Dictionary of Sydney

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St Brigid's Catholic church Millers Point

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St Brigid's Catholic church, Millers Point

St Brigid's Catholic Church and school is the oldest Catholic building in Australia still being used for its original purposes. The site was approved by Governor Bourke in 1833 for the erection of a Catholic school building that could also be used as a chapel, and it was built using local stone, possibly quarried on site.

The combined church and school building, built to a design of Father William Ullathorne, by the colonial architect Ambrose Hallen, was completed in April 1835 and opened in May of the same year. [1]

The school predated the introduction of state-run schools in the 1840s, and was an early example of the role of private or religious concerns in education in Sydney. The school accepted both male and female students, and by 1839 had an enrolment of 121 students – 76 boys and 45 girls. The students were taught in separate classrooms, created with partitions inside the school building. The first teachers were lay teachers, but between 1843 and 1847 the school was run by the Christian Brothers, after which lay teachers were again employed until 1868, when the Marist Fathers took over.

Between 1874 and 1879, St Bridget's (as it was then spelt), established itself as a separate parish, breaking away briefly from the parish of St Patrick's. The independence was short lived, as the parish was too small to sustain itself, and St Patrick's reabsorbed the church and school. Around the same time, in 1880, the school came under the guidance of the Sisters of St Joseph, who ran the nearby St Joseph's Providence (also known as the Cumberland Street orphanage). Around 1900 the school was taken over by the Sisters of Mercy, but numbers declined as the population of Millers Point fell because of the resumptions and redevelopment then taking place in Millers Point and The Rocks.

Enough of a congregation remained to justify an extension to the building, an extra storey, to mark the centenary of its opening. Construction began in 1930 and the addition was opened in 1933. The ground floor section – the original school and chapel – was converted to a church, with the upper floor used as a school. It was also at this time that the spelling St Brigid's was adopted. [2]

The Sisters of Mercy continued to teach in the school until its closure in 1992. The church continues to be used by the local congregation for Mass.


[1] 'St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church and School', http://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/07_subnav_01_2.cfm?itemid=5045352

[2] 'St Brigid's Church and School', pamphlet for Sesquicentenary of St Brigid's, 1985