The Parish of
487 Princes Highway, Port Fairy
St Joseph’s, Warrnambool
9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday
|Secretary: Louise Dryburgh
Phone: 03 5562 2231
487 Princes Highway, Port Fairy
Please note that our church will be locked from Friday 16th July to Tuesday 27th July.
There are no public Masses during this period.
Latest Parish Bulletin - 23 Jul 2021Read More View Archives
Port Fairy’s Catholic church, dedicated to St Patrick, was built to replace the school Chapel in William Street. Even in 1846 it was realized that a church was needed and by June 1847, £317 had been collected for the proposed building.
In 1844, James Atkinson donated two acres in William Street and £100 towards building the first church. He gave it “as a landlord desirous of encouraging his tenantry,” the great majority of his tenants being Irish Catholic.
In March 1849, Port Fairy – then known as Belfast – welcomed its first resident priest, Fr Thomas Slattery. He was succeeded by Father Shinnickin 1853 who collected another £1000 towards the new church.
Early in 1857 Atkinson gave another 1.5 acres, at the present site. In this year Fr Shinnick, along with his three lay trustees prepared for building. The design was prepared by Nathaniel Billings from plans from the English architect Hansom, secured by Dr James Alipius Goold, Bishop of Melbourne. It was to be built of bluestone with Hobart and Merri freestone feature decorations. The pan included the typical Hansom octagonal belfry. The building would be dedicated to St Patrick, the name chosen by Fr Geohegan, the Victorian colony’s pioneer priest, when he inaugurated the building fund on his visit in 1847. Bishop Goold, returning from Portland to Melbourne, laid the first stone on 23 July 1857.
In the Warrnambool Standard of 23 April 1857, an advertisement invited tenders for the erection of the Belfast Catholic church, but work was delayed until late 1858 because unfortunate of strife at the time. The Banner of Belfast, dated 30 September 1857, states “Father McCarthy has already let the contract for the foundations amounting to £600 and is now to sign a second contract for £1599 for the wall masonry towards which the government has granted another £400.”
A third contract of £730 was signed in May 1859. The foundation contractor is unknown but the Warrnambool Examiner of 12 February 12 1859 states “that having completed the contract for the wall masonry at the new Belfast Catholic Church, the contractor, Mr Isaac’s full claim of £1640 has been paid by the Reverends Messrs Maloney and McCarthy.”
On 21 May 1859, the roofing contract of £730 was let to Messrs McKenzie and Cowan of Belfast. A tender called on June 25, 1860 for glazing the floors was not proceeded with and on August 25 the tender of Young’s of Melbourne was accepted for the completing of the church. Flooring, plastering and doors came to £260, the windows to £75.
As the sanctuary had not yet been build, the altar stood before a temporary wall which filled the chancel arch. Over the altar hung a panting purchased and presented by Bishop Goold. This painting is believed to now hang in the Ballarat Convent of Nazareth House.
The blessing of the church was performed on 17 January 1861. The Pontifical High Mass was followed by the Blessing and Benediction. The sermon “The grain of Mustard Seed” was preached by Dr Shiell of Ballarat. Present were Parish Priest Fr Dean Slattery, Fr Edward McCarthy, Fr Eugene McCarthy, Fr Michael Farrely, Fr John O’Connell, Fr J.J. Madden, Fr Henry England and Fr William Finn. Six hundred people overflowed the church and a fine choir under Herr Gollin rendered Mozart’s Twelfth Mass. A record of the occasion reports, “The church to date has cost £3500 and the collection of £200 on the day reduced the debt to £500.”
A further government grant of £300 was expected so it was decided to proceed with the building of the chancel, but because of other commitments this was delayed. A severe storm in 1863 shook the west gable making the temporary chancel filling dangerous. After the fierce winter of 1864, when the north wall split at the return to the west gable, it was decided to proceed immediately with the erection of the chancel. This was completed before the end of 1867, to the design of J.B. Denny a former student of William Wardell, the renowned architect of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Whilst in Belfast, Denny was commissioned by Fr Parle to design a church for Koroit, which then constituted part of the Mission of Port Fairy. As Denny was a keen admirer of Wardell, having studied and worked under him, Wardell features can be detected the sanctuaries and sacristies of St Patrick’s, Port Fairy, and Infant Jesus Church, Koroit.
An old account book contains an entry by Fr Linehan: “Total cost of St Patrick’s Church to March 1864, £3345,” and another entry by Fr Parle, “Laid out on the church by James Parle (during his tenure) to December 1867, £1175, 12 shillings and 9 pence. £400 of that sum had been contributed by the Victorian Government, giving rise to the depictions of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the windows at either end of the church.
Stained glass windows depicting the Ascension, Annunciation and Descent of the Holy Ghost were added in 1868. These windows are those above the four chancel panels, added to in 1920. There is no foundation stone but it is thought that a cavity under the chancel steps contains pertinent papers and mementos of the occasion.
REV JOHN FITZGERALDFr John is co-pastor of the four parishes which constitute the Warrnambool Ministry District: St St Joseph’s Parish in Warrnambool, St Pius X Parish in West Warrnambool, Infant Jesus Parish in Koroit and St Patrick’s Parish in Port Fairy. He is resident at St Joseph’s in Warrnambool.
REV JOHN CORRIGANFr John is co-pastor of the four parishes which constitute the Warrnambool Ministry District: St St Joseph’s Parish in Warrnambool, St Pius X Parish in West Warrnambool, Infant Jesus Parish in Koroit and St Patrick’s Parish in Port Fairy. He is resident at St Pius X in West Warrnambool.
Mrs Louise Dryburgh