08 July, 2022

Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals
Stages of development : 2

Figure 1 : Elevation of old S' Mary's Cathedral and other buildings 1843.

As part of our commemoration of the Bicentenary of the foundation of Saint Mary's Cathedral, we are pleased to present a short series of plans and elevations which depict the stages of construction on the Cathedral precinct from 1821 - 1928.

The elevation shewn above and the plan below illustrate the buildings which were completed by the end of 1843.  They are shewn in juxtaposition with an outline of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral. On the right is the Gothick structure of old Saint Mary's Cathedral and in the middle, the group of buildings in the colonial style which comprised the Benedictine Monastery and the residence of the Archbishop.  Shewn on the left is the small bell-tower of the Cathedral, completed in December 1843.

Figure 2 : Section of an early photograph 1858-59
 looking south-east from Hyde Park.

Image : The Sydney Museum.

In the last quarter of 1843, and in expectation of the imminent arrival from England of a peal of bells, a campanile was constructed at the northern end of the Church property.  It was a great distance away from Saint Mary's itself and was built further forward on the property, abutting College Street.  The campanile was unprepossessing in appearance, square in shape and built from timber and stone, with a timber shingle roof.  Its great claim to fame was that it was designed by the famed English architect of the Gothic Revival, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, under commission from Archbishop Polding.  Its second claim to fame is that housed the first peal of bells to be installed anywhere in Australia.

Figure 3 : Groundplan of old S' Mary's Cathedral
and other buildings 1843.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.


NOTES
The elevation of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral, included in this and future posts, has been used with the kind permission of the artist Simon Fieldhouse.

In the preparation of this plan and elevation, a large number of extant illustrations and ground-plans were used in order to depict the buildings in their correct position and to scale.  Although this has not guaranteed 100% accuracy, it is as accurate as we have been able to assess.  Some of the ground-plans present discrepancies respecting the position of buildings which have long-since ceased to exist.  One means of assessing correct locations is the surviving stone remnant wall of Old Saint Mary's, located on the far-side of the present Cathedral

The first Saint Mary's Cathedral, as completed by 1835, stood somewhat back from what was later to become College Street.  Its principal facade faced Hyde Park, but was slightly off the East-to-West axis.

The other buildings were set even farther back on the Church land, on ground which sloped downward, so that they were only partly visible looking across from Hyde Park. 

AMDG 

07 July, 2022

Historic images of Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals : 17

Image :   The Powerhouse Museum


We continue our series of historic photographs commemorating the bi-centenary of Saint Mary's Cathedral (1821-2021) with this grainy photograph taken in or shortly after 1889.

This rare photograph was taken from the Domain by a professional photographer and depicts the North end of the new Cathedral, with its flanking aisles.  The imposing Northern Gable was completed in 1885, but within a couple of years, further construction was commenced.  In this photograph, the walls of the clerestory of the chancel had been raised above that work completed in 1882.  The dramatic stone flying buttresses supporting the higher stages of the stonework were also being built at this time. But the process of pitching the timber roof had not yet begun.  Notably absent is the purple slate roof !

In our previous articles, we posted photographs illustrating the stages of the construction of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral, to be found at the following links :

1871              1882             1883             1886

1887              1890             1892             1895

1896               1901             1902            1905

1907               1910            1914

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

AMDG


NOTES

The photographs in this series are taken from a variety of sources, some in online Archival collections, some from books, some original images in the editor's collection.  They are presented here in a "modernised" digital form, and with as much detail of the structure of the Cathedrals enhanced in order to make them more accessible to a new generation of Australian Catholics.  The original image on which this digital rendering is based is held by the State Library of NSW.  Thanks are due to Special Collections of the State Library for undertaking a search to locate this and other rare images.  Please do not reproduce these unique images without permission. 

27 June, 2022

Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals
stages of development : 1

Figure 1 : Elevation of old S' Mary's Cathedral and other buildings 1835.

As part of our commemoration of the Bicentenary of the foundation of Saint Mary's Cathedral, we are pleased to present a short series of plans and elevations which depict the stages of construction on the Cathedral precinct from 1821 - 1928.

This elevation and plan illustrates the buildings which were completed by the time of the arrival of Sydney's first Catholic bishop in 1835.  They are shewn in juxtaposition with an outline of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral. On the right is the Gothick structure of old Saint Mary's Cathedral and on the left, the group of buildings in the colonial style which comprised Saint Joseph's Chapel, the residence of the clergy and the schoolhouse.

Work on Saint Mary's commenced shortly after the laying of its foundation stone by Father Therry and Governor Macquarie in October 1821.  The construction of the exterior of Saint Mary's was drawn-out over 13 years, until it finally received its roof in time for Christmas 1834.

The three-wing building which comprised the residence of the clergy, the schoolhouse and Saint Joseph's Chapel, was also constructed in stages, commencing in 1824. Indeed, work continued on it for fully twenty years before those buildings were demolished in late 1865 or early 1866.

Figure 2 : Groundplan of old S' Mary's Cathedral
and other buildings 1835.



Figure 3 : A water colour from the late 1830s or early 1840s depicting old Saint Mary's Cathedral
with the Cathedral buildings behind, to the left.

Image : State Library of NSW.


NOTES
The elevation of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral, included in this and future posts, has been used with the kind permission of the artist Simon Fieldhouse.

In the preparation of this plan and elevation, a large number of extant illustrations and ground-plans were used in order to depict the buildings in their correct position and to scale.  Although this has not guaranteed 100% accuracy, it is as accurate as we have been able to assess.  Some of the ground-plans present discrepancies respecting the position of buildings which have long-since ceased to exist.  One means of assessing correct locations is the surviving stone remnant wall of Old Saint Mary's, located on the far-side of the present Cathedral

The first Saint Mary's Cathedral, as completed by 1835, stood somewhat back from what was later to become College Street.  Its principal facade faced Hyde Park, but was slightly off the East-to-West axis.

The other buildings were set even farther back on the Church land, on ground which sloped downward, so that they were only partly visible looking across from Hyde Park. 

AMDG 

24 June, 2022

The Founding of Old Saint Mary's : 2

In previous articles on this blog, we have been tracing the story of the foundation of the first Saint Mary's Cathedral, two centuries ago.  We began by recounting the events of the day on which the Foundation Stone was laid.  

Then we re-traced our steps to study the meetings and planning of the Colony's Catholics to establish that first church.  

In this post, we will look at how Saint Mary's Cathedral came to be built where it is, one of the finest sites in Sydney city.

This well-known tinted drawing depicts old Saint Mary's Cathedral and its related buildings in 1842.
The artist, John Rae, positioned himself in Elizabeth Street,
facing eastward across a tree-less Hyde Park. 

Image : State Library of NSW 


THE LAND ON WHICH SAINT MARY'S STANDS

The frequently-told account of how the Catholic Church came to have the land beside Hyde Park for the purposes of building a chapel seems first to have been given by Father John McEncroe at a public meeting of Sydney-siders on 6th July 1865.  Father McEncroe was quoted as saying :

The late W [illiam] Davis asked Father Therry, many years ago, why he did not erect a church in the western portion of Sydney, and Father Therry told him he could not get any land to build a church upon in that part of town, because a person in the Survey Office, a Catholic well known as Jemmy Mein, opposed it. When Father Therry applied to him for a piece of land to build a church in the western part of the city, Jemmy Mein told him that that if he built a church there he would have all the poor in the city paraded before the Governor as he was going to church at St. Phillip's, and that he had better go and look for a piece near the prison barracks at Hyde Park.  EN 1

Father McEncroe's account of how the land was acquired brought forth much laughter from the large crowd attending that meeting, but the facts of the matter were not as straightforward as he described them.  In this post we will try to separate facts from legend.

JEMMY MEIN

Based on Father McEncroe's account, given above, Jemmy Mein seems to be the villain of the piece, so to speak; it is claimed that he thwarted the aspirations of the Father Therry to have the Catholic Chapel built in the fashionable part of the town.  There is, however, much evidence of the process which does not support Father McEncroe's claim.

Who was " Jemmy Mein " ?  His name was, properly,  JAMES MEEHAN, but perhaps we are given a clue as to how his name was pronounced by the way it is written in that account :  Mean or Me-in.  In a previous article, we met James Meehan, because he was among the members of that committee which was selected by a meeting in July 1820 to bring about the construction of a Catholic Chapel in Sydney.

The Catholic members of the newly-formed Catholic Chapel Committee were all former convicts.  In their different ways, and to a greater or lesser degree, they had been part of the patriotic uprising on the West Coast of Ireland in 1798 aimed at overthrowing British Rule in Ireland.   James Meehan, William Davis and Michael Hayes all arrived in Sydney in February 1800 aboard the convict transport ship the Friendship ; Edward Redmond and Martin Short arrived at much the same time on the vessel the Minerva, whilst James Dempsey arrived in the colony in 1802.  EN 2  These men had been accused of insurrectionary crimes for which they were not properly tried and, in most instances, of which they were innocent. 

After a period of years, each of these men received a conditional pardon by the Colonial Government.  All of them attained a favourable position in the Colony by reason of their becoming successful businessmen or farmers, so that by 1820, two decades after their transportation from Ireland, they had become "the respectable Catholics of the Settlement".  

A statue of James Meehan positioned in one of
the niches of the NSW Lands Department building 
 in Bridge Street, Sydney.
The statue was commissioned for the building
to commemorate Meehan's important role
as a surveyor and explorer in early Australia
and put in place in 2009.
 
Image : Alamy
James Meehan - to resume our present focus - following his arrival in the Colony as a convict in early 1800, was assigned as a servant to Charles Grimes, who at that time acted in the position of Surveyor-General.  It quickly became obvious that James Meehan was competent, meticulous, honest and hard-working.  Over the twenty years of his working life in New South Wales, he was almost continuously on expeditions to survey land grants all around Greater Sydney and even the exploration of territories into which Europeans had not travelled.  Some years later he declared that "I have measured every farm that has been measured" since August 1803.  EN 3

Apart from fixing the boundaries of land grants James Meehan made several contributions to the mapping of the colony, most notably a map of Sydney drawn in 1807, and he surveyed the townships of Richmond, Castlereagh, Windsor, Pitt Town, Wilberforce, Liverpool and Bathurst in New South Wales, as well as Hobart in Tasmania.

We might add here, that at the time, James Meehan was probably the most prominent and well-respected Catholic in the Colony.  He was one of that small group of former convicts who played an important part in the affairs of the colony during Lachlan Macquarie's governorship.  Of James Meehan, the Governor wrote in 1812 :
Mr. Meehan is eminently well qualified for this Situation being a Most excellent Land Surveyor, active, diligent and Correct in his Surveys, perfectly well acquainted from long Residence and Constant practice in his Profession of every part of the Colony, and is besides a Man of strict Honor [sic] and Integrity. I have derived a great deal of Very Useful local knowledge from this Gentleman since my first Arrival in this Colony, and I have always found his Information perfectly Correct and his Conduct altogether that of an honest, upright, Well principled Man.  EN 4

Almost ten years later, the Governor's opinion of James Meehan was even more favourable :

I have … had an opportunity of witnessing his indefatigable assiduity in the fulfilment of his arduous duties. I believe that no man has suffered so much privation and fatigue in the service of this Colony as Mr Meehan has done … His integrity has never, to my knowledge, been impeached; and I certainly consider him to be, both on account of his professional skill, and the faithfull [sic] and laborious discharge of his duty, a valuable man.  EN 5

It would seem that James Meehan was not limited by a list of duties that might be found in a positions vacant column: he advised and guided the Government of the Colony and it accepted his advice. This was used to advantage by him with respect to those Irish convicts who had been part of the 1798 rebellion.

From 1809, a considerable number of the 1798 men had received either full or conditional pardons from the Crown and had acquired land either by government grant or purchase. This land formed a concentration to the south-west of Sydney, around and beyond Liverpool.  It was not a coincidence;  the whole operation of opening up and settling these areas was arranged by James Meehan himself, who evidently considered that the district possessed distinct advantages for himself and his fellow Irishmen.  The role played by James Meehan in creating the pattern of Irish Catholic settlement in the colony from about 1810 to 1821 was decisive.  Having arranged for his own grant of land at Macquarie Fields (now Ingleburn) Meehan seems to have persuaded those compatriots to settle in that district of the colony.  EN 6

Consequently, the Catholics to whom Father Therry came to minister in 1820 were far from being entirely an impoverished serfdom. These 1798 men soon achieved a middle-class prosperity.  Some of them were the members of the Catholic Chapel Committee.  EN 7

APPLYING FOR A GRANT OF LAND

A facsimile of the July 1820 petition to Governor Macquarie
from members of the Catholic Chapel Committee
requesting a grant of land for building a chapel
near Charlotte Place in the Rocks.
Image : State Archives of NSW
Two members of the Catholic Chapel Committee were officials of the Colony's Government, namely James Meehan and John Thomas Campbell, a non-Catholic and secretary to Governor Macquarie.  Because of this, we may assume that there was some type of "behind the scenes" discussion with the Governor about the granting of a plot of land for the Chapel and about its location.  It seems that within days of the formation of the Committee, the Governor intimated certain areas where he would be disposed to make a grant.  Just 10 days after being elected, the Committee prepared a letter on the subject.  The letter, a formal application for a grant of land, was written by Father Therry and signed by most members of the Committee, namely :  William Davis, Patrick Moore, Martin Short, Edward Redmond, Michael Hayes and James Dempsey.  It was addressed to John Thomas Campbell in his role as secretary to the Governor. EN 8

Sydney 10th July 1820

Sir,

We, the undersigned members of a committee appointed at a meeting of the Roman Catholicks of this Colony, to select a site for and to conduct the concerns of the intended Catholic Chapel, are decidedly of opinion that the Government ground, situated between Saint Philip's Church, Charlotte Place and the Military Barracks is, in every respect, the most eligible of all the plots of ground from which His Excellency the Governor, has had the goodness to offer a selection for that purpose.  And we therefore, Sir, most humbly and earnestly request that you will, as soon as his convenience and yours will allow, lay this our opinion before His Excellency, and pray him in our behalf, and in that of the Roman Catholic inhabitants of this colony, to give a confirmation of the grant of ground adverted to above and you will oblige, Sir, Your obedient servants.   EN  9

There was no reply to the Committee's letter for a full five weeks and in the meantime, for reasons not entirely clear, the Governor decided against granting land near Charlotte Place.  He would leave the matter of where the land grant would be to the Deputy Surveyor General, James Meehan :

The Governor is sorry he cannot allow the Roman Catholic Chapel to be built on the Site herein solicited in Charlotte Place, the ground in question being reserved for Govt. Public Buildings.  L. M.
N.B.
The Deputy Surveyor General has received the Governor's orders to point out some other eligible Place in the Town of Sydney for the Catholic Chapel to be built on.

Parramatta L. M.
19th August 1820
  EN 10

Did James Meehan advise the Governor against a grant of land for the Chapel in what was then the hub of Sydney town?  The speech given by Father McEncroe in 1865 recounting his discussion with another Committee member, William Davis suggests so.  It would seem more likely that the Governor sought alternative advice on where the Catholic Chapel should be built (or not built), not just the views of members of the Chapel Committee (including James Meehan).

An engraving of the old Church of Saint Philip, which had been 
built in 1810 and was almost directly opposite Saint Patrick's Church Hill.
The old church was replaced by a modern exercise in the Gothic style
constructed between 1848 and 1856 in another location nearby in York Street. 

Image : State Library of NSW

The Governor's decision does not seem to be well received by the Committee members and it is presumed that a great deal of further discussion took place as to where the chapel should be situated.  Such discussion dragged on for months.  An indicator of the lack of consensus amongst the Committee was the following advertisement which appeared in The Sydney Gazette in April 1821.

This startling notice was placed by another member of the Chapel Committee and greatly respected Colonial Catholic, William Davis.  But he does not seem to be writing on behalf of the Committee, but in his own name.  There is something else surprising about it : Davis makes clear that he is willing to purchase a suitable plot of land.  So what about Governor Macquarie's promise of a grant of land the previous August?  Some light is thrown on the matter by the following comments of John Thomas Bigge, who was resident in New South Wales at the time, conducting a commission of enquiry into the affairs of the Colony on behalf of the British Government :

A subscription was commenced by the Catholics of New South Wales, prior to my departure, to build a chapel at Sydney, and Governor Macquarie had promised to give them an allotment of ground for the purpose. I observed that although some difference of opinion arose among the Catholics themselves respecting the situation of the allotment and the preference that had been given to the town of Sydney, yet a very liberal disposition was manifested by them to defray the expense of the work, and it also met a still more liberal encouragement from the higher classes of the Protestants.   EN 11

The account of the speech given at the beginning of this article, together with the advertisement of April 1821 in The Sydney Gazette and the comments of Mr Commissioner Bigge, when considered together, indicate that William Davis was the dissenting party in discussions over the location of the land for the Catholic Chapel.  

As a man who had been a faithful Catholic since his arrival in the Colony as a political prisoner twenty years before, William Davis had been an unofficial leader of the Catholic Community in those dark years when there were no priests to provide the Sacraments.  His home in Charlotte Place had been a centre of private Catholic devotion in Sydney.  It is not surprising that he took the view that the more centrally-located Charlotte Place was the most appropriate place for the Catholic Chapel to be built.  It had the added advantage of being immediately adjacent to his residence!  It was not, of course, built there in 1821, but only twenty years passed before a second Catholic chapel for Sydney was needed and it was built in Charlotte Place.  It still stands today : Saint Patrick's Church Hill.  EN 12



The above is a section of a plan of Sydney originally published  in August 1822 and drawn by John Septimus Roe. The plan is held by the State Library of NSW. It is included to illustrate the area which the petitioners favoured as the site for the Catholic Chapel.  An irregular shape shaded in yellow denotes that land which was vacant and eligible for the Governor's grant.  Immediately beside this area and outlined in purple is the Anglican church of Saint Philip.  This is not the present Anglican church, but its predecessor.  South of this (on the left of the map) is depicted the large mass of the Military Barracks, now the site of Wynyard.  The petitioners were seeking a small grant of land, similar in size to the other allotments marked around on the plan.  Several such allotments would have fitted into the area shaded in yellow.

Image : State Library of NSW 


MAKING THE SELECTION OF LAND

At some point between August 1820 and November 1821,  James Meehan selected a plot of land for the location of the Catholic Chapel at the North-east corner of what is now Hyde Park and measured it out himself.  Having persuaded members of the Chapel Committee of the merits of the location, he obtained Governor Macquarie's approval for the selection.  It most likely, however, that the Governor already had had some say in where that grant would be.  Let us give James Meehan the benefit of the doubt that he selected a site which would be advantageous to the Catholic community and give the possibility of expansion.  Let us also be clear, however, that in 1821, the selected land was not the most prestigious area of Sydney town. 


A coloured sketch by Thomas Lewis depicting a cricket match taking place in Hyde Park,
ringed-around by spectators. On the left of this drawing is Elizabeth Street and on the right
Macquarie Street (which in the 1840s passed through Hyde Park).
The spired church in the background is Saint James', King Street. 

Image : State Library of NSW

HYDE PARK

The sylvan common now known as Hyde Park was unreclaimed scrub at the time of European settlement in 1788.  It is said that it was an important place for local indigenous to hold tribal contests.   EN 13  Set aside as early 1792 as a form of common on the outskirts of the town, it became an area for grazing livestock and by degrees its native vegetation was stripped away.  Governor Macquarie recognised it as a public space with a proclamation in 1810, naming it Hyde Park.   By that name, he signalled his aspirations for the transformation of an area of land which was commodious, but somewhat barren.  It was also the beginning of his attempt to regularise the plan of the town of Sydney. As early as 1803, the area was associated with sporting activities, including cricket, boxing and horse racing, as well as popular games for families.   The Governor was anxious to secure the land for public recreation, and exclude commercial activity.  Yet he made no attempt to plant the trees which are now the predominant feature of this park.

A coloured sketch of 1842 by John Rae depicting the southern corner of Hyde Park.
The track running from the lower right corner leads to William Street in the upper left corner.
The grazing of livestock in the Park seems to have been a common thing over many decades. 

Image : State Library of NSW

From 1817, a number of important new buildings began to take shape skirting around the northern end of Hyde Park, and all designed by Governor Macquarie's favoured architect, Francis Greenway. First  constructed was the barracks for convicts (now known simply as The Hyde Park Barracks), then Saint James' Anglican Church and the Law Courts.  Two hundred years later, the excellence of these buildings is undisputed. 

A hand-coloured lithograph by J G Austin & Co depicting the northern limit of Hyde Park.
On the left is the fine classical porch of Saint James' church and, dominating the drawing,
the Hyde Park Barracks with its surrounding stone wall. 
Both these buildings were designed by the colonial architect Francis Greenway. 

Image : State Library of NSW

Although the Governor regarded these buildings from the point of view of their utility for the needs of the Colony, in the aspirations of the architect, Francis Greenway, they were part of a plan for a vast city square extending eastward from what is now the Sydney Town Hall. Some years later, Francis Greenway wrote a letter to newspaper The Australian outlining his concept that Hyde Park would be "given to the inhabitants of Sydney for ever, and to be laid down in the most elegant style of landscape gardening".  It would be planted out "in the modern way of landscape gardening, as many of the squares are now in London, the garden enclosed with an elegant rail fence".  EN 14

When seen in the light of Greenway's Grand Design, the selection of a plot of land on the eastern side of this proposed civic area does not seem at all like the caricature that Catholics were fobbed-off with a useless parcel of land in an undesirable area.  This point was also made by the editor of The Sydney Gazette in his article about the laying of the foundation stone of Saint Mary's Chapel : 

The site chosen for the erection of this edifice, which is intended to be spacious as well as handsome, lies to the east of Hyde Park, the front of the chapel facing the town. The spot in every way appears extremely eligible, and there can hardly be a doubt entertained but that the structure, when completed, will join with the other superb buildings in that attractive end of the town, in affording additional and consistent beauty to the rapidly-improving Australian capital.  EN 15

 


The above is a section of a plan of Sydney originally published  in August 1822 and drawn by John Septimus Roe. The plan is held by the State Library of NSW.   It is included to illustrate the site granted for building the Catholic Chapel. This is shewn by the rose-coloured square.  When the map was drawn-up, work on the chapel had commenced, but was limited to foundation works. It might be observed that at the time the map was drawn-up, the land stretching eastward from Elizabeth Street was almost entirely devoid of any structures.  At this time, also, College Street, which now separates the Cathedral from Hyde Park, did not exist.  Macquarie Street is shewn to be closed at the Northern end of the Park.  Sometime after this plan was drawn, Macquarie Street was re-opened to intersect with William Street (indicated by the no. 43).  By the 1850s, Macquarie Street was closed again, re-establishing the boundaries and integrity of the park.


THE GRANT OF LAND

An plot of land which was more or less square, and almost one hectare, was measured out by the Deputy Surveyor-General, James Meehan, perhaps with a little assistance :  

Rumour whispered, with every appearance of truth, that when the land was roughly measured, Pat Moore turned to Jimmy and said: “Arrah, Jemmy, don’t be Meehan by name and mean by nature over a bit of land; sure an extra yard or two’ll make no difference.”  EN 16

A sizeable tract of land it was, but it was also rocky and had a decided slope downward from the level plain of Hyde Park.  For the purposes of building, this would pose some significant problems. The grant was partly unreclaimed bush, and close to tracks which lead to Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and beyond to South Head. 


Another coloured sketch of 1842 by John Rae depicting
Macquarie Street intersecting Hyde Park, looking north from William Street.
In the next decade Macquarie Street would be closed off at the northern end of the Park.
The building in the middle is old Saint Mary's,
with its bell-tower on the left and what is now known as the "Chapter House" on its right.
The buildings on the right-hand side are the Grammar School and Museum. 

Image : State Library of NSW

SOME FINAL POINTS

The original land granted to Father Therry and the Catholic community of Sydney in 1821 is the same land on which the present Saint Mary's Cathedral is built.  Although not looked upon with enthusiasm at the time, in only a couple of decades it was realised that the site of Saint Mary's was both very suitable for its purpose and admirable in its position.

The anecdote of Father McEncroe about the selection of the site, which was quoted at the beginning of the article, is rather unfair in its apportioning negative responsibility to James Meehan.   Governor Macquarie, having rejected the petition for a grant of land in Charlotte Place, gave to James Meehan the authority to select another plot of land for the Catholic chapel and arrange for its ownership as a grant, not a purchase.  Meehan did so; and Catholics in Sydney and Australia have benefitted enormously from his wise judgement and foresight.

Over the twenty years since 1800, James Meehan would have seen the tremendous growth in the settlement of Europeans.  It is reasonable to assume that he understood that the Catholic community would require more land than the immediate need for a rather small chapel.  The point needs to be emphasised that had the Catholic community been given a plot of land in the more densely settled area of Sydney town, it would have been very much smaller in size and with little capacity to accommodate the expansion of the Catholic community.

James Meehan certainly was not the petty, anti-Catholic bureaucrat which Father McEncroe's account of the story suggests.  James Meehan was not an obstacle to Father Therry, but he was a faithful servant of the Crown and thoroughly trusted by the Governor of the Colony at that time.  He was a hard-working, skilful, effective and upright man and he was also a very generous donor to the fund to build the Catholic Chapel.

What then of Father McEncroe's story?  Someone was responsible for the decision not to allow Sydney Catholics to build a chapel in the fashionable area of the Rocks, but it is much more likely that it was Governor Macquarie himself who made that decision, not James Meehan.  It would also seem likely - although no evidence has emerged to support such a theory - that the Governor received the unfavourable opinions of prominent men of the Colony about the proposal to locate a Catholic Chapel right next to the Anglican church of Saint Philip, which at that time was the sole Anglican church in Sydney town.  Perhaps it was his Secretary, John Thomas Campbell who suggested that the site would be better used for Governmental purposes.

In our next article in this series, we will discuss the collaboration of the architect Francis Greenway with the Catholic Community to build Sydney's first Catholic Chapel.

 AMDG 

A coloured sketch of 1835 by Robert Russell depicting the Catholic buildings recently completed.
In the centre is the eastern (back) end of Saint Mary's whilst farther right is the three-winged building
which comprised the residence of the clergy, Saint Joseph's chapel and the schoolhouse.
The track in the foreground led to Woolloomoolo and would later be known as Saint Mary's Road.
This sketch shews clearly the sloping ground on which the buildings were constructed. 

Image : State Library of NSW

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ENDNOTES

EN 1  "Saint Mary's Cathedral Sydney A memoir of its destruction by fire", Sydney 1865, as quoted in Saint Mary's Cathedral 1821 - 1971.  This was a report of a public meeting held in Sydney on 6th July, 1865, in response to the tragic destruction by fire of old Saint Mary's Cathedral a week previously.

EN 2   James Meehan and Patrick Moore had been transported to the Colony for political offences in Ireland before the 1798 Uprising.  Arriving in the Colony with these Men of '98 were "The Convict Priests" : Father James Dixon; Father James Harold and Father Peter Dixon.

EN 3   Testimony of James Meehan to the Commissioner of Enquiry, 1820  The Commissioner  was John Thomas Bigge, who was appointed by the British Colonial Office to investigate the Colony and the administration of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.  His unhappy time in the Colony was from 1819-1821.  Further reading : https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bigge-john-thomas-1779

EN 4    An extract from Governor Lachlan Macquarie's testimonial for the appointment of James Meehan as Deputy Surveyor General (Despatch to the Earl of Liverpool, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 17th November 1812), as cited in  James Meehan : A Most Excellent Surveyor, by Tony Dawson.

EN 5  Part of a letter from Governor Macquarie to Viscount Sidmouth, 1821  as quoted in TM Perry's article on James Meehan in The Australian Dictionary of Biography   https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/meehan-james-2443 

EN 6   A fuller assessment of James Meehan's role in the distribution of grants is given by the historians James Waldersee, Patrick O'Farrell and Bernard O'Dowd.

EN 7   There were three members of the Catholic Chapel Committee who did not sign the petition to the Governor.  Two are entirely explicable, since they held responsibilities both in Government and on the Committee, namely James Meehan and John Thomas Campbell.  The third absent name is much less explicable : the senior Catholic Chaplain, Father Philip Connolly. 

EN 8    Further reading on John Thomas Campbell : https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/campbell-john-thomas-1873

EN 9    The petition, dated 10th July 1820 and with Governor Macquarie's reply written across it, is preserved in the State Archives of NSW. 

EN 10   The Governor ( L.M.) wrote upon the petition a brief memorandum, intended to be officially communicated to the Chapel Committee by Mr Campbell.  He wrote it from his residence in Parramatta.

EN 11   Part of a letter by Mr Commissioner Bigge as cited in the articleOld Saint Mary's, by J.P. McGuanne.

EN 12   The land on which Saint Patrick's Church was built from 1840, was donated to the church by William Davis and part of the land of his Charlotte Place residence.

EN 13   An informative article on the history of Hyde Park may be found at Wikipedia :  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyde_Park,_Sydney#cite_note-nswshr-1871-1

EN 14   Part of a letter to the editor of The Australian of 28th April 1825. Greenway published a series of letters to this newspaper, defending his work and outlining his plans for the future of Sydney town. His plans for a Sydney square had been fully developed during the period of his collaboration with Governor Macquarie.

EN 15  The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser  Saturday 3rd November 1821.  Some historians have commented on the Gazette's assessment of the land grant almost mockingly.  But perhaps it might be accepted at face value.

EN 16   McGuanne, John Percy, Old Saint Mary's, Sydney, 1915.  Mr McGuanne's paper was originally a lecture given in Sydney in 1913.  Pat [rick] Moore, a long-standing friend of James Meehan, was also a member of the Chapel Committee.  Both were Men of '98. It seems that the precise measurements of the grant were not documented until as late as 1834, after a protracted dispute, which is a story in itself.  The grant was finally settled at being 2 acres, one rood and five perches (being in metric measure, 0.92 hectares).  This was almost four times the area that would have been available for a grant in Charlotte Place.

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REFERENCE WORKS

Dawson, Tony James Meehan : A Most Excellent Surveyor, Crossing Press, Sydney, 2004.

Ellis, M. H. , Francis Greenway, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1949.

Grocott, Alan M., Convicts, Clergymen and Churches, Sydney University Press, 1980.

Harden, Rev'd R.W., "Old Saint Mary's 1821-1865", Saint Mary's Cathedral 1821-1871,  Devonshire Press, 1971.

Keely, Sister Vivienne Michael Hayes : The Life of a Wexford Rebel in Sydney, Anchor Press, Melbourne, 2019.

McGuanne, John Percy, Old Saint Mary's, Sydney, 1915.  Digital copy of the booklet held by the State Library of NSW.

O'Brien, Rev'd Eris M.,  The Life and Letters of Archpriest John Joseph Therry, Agnus & Robertson, Sydney, 1922.

O'Farrell, Patrick,  The Catholic Church and Community in Australia : A History, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1977.

The Sydney Gazette, accessed through Trove.

Waldersee, James "Father Therry and the Financing of Old Saint Mary's", Saint Mary's Cathedral 1821-1871 Devonshire Press, 1971.

Waldersee, James Catholic Society in New South Wales 1788-1860, Sydney University Press, 1974

14 May, 2022

Historic Images of Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals : 16

Saint Mary's Cathedral Sydney
Image : State Library of NSW

We continue our series of historic photographs commemorating the bi-centenary of Saint Mary's Cathedral (1821-2021) with this wonderfully clear photograph, recently discovered in the collections of the State Library of NSW.

This is one of two photographs taken from Hyde Park in 1883 by a professional photographer.  It shews the completed first stage of the Cathedral, which was carried out between 1868 and 1882, being commenced by Archbishop Polding and completed by his successor, Archbishop Vaughan.

The photograph depicts the chancel of the new Cathedral, with its flanking aisles and the transept on the right.  The walls were built in this first stage no higher than the aisles. Peaking out above the aisles can be seen the nave, with a temporary roof of galvanised iron enclosing the building.  The timber structure resting on top of the nave and transept roofs is a builder's scaffold, which was put in place in order that further work on heightening the walls could be carried out when funds were available.  This took place after 1885.

The temporary galvanised iron roofing can also be seen over the Northern and Western masonry gables and over the aisle.

At the time this photograph was taken, only a few of the Cathedral magnificent English stained glass windows were in place, one being seen on the North end of the aisle (left of the structure).  This was the window dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, adjacent to the altar of Saint Joseph.  The remainder of the glazing was clear glass in diamond panes. 

In our previous articles, we posted photographs illustrating the stages of the construction of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral, to be found at the following links :

1871              1882             1883             1886

1887              1890             1892             1895

1896               1901             1902            1905

1907               1910            1914

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

AMDG


NOTES

The photographs in this series are taken from a variety of sources, some in online Archival collections, some from books, some original images in the editor's collection.  They are presented here in a "modernised" digital form, and with as much detail of the structure of the Cathedrals enhanced in order to make them more accessible to a new generation of Australian Catholics.  The original image on which this digital rendering is based is held by the State Library of NSW.  Thanks are due to Special Collections of the State Library for undertaking a search to locate this and other rare images.  Please do not reproduce these unique images without permission. 

12 April, 2022

Historic Images of Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals : 15

The Guild of Archbishop Polding

We continue our series of historic photographs commemorating the bi-centenary of Saint Mary's Cathedral (1821-2021).

In our previous articles, we posted photographs illustrating the stages of the construction of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral :

1871              1882             1883             1886

1887              1890             1892             1895

1896               1901             1902            1905

1910              1914

The image posted above was originally issued as a postcard around 1907.  

When the Cathedral was commenced 1867-68, a definite footprint of the building was laid-out, extending from Prince Albert Road southward to where the remnant of Old Saint Mary's remained.  Step by step, the cathedral was constructed until in 1900 it was raised to its completed state on the 1868 footprint.  

In the second half of the 1890s, work continued at the Crossing (that point where the nave, chancel and transepts intersect).  The transepts were raised to their full height, complete with their clerestories and massive buttressing and finally the construction of the Central tower over the crossing.  

The photograph shews the Cathedral looking from Prince Albert Road towards Hyde Park.  The remnant of the old Cathedral can be glimpsed behind the trees on the right side of the photograph.  In the foreground is the bronze statue of H.R.H. Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria,  which was erected by public subscription in 1866 following his untimely death.  The statue and its based were re-sited in 1922 and again in 1987 to its present position.  

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

AMDG


NOTES

The photographs in this series are taken from a variety of sources, some in online Archival collections, some from books, some original images in the editor's collection.  They are presented here in a "modernised" digital form, and with as much detail of the structure of the Cathedrals enhanced in order to make them more accessible to a new generation of Australian Catholics.  The original image on which this digital rendering is based is held in a private collection.  Please do not reproduce these unique images without permission. 

12 March, 2022

Historic Images of Sydney's Catholic Cathedrals : 14

Saint Mary's Cathedral


We continue our series of historic photographs commemorating the bi-centenary of Saint Mary's Cathedral (1821-2021).

In our previous articles, we posted photographs illustrating the stages of the construction of the present Saint Mary's Cathedral :

1871              1882             1883             1886

1887              1890             1892             1895

1896               1901             1902            1905

1910

When the Cathedral was commenced 1867-68, a definite footprint of the building was laid-out, extending from Prince Albert Road southward to where the remnant of Old Saint Mary's remained.  Step by step, the cathedral was constructed until in 1900 it was raised to its completed state on the 1868 footprint.  

The photograph was taken circa 1914 looking across from Hyde Park and it shews the remnant of Old Saint Mary's adjacent to the present Cathedral.  From the angle of this photograph, it is possible to see the blank stone wall to the right of the Crossing Tower, which marked the limit of construction reached some years before.

The photograph appears to shew the small tower of the old Cathedral without its roof covering, the timber structure of the roof is visible.  After this time, the beautiful old stone remnant of Old Saint Mary's was demolished to make way for the continuation of construction of the present building.

The stone walls of old Saint Mary's were taken down with great care and stored in another area of the Cathedral precinct.  It was announced that the stonework would be reconstructed to form the facade of a new Cathedral Hall.  But for reasons that are not clear, that hall was not constructed and those hallowed stones were subsequently dispersed : a terrible outcome.  Research has not yet revealed what happened to them.

The 1914 photograph above may be compared with the previously-published image circa 1882, shewing the Cathedral in a less complete state.

In diebus illis

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

AMDG

NOTES

The photographs in this series are taken from a variety of sources, some in online Archival collections, some from books, some original images in the editor's collection.  They are presented here in a "modernised" digital form, and with as much detail of the structure of the Cathedrals enhanced in order to make them more accessible to a new generation of Australian Catholics.  The original images on which the digital renderings are based are held in the Special Collections of the State Library of NSW.  Please do not reproduce these unique images without permission.