St Mary & St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group | NSW Environment & Heritage

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St Mary & St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group

Item details

Name of item: St Mary & St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group
Other name/s: St. Mary & St. Joseph, Saint Mary & Saint Joseph
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Cathedral
Location: Lat: -30.515653 Long: 151.663479474351
Primary address: 132 Dangar Street, Armidale, NSW 2350
Parish: Armidale
County: Sandon
Local govt. area: Armidale Dumaresq
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Armidale
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT15 DP1048143
LOT17DP758032
LOT167DP758032
LOT27DP758032
LOT37DP758032
LOT47DP758032
LOT57DP758032
LOT77DP758032

Boundary:

Bounded by Dangar, Barney, Jessie and Rusden Streets, Armidale (excluding commercial properties on Rusden Street and corner of Rusden and Dangar Streets)
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
132 Dangar StreetArmidaleArmidale DumaresqArmidaleSandonPrimary Address
135 Jessie StArmidaleArmidale DumaresqArmidaleSandonAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Catholic Diocese of ArmidaleReligious Organisation 

Statement of significance:

The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance as the landmark Catholic cathedral for the regional colonial centre of Armidale. On the site of the first Catholic cathedral (1848), the cathedral was constructed in 1911-12 to serve the religious needs of the growing community and to serve as the centre for the Catholic Diocese of Armidale (formed in 1869, this was one of the first dioceses to be established outside of the colonial settlements of Sydney and Newcastle). Today, the cathedral continues to be the centre of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale.

The cathedral group is also of state heritage significance as the centre of the first order of the Ursuline Sisters (who settled in Armidale in 1882) and for its association with the prominent architectural firm, Sheerin and Hennessy. Sited in a landmark position in the Armidale township, the cathedral is a finely detailed and decorated building that, upon its completion, was considered to be the finest Catholic cathedral in Australia.

This grand and ornate Federation Gothic Revival regional cathedral and its precinct is also significant as it demonstrates the religious requirements of the district and holds important and ongoing social significance for the community and Catholic congregation of Armidale and the wider Northern Tablelands district.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: John Hennessy (of Sheerin and Hennessy)
Builder/Maker: George Frederick Nott
Construction years: 1911-1912
Physical description: Built in 1912 in the Federation Gothic Revival style, St Mary & St Joseph Catholic Cathedral is a grand and impressive feature in the Armidale townscape. Finely constructed of Armidale Blue brickwork with a lighter decorative brick trim, the cathedral has a slate roof with tall needle spire (47m) above a castellated bell tower. Although simply styled, the cathedral is finely detailed and is noted, in particular, for it large feature stained glass windows, marble sanctuary, chancel arch, eastern facade, and Flemish bond work. The cedar pews and internal joinery were constructed using timber from the GF Nott's, the local builder, own sawmill.

The historic Catholic cathedral group also includes the St Ursuline Convent, Ursuline Chapel, Bishops House, former St Ursula's College, Catholic Schools Administration Building and surrounding landscaping and fencing.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Very good condition upon inspection (18 April 2013). Some buildings currently unused but masterplan for site under development.
Date condition updated:01 May 13
Modifications and dates: Cathedral
1919 - High Altar added (replaced timber pulpit from original cathedral)
1946-47 - lead material in roof replaced
1947 - marble reredos added
1961 - mosaic added to quatrefoil and tympanum of eastern doorway
1972 - tower reinforced
1970s/80s - restoration and maintenance
1979 - modifications to entry foyer, narthex, airlock screen and confessionals; glass doors added to western entrance; and external paving, waterproofing and repainting of western wall
1985 - restoration of organ
1990s - restoration of stained glass windows
1996 - damage repairs to roof and some windows (following hail storm)

Ursuline Convent
1900 - extended with new wing
1922 - verandah and bay windows added

St Ursula's College
1939 - additions including new classroom, recreation hall, music practise rooms, bedrooms and bathroom block
1951 - domestic science school and industrial laundry
Current use: Place of worship
Former use: Place of worship

History

Historical notes: Religion and the establishment of places of worship have played an important role in the colonial expansion and settlement of NSW. As the boundaries of the colony expanded and settlers pushed into previously unestablished areas, the government ensured religion followed to cater for the spiritual education and morality of the settlers.

As for the Northern Tablelands region, European settlement came as early as 1832 as pastoralists searched beyond the colonial boundaries for new land on which to run their stock. At this time, the early settlers of the district were in fact illegal squatters who only gained colonial approval to work the land in 1836 with the passing of legislation recognizing the pastoralist's rights to graze (but not own) the land (for an annual fee of ten pounds).

Religion soon followed the pastoralists into the newly declared township of Armidale (established in the late 1840s). The first recorded Catholic service was conducted in Armidale in 1848 by a travelling priest in a newly-constructed Catholic chapel. The first resident priest, however, was not to arrive in the parish until 1853. Father Timothy McCarthy was to lead the parish until 1862 when the Catholic Diocese of Armidale was formally established.

The Very Reverend Timothy O'Mahony was appointed as the first bishop for the diocese but was not to arrive in the parish until 1871. In the meantime and under the bishop's instruction, parish priest Dean Lynch was responsible for the construction of the diocese' first cathedral. Built on the same site as the present cathedral (at the entrance of the current O'Connor Catholic College), the brick, stone and shingle cathedral was opened and dedicated in 1872 as the principal church of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale.

In 1882 Brother Gatti from the Catholic Church volunteered to landscape Central Park opposite the cathedral together with the original Catholic Church grounds, the Convent grounds and the Catholic section of the Armidale cemetery. These plantings included Mediterranean cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) and Himalayan cedars (Cedrus deodara). The cypresses in Central Park were planted c.1902 (Michael Lehany, 1995 Central Park Conservation Study). The 2 Italian cypresses in the Cathedral grounds may have been planted not long after demolition of the original St Mary's Cathedral in 1912 and may demonstrate an association with the life and work of Brother Gatti, who was a keen horticulturist. The diameter of the base of the trunks of the cypresses in the church grounds is comparable with most of those planted in Central park indicating that they may have planted within 10-20 years of one another. (Morsley, pers.comm., 27/11/2015).

The cathedral was to serve the religious needs of the growing community for some 40 years but it inevitably became too small for the expanding congregation. Considered to be beyond any structural alteration or enlargement, plans were soon underway for the construction of a larger and more resplendent cathedral to become the new seat for the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale.

Under Bishop Patrick O'Connor, the contract for the design of the new cathedral was awarded to Sheerin and Hennessy, a Sydney-based firm previously responsible for a number of Catholic buildings in NSW, with John Hennessy as principal architect. The builder engaged for the project was the prominent local contractor, George Frederick Nott, who, although a practising Anglican, was one of a number of local residents who contributed generously to the project.

In fact, the widespread support for the cathedral saw the construction complete and the cathedral opened within a mere 20 months after the laying of the foundation stone in February 1911. Opened in October 1912, the quick construction of the cathedral was a considerable achievement and was "a great tribute to the faith and generosity of the people" (New England Focus). The generosity of the congregation and community was so great that St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral was the first Australian cathedral opened free of debt - the 28,000 pound cost paid entirely by pledges and donations.

With its commanding position on Armidale's central park, its finely decorated Gothic Revival design and 47m needle spire dominating the landscape, the new Catholic cathedral was a grand ornament to the district and diocese and was considered to be the finest cathedral in all of Australia.

Although the original cathedral had remained next to its replacement during its construction, it was dismantled in 1912 and much of its material retained and reused later in the construction of the St Mary's Primary School and Cathedral Hall. A remnant of the original cathedral can also be seen in the plinth supporting the statue of St Peter overlooking the grave site of Bishop Edward John Doody (appointed bishop, 1948-68).

Formally opened in the Golden Jubilee year of 1912 (although not consecrated until 1919), the cathedral was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Bishop Elzear Torreggiani, who served the diocese from 1879-1904. Bishop Torreggiani was dedicated to building communities and establishing a number of schools in the diocese at a time when funding education was often troublesome. Until 1882, funding for secular and denominational schools was administered by the government but funding for denominational schools was to cease following the passing of the Public Institutions Act of 1880. Although a substantial impost on the diocese, Bishop Torreggiani was committed to continuing schools at the direct expense of the diocese.

In order to achieve this, the bishop sought to appoint Catholic nuns who, having vowed to a life of poverty, could establish and operate educational facilities for the children of the district. During the 1880s, the bishop attracted several teaching orders including a group of Ursuline sisters who, having been expelled from their convent in Duderstadt Germany in 1877, had settled in Greenwich London. In bringing the Ursuline sisters to Armidale, the diocese secured their permanent home by purchasing a 1860 house (to be named Merici House after the founding member of the order, St Angela Merici) to be used as the convent. The diocese would also pay the passage of 12 sisters from London to Armidale.

The sisters arrived in 1882 and soon opened the High School for Young Ladies as well as operating the existing parish school in Dangar Street.

The sisters were an experienced order with an established educational philosophy. "For them, education was total, embracing all the years of a child's life from about seven to 17" (Armidale Independent, part 2) and catered for students of all ages and educational standard. The sisters focussed on instilling refinement in their pupils and teaching the necessary skills required for a well-educated lady (namely music, art and needlework).

The widespread success and popularity of the Ursuline convent saw the construction of St Ursula's College in 1888, the convent chapel in 1928 and a new presbytery in 1938. St Ursula's School closed in 1975 and was converted into the O'Connor Catholic High School and, although education continues, the Ursuline Sisters finally left the convent in 2011 after some 130 years of service to the Catholic community of Armidale.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th century Suburban Developments-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Cultural Social and religious life-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Religious worship-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship religion (in the country)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Catholicism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Convent-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Roman Catholicism-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance as the landmark Catholic cathedral for the regional colonial centre of Armidale. On the site of the first Catholic cathedral (1848), the cathedral was constructed in 1911-12 to serve the religious needs of the growing community and to serve as the centre for the Catholic Diocese of Armidale. The diocese had formed in 1869 and was one of the first to be established outside of the colonial settlements of Sydney and Newcastle.

Due to the considerable public support for the construction of the cathedral (from both Catholic and non-Catholic residents of the Northern Tablelands district), the cathedral was constructed in a mere 20 months and was the first cathedral in Australia to open entirely debt free due to the generous donations and pledges of the community.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance for its association with the prominent architectural firm, Sheerin and Hennessy. Joseph Sheerin and Jack Hennessy were architects of considerable stature in NSW at the time and had previously been responsible for the design of a number of Catholic and public buildings throughout the state. During the construction, Jack Hennessy was the President of the Institute of Architects NSW as well as the principal architect on Armidale's Catholic cathedral.

The Catholic cathedral group also has a significant association with the Ursuline Sisters, a group of nuns who arrived in Armidale in 1882 to lead the Catholic education of the children of the district. In the late 19th century, religion and church institutions played a significant role in the development and operation of educational establishments in regional NSW.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance for its aesthetic value.

Designed by prominent ecclesiastical architectural firm, Sherrin and Hennessy, the Gothic Revival cathedral is a grand landmark in the Armidale townscape and, as the formal seat for the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale, the cathedral is a dominant building in the region.

A finely detailed and decorated building, the cathedral dates from the key period of the development of Armidale as a regional city and, with its 47m tall needle spire, was considered to be the finest Catholic cathedral in Australia upon its opening in 1912. In a commanding position overlooking Armidale's central park, the St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is a landmark in the district and the diocese.

The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral is complemented by a precinct of religious buildings, including the St Ursuline Convent, Ursuline Chapel, Bishops House, former St Ursula's College and Catholic Schools Administration Building. This precinct of religious buildings use the same construction materials and reflect the architectural nature (albeit simplified) as the cathedral building.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance for its social value to the community and congregation of Armidale and the wider Northern Tablelands district.

From its settlement in the 1830s, Armidale was regarded in the colony as a suitable centre for the provision of religious services to the expanding and wide-reaching population. Once built, the cathedral became the centre of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale (one of the first dioceses to be established outside of the colonial settlements of Sydney and Newcastle in 1869).

The construction of the cathedral in a mere 20 months, due entirely to the considerable public support and generosity of both Catholic and non-Catholic residents of the district, reflects the value this site has to its community.

The central position of the cathedral in the Armidale township, in conjunction with the adjacent Anglican Cathedral Church of St Peter Apostle and Martyr and St Pauls Presbyterian Church, forms a landmark religious precinct that has significance and value to the community.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Sited on a previously undeveloped portion of land, there is potential for further investigation of the cathedral site to reveal evidence of Aboriginal occupation of the Armidale region prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 1830s.

This potential for investigation would be relevant across the Armidale district.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Although the St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group may not be a rare example of its type in NSW, it is a prominent landmark building in the Armidale townscape and religious precinct.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group is of state heritage significance as a representative example of a grand and ornate Federation Gothic Revival regional cathedral and religious precinct. Positioned around the cathedral (that was considered to be the finest in Australia upon construction), the Catholic precinct reflects the religious requirements of the broad congregation and community it serves. The development of educational institutions is typical of religious organisations in the late 19th century.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977

ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2) TO GRANT SITE SPECIFIC EXEMPTIONS FROM APPROVAL

St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group
132 Dangar Street, Armidale

SHR No. 1925

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule "C" by the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Armidale described in Schedule "B" on the item described in Schedule "A".

The Hon Rob Stokes, MP
Minister for Heritage
Sydney, 3 Day of February 2015

SCHEDULE "A"

The item known as the St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group, situated on the land described in Schedule "B".

SCHEDULE "B"

All those pieces or parcels of land known as Lot 1 Section 7 Deposited Plan 758032, Lot 2 Section 7 DP 758032, Lot 3 Section 7 DP 758032, Lot 4 Section 7 DP 758032, Lot 5 Section 7 DP 758032, Lot 7 Section 7 DP 758032, Lot 16 Section 7 DP 758032 and Lot 15 DP 1048143 in Parish of Armidale, County of Sandon shown on the plan catalogued HC 2580 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

SCHEDULE "C"

1. All works and activities in accordance with current and valid development consent from Armidale Dumaresq Council at the date of gazettal for listing St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group on the State Heritage Register (including DA-77-2013; DA-77- 2013A; and S68-121-2014).

2. All works and activities in accordance with existing development application (DA-77-2013B) lodged with Armidale Dumaresq Council prior to the gazettal for listing St Mary and St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Group on the State Heritage Register.

3. Conversion of the former convent/school into the Bishop's residence and clergy quarters.

4. Conversion of the former educational and residential college of St Ursula's into the administrative centre for the Catholic Diocese of Armidale.

5. Conversion of the former Bishop's House (Bishop's residence and clergy quarters) into the Parish Centre.
Feb 13 2015

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0192513 Feb 15 12311
Local Environmental PlanArmidale Dumaresq Council 15 Feb 08 16 
National Trust of Australia register  64802 Mar 81   
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register  30 Dec 85   
Register of the National Estate 28821 Mar 78 AHC 

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Ss Mary and Joseph's Cathedral Parish, Armidale, NSW Australia View detail
WrittenArmidale Dumaresq Council2012SHR nomination form
ElectronicArmidale Independent Ursuline Convent Armidale (parts 1-4)
WrittenDon Hitchcock (et al)2002Walking with the saints: a gift from the people
WrittenLionel Gilbert1982The Armidale Album: Glimpses of Armidale’s History and Development in Word, Sketch and Photograph
ElectronicNew England Focus Armidale Catholic Cathedral View detail
WrittenRoy L Wright2003Through stained glass: A compendium of donor artefacts
WrittenTony Barker1980Armidale: A cathedral city of education and the arts
WrittenTW Campbell2001The cultural impact of nuns in New England and North Western New South Wales 1890 to 1940
WrittenTW Campbell The Cultural Impact of Nuns in New England and North Wester New South Wales 1890-1940

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5048583
File number: EF14/27081; S90/1424


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