No. 1460 - Richmond - St John's Catholic Schoolhouse (1843)

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.

Richmond is a heritage town located in the Coal River Valley approximately 25 kilometres east of Hobart. The valley was one of the earliest areas penetrated by the first British settlers outside of Hobart. Richmond’s origins go back to 1823 when a bridge was constructed across the Coal River. Beyond the bridge lies the church of St John the Evangelist, Australia’s oldest Catholic church along with Tasmania’s first Catholic school. The original school has survived and is located behind St John’s church.

The origins of the school date back to 1843 and its founding recounted by Catholic church historian, Fr Terry Southerwood:

“Within twelve months of his coming to the colony, the Bishop [Willson] was making strenuous efforts to obtain Government aid for his parish school at Richmond. Earlier, following a stormy visit to the Richmond public school (February 20, 1843), Father Butler had withdrawn the twenty Catholic children from the school and started his own. The official excuse given was the compulsory Bible reading inflicted on the Catholic children by Mr. Lord, the master. However, it seems Butler had already made up his mind to remove the children, for the first entry for school expenses in the parish records is dated February 14, 1843, six days prior to the dramatic encounter at Mr. Lord's school….By November 1846, there were thirty pupils there….Father Dunne contributed to the maintenance of his small school out of his own pocket, since the fees received from parents was far from sufficient. By 1847, the school had reached a state of financial crisis. Further accommodation was urgently required. The Government was “earnestly solicited” to take the cause of education into consideration and also to "avoid the inconvenience arising from the amalgamation of all Creeds," by giving the Catholic community at Richmond "such assistance as will enable us to complete a school house and obtain competent individuals to superintend the instruction of our children”. The penny a day system saved the school. By 1853, there were more Catholic children at Richmond "than the children of any other denomination”.

In 1888 the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived at Richmond and remained at the school for almost 100 years.(1888 -1984) In 1925 St John’s school moved to its present location.

Richmond St John's Catholic School - photographer: Caroline Ramsden


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

Mercury, Monday 15 March 1926, page 3


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