No. 937 - Longford Hall - Carmelite Monastery and Chapel (1948-1973)

Longford is an historical country town approximately 25 kilometres south of Launceston. The district around Longford was first known as the Norfolk Plains after the Norfolk Islanders who were resettled here in 1813. The settlement was originally called Latour and in 1833 it was renamed Longford.

In 1948 the Catholic Order of Carmelites established a covent at Longford Hall, a property situated approximately 1½ kilometres from the centre of the town. The property was originally established as the Longford Hall Academy in 1827 by William Gore Elliston. In 1837 Elliston sold the property after he purchased the Hobart Town Courier, a lucrative business which also enjoyed government printing contracts. A later owner of the property, Robert Quayle Kermode, demolished the original schoolhouse and built the existing house. Longford Hall was also the residence of several members of the Archer family. In 1934 it was purchased by Austin and Stella Cooper. The house and its accompanying 100 acres was sold to the Catholic Church in 1948.

The Order of the Discalced (sandalled) Carmelites were established in 1562 by Saint Teresa of Ávila with the founding the monastery of St Joseph’s in Avila, Spain. The first Carmelites in Australia arrived in Sydney in 1883. By the mid 20th century, all States, apart from Tasmania, had established Carmelite communities. In 1948 this changed when the Archbishop of Hobart, Dr Ernest Tweedy, enabled the establishment of the Order in Northern Tasmania.

The first community was established at Longford with the understanding that a monastery would eventually be built at West Launceston. Longford Hall was remodelled to meet the requirements of an enclosed Order, including a private chapel, which was constructed in the main reception room.

In June 1948 eight Carmelite sisters arrived at Launceston by air from Adelaide.

A report in the Advocate described how the sisters would live:

“The sisters…. will now be seen by no one except close relatives, to whom they may speak through a grille. At other times a curtain will be drawn across the grille. They will spend eight hours a day in prayer and four to six in domestic duties and will speak only during recreation periods. One of their chief activities will be the making of vestments and other articles for the church. They will tend their own vegetable and flower garden, and milk two cows. Two unenclosed nuns, or Touriere sisters, will do the shopping and outside business”.

With the Longford monastery refurbished, the sisters were enclosed following a ceremony conducted by Archbishop Tweedy on Sunday 13 February 1949. The ceremony was reported by the Advocate:

“In today’s ceremony the sisters took part in a procession to the benediction service, conducted by Dr Tweedy in the monastery chapel, and then veiled and returned to the gates of the monastery and locked themselves in to begin their life of prayer, mortification and sacrifice”.

Dr Tweedy explained the purpose of enclosure:

“We hear people speak disparagingly about our religious sisters. They often say, ‘Why the waste of a young life? Why cannot they be out in the world doing something instead of closing themselves behind a barrier?”.

Tweedy continued:

“The object of the enclosure is so that they can give themselves completely to God and receive full contemplation of Him. It is true they might go out into the world and engage inactive work, but the work of prayer with God is the greatest of all works. The enclosure is not put up to keep the nuns in. It is put up to keep you out. It is not I who locks them in. I merely present the key to the sisters, and they lock themselves in”.

The community moved to the present monastery built in the hills of West Launceston in April 1975. Longford Hall is now a private residence with tourist accomodation called “The Old Rosary” located in the former stables.
The first Tasmanian Carmel in Longford. Image credit: https://launcestoncarmel.com/


The Archbishop of Hobart, Dr. E.V. Tweedy (The Examiner)


In procession on the way to the Benediction which preceded the enclosure of the Carmelite nuns. (The Examiner)


Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Saturday 2 August 1851, page 1
Mercury, Friday 6 December 1872, page 2
Mercury, Wednesday 9 June 1948, page 5
Advocate, Tuesday 15 June 1948, page 2
Advocate, Monday 14 February 1949, page 3
Examiner, Monday 14 February 1949, page 1
Mercury, Saturday 28 February 1948, page 4
Examiner, Friday 12 November 1948, page 6
Examiner, Monday 22 May 1950, page 4


https://www.angelfire.com/country/longford/

https://launcestoncarmel.com/understanding-carmel/history-of-launceston-carmel


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