No. 165 - St Scholastica at Mathinna - Boom and Bust

The settlement of Mathinna* in the upper reaches of the South Esk River Valley is now a shadow of the thriving town that once existed over 100 years ago.  Prospecting for gold accelerated the growth of the town from the 1870’s and the establishment of the Golden Gate mine briefly turned Mathinna into the third largest town in Tasmania. Today less than 150 people live at the settlement. 

With the arrival of miners, churches soon followed and at least three denominations were established at the settlement. The Church of St Scholastica opened in 1897 replacing an earlier but much smaller church.  Bishop Delany laid the foundation stone when he visited the town in February 1897:

“On the 14th he conducted mass and three preaching services in Mr. Thomas Maher’s hall, the present church being too small to accommodate the numbers who were anxious to hear such a fine preacher. In the afternoon, in the presence of a large gathering, he laid the foundation stone of the intended new Roman Catholic Church. The ceremony was a very impressive and instructive one, the address delivered by the Bishop being very highly appreciated”.

The town also supported a convent school for a short period.

“The pioneer nuns arrived in Tasmania on July 2, 1905. Archbishop Delany himself escorted them by train from Hobart to Fingal.  Following this journey, Father Gressin… brought the bishop and nuns the last seventeen miles, by rickety coach, to Maher’s Hotel in Mathinna”. [Southerwood]

Mathinna’s Catholic school did not last for long and following the failure of the Golden Gate Mine, most of the miners left to find opportunity in other parts of Tasmania. When Bishop Delany visited the town again in 1912 he found the convent tenantless.  In 1934, the convent was dismantled and removed to Fingal where it was erected as a private home.

As the town of Mathinna continued its gradual decline, press reports about church's activities became very infrequent. Closure was inevitable and the church was eventually sold.  It has yet to be developed and now has an abandoned appearance and is slowly being reclaimed by the bush.

Mathinna was a young  aboriginal girl who was "adopted" and later abandoned by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin. Further information about Mathinna can be found 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

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Headstones from the Catholic section of the Mathinna Cemetery


Colonist Saturday 7 June 1890, page 24
Daily Telegraph Wednesday 15 November 1893
Mercury Thursday 18 February 1897, page 4
Launceston Examiner Wednesday 10 Mar 1897 
Mercury Wednesday 19 May 1897
Examiner Friday 25 April 1902, page 3

Southerwood, W. T Planting a faith in Tasmania. Southerwood, Hobart, 1970.


  1. Hi Duncan
    Do you know if this church could be bought?
    Sue Bowen

  2. Hi Sue. The church is owned by Frank Horvat. His intention was to restore the church but he encountred some problems. I don't know if progress has been made recently.


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