St Patrick's Church was constructed on Calton Hill in Gympie from 1883 to 1887 by the Roman Catholic Church. It was the third permanent church constructed in the town for the catholic community on or near this site. The building was designed by the prominent Brisbane architect, FDG Stanley.
The first catholic mass was celebrated in Gympie in February 1868, in the Brisbane Hotel, by Father Tissot. The following month, Father Matthew Horan arrived on the newly established goldfields and assumed his role as parish priest, which he held until his death in 1923. Upon his arrival, Father Horan pitched a tent on Calton Hill to celebrate mass, beginning the long catholic domination of the site. Tenders appeared in the Nashville Times on March 18, 1868, for the construction of a permanent church building. This timber building was ready for use by the end of 1868, but lasted only four years due to the damaging effect of weathering and white ants. Some of the land at Calton Hill was donated to the church by local residents including Patrick Lillis, and other land was bought at auction.
In 1872 a second church was constructed of hardwood and opened by Rev Dr James O'Quinn, Bishop of Queensland. Despite the later addition of side aisles, the hardwood church was regarded as inadequate for the growing catholic congregation and another building was planned reflecting the importance of the church in the community. In 1879 a catholic school was established on land nearby, when the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Gympie. Plans for the new church were prepared by well known Brisbane architect, FDG Stanley, and a local builder William Streeton and presented to the newly appointed Bishop Dunne in 1881. Plans shown to the bishop were prepared for both a stone and brick church costng £3800 and £3000 respectively, and from these Dunne decided to proceed with a stone church.
Bishop Dunne officated at a ceremony on January 28, 1883, to lay the foundation stone at St Patrick's. Subscription lists were opened for the funding of the construction and donations by the end of the day totaled £1200. On September 19, 1883, the tender of J Smith and Co was accepted to supply the material and build the church for a sum of £3591. Construction of St Patrick's took place over the next four years by the original contractor, then by Messers Peter and George Duckworth. At about the time of this changeover the southern wall of the church collapsed in a strong wind. The joinery and seating was undertaken by local carpenter, William Condon. An organ worth £500 and a marble altar also worth £500 which was donated by Mr James Fitzpatrick, a successful mining pioneer in the area, were features of the new building.
On July 17, 1887, St Patrick's Church was opened by Rev. Robert Dunne who had become the first Archbishop of Queensland. The church was built at a final cost of around £10,000. At the opening, St Patrick's Church, which was built to accommodate 950, was crowded with 1400 people who paid to attend the service. The church was described as a landmark for many miles around due to its elevated position, its great height, its pure white stone walls and its well-cut lines. St Patrick's was rectangular in plan, though was designed to accomodate the later addition of transepts. It was orginally built with corrugated iron roof sheeting with small ventilation gablets lining the roof. When St Patrick's opened other churches in Gympie including a timber Presbyterian church on Red Hill, a timber Wesleyan Methodist Church on Surface Hill which was replaced in the 1890s by a large brick church, and a small Church of England on Palatine Hill, also replaced by a large brick church in 1888.
St Patrick's Church continued to grow under the care of Father Horan; an organ gallery, designed by Hugo Durietz was added in 1896. Upon Horan's death on July 6, 1923, Dean Michael O'Flynn became the new parish priest. O'Flynn immediately began arrangements for the completion of the east end of the church. Brisbane architects, Cavanagh and Cavanagh, were commissioned to design the completion of the southern end, parts of which had been stopped with metal sheeting until this time. The extension including a polygonal chancel and flanking this, two smaller polygonal rooms used as the vestry and the sanctuary. The tender of Mr Brittam, for an amount of 1790 was accepted by September 8, 1924 and the work was finished in 1925. The following year work was completed on the adjacent brick presbytery, which replaced an earlier timber building.
On April 14, 1929 Archbishop Duhig dedicated newly installed stained glass windows placed where in the gables where the transepts were to have been extended. These windows were dedicated to the rememberance of the Catholic Emancipation and in particular to a key figure in the struggle, Daniel O'Connell Duhig also laid the foundation stone for the new convent, commemorating the centenary of the Sisters of Mercy and the Jubliee of their arrival in Gympie.
Father O'Flynn remained at St Patrick's until his death in 1935, when he was replaced by Monsignor Timothy Malony. Malony undertook vast improvements to the grounds, including paving and lawns around the church, and the construction of broad steps to the church. The 1951, the new parish priest Monsignor David Dee, concerned with the lack of accommodation at St Patrick's established a new catholic church in northern Gympie, diminishing the large congregation.
(Source: Queensland Heritage Register - http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/chims/placeDetail.html?siteID=16266)
Note: Information about places in the Queensland Heritage Register is maintained by the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992. Information available here is only part of the full Register entry and should not be taken as an official entry.
This booklet is available at our Pious Goods Store.
It is a wonderful little booklet created to mark the 150th anniversary of our Church.