No. 1314 - New Norfolk - St Brigid's Convent and School (1926)

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

New Norfolk is a historic town on the banks of the Derwent River, approximately 40 kilometres west of Hobart. It grew dramatically when settlers from Norfolk Island moved into the district after 1807. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited the township he named it Elizabeth Town after his wife. However, it was later decided to adopt the name New Norfolk, acknowledging the district’s many Norfolk Islanders.

A proposal to establish a convent and school at New Norfolk was considered soon after the turn of the 20th century but two decades were to pass before this was realised. The convent’s origins were outlined in an article published in the Mercury in 1925, on the occasion of the ceremonial blessing of the new school’s foundation stone by Archbishop Delany:

“Some 40 years ago St. Peter's Church was commenced at New Norfolk, and completed two years later at a cost of £3000. When the debt was paid off in 1900, it was suggested by the leading parishioners that a new presbytery should be built on the church ground, but on the suggestion of the Rev. Father Murphy, P.P., it was decided to postpone the erection of the presbytery, and to collect funds for the establishment of a Convent school. In 1910 £430 had been collected. This was utilised in buying the hillside property (which cost £1200), with the intention of building a school room facing Burnett street, and the Convent alongside the church, but time went on until last year, when the fund had accumulated to £2400, when it was decided to purchase “"Corumbene," in Montagu street, which was bought for £2700. The school is to be built of brick, and will consist of two school rooms, 27 x 23, with two verandahs at each end 10ft. wide,'which will be closed in, and may be used for class rooms. The building will accommodate 100 pupils of both sexes. The contract was let to Messrs Alex Fyle and Sons for £1037, and it is estimated that when the school is fully equipped, shelter sheds and outhouses provided, together with furniture, and a piano for the sisters in Corumbene, the debt will run into £1800. The raising of that amount only seems to give new vigour to Father Murphy, who has spent the last 35 years in the parish, and he quite expects to wipe the debt off in a few months….”.

The Corumbene property had belonged to Robert Wilkins Giblin Shoobridge, who had engaged in apple growing on a large scale in the Derwent Valley. Shoobridge had been instrumental in establishing the apple export trade to England.

The school, which was run by the Sisters of Charity, was blessed and opened by Bishop Delany on 27 December 1925. Owing to schools in the New Norfolk district having holidays during the hop picking season, St Brigid’s was opened to 80 students on 4 January 1926. The Sisters lived in Corumbene house, which was renamed Cill Dara, meaning 'church of the oak.’ An oratory was built at Cill Dara for the Sisters as a place of worship.

After 25 years of staffing the school the Sisters of Charity handed over its administration to the Presentation Sisters in 1950. In 1992 the Presentation Sisters ended their role as administrators of the school.

Corumbene, renamed Cill Dara, which housed the Sisters of Charity. Photograph: C.P. Ray, Libraries Tasmania, c.1920 - Item Number - NS392/1/727


The News, Tuesday 10 March 1925, page 1
The News, Saturday 3 October 1925, page 3
The Mercury, Saturday 9 January 1926, page 11

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


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