No. 1474 - Launceston - Invermay - The Presentation Sisters' Convent and Oratory (1933)

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.

In 1894 St Finn Barr’s Catholic church and school opened on a site on the corner of Forster and Holbrook Streets. The school was run by the Presentation Sisters who travelled by coach from their convent at the Church of the Apostles. In 1921 the Church trustees bought a local residence for the Sisters near the school.

In 1925 the church and school were destroyed in a fire and a new school was built on Invermay Road. In 1927 the Sisters moved to a small cottage close to the new St Finn Barr’s school which had opened at the beginning of that year.

In 1932 Invermay became a seperate parish under the charge of Fr. William Upton. In January 1933 construction of new convent began on land donated by Mr. P. Dargan. In addition to housing the Sisters, the building included an oratory, or small chapel used for private worship and Mass. A report in the Hobart Mercury described the new building:

“Hinman and Wright, Launceston, have commenced the erection of a new convent building on grounds adjoining St. Finn Barr's School Hall at Invermay to the plans of Mr. F. Heyward. The building consists of a large refectory, kitchen, and usual offices on the ground floor, and an oratory with plaster vaulted ceiling. On the upper floor will be sleeping accommodation, with a large verandah and balcony overlooking the River Tamar. The construction is of hardwood studding and weatherboarding, with painted galvanised iron roof.”

The convent was officially opened on Sunday 9 April 1933. The Examiner reported:

“There was a large attendance of the people of St. Finn Barr's parish at the solemn blessing and official opening of the new convent at Invermay yesterday afternoon. The ceremony was performed by Archbishop Hayden. Prior to the blessing, a procession consisting of children of the convent school, the Children of Mary, the men’s branch of Sacred Heart Sodality and members of St. Vincent de Paul Society proceeded from the church to the new building…”.

“Father Upton congratulated the architect (Mr. Heyward) and the builders (Messrs. Hinman, Wright and Manser Pty. Ltd.) on the fine new building, and then read the financial statement which showed that the contract price of the convent was £1330….In addition to this, the sum of £100 had been expended on alterations and additions to the old convent, which would now become the presbytery of the Invermay parish….”.

Another 20 years were to pass before construction began on the new St Finn Barr’s church. From 1927 to 1954 Catholic’s at Invermay attended Mass in the school hall. With the opening of the new church in 1954 the convent’s oratory was no longer used for religious services. The convent no longer exists and few photographs of it exist. I have yet to find a photograph of the convent’s oratory.

The Invermay Convent. A stained glass window of the Oratory is visible on the left of the entrance. (Planting A Faith)

The Presentation Sisters in the Covent garden in front of the Oratory. Photograph posted in St Finn Finn Barr Graduates Facebook page. Photographer or source not provided.


Mercury, Thursday 12 January 1933, page 5
Examiner, Monday 10 April 1933, page 5

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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