No. 1215 - Launceston - Nazareth House (1950)

Nazareth House was established in 1950 by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, a Catholic Order founded by Victoire Larmenier. The focus of this article is on the history of the founding and development of Nazareth House and its chapel.

The origins of Nazareth House date back to the early 1930s when land was purchased at St Leonards upon the direction of Archbishop Hayden for the purpose of building a boys’ orphanage. It was subsequently decided to include homes for the aged as part of the project. In 1940 a bequest of £1500 was made by a Launceston priest, the Very Reverend Patrick Hennessy, which revitalised plans being made to begin construction. However, due to wartime conditions and restrictions, the work was postponed.

In 1946 the project was revived by the newly elected Archbishop Dr. Ernest Tweedy. In 1950 a new opportunity arose when “Mount Esk” a 15 acre property, which included an historical home, was purchased by the Catholic Church for £8500. The land acquired in the 1930s was sold and part of this now forms a recreation area at St Leonards.

In April 1950 two members of the Order of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth arrived in Launceston to facilitate the opening of an aged care home. The Examiner reported:

“Nazareth House will cater for elderly men and women, and eventually, for junior boys. The Archbishop of Hobart (Dr. E. V. Tweedy) said….that the Sisters would make preliminary arrangements for housing a few very necessitous cases at St. Leonards within a few weeks' time. Plans had been made, he said, for a temporary building to accommodate 16 men and 16 women, and it was hoped this accommodation would be available by next Christmas. The temporary building, Dr. Tweedy added, would in no way interfere with plans for the ultimate housing of 40 men, 40 women, and 30 boys. The home would provide for needy boys under eight years of age…the boys would probably be migrants from Britain, Malta, or Europe”.

A year later the foundation stone for a new building was ceremonially laid by Archbishop Tweedy. The Examiner records the event as follows:

“…More than 2,000 people gathered at St. Leonards yesterday to witness the setting and blessing of the foundation stone of the Nazareth Home for the Aged by the Archbishop of Hobart.… More than £2,300 was collected on the grounds towards the estimated cost of the building, which is between £20,000 and £30,000. Mother General Emanuel, of the Sisters of Nazareth, who is in Australia to visit these homes for the aged, sat on a pile of timber to watch the dedication. Children of Launceston's Catholic schools formed a massed choir… Dean Upton told the gathering how the movement for the home had grown and how the Government had made a grant of £6,000. The Sisters of Nazareth and the Church hoped there would never be a time when the home had to tell anyone in need that it had no room….”.

The new building was completed and opened July 1952:

“The Archbishop of Hobart…yesterday opened and blessed the new £30,000 wing of the Sisters of Nazareth Home at St. Leonards, which will accommodate 40 aged poor men and women. About 800 people attended the ceremony. The new wing has taken 15 months to construct and furnish. It is the start of a programme to extend the home to accommodate 120 aged poor. Construction of another building at the rear of the present home will be started soon….. The Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne (the Most Rev. Dr. J. D. Simonds) said the building was one of the most important works put into effect in Tasmania since Dr. Tweedy had become Archbishop of Hobart. The home would open up an entirely new vista of charity to the people of the State. Dr. Simonds said one of the most regrettable things of the times was the shirking of responsibilities by young people towards the aged. Young people were "passing the buck,” he said”.

In 1953 a further extension was built at a cost of £100 000 and in 1961 substantial “new” Nazareth House was opened by Archbishop Young which was constructed at a cost of £250 000. The facility housed 106 aged care residents supported by eleven Sisters of Nazareth and thirty lay assistants. A new chapel, an impressive multi-sided building was opened on the ground floor of the home.

In the same year the Sisters of Nazareth opened a primary school, Larmenier, which adjoined Nazareth House. The original building for the frail and very elderly was converted for use as classrooms. Today the school’s students hold class Mass in the “Mount Esk Chapel” while whole school travels to St Peter’s at Youngtown once a term to celebrate Mass.

In 2002 the operation of Nazareth House was taken over by Southern Cross Care and it was renamed Mount Esk Nursing Home. In 2003 the Sisters of Nazareth left Larmenier Primary bringing to an end the Order’s 53 years association with the St Leonards community.

The Esk Chapel at Mount Esk Nursing Home - photo: Southern Cross Care

Examiner, Saturday 21 January 1950,

Archbishop Dr. E.V. Tweedy laying the foundation stone for Nazareth House - photo: Examiner, Monday 16 April 1951 

Mother General of the Order of the sisters of Nazareth (Mother Emanuel [right] and Mother Assistant Angela [left] at the foundation stone laying ceremony. Photo Examiner, April 1951

The grave of the Very Reverend Patrick Hennessy (Dean of the Church of the Apostles) who had a key role in the establishment of Nazareth House and whose bequest made the facility at St Leonards a reality. Photo: J.McElwee (


Examiner, Monday 29 January 1940, page 6
Examiner, Tuesday 12 March 1946, page 6
Examiner, Saturday 21 January 1950, page 4
Examiner, Tuesday 18 April 1950, page 3
Advocate, Friday 10 November 1950, page 2
Mercury, Thursday 12 April 1951, page 7
Advocate, Monday 16 April 1951, page 2
Examiner, Monday 16 April 1951, page 3
Examiner, Monday 16 April 1951, page 8
Examiner, Monday 7 July 1952, page 3
Mercury, Monday 16 April 1951, page 6
Mercury, Monday 7 July 1952, page 11
Examiner, Tuesday 26 January 1954, page 4
Examiner, Thursday 4 June 1953, page 8

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


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