No. 1017 - Hobart - St Peter's Hall

St Peter’s Hall is situated within St Mary’s Cathedral precinct at the corner of Harrington and Brisbane Street. The building originally stood on lower Collins Street before it was dismantled and reconstructed at its present site in 1904.

St Peter’s Hall was built in 1855 as a temperance hall and school house as well as for occasional religious services. It is marked on Jarman’s 1858 map of Hobart where it is listed as a Catholic chapel. Two 19th century ‘birds-eye’ views of Hobart (see below) clearly show details of the building which was accessed by a footbridge across the Hobart rivulet. Lower Collins Street fell within a district known as Wapping, which was one of Hobart’s poorer quarters located close to the docks.

This article draws from newspaper accounts from the 1850s which describe the halls construction and opening as well reports from 1904 concerning its removal and reconstruction near the cathedral.

The Colonial Times records the laying of the foundation stone of St Peter’s Hall by Bishop Willson on Thursday 17 May 1855:

“Yesterday afternoon the foundation stone of this intended edifice was laid by the Right Rev. Bishop Wilson, on a piece of land to the left of the town rivulet, in Collins-street, granted to the Roman Catholic Church by Sir William Denison for the erection of a school-house. A procession was formed at St. Joseph’s church, at half past two consisting of the members of the church, the children of the sabbath and day schools, the fine band belonging to the temperance society, and several banners, headed by Rev. W. Hall, Vicar General;…The procession proceeded down Macquarie-street, and when opposite Government House came to a full stand to allow Sir Henry and Lady Young to witness the procession, the band playing the National Anthem, then marching down Elizabeth-street, up Liverpool-street, and down Campbell-street, they came to the site of the intended structure. The Bishop, who did not walk in the procession, was waiting in his carriage. The proceeding of the day then commenced by the offering up of a prayer by the Bishop, and then the stone was laid, a bottle being placed under the same….”.

The Colonial Times goes on to outline the purpose of the building:

“The Rev. Mr Bond…delivered an address to the assemblage, stating the purposes for which it was to be erected, not only for the promotion of religion, by the holding of services and the establishment of sabbath and day schools, but also to assist in the great cause of morality, by having temperance meetings, and the formation of societies somewhat similar to the guilds in olden times…..”.

St Peter’s Hall was designed by convict architect Frederick Thomas and built by John Gillon and Henry Shaw under the direction of Henry Hunter. The Courier described the building as follows:

“St Peter’s Hall will be a handsome, elegant, and substantial Gothic structure of stone, and must prove a fitting ornament to the locality of the splendid New Market. The principal entrance will be by the porch or western elevation next to the Argyle-street end of the site, where a bridge will be thrown across the Hobart Town Rivulet as a means of approach, the remainder of the grant being intended to be formed into a shrubbery. There will be a beautiful window in the eastern elevation, and a handsome light in the gable. On the side next to the Rivulet there will be five lights. The height of the building will be forty feet to the ornamental crossets which surmount the gable, and the interior dimensions of the Hall will be 70 feet 6 inches long by 29 feet 6 inches wide, in the clear….”.

St Peter’s was officially opened by Bishop Willson on Thursday 3 January 1856.

St Peter’s Hall was used for a little over 40 years before its closure was first considered in the late 1890s. In March 1899, the Launceston Examiner reported that: “The Roman Catholics have decided to sell St. Peter’s Hall, and it is probable the Government will purchase it for hospital purposes”.

While the land on which the hall stood had been given to the Catholic Church in the 1850s, its title had not been formally recorded. Thus in 1902, before the land could be sold, a bill was placed before parliament transferring the title to the Church for the sum £25. With this accomplished, the way was open for the Church to sell the land and remove the hall.

The Collins Street site was put up for sale in June 1903. The closure of St Peter’s was met with some regret. The Daily Telegraph reminisced:

“For many years it has been a place of public entertainment. Stars in the singing world have warbled under its walls, and many a goodly public meeting when politics ran high down south met under the roof of the picturesque gothic edifice…..St. Peter s was put up for sale, the other day, and it brought £450, or, rather, the land on which it stands did. The building is to be pulled down and the stone used to construct another Roman Catholic edifice somewhere in Brisbane-street. The purchasers are a well-known firm of timber merchants, who have not a spark of romance in their nature. As soon as the old hall, with its many happy memories to some people, is demolished, its space will be covered with the utilitarian timber stack”.

A further article records:

“Many old memories are attached to the hall, and all the Catholic priests that have resided in Hobart for the last five decades officiated within the wall of St. Peter’s in connection with religious and social functions…..Certainly it was in an out of the way place, and its surroundings not of the most attractive nature. For this reason the Primitive Methodist Church, which stood right opposite the hall, was disposed of some months back”.

The hall’s removal and reconstruction was completed by early 1904 and it was officially reopened on Sunday 17 April.

The Daily Telegraph advised that:

“The new hall will provide a meeting place for the Catholic Young Men’s Society. There would be a library, committee rooms, and all appliances necessary for an institution of that kind, and concerts and entertainments would be given from time to time, under the control of the Archbishop and his clergy. He was sure they would all sympathise with the objects for which this hall was being built, as they were to provide a shelter and refuge for young men from the mischief which Satan finds for idle hands to do”.

The reconstructed building was similar in appearance to the original Collins Street hall but the integrity of the structure was somewhat compromised with the later addition of a two-story extension on the west end. It nevertheless is a remarkable building and a tangible link to the now vanished old Wapping district.

A detail of a print showing the location of St Peter's Hall in Collins street. Source: - A bird's eye view of Hobart (1894) Town and Country Journal, November 17, 1894. A link to the full print can be accessed HERE

A detail of a print showing the location of St Peter's Hall in Collins street. Source: Albert Charles Cooke (1879) A link to the full print can be accessed  HERE

St Peter's Hall on Brisbane Street c.1905 - Libraries Tasmania NS392/1/748


Colonial Times, Friday 18 May 1855, page 2 
The Courier,  Friday18 May 1855, page 2 
The Hobarton Mercury, Monday 20 August 1855, page 2 
Launceston Examiner, Monday 13 March 1899, page 6 
The Mercury, Friday 21 November 1902, page 2 
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 17 June 1903, page 3 
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 5 September 1903, page 3 The Mercury, Tuesday 12 January 1904, page 5 
Tasmanian News, Monday 18 April 1904, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 27 April 1904, page 6


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