Skip links and keyboard navigation

St Mary's Church

  • 600879
  • 34 Ingham Road, Townsville


Also known as
St Marys Church; St Marys Catholic Church; ; St Mary's Catholic Church
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
2 January 1993
Religion/worship: Church and school
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
9.1 Educating Queenslanders: Providing primary schooling
Rooney Ltd (Townsville)
Construction periods
1880–1917, St Mary's Church & former Convent - Convent (1880s circa - 1917)
1880–1923, St Mary's Church & former Convent (1880s circa - 1923)
1888–1923, St Mary's Church & former Convent - Church (1888 - 1923)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


34 Ingham Road, Townsville
Townsville City Council
-19.26914797, 146.80257423


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.

St Mary's Church, erected in 1888 with 1923 additions, is important in demonstrating the establishment and growth of the Catholic Church in North Queensland.

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

St Mary's Church remains substantially intact and is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a timber church built in the late 19th/early 20th centuries in Queensland.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Through its scale, form, and materials, St Mary's Church makes a significant contribution to the Ingham Road streetscape and Townsville townscape. The building is also significant for the quality and craftsmanship of the interior and fittings.

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

St Mary's Church is the second oldest Catholic church in North Queensland and is significant for its strong and special association as a centre of Catholic worship, education, and community life in Townsville since 1888.

St Mary's Church is significant for its special association with the Rooney family and their important North Queensland building firms of Rooney Bros, Rooney & Co. and Rooneys Ltd.


St Mary's Church was erected in 1888 as a church and school for the Catholic parish of Townsville. It is the second oldest Catholic church in North Queensland.

Early settlement in Townsville began in the mid-1860s at the mouth of Ross Creek, and along the beach front to the north, but later development was concentrated along the creek to the west. By the late 1880s, west Townsville was a well settled area, and Catholics in this area lived a considerable distance from St Joseph's Church and School on the Strand (established in the 1870s). Fr William Mason Walsh, second parish priest of Townsville, made the decision to establish a church and school in west Townsville, acquiring the St Mary's Church site in 1887.

The church was designed by Rooney Bros, who were the premier builders, and frequently also the designers, of vernacular architecture in Townsville and North Queensland during the latter part of the 19th century. Matthew and John Rooney and their families were strong supporters of the Catholic Church.

When St Mary's was erected by contractors Cowell & Holt in 1888, it was a simple rectangular structure with a nave and entrance porch. The present cedar pews in the nave date from this period. In 1888 the Sisters of Mercy opened St Mary's School at the church until a new school building was erected on an adjacent block at the rear of the church in 1917.

The Sisters of Mercy, an Irish teaching and nursing order of Catholic nuns, had arrived in Townsville in 1878, in response to a request from Fr Walsh. For ten years the Mercy nuns taught solely at St Joseph's on The Strand. From 1888 some of the nuns travelled by sulky to teach in the classrooms established at St Mary's Church and took up residence nearby when the parish of St Mary's was established in 1917, Townsville's second Catholic parish.

To accommodate the Sisters of Mercy within the new parish, the diocese purchased a timber residence in Castling Street, adjoining the church and school, early in 1917. The Castling Street residence is thought to have been constructed in the 1880s, but not on its present site.

The original location is unknown, although it is likely to have come from one of the goldfields - probably Ravenswood or Charters Towers - to the west of Townsville. It was moved onto the site, possibly in 1897, when a mortgage for £130 was taken out on the property by the owner, Gustave Anderson, who had purchased the site at a Crown land sale held on 23 December 1890. Anderson died at his Castling Street residence in January 1898, but his widow remained resident in Castling Street for some years. In May 1901, she married Lauritz Henriksen Hoyer, and a Lawrence Hoyar is listed in Castling Street in the 1904 Queensland Post Office Directory. Mrs Hoyer had sold the property to the Pritchard family by 1912, and they in turn sold to the Catholic Church.

The house, which was set on low stumps when acquired by the church, was raised on high wooden blocks, and the front southern room was extended into the front verandah to create a small chapel for the nuns. The front porch infill and rear extensions appear to date from this period also. Rooneys Ltd carried out the improvements, and St Mary's Convent was opened and blessed by Dr Shiel, Bishop of Rockhampton, on 12 August 1917. The sisters occupied this building until 1964, when it became the parish house for the priest. In 1975 the priest moved out and the house was leased to private tenants.

In December 2013, after being vacant and derelict for some time, the former convent was destroyed by fire. At the time of its destruction, the former convent was a high-set single-storeyed timber building with a corrugated galvanised iron roof, situated at 15 Castling Street, West End, Townsville. The building comprised a six-roomed core under a hipped roof, with a gabled entry porch to Castling Street and an encircling verandah of lesser pitch that met the walls below the eaves line.

Major alterations to the church were carried out in 1923 by Doig & Ritchie, under the supervision of Ardel Rooney of Rooneys Ltd. The building was widened to include transepts on either side of the main altar, side aisles and a sacristy. The marble altar, wooden side altars, baptismal font, altar rails, pulpit, pine pews in the aisles, and wood and plaster stations of the cross, date from this period. Also in 1923, cottage style gardens were constructed around the church.

The interiors of most Catholic churches in Australia were modified as a result of changes in church thinking following Vatican II in 1963, but no alterations were made to St Mary's Church.

In 2014, St Mary's Church, West End, Townsville continues to operate as an important place of worship for the local Catholic parish.


St Mary's Catholic Church is a one-storey, timber-framed building clad with chamferboards. It stands on a level corner site and faces north onto Ingham Road, the main thoroughfare of West End, Townsville. The church is set on low square concrete stumps and the understorey is enclosed by perimeter timber battening.

The building has a T-shaped plan: entered from the north, a long nave with side aisles terminates in an altar at the southern end. Southern transepts accommodate a vestry on the west and confessionals with waiting area on the east. The corrugated metal-clad roof reflects this layout with three long gables sheltering the nave and aisles and transverse gables over the transepts. The largest gable, over the nave, has a ventilated ridge.

The front elevation is symmetrical, composed of three large gables and a central gabled entrance porch. The building features banks of timber-framed lancet windows containing awning sashes and have pointed arch heads and hood moulding. Gables have wide barge boards fixed onto and concealing the original decorative timber barge boards behind.

Internally, the building has exposed timber scissor trusses with a diagonally boarded ceiling. Timber columns support the central gable and divide the nave into three volumes. An organ and choir gallery is located over the north entrance and is partially cantilevered. The building has pointed arch doors, with the entrance doors having timber battened ventilation panels above. Interior walls are lined with plywood.

The building has an ornate grey marble altar and Calvary Arch, high quality plaster statues and carved timber pews, font, and Stations of the Cross.

Evidence of the original extent of the church can be seen underneath with a masonry supporting wall. A steel support structure has been installed under the altar.

The church stands in landscaped grounds of lawns and maturing trees and is prominently sited within the streetscape. Surrounding it are associated buildings including the Presbytery, School, and Parish Hall.

Image gallery


Location of St Mary's Church within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
  1. Is your feedback about:
  2. (If you chose ‘website’ above)

    Page feedback

    1. How satisfied are you with your experience today? *
  3. (If you chose ‘service’ above)

    Feedback on government services, departments and staff

    Please use our complaints and compliments form.