No. 1447 - Longford - St Monica's Convent School (1903 - c.1922)

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 of those that no longer exist.

St Monica’s Convent School at Longford is one of eleven convent schools established by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known as the Presentation Sisters. The Presentation Sisters arrived in Hobart in 1866 to establish schools to teach impoverished children. After establishing St Mary’s College in Hobart, and a ‘poor school’ St Columba’s, on the same site, the Sisters soon opened schools in Launceston, Bellerive, Lindisfarne, Queenstown, Beaconsfield, George Town, Karoola, Lilydale and Longford. They also took over an already established school at New Norfolk.

Plans to open a convent school at Longford came to fruition in 1902. In July a tender for the construction of a school on Goderich Street was advertised by Alexander North, a prominent Launceston architect. The building was completed in late November and a description of it was published in Launceston’s Daily Telegraph:

“Messrs. Thomas and Waugh, the contractors for the Convent school building, have now completed the work. The building is of gothic design, with bold crosses on each gable. It contains six rooms, with the addition of the school room, which is 50ft x 22ft, having a principal roof lined with hardwood, as also is also dadoing, the whole of the interior being varnished. It also has a platform 10ft x 22ft, which will be useful for entertainments of any description. The work has been passed by Mr North (the architect), who expressed himself as thoroughly satisfied with the efficient manner in which, the contractors carried out the work…The grounds have been neatly fenced, and all the necessary out houses erected….”.

The school was officially opened on Sunday 1 February 1903. The opening ceremony was described in some detail by both the Daily Telegraph and Launceston Examiner:

“The ceremony in connection with the opening of St. Monica's Convent at Longford was performed yesterday by the Archbishop of Hobart, assisted by the Revs. Monsignor Beechinor and Fathers McKernan an'd O'Mahony. Notwithstanding the intense heat that prevailed - over 96 degrees in the shade - there was a large attendance, many of those present having come a considerable distance to witness the ceremony”.

“A special train left Launceston in the morning, conveying a large number of visitors to Longford. Solemn high mass was celebrated in the church at 11 o’clock… At half-past 2 o'clock a procession, led by the Longford Brass Band, and comprising the Archbishop, the clergy, and school children, proceeded from the church to the convent, which was formally blessed by Dr. Murphy, who also inducted the nuns.  A public meeting was subsequently held in the large schoolroom, which is a credit to the Catholic community of the town and district….”.

Reports of the school’s activities were published regularly in the local press over the next two decades. Music tuition was a strong feature of the convent and an annual concert was held in Longford’s Foresters’ Hall, which then belonged to the fraternal ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ (it is now Longford Town Hall). Foresters’ Hall was also used as a venue for the convent’s annual fundraising ball and fair.

The date of the school’s closure is not known but reports of its activities cease after 1922. The building was sold by the Catholic church in the 1990s and the property was converted into a house. The original schoolroom has survived and a photograph of the interior is reproduced below.


St Monica's Convent and School at Longford. Photo: realestate.com

The old schoolroom at St Monica's Convent. photo: realestate.com

Foresters Hall at longford where the convent's annual concerts and fundraising events were held. Photo: Libraries Tasmania - Item No. LPIC 147-4-265

St Augustine's Catholic Church is situated close to the former convent. (my photo)

Tender for the construction of the convent and school - July 1902

The former convent and school in 2023 (Google Street-view)


Sources:

The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 8 July 1902, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Friday 28 November 1902, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Monday 2 February 1903, page 5
Examiner, Monday 2 February 1903, page 6

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