No. 152 - Launceston - The 'Mary Fox Chapel' - Former Ladies Methodist College

Independent and Catholic Tasmanian schools possess some fine examples of chapels. Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston has two such buildings. This blog entry will look at the first of these; the Mary Fox Chapel on Elphin Road, built in the 1960’s at the campus of the former 'Ladies Methodist College'.

In 1857 Miss Julia Cowie of ‘Brookstead’ near Avoca, proposed to the Tasmania District of the Wesleyan Church that a college for girls, similar to Horton College for boys, be established in Launceston. In 1863, the Australasian Wesleyan Conference passed a resolution for the establishment of a ‘Ladies Seminary’.

In 1884 the property ‘Oakburn’ was purchased in East Launceston. The school, known as the Methodist Ladies College, was officially opened in 1886. It was renamed Oakburn College in 1969 and amalgamated with Scotch College (Presbyterian) in 1979. 

The modern chapel photographed for this article dates back to the final decade of the old ‘Methodist Ladies College’. It opened in 1961 and was built by G.K. Luck, with Tom Tandy of Tandy Pryor & Rogers as the architect. It is now the Mary Fox Performing Arts Centre on what has become the Scotch Oakburn Junior School Campus.

A Note on Mary Fox (1877-1962)

"Born at Horton College, Ross, Mary Fox was educated at the Launceston Ladies’ College and graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Master of Arts. In 1903, at age 26, Mary was appointed the Headmistress of Launceston Ladies’ College, later to be known as the Methodist Ladies’ College.

She was greatly admired both as a teacher and headmistress. As well as her administrative duties, she taught English, French, Latin, history and geography as well as giving scripture lessons on Sunday.

When Mary took over as Headmistress of the College, enrolments were down to 30. They had risen to 300 by the time of her retirement. She also oversaw an extensive building program, formed the Old Collegians Association (of which she was President) and introduced the house system in 1925 to encourage leadership among the students.

In 1929, she established a domestic science program, 25 years earlier than the program was offered in other schools. In the same year, she set up a branch of the Junior Red Cross Society in the school to enable the girls to raise money for charity.

Mary was not only an outstanding educator, but also excelled in sports. Having grown up at the all-male Horton College, she was something of a tomboy, being able to out-climb and out-run many of the boys. She was President of the All Australian Women’s Hockey Association in 1925, 1932 and 1938. Ahead of her time, she also founded the first Women’s Cricket Association in Tasmania.

On her retirement in 1941, she received an MBE from King George VI for her extraordinary contribution to women’s education and sport. Never one to remain idle, Mary joined the Women’s Land Army, assisting the war effort by working in a canning factory and on a poultry farm".

Source: Tasmanian Government: Tasmanian Honour Role of Women.  LINK HERE

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018
Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Mary Fox - Source Tasmanian Government Honour Roll of Women


Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

The Launceston Historical Society’s leaflet “Launceston Churches of the 20th Century”


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