No. 1343 - Oatlands - St Paul's Catholic School (1881)

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.

The town of Oatlands acquired its name in 1821 when Governor Lachlan Macquarie passed through the area. He noted that it was “a very eligible situation for a town, being well watered and in the midst of a rich fertile country”. A settlement was well established by the late 1820s by which time several cottages, a barracks, gaol and a church had been constructed.

St Paul’s Catholic church opened in February 1851. Exactly 30 years were to pass before a Catholic school was established in the town. In April 1878 the Hobart Mercury reported that a building had been purchased at Oatlands to serve as a Catholic school. A further report in the Mercury states that a house "had been purchased to serve as both a memorial the memory of Father Keohan, and to be used as a Catholic school". Three years later Father Feehan opened a school opposite the church with Miss O’ Loughlin appointed as the first teacher. She was replaced by Miss Reynolds eight years later.

In 1893 the Sisters of St Joseph arrived at Oatlands and took over the running of the school. At this time the Oatlands convent served as the “head house” of the Order. Father Feehan went on to establish two further schools in the parish at Tunnack and Colebrook.

The exact date of the closure of St Paul’s Convent school is not known although it was probably at the time of the Great War.

In 1942 the Launceston Examiner reported that “a 12 room, two-storey stone dwelling occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Ray Bailey was partly destroyed by fire” …and that “the building was formerly the old convent school”.

The convent school building still stands on the corner of Gay Street and South Parade although its appearance has been somewhat altered by the 1942 fire.

The former convent-school at Oatlands. Photo:


The Mercury, Saturday 16 February 1878, page 2
The Mercury, Thursday 25 April 1878, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 18 May 1893, page 1
Daily Post, Tuesday 26 March 1912, page 7
Examiner, Wednesday 18 November 1942, page 4

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

Weeding, J. S.  A history of Oatlands, Tasmania / J.S. Weeding  I.D. Simpson] [Geilston Bay, Tas  1988


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