State heritage listing for Townsville convent
The iconic St Patrick’s Convent, located on The Strand in Townsville, is one of the latest additions to the Queensland Heritage Register.
Queensland Heritage Council (QHC) Chair, Professor Peter Coaldrake, said the building which was constructed in 1883, is the oldest known surviving purpose-built convent in Queensland.
“The convent has been home to Townsville’s Sisters of Mercy since its construction almost 130 years ago,” Professor Coaldrake said.
“It demonstrates the way of life of this remarkable religious order which made a very significant contribution to the State’s development, particularly in relation to education and health care.
“The convent was the Motherhouse for the Mercy Order in North Queensland from 1901, as the sisters fulfilled their mission of serving the poor, the sick and the uneducated through the development of other schools in the region and the establishment of the Mater Hospital and aged care facilities.
“The chapel in the southern wing regularly received novices into the order, and the ritual celebrations at these events attended by the sisters’ friends and families served to publicly acknowledge and promote the role of the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland.”The Sisters of Mercy have provided education in the region since 1878, building many schools across the Townsville diocese.“St Patrick’s Convent was built during the establishment phase of Catholic primary and secondary education in North Queensland when its institutions spread out from Brisbane to newly emerging settlements around the State,” he said.“The building housed the first classes for what became the longest operational high school for girls in Townsville from 1892.
“In 1900, the building was extended with the addition of wings on the north and south side of the core of the structure, and gothic decorative treatments added to the exterior.
“The northern wing housed the high school until a purpose-built facility opened adjacent in 1911.”
St Patrick’s Convent illustrates the pattern of development of Townsville, the major commercial centre of North Queensland.
“The region’s wealth, which was initially generated through mining, pastoral and agricultural pursuits, led to the establishment of the Port of Townsville and numerous schools to serve the population,” he said.
“The ongoing development of the school site is evidence of the growth and prosperity of the city of Townsville.”
St Patrick’s Convent was nominated to the Queensland Heritage Register by the National Trust of Queensland and its registration is supported by the Townsville City Council.
Professor Coaldrake acknowledged that the Sisters of Mercy did not support the heritage listing of the convent.
“The Heritage Council looked at this matter very carefully over several months and invested considerable resources investigating the historical significance and structural condition of the place. This obviously included visiting Townsville and engaging with the Sisters, their advisers and with the Townsville City Council,” Professor Coaldrake said.
“We are very mindful of the consequences of the decision and we will endeavour to work with the Sisters of Mercy and others to identify and coordinate a suitable reuse option for the building.”
The Queensland Heritage Council is the State’s independent advisor on heritage matters and determines what places are entered in the Queensland Heritage Register.
Places that are entered in the Heritage Register are considered of importance to Queensland’s history and are protected under heritage legislation.