No. 541 - Somerset - Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Somerset is located on the estuary of the western bank of the Cam River midway between the township of Wynyard and the city of Burnie. At one time it was a town in its own right but it is now a satellite town of the city of Burnie. It was named in 1856 after the Earl of Somerset. In earlier times the area was also known as ‘Port Maldon’ and ‘The Cam’, with the latter name being used well into the 20th century. Somerset has had a broad range of religious denominations represented including Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, the Church of Christ and Catholic.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, situated on Pelissier Street, was established in 1899 when Bishop Murphy laid the foundation stone for a church on Sunday 24 October. A tender to build the church was awarded to “Messrs King and Goodall” at a cost of £140.

A year later the church was officially opened on Sunday 28 October. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times published a brief report on the ceremony:

“An interesting ceremony took place at Cam yesterday, when a new Roman Catholic Church at that place was blessed and opened by the Right Rev Dr Delaney, Bishop of Laranda, assisted by the Rev P. Hayes, of Burnie. After the opening ceremony, which look place at 11 a.m., mass was celebrated by Father Hayes. The new edifice, which was crowded with people, is a handsome wooden building, neatly lined throughout the interior with kauri pine. The opening sermon was preached by the Bishop…. After the sermon a collection was taken up, which, on being counted, was found to total £24… Father Hayes, in thanking the congregation for their liberal offerings, mentioned that the contract price of the building was £140, and seats and other furniture increased this amount by £32 …”

A feature of Catholic life at Somerset was the establishment of a convent of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary. Land was bought for the purpose of establishing a hospital but this never eventuated. In the 1960’s the Sisters established St Ann’s Church and school at Montello in Burnie.

Sacred Heart Church is one of the sites of “The Way of the Cross” pilgrimage route which stretches across Tasmania. Fourteen crosses have been erected, each uniquely designed by Parishes, reflecting local industries, interests and the needs and focus of their communities. Each Cross forms part of a Tasmanian Pilgrimage, each with their own story to tell.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 11 July 1899, page 2
Mercury, Monday 2 October 1899, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 27 October 1900, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 29 October 1900, page 3

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


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