No. 525 - Mangana - St Basil's Catholic Church

Mangana is a village in the Fingal Valley which in the 19th century was a significant mining boom-town. Gold was discovered here in 1852 but by the late 19th century declining yields resulted in the town experiencing a significant decline in population. Although there was a small revival in mining activity by 1930 the last mine had closed. At the time of the 2016 census Mangana had a population of only 36.

Two Catholic churches were built at Mangana; the first, St Basil’s, was opened in 1869 by Father Michael Beechinor. The present church, which is still open, was built in 1912. There are no published descriptions of St Basil’s opening. However there is a detailed report in the Hobart Mercury from November 1884 relating to repairs to St Basil’s and its enlargement with the addition of a chancel and sacristy:

“The little church of St. Basil having lately undergone repairs and been enlarged by the addition of a chancel and sacristy was solemnly blessed by the Bishop of Hobart, on Sunday, 16th inst. The weather was rather unfavourable, but a goodly number of several denominations assembled at 11 o’clock to witness the ceremonies. Standing outside the door of the porch, vested in cope and mitre, the Bishop commenced the blessing of the walls, assisted by the Rev. Father Kelsh, pastor of the district, and completed the ceremonies after entering the building. Mass was then chanted by the Rev. Father Kelsh, who also preached from the gospel ….The Bishop addressed the congregation, expressing the pleasure he felt at being present on such an occasion, and congratulating all concerned in the improvement and additions effected in the sacred edifice. A collection was then made, and a total of £22 placed on the plate which, considering the poverty of the people in consequence, among other troubles, of the suspension of the mining industry, was very good…. After mass, the Bishop and several visitors sat down to an excellent luncheon, provided by the hostess of the Alpine Hotel, and the healths of the bishop, pastor, and the visitors were duly proposed and acknowledged….At 4 p.m. the children attending the Sunday school assembled in the church and were addressed by the bishop in simple and telling words, after which the marks for the year were read out and prizes distributed…”.

The decline of mining activity noted by Bishop Murphy in 1884 continued and as the century drew to a close most of the miners had moved to a new goldfield at nearby Mathinna. In 1896 a report in the Hobart Mercury described a town in the process of an elegant decline:

“The township of this mining centre is situated in one of the prettiest little valleys in the colony, and with is flower clad cottages, its green meadows and surrounding hills, forms an enchanting picture of Tasmanian rural life… The village is situated five miles from Fingal Railway station… The population of the village is small, numbering only between 200 and 300, and chiefly comprised of women and children, the breadwinners of the families being employed at the Mathinna mines…. Indeed, for the jaded citizen requiring a rest in sylvan solitude no place could be better suited than Mangana”.

After the turn of century St Basil’s was showing its age and a new church had become a necessity. Fundraising was led by Father Graham, who seemed to have had ambitions for a church of grand proportions despite Mangana’s continued decline. In 1912 a new church, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was opened on a site next to the old church. St Basil’s was retained as a hall and for use as Sunday’s school for a number of years before it was demolished.

St Basil's alongside Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (undated) Source: Courtesy of Photos of Mangana@manganastories Facebook Community Page

Notice of the Bishop's visit to Mangana to bless the extensions made to St Basil's - The Mercury, Friday 14 November 1884
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in 2018 - Photograph: Duncan Grant


Mercury, Thursday 15 July 1869, page 3

Mercury, Wednesday 23 June 1869, page 2

The Mercury, Friday 14 November 1884, page 1
Launceston Examiner, Monday 17 November 1884, page 3
The Mercury, Saturday 22 November 1884, page 1


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