No. 1255 - Kempton - St Peter's Catholic Church (1861-1918)

Kempton is a small town on the Midlands Highway, about 45 kilometres north of Hobart. It was first settled by Anthony Fenn Kemp in 1817. He was given a grant of land, now the Mount Vernon estate. The town was first named Green Ponds after some small green water holes found in the area.

The first Catholic church at built at ‘Green Ponds’ was a small timber building dedicated to St Peter. The church was opened and consecrated on Sunday 29 December 1861. It was intended to be a temporary church until a more substantial building could be constructed but it remained in use for more than half a century. It was located on Louisa Street alongside Kempton’s Catholic cemetery and approximately 200 metres west of a new church built in 1918. No photograph of the old church exists.

In January 1962 the Hobart Advertiser carried a brief report describing the church’s opening service:

“On Sunday, the 29th December, the Reverend Mr Keohan opened a new Catholic Church at Green Ponds, which was erected almost solely by the exercions of the zealous and much respected priest of Oatlands. It is a very neat and substantial pine wood building capable of containing over one hundred persons. It is very comfortably arranged internally, and has a nicely fitted up sacristy attached. The Altar is very elegantly arranged, a chaste altar-cloth and handsome antependium having been prepared by the hands of two young ladies in Hobart Town and presented to the Church”.

“The Church is dedicated to the service of the Holy Trinity, under the patronage of St. Peter. At an early hour on Sunday morning a large number of vehicles of various descriptions might have been seen approaching Green Ponds on all sides, as well as equestrian and less fortunate pedestrians. Many good people came the whole way from Oatlands and Bothwell. By eleven o’clock the little church was quite full, and numbers had to remain outside the door. An impressive sermon, applicable to the season of Christmas, was preached by Reverend Father Keohan, after which Mass was celebrated, and a collection made towards defraying the expenses of the Church in which the people were then worshipping for the first time. The collection amounted to upwards of twenty pounds, having been considerably swelled by the contributions of the good visitors, the Green Ponds district being very poor”.

“After the service was concluded the Reverend Pastor entertained those who had come from a distance to a sumptuous repast at the Wilmot Arms. The new Church of St Peter, Green Ponds, is a construction that, while being amply sufficient for the present wants of the people, it can, when a new and more permanent Church shall have been erected, be converted into a most comfortable school”.

A Catholic school called “St Peter’s and St Ann’s Catholic school” was established at Kempton by the 1870s. Little is known about this building or its location. In 1879 a report in the Hobart Mercury reveals tension within Kempton’s Catholic community over Catholics who sent their children to the local State school:

“The Green Ponds festival and examinations took place on Wednesday… His Lordship the Bishop, with the pastor, the Archdeacon, and the clergy who took part in the Brighton festival on the previous day) reached Green Ponds about noon, and proceeded soon afterwards to the church. Here there was a crowd of children, their parents and friends looking all smiles in their holiday attire. The examinations were conducted by the Bishop. About 60 children were examined, the striking inferiority of the answering of several children advanced in years, and who looked intelligent, brought out the fact that the children were attending the public school, and that the children on whose intelligence and accurate answering attracted notice were in regular attendance at the denominational Catholic school of Green Ponds. His Lordship then in very emphatic language censured those parents, who, disobeying the voice of the Church and the claims of their consciences, continued to send their children to any school but their own school - the Catholic school. They were imperilling their own souls and the souls of their children by this conduct, and he, in his official capacity as their bishop, warned them of the consequences of the eternal consequences of their disobedience and sin…”.

The school was still functioning in the 1890s and the date of its closure is not known. The Louisa Street church was replaced by a brick building designed by Alan Cameron Walker. After 1918 the old church continued to be used as a Sunday school for some time before it was demolished.

An early view of Kempton. Source: The Weekly Courier

The new church - Weekly Courier, 10 October 1918

The Catholic cemetery on Louisa Street, the site of the old church


Advertiser, Thursday 2 January 1862, page 2
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 23 January 1862, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 20 May 1865, page 2
Mercury, Friday 5 January 1872, page 3
Mercury, Friday 8 March 1872, page 3
Mercury, Monday 13 January 1879, page 3
Tasmanian News, Wednesday 19 March 1890, page 3

Southerwood, W. T Planting a faith in Tasmania : the country parishes. [W. T. Southerwood], [Hobart], 1977.


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