No. 1200 - Launceston - St Ailbe's Hall (1932) - "Made in Launceston"

This article is one in a series about buildings associated with some of Tasmania’s most significant churches. These buildings include Sunday schools, parish halls, convents, schools and residences of the clergy. Ancillary buildings are often overlooked and are rarely featured in published histories. My aim is to create a simple record of these buildings, including those that no longer exist.

Launceston’s ‘Church of the Apostles’ was completed in 1866 however almost 70 years were to pass before a church hall was built in 1932. Plans to build a hall date to the early 1900s but for many years progress were hampered by limited finances. Ironically, these circumstances changed during the Great Depression following two generous bequests made to the church. Mr William Dargan left a bequest of £2000 and a similar amount was received from from the estate of Elizabeth Bourke, at last making the hall a reality.

The foundations for the hall were laid in early December 1931 while the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone took place on Sunday 31 January 1932:

“The ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the new Catholic Hall (St. Ailbe's), which is being erected in Margaret Street, Launceston, was performed yesterday afternoon by the Archbishop of Hobart (Dr. W. Hayden) in the presence of a very large gathering of parishioners. The hall was gaily decorated with bunting. It is to be a fine brick building, and should be completed by May next. It will be used for recreational purposes by members of Catholic societies in Launceston. Prior to the laying of the foundation-stone a procession, headed by St. Joseph’s Band, and including Children of Mary, Hibernian Society, Boy Scouts, and other Catholic societies, marched from the Deanery to tho site of the new hall. Dr. Hayden laid the foundation-stone, after which addresses were delivered at the rear of the hall, from a platform which had been erected”.

The hall was designed by architect Mr Hubert East and the construction of the project was awarded to Mr Herbert Quinn. A feature of the building was the extent to which local manufacturers and tradesmen were involved. An article published in the Examiner, headlined “Made in Launceston”, listed local contractors involved in the project; the names of many of these are still familiar:

“Probably no building in Launceston since its early days can be so truth fully described as made in Launceston as St. Ailbe's Hall…Except for the electric light and sanitary fittings and the roller shutters to the Kiosk, everything is of local material or has been worked in Launceston….”.

“The multi-coloured brickwork, patterned to details and supplied by Mr. J. Cosgrave, was in Mr. E. A. Clephane’s charge. The acoustic plaster work on the ceilings, their mouldings and panels, were manufactured by Mr. H. Saunders at his local factory, and Messrs. Paton carried out the general cement and plaster work. The roof trusses, vane, balcony railings, and outside lamp bracket were wrought by Messrs. Knight and Peter's and Messrs. Salisbury's Foundry Co. is now fabricating the wrought iron entrance gates”.

“Mr. B. M. Ikin was responsible for the ventilation and copper work, together with the shell-like reflectors of the radiators. Messrs. Jackson's made the locks and handles, and Messrs. Barrenger and Landsell were responsilble for the leaded lights…..The electric lighting was ably carried out by Messrs. W G. Mance and Sons, and the paintings of the woodwork, with its soft greys and browns. by Messrs. R. Young and Son…Messrs. Coogan's manufactured and supplied the hall seating and platform curtain, and Messrs. Bills and Co. and Messrs. Green the tables and chairs”.

The hall was dedicated to St Ailbe on Sunday 22 May 1932 by Archbishop Hayden with the Mayor of Launceston, Mr A.W. Monds, in attendance.

“There was a large attendance when the Archbishop blessed the walls of the building, and performed the dedication, and subsequently when addresses of congratulation were delivered the hall was filled. Associated with the Archbishop on the platform in the hall were the Mayor (Mr. A. W. Monds and Mrs.Monds, the Very Rev. Dean Hennessy, P.P.. the architect, contractor, and others. Seated in the front of the hall were the Children of Mary and scholars of St. Patrick's College. Dean Hennessy, in an opening address, said that difficulty had been experienced in obtaining the use of halls for the holding of functions for the Church of Apostles, but now their endeavours had been rewarded, and they had their own hall. The hall had been built mainly for recreational and social purposes to meet the needs of the Catholic community, and it would be of special value to the younger members”.

The opening had a humorous moment. Fr. W T Southerwood records:

“The crowd was on its way out when suddenly their progress was arrested by an urgent appeal from the platform. They turned to hear the Dean announce with very evident contrition, ‘I forgot the collection.’ Before the laughter had subsided collectors were in their places. The afternoon’s contributions totalled £100”.

An article published in the Hobart Mercury provided a detailed description of the new building:

“It is an attractive looking, structure, the front being two story. The total cost ls somewhere in the vicinity of £4,400, exclusive of the furniture and internal fittings….The building is of neat design, and the interior presents a pleasing appearance. The lining is of acoustic plaster, which promotes excellent sounding for speakers and singers. The length of the main hall is 65ft., with a breadth of 50ft. 6in., while the raised platform is 30ft. by 22ft. In front are footlights, and the top lighting and other fittings will enable entertainment to be presented on a scale of excellence rarely attained in such buildings. Under the stage, provision has been made for the storage of most of the seats when the hall is required for dancing or badminton. In connection with the latter pastime, special lighting has been installed. On each side of the platform is a retiring room for performers”.

“The arrangements for the convenience and comfort of patrons have been studied in every detail. Inside the main entrance is a kiosk, where confectionery and other requirements can be sold, while upstairs are refreshment and recreation rooms….There are openings for serving refreshment into each room. Also upstairs are a caretaker's room and the necessary retiring rooms, with lavatory accommodation of the latest type. There is a small gallery for the accommodation of specially invited guests, and in the centre is a concrete box for the installation of a machine for the production of still or moving pictures….The total seating capacity will be about 570….”.

Over the years St Ailbe’s Hall has been a hub of activity for Launceston’s Catholic community as well as for public events. Activities hosted included school concerts, Communion breakfasts dances and indoor games organised by Catholic Indoor Games Club. The hall was also the venue for meetings of the National Catholic Girls' Movement and the Young Christian Workers. 







Sources:

Examiner, Monday 1 February 1932, page 9
Mercury, Monday 1 February 1932, page 5
Mercury, Friday 20 May 1932, page 6
Examiner, Monday 23 May 1932, page 8
Mercury, Monday 23 May 1932, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 28 May 1932, page 11

Southerwood, W. T. Planting a faith : Launceston's Catholic Story in word and picture. W.T. Southerwood, [Hobart], 1968.






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