Skip links and keyboard navigation

Old St Stephens Church

  • 600108
  • 249 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane City


Also known as
Pugin Chapel; Old St Stephen's Catholic Church
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Cathedral
Religion/worship: Religious precinct
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
Pugin, AW
Goold, Alexander
Construction period
1850, Old St Stephens Church (built 1850 as St Stephens Cathedral)
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


249 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane City
Brisbane City Council
-27.46879329, 153.02857918


Street view

Photography is provided by Google Street View and may include third-party images. Images show the vicinity of the heritage place which may not be visible.

Request a boundary map

A printable boundary map report can be emailed to you.


Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Old St Stephens Church is significant as the oldest surviving church building in Brisbane and provides evidence of construction techniques used in Brisbane in the 1840s.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

(Criterion under review)

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

Old St Stephens Church is significant as the oldest surviving church building in Brisbane and provides evidence of construction techniques used in Brisbane in the 1840s.

Old St Stephens Church is an excellent example of a small stone English Gothic Revival church and is significant as an example of the first churches erected in Brisbane with permanence in mind.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Old St Stephen's Church is significant as part of a group of prominent ecclesiastical buildings of which this is the earliest component.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Old St Stephens Church is important for its association with a religious group of significance in the early settlement of Brisbane. The Church is continues to be a building held in high esteem by both the Catholic community and the general public.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

Old St Stephens Church is significant as an example of the work of a prominent early builder, Andrew Petrie and as the product of a design attributed to renowned British architect, AWN Pugin.


The land at the site was originally planned for church purposes in 1847. Six allotments of section 33 were set aside for the use of the Roman Catholic Church in September 1848 with the original deeds of grant being signed by Governor Charles Fitzroy in November 1849.

From the early days of free settlement, Brisbane's Catholic population was significant with Catholics comprising 30% of residents in 1846. In 1849 and 1850 the New South Wales Government, under provisions of Governor Richard Bourke's 1836 Church Act, subsidised the building of Old St Stephens Church which was opened on 12 May 1850. It was built by Alexander Goold, to a design attributed to the internationally renowned Gothic Revival architect Augustus Welby Pugin, a personal friend of Sydney-based Archbishop Polding.

With the growth of Brisbane's Catholic community and with Separation approaching, the Archdiocese of Brisbane was created in 1859. Old St Stephens became a cathedral but its capacity became increasingly inadequate and on 26 December 1863, Archbishop Quinn laid the foundation stone for a new cathedral. In the eleven years it took to finish the new St Stephens Cathedral (QHR 600107), provision was made for extra space in the old church. A wooden annexe was built onto the northern frontage and extra doorways were cut in the stone wall on this side. Inadequate accommodation was not the only problem, for the soft sandstone was crumbling, particularly that of the little belfry which had to be dismantled at some time before 1875. A temporary wooden belfry was erected to a design by architect AB Wilson in 1888.

After the consecration of the new cathedral in 1874, the old church was used as a school by the Christian Brothers until they moved to their new site at Gregory Terrace in 1880. The Sisters of Mercy then conducted a school in the old church building until the permanent St Stephens School (QHR 600106) was opened in 1892. Since that time the building has been variously used as a storeroom, offices, display space, meeting area and choir practice room.


Andrews, Brian. 'St Stephen's Church, Brisbane, Queensland', essay for the Pugin Foundation viewed at on 21 August 2013.


The chapel is made of locally quarried sandstone and originally had a shingled roof, now slate. It conforms to a standard English type of small church with a simple rectangular nave with a square chancel attached via an arch. A little square sacristy is attached to the north side of the chancel and a square porch gives onto the south-west end of the nave.

Externally the elevations are extremely simple with an unadorned ashlar lower section with small lancets let into the wall above a roll moulding to form a clerestory. The chancel has a small rose in the gable with three lancets below.

The west end of the chapel has a simple but attractive perpendicular window in the upper section with a door in the lower section. The original stone tracery of the window has been replaced with wood. Externally the sandstone has weathered badly. A small stone bell tower was once mounted above the western gable but was taken down before 1875.

Internally the chapel has fine Gothic proportions. It has finely crafted timber trusses with collar ties and a timber ceiling above. The stonework has been painted and the ecclesiastical accoutrements removed.

Old St Stephens Church is located towards the front of the site facing Elizabeth Street and south of the Cathedral. The open space surrounding the church is enclosed to each side by the southern elevation of the Cathedral, the rear of the buildings facing Edward Street and the back of St Stephens Girls School. This is an open grassy area that is now planted with rows of palm trees and crossed by concrete paths as part of the 1989 project involving the renovation of the Cathedral.

Image gallery


Location of Old St Stephens Church within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022