No. 242 - The Star of the Sea - East Devonport - 'Punt Across the Mersey'

In 1870 Devonport’s first Catholic church was established at Torquay (East Devonport). Known as “Star of the Sea”, it served the Catholics of Torquay until 1899 when it was literally ferried across the Mersey River to a new site in West Devonport near to the ‘Star of the Sea’ convent that had opened in 1893.

The Torquay church was built on land east of Wright Street and north of Drew Street. The opening Mass was reported in The Cornwall Chronicle:

“The new Catholic Church at Torquay was opened on Wednesday the 12th (November). The very Rev. the Vicar-General delivered the opening address, [and] was assisted in his office by… [Father] Noone, the pastor of the district. The church is an ornament to the township; the design is good, and the building which was entrusted to Mr M. Woods, [is] well and faithfully executed; the interior decorations and painting were done by Mr Smith of Torquay.

About 10 o’ clock crowds of people were to be seen in the township, making their way to the Church…. from all parts of the district they came, and by 11 o’ clock, the hour appointed for opening, such a number of people were gathered together as has seldom been witnessed in or at Torquay. There was barely standing room in the church, and however much Father Noone was pleased to see so many of his flock rally round him and the other pastors of the Catholic faith, who were there to take part in the opening ceremonies, it must have pleased him much more to view the great number, not members of his church, who came, not through curiosity, but for the purpose of assisting him in his well meant endeavours to procure for himself, and the members of the Catholic Church, a fitting place wherein to worship the divine head of all churches….”. (Cornwall Chronicle Monday 17 October 1870, page 3)

There are few reports about religious activities at the Star of the Sea over the next two decades but one report from 1872 is somewhat amusing:

“A great outcry was made last Sunday, when it was discovered that several panes of glass had been broken in the Catholic Church, and a whole window demolished in the English Church, but it has since been discovered that the miscreants were two small boys, one five and the other six years old, the latter being the son of an ex-churchwarden, and on being questioned as to why they were so wicked, one said “he liked to hear the glass rattle inside when the stones went through”. (Weekly Examiner Saturday 27 April 1872, page6)

In 1893, the Star of the Sea Convent opened in West Devonport, which had become the hub of the growing town. Worship at Star of the Sea Church in East Devonport ceased by the mid 1890’s and a decision was made to move the old church across the river next to the new convent building. The building was dismantled and ferried across the river and refurbished and enlarged at its new location. Details of this event is covered by the North West Post, which makes interesting reading:

“The work of setting up a Catholic church at West Devonport has just been completed, the site…. overlooking the town — being admirably suited to the purpose. Formerly, the Roman Catholic adherents worshipped in a building on the east side of the river, the then existing church, having been erected 27 years ago, and was held in requisition up to 4 or 5 years ago, since when it had not been used for the regular services. The necessity for having a suitable building on the west side of the river has been manifested for, some time past, and it was deemed advisable to remove the church building from East Devonport to the present site, and, in the course of re-erection, to provide additional seating capacity, and other wise improve the utility and appearance of the structure…

The original building was found to be in a good state of preservation, the timber being practically as good as new, notwithstanding its lengthy period of service. The work of 'undoing' was speedily accomplished, and the whole structure removed in 10 sections, carted to the punt to cross the Mersey, and transferred by dray to the new site, where it was so carefully and skilfully reconstructed that anyone would have a difficulty in discriminating between the present building and an entirely new structure. The contract has been carried out in accordance with plans and specifications gratuitously supplied by Mr G. N. Levy, and the adherents of the church are to be congratulated on having secured a building that, ranks among the principal edifices of the town. The length of the original structure has been added to by 15ft. An iron roof has been substituted for the former one of shingles, and the ceiling has been lined throughout with pine, thus providing a decidedly pleasing effect in the matter of acoustics. A porch, 7ft by 7ft, has been added, with a suitable door, and a similar improvement has been made to the vestry. The choir platform has been extended 13 inches, suitable railing erected, and various other details faithfully carried out. Provision has been made for additional light by the insertion of extra windows, and ample ventilation is given by the lowering of a foot of the ceiling throughout the entire length of the building. Both the interior and the exterior of the building have been subjected to liberal coatings of paint, the art colouring inside producing a pleasing effect. The walls are in French grey, the facings being picked out in pale green, and the staining and varnishing of the ceiling gives an elegant finish.

The newly-appointed secretary, Mr D. A. Nichols, has evinced considerable interest in the work, and the Rev Father Noone (parish priest), the church committee, the officers above mentioned, the good Sisters of St Joseph, and the adherents of the church in general, may be justly proud of the success of their efforts in providing such an excellent addition to the buildings of Devonport….”

The Star of the Sea was re-opened by Archbishop Delaney on Sunday 23 April 1899. The North West Advocate reported:

“[The opening]… took place yesterday morning. There was a very large attendance, the building being crowded, and a number had to remain on the outside. All the surrounding districts were represented, some coming as far as from Deloraine”.

The Star of the Sea was only used for a short while and it became necessary to replace it with a larger brick church, renamed Our Lady of Lourdes, which opened in November 1914. The old Star of the Sea Church stood next to Our Lady of Lourdes for some time (see photograph below*) until it was removed. Its fate is unknown.

The history of Our Lady of Lourdes will be the subject of two further blog entries, which will be published later this year.

* I am looking for a clearer photo of Star of the Sea. I will update once I can locate this.

The only photo I have found of Start of the Sea, seen to the left of Our Lady of Lourdes. Photo Taken from Fr. Terry T Southerwood 'Planting A Faith in Tasmania'. The original source was not indicated

From: North West Post - 21 April 1898


Cornwall Chronicle, Monday 17 October 1870, page 3
Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 5 November 1870, page11
The Weekly Examiner, Saturday 27 April 1872, page 6
The North West Post, Thursday 21 Apr 1898,  Page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 24 February 1899, page 3
The North West Post Tuesday 25 Apr 1899,  Page 2
The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 24 April 1899  Page 3

Southerwood, W. T Planting a faith in Tasmania : the country parishes. [W. T. Southerwood], [Hobart], 1977.


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