This extensive precinct in Mary Street was originally established in the late 1850s as the central site for the Catholic Church in Ipswich. The first presbytery, which was a timber cottage, was built in 1860 but had dramatically deteriorated by the early 1870s. As a consequence, the congregation in partnership with the then parish priest, Father Horan, went about constructing a more substantial building.
This replacement presbytery was built in 1876 to the design of the Italian architect Andrea Stombuco who had moved to Brisbane in 1875 and who was to undertake a wide range of architectural projects throughout the area. This presbytery building is the oldest building in the St. Mary’s precinct, is neo-classical in its design and is constructed of stone with Portland cement plaster both inside and out. Stombuco’s Italian background is evident in the finished building similar in design and appearance to an Italian villa of the day.
Father Andrew Horan served as parish priest of St. Mary’s for more than fifty years, developing St. Mary’s itself as well as surrounding parishes during his term. At the time of his death, as a means of honouring his important role in the church, he was commemorated and interred inside St. Mary’s Church.
Various other buildings on the site include school buildings, convent and parish hall and as such, provide a good example of an ecclesiastical precinct. This photograph, dating from the 1870s shows how imposing the buildings were within the local Ipswich landscape.
In acknowledgement of its importance to Ipswich’s history and development, the St. Mary’s precinct is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.
Brian Randall – Senior Librarian, State Library of Queensland