entirely of wood, and when the alarm was given at about a quarter to 2 the church was a mass of flames. Beyond playing water to extinguish the burning fences and protect nearby houses, the Fire Brigade could do little, and it was not long before the tall spire fell, sending up a mass of flames and sparks. The heat was terrific, and a dense cloud of burning cinders fell for a considerable distance around. So extensive was the illumination that practically every house on Trevallyn stood out as if in daylight. Everything was all right when the sisters left after school yesterday afternoon. The church was over 30 years old, and contained some valuable property, including the gold chalice, valued at £50…and two pianos. Where once stood a valuable church property, there remained within an hour nothing but the brick chimneys and a few charred timbers.” (Examiner 25 March 1925)

The cause of the fire was a matter of some debate. The Hobart Mercury later reported that:

The frequency of fires in Invermay is causing some uneasiness among the residents, especially those who have untenanted; property, in view of the fact that many unoccupied houses in that suburb have been "fired" in the last 15 months, and it has given rise to the belief that a "fire maniac" is at large. On Sunday morning two fires were discovered in an unoccupied house and one in a work-shop adjoining…” (Mercury 30 July 1926)

The destruction of the church and school resulted in the Drill Hall being used as temporary accommodation until a new school building was opened in 1927. The new school had a large hall, 80 by 27 feet, seating 300 people and was used as a temporary church. The present St Finn Barr’s Church on Invermay Road was finally opened next to the new school in 1954. At the opening, the parish priest Fr. Ryan said that it was: “…the culmination of a long treasured dream. I consider the church to be both a spiritual and architectural asset to Launceston”. The Archbishop of Hobart Dr. Tweedy echoed this saying that it was "…a magnificent building. 
It has added a gem of architecture to Launceston. The building is not only brick and mortar; it is a spiritual monument which will show a guiding light…" (Examiner 23 August 1954)

The architectural qualities of the building are recognised by their listing on the Tasmanian Heritage register.

Examiner 25 March 1925

Examiner Thursday 26 March 1925

Examiner 27 March 1954

Examiner Saturday 15 May 1954

Examiner 24 June 1927
The church shortly after its completion LINC Tasmania AB713-1-5911


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