No. 1444 - Burnie - Stella Marais Convent School - Mount Street (1912)

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

Burnie is a port city on the north-west coast of Tasmania. The origins of the town date back to 1827 when a settlement was established at Emu Bay by the Van Diemen’s Land Company. The settlement was later renamed Burnie after William Burnie, a director of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

Catholic education at Burnie date back to back to the 1860s but it was not until the turn of the 20th century that the education system was formalised after the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy. In 1900, the parish priest, Father Hayes, invited the Sisters of Mercy to conduct a school, which they commenced in the church building with approximately 90 students. However the church was found to be “unsuitable for the purpose, both regards lighting and ventilation”. In 1912 construction of a three room school building began.

The foundation stone for the convent school was ceremonially laid on Sunday 21 May 1912. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“At the conclusion of the 11 o’clock mass…the Archbishop of Hobart (Dr. Delany), assisted by Monsignor Beechinor of Launceston, and Father Hayes, the local parish priest, laid the foundation-stone of the new Convent school in the presence of a large gathering. The ceremony occupied only a few minutes, as the addresses and collection usually associated with such functions were made in the church prior to the congregation assembling at the scene of the new structure. The building is to be of brick, and the contract price is £494. The contractor (Mr. F. J. Tallack, the Warden), took an active part in the ceremony, and donated £2 2s towards the building fund…..”.

The official opening of the school took place on Sunday 27 October 1912. The Star of the Sea Convent School is a two-storey brick Federation Freestyle school building. The basement comprises a room formerly used as a school room, while the main floor is a single room once divided into three and used as classrooms. Double hung windows and a pressed tin ceiling feature in this space. Although altered, this building is an early example of a convent school building in Tasmania .

In 1950 an additional wing, including an assembly hall were added to the building. Later an three additional classrooms were built. By 1970 with more than 300 children on the Mount Street site it was evident that relocation of the school inevitable and the Mount Street site was abandoned after a new school was built in 1977.

The opening of the Convent School - Tasmanian Mail

May 1912, Tasmanian Mail

The old Convent School complex on Mountain Street - Google street-view


North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 1 May 1911, page 2
Examiner, Monday 20 May 1912, page 7
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 21 May 1912, page 2
Examiner, Monday 28 October 1912, page 6
The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 28 October 1912, page 2
Tasmanian Mail, 23 May 1912, page 23
Tasmanian Mail, 31 October 1912, page 21


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