St Laurence's Catholic Priory

St Laurence's Catholic Priory

St Laurence’s Church had been completed almost 30 years before Archbishop O’Reilly invited Father Joseph Hickey in Ireland to send Dominicans to found the Order of Preachers in his diocese. Three Irish Dominican Fathers – Robert William Spence, Malachy Headly and Bernard Larkin – arrived in Adelaide in late 1898. Father Spence was chosen as the foundation’s superior because of his previous experience in building a priory and in restoring a church at Black Abbey in Kilkenny, Ireland. This experience was useful, for on arrival the Fathers’ first project was the building of a similar priory next to St Laurence’s. Edward Woods was the architect.

The new priory’s role in the community was most important to the local Catholic population, which at the time was approximately 700: “Father Larkin recalled the need of Catholic education so pressing in Adelaide at the opening of this century, and the need of intensive religious instruction to compensate for the lack of a completely Catholic system of education.”

The Dominican Fathers were much in demand and were asked to care for the whole diocese, travelling as far as Mount Gambier to give missions. Their own parish was divided into three districts, with each Father being responsible for one part. The three districts were approximately the North Adelaide district, the Prospect district, and beyond to the Kilburn area. Father Larkin later described how valuable was visitation for maintaining communication between laity and clergy, and as a means of bringing back the wayward and making converts.


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The priory is of considerable architectural and historical note, being designed by E.J. Woods, who was responsible for many prominent Anglican and Catholic buildings. This is an unusual and distinctive example of the extended “return-verandah villa”, with high-quality construction using squared random coursed sandstone with relieving arches over openings, and quoins with draughted margins. The steeply pitched roof, clustered chimneys, stepped gables, and windows with mullions and transoms are in distinct contrast to the Italianate villas that characterise much of this area of North Adelaide. The building has an ecclesiastical appearance appropriate to the adjacent Gothic Revival church of St Laurence.

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Images of St Laurence's Catholic Priory

Edward Woods
Building materials
Brick, Stone, Sandstone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890)
1899 -
Architecture and design features
Edward Woods, quoins, chimney, gable, ecclesiastical
Engineering features
Upper North Adelaide
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Catholic Church
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Dwelling, House, Religious
AS2482 classification
15500 - Religious Building
Public Access
Private residence
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5811/436 T106101 T894
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.3 City Dwellers: Householders, Boarders and Tenants
4.4 Residential Development, Building Types and Living Conditions
4.4.1 Subdivision and Residential Development
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Assessments, Digest of Proceedings, 18 May 1908, 10 May 1909, 13 October 1919,
  • 23 May 1921, Smith Survey 1880; Byrne, E, History of the Catholic Church in South
  • Australia, 1914; St Laurence's Priory, 1893-1973, pp. 6-7; South Australian Register,
  • 11 March 1867, 11 January 1869; Woods Bagot, Ledger of Commissions.

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