No. 1466 - Launceston - Margaret Street Catholic Deanery (1884-1962)

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 which no longer exist.

A dean is appointed by a bishop to lead a subdivision of a diocese comprised of a number parishes. The duty of the dean is to watch over the clergy of the parish and to ensure that they implement the orders of the bishop and observe liturgical and canon laws. The residence of a dean is officially called a deanery but it also accommodates priests serving in the parish.

In 1884 a new deanery was constructed on Margaret Street on a site adjoining the Church of the Apostles. The building replaced an older deanery which was no longer adequate for the rapidly growing parish of Launceston. News of the construction of the new deanery was reported by Launceston’s Daily Telegraph. The report contains considerable detail about the building:

“…We visited the new building now being rapidly erected to replace the old deanery belonging to the Catholic Church, in Margaret-street. It will be remembered that sometime since the Very Rev. the Dean and Father Gleeson were obliged to vacate the old building in consequence of the dangerous symptoms manifested by ominous cracks in the masonry, and for some time before the reverend gentlemen removed the structure was in a most tottering condition. This was owing to two causes, defective masonry and subsidence of the foundation from the nature of the soil. The ground whereon the new structure is placed is on higher land. The edifice is a two-storied one of wood standing on a massive stone foundation. The front 60ft in length faces Margaret-street, while one side, 60ft in length is on York-street. A handsome verandah and balcony, with, ornamented iron work surrounds both upper and lower storey. The height of the building is 34ft, and the roof is composed of slate. The windows are of plate glass with large mullion frames and other ornamental work”.

The report goes on to describe the layout of the building which included a large dining room “with a view of the whole of the town”; a drawing room; a receiving room; a parlour; library; kitchen and a scullery on the ground floor. The upper floor included 6 bedrooms; a dressing room and a bathroom. The architect was Mr W. H. Lord of Hobart although construction was overseen by Launceston architect Mr Leslie Corrie. The building contract was awarded to Mr. B Moss who was unable to completed the project which was taken over by J. and T. Gunn. The cost of the project was about £1800.

Although completed by mid 1884, the deanery was only officially opened by the Bishop of Hobart, Dr. Murphy, on Sunday 18 January 1885.

The deanery was used as a residence for almost 80 years before it was demolished in 1962. A new presbytery was opened by Bishop Young in the following year. The new building contained a flat for the Archbishop and accomodation for 8 priests. This building is now the parish Pastoral Centre.

A photograph of the deanery taken shortly before it was demolished. Source: Libraries Tasmania digital collection: Item Number: LPIC33-4-105

The old Deanery (Launceston Examiner)

The deanery in the process of being demolished. Source: Libraries Tasmania digital collection: Item Number: LPIC 33/4/107


Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 30 April 1884, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Monday 19 January 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Monday 19 January 1885, page 3

Southerwood, W. T. Planting a Faith : Launceston's Catholic story in word and picture / W.T. Southerwood W.T. Southerwood [Hobart 1968]


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