Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
St Francis Church
The former St Francis church, Ginninderra, still stands beside the Barton Highway near the junction of Gold Creek Road, where it is part of the Gold Creek Village development. The building was erected in 1872 for Catholic worship and education. In the days before the 1872 church was built, the Catholics usually assembled at James McCarthy's 'Glenwood' station, or at Rolfe's 'Tea Gardens'.
A neat and substantial school church has just been completed at Ginninderra for the
united purposes of Roman Catholic worship and a provisional school. It is erected
on land given for the purpose by Mr Florence McAuliffe by whose exertions also the
principal costs of erection - about ₤70 - was collected - the building is about 25' x l8' in
[ Queanbeyan Age, 28 March 1872]
McAuliffe had taken over the Ginninderra blacksmith shop from James Hatch in 1864, and by 1870 was also the owner of three small adjacent blocks, which he farmed. The land provided for the church was excised from one of these blocks.
The new building, which functioned as church and provisional school, was erected under the
supervision of Rev. John Gallagher from Yass in the Goulburn Diocese. The Public Schools Act of 1866 permitted the establishment of schools by 'private persons' in remote and thinly populated districts. Subsequently known as 'Provisional' schools, they could operate with less than twenty-five pupils, and promoters were required to nominate competent teachers. These provisions were exploited by the Catholic church to establish a large number of essentially 'catholic' schools in rural districts. There is some evidence that St Francis was, initially at least, a school of this type. In 1881 the Diocese decided that the church would only be made available for educational purposes at a greatly increased rental, and the school board declined the offer. AS a result, the Ginninderra school operated for two years in a tent, while the new Ginninderra Public School and residence was built.
While it ceased to be used as a school in 1881, it continued as a Church until 1910 when it was superseded by the new St Francis Xavier's Church in Hall. This new church also was opened
by Rev. John Gallagher, on 10 April 1910, but he was by then diocesan bishop of Goulburn.
The original St Francis Xavier's is the oldest extant building with Catholic associations in the
A.C.T., but it had ceased being used for church purposes before the establishment of the
A.C.T. The building was transferred from church ownership as late as May 1928. While the building is still standing it is scarcely recognisable, as it has been added to, and used variously as a residence and craft-art gallery over the years.
Families of the congregation in the early years of St Francis included the Rochfords, Hibbersons, McCarthys, Rolfes, Butlers, and Cavanaghs.
- Maher, Rev B. Planting the Celtic Cross Author Published, Canberra, 1977
- Rochford, J.J. A history of the CatholicChurches at Ginninderra and Hall, A.C.T., 1985
- Gillespie, L.L. Early education and schools in the Canberra region Author published, 1999