The Sisters of Mercy Convent (now renamed Mercy
House in honour
of the heritage the Sisters have left us), in Mary Street Woodend is situated in the St. Marys
precinct and was completed in 1884 to house the Sisters of Mercy.
Sisters had come to Ipswich on request of the Catholic community to set up a school.
On arrival in 1863, the Sisters first lived in a
house in East Street Ipswich. The foundation stone for the first convent was laid 1864 on
land adjacent to the then St. Marys church.
foundation stone of the present Convent building was laid 24th May 1874.
The Convent was finished on the 15th June 1884 and
dedicated on 17th August 1884. The Mercy
Convent was built on land purchased in 1874 by Bishop James OQuinn from Joseph Foote
upon the arrival of Fr Andrew Horan the
newly appointed Parish Priest of St. Marys.
Convent served as a boarding school until the 1974.
Sisters of Mercy occupied the building until 1997 when St. Marys Catholic Parish
purchased it. The Sisters remained there
until 1997 when due to declining numbers it was no longer practical for them to remain in
such a large complex.
Click on any of the thumbnails to see the
Ugarapul territory was from north of Ipswich to the border ranges south of Boonah and from
the Flinders Peak area on the east to Mt Walker on the west.
The Ugarapul people moved through this
area, hunting and food gathering.
WHITE SETTLEMENT IN IPSWICH
In 1827, a convict outpost was established
on the banks of the Bremer River.
convicts were employed digging limestone, burning it in a kiln and sending it by river to
main settlement in Brisbane. Later, a farm
was established nearby and sheep and cattle were grazed.
The outpost was named Limestone. The
Convict outpost closed in 1839.
was then surveyed and free settlers were allowed to take up residence in 1842.
The first land sales were held in 1843 and the
settlement was renamed Ipswich.
February 1842, Surveyor Henry Wade was directed from the Colonial Secretarys Office
in Sydney to furnish two copies of the Proposed Plan of the township of Limestone ( later
to become Ipswich). On this map is shown an
area of two acres in Elizabeth Street between now Roseberry Parade and Mary Street
reserved for the Catholic Church, Parsonage and School.
This area was to be a grant from the New South Wales Government. The
settlement became a municipality in 1860 and a mayor and municipal council were elected.
HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF MERCY IN
When the first Sisters
arrived in Brisbane from Ireland in 1861, Ipswich was thriving.
The Catholics were primarily born in Ireland or of
Irish descent. The subsequent arrival of the
Sisters in Ipswich was the beginning of an educational institution that has had a
significant cultural impact on the history of Ipswich over 140 years.
When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Ipswich in
May 1863 it was a significant event not only for the Catholic Community of Ipswich but for
Several Sister of Mercy came to Brisbane with Bishop OQuinn.
A few days later several Ipswich townsmen,
including Patrick OSullivan and Christopher Gorry waited on the Sisters
to ask if some could come to Ipswich to run the school at St. Marys.
The Ipswich men offered to provide a convent
to which they had collected Pounds (ODonoghue: 1967).
There were not enough nuns to provide for Ipswich
at that time.
Money had been collected in Ipswich for an organ for the church (St.
Marys) and a convent for the Sisters.
Bishop demanded that the money to be handed over to him and conflict ensued between the
Parish Priest, Father McGinty, and the Bishop.
Mr. Gorry and Mr. OSullivan who were on the fund-raising Committee and in charge of
funds gave the money to Bishop James OQuinn
St. Marys buildings circa 1872
In early 1863 Jane Gorry (daughter of Christopher Gorry) entered the Order
of the Sisters of Mercy. The Bishop and the
Sisters from Brisbane visited Ipswich to discuss the possibility of building a new
On 1st May, 1863, a group of Mercy sisters, arrived to teach in
Ipswich. The Sisters at first rented rooms
from Mr. Gorry. A meeting, presided over by
Dr. Quinn, reversed the decision to erect a temporary residence for the Nuns.
Instead, a fine presbytery was to be
built, which the Sisters could use until a convent was erected.
In October the allotments which the Church wanted to purchase (for the
Convent) were withdrawn from sale.
Bishop OQuinn then began to acquire land further up the hill behind
the then St. Marys Church.
At last the foundation stone for a Convent was laid on 27th
July, 1864, by the Right Reverend James OQuinn D.D.
The Convent with a boarding school at the rear was officially opened and
blessed. It was situated near the corner of
Mary and Elizabeth Streets.
Bishop James OQuinn acquired another three parcels of land on the
hill behind the church. He continued to
acquire parcels of land in the area for many years.
By this time Bishop OQuinn had realised the existing convent was too
small. He began planning a larger convent on
the hill overlooking the city and acquired two more large parcels of land high on the hill
encouraged by the newly appointed Parish Priest Andrew Horan.
The foundation stone of the new Convent was laid.
This was on the present site, the land purchased
by Bishop OQuinn years earlier.
The new Convent building was completed.
After the completion of the new Convent of Mercy the Bishops continued to
purchased more land in the area surrounding the convent
The first convent was demolished to make room for new larger church.
October 11 Separate music rooms were constructed near the Convent,
using the stone from the first convent.
rooms are still in use by St. Marys College today, although not as music rooms but
for administration and counselling.
A chapel was added to the Convent on the side nearest Mary Street.
Over the Chapel additional rooms for the growing
population of sisters were also added.
The Convent land was passed over to the Corporation of the Trustees for
the Sisters of Mercy Queensland.
The Centenary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland was
celebrated in Ipswich.
A new three-storey school building was built for St. Marys to
accommodate both the primary school and the growing secondary school population of girls
in the parish.
St. Marys Parish celebrated with the Sisters, the arrival in Ipswich
of the Mercy nuns on 1st May, 1863.
The remainder of the land associated with the Convent was passed over to
the Corporation of the Trustees of the Sisters of Mercy Queensland.
St Marys College (for girls) was blessed and opened by Archbishop
In 1975, the Monsignor Molony Library opened on site of the Convent Tennis
Court. Also during this period two new
classroom blocks and an extension to the classroom block built in 1967, were built.
This was as a result of continued growth in the
College and as a response to the changes in curriculum.
A Celebration of 125 years of service in Ipswich by the Sisters of Mercy
The number of Sisters living in the convent became less and less.
By 1996 the last of the Sisters of Mercy remaining
in Ipswich vacated the Convent
St. Marys Catholic Parish negotiated to purchase the Convent from
the Sisters of Mercy. The former
boarders dormitory is being used by the Secondary Colleges for Business Centre and
the Music and Drama department of St. Marys College is located on the ground floor.
A temporary change in classification has been
obtained from Ipswich City Council enabling the schools to use these premises for
The Convent is
purchased by the College for its exclusive use.
In 1847 the Catholic Church in Brisbane acquired the two acres of land in
Elizabeth Street between Roseberry Parade and Mary Street.
This land was bounded on the west by Little Street (later closed by Fr Andrew
Horan). This began the process of land
purchases and erecting buildings that developed one of the most impressive precincts in
the City of Ipswich. The prime usage of the
land has never changed Church and Education.
In 1863 Bishop OQuinn purchased the twelve allotments and then
four allotments on the northern side of Arthur Street, allegedly using the money he had
demanded from Father McGinty the year before.
money had been collected for the establishment of a convent in Ipswich.
The history of this land is important for on this
land the present infant school, primary school and secondary school, hall and Convent were
From 1864 until after the turn of the century Bishop OQuinn, and
then Bishop Robert Dunne purchased land in the area bounded by Elizabeth St, Mary St,
Arthur St and Roseberry Parade (formerly River St) through to OSullivan St
and Ballow St (formerly Real St).
process Little Street and part of Arthur Street were closed.
Land was purchase on both northern and southern
sides of Mary Street to the west of Arthur Street, through to OSullivan Street and
Roseberry Parade. These parcels of land
together make up what we referred to as the
Marys Precinct although over the years the titles have passed through the hands
of the Catholic Church, The Corporations of the Trustees of the Sisters of Mercy and the
Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers
purchased land to establish their school on the southern side of Mary Street and later
developed playing fields on the land the Church had acquired.
The Catholic Church in the later part of the nineteenth century and early
years of the twentieth century in Queensland acquired land and established schools and
Churches as part of their mission of education.
St Marys Precinct as it is today is a realisation of that mission.
It has been ongoing for one hundred and fifty
years, growing, changing and meeting the need of education and Church.
The buildings that have been established in this precinct are a reflection
of the time both architecturally and economically.
were built under the constraints of limited funds, some taking many years to be completed
and changing over time to met the needs of the Catholic community of St. Marys.