Carnarvon Star of the Sea Catholic Church convent to be demolished

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Peter SweeneyThe West Australian
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The heritage-listed St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Carnarvon.
Camera IconThe heritage-listed St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Carnarvon. Credit: Facebook

The convent of a WA heritage-listed church in the Gascoyne, built by architect Monsignor John Hawes, is to be demolished.

The convent, which housed the Presentation Sisters, is deemed to be of “little significance”. It is part of the Star of the Sea Catholic Church at Carnarvon.

The timber-and-iron convent was completed in 1906. It is not used and does not meet the required structural standards for what is classed as a cyclone region. The building also contains asbestos. The religious and educational functions of the area are of significance, but the fabric of the convent and school is not regarded as such.

Geraldton-based architects Eastman Poletti Sherwood have advertised for tenders for the demolition of the building.

The work is due to be completed between December 21 and January 29, 2021.

For many years, the nuns kept cows to provide themselves and students who boarded at the school with milk. Boys had to milk the cows in the mornings, move them to a town common area and return them in the evening.

The nuns at the convent, usually about five, were teachers and took on domestic duties.

A Carnarvon church regular, who asked not to be named, said the convent had a certain style about it. “However, I think you need to be an architect to understand that,” he added.

The St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic School has plans for the old building.

The school, and Catholic Education in Geraldton, were approached for comment as to what would replace the convent, but no one was available.

The Star of the Sea Church is one of 11 ecclesiastical buildings or groups of buildings by Monsignor Hawes, which is entered on the State Register.

A conservation plan was prepared for the church in 2002 and two years later it was entered on the State Register of Heritage Places. “The Church of St Mary of the Sea Group (Carnarvon) is an uncommon combination of structures and building periods in a religious group,” notes a Register of Heritage Places assessment.

Monsignor Hawes was regarded as a “visionary” as a designer/builder of churches.

He died a hermit in The Bahamas in 1956, aged 79.

He was a priest in the Church of England before converting to Roman Catholicism.

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