St Patrick's Catholic Church

St Patrick's Catholic Church

Until the late 1970s St Patrick’s was the Catholic parish church for west Adelaide. Apart from its long association with Catholicism, the church is also a reminder of the once residential nature of the west end of Adelaide.

For the first four-and-a-half years of European settlement there was no Catholic priest assigned to the colony. The first resident priest, Father William Benson, arrived in 1841. He used temporary places of worship such as John Bentham Neales’ large store and a brewery in Pirie Street.

The first bishop of Adelaide, Dr Francis Murphy, was consecrated in 1844. He is considered the founder and apostle of the Catholic Church in South Australia.

Bishop Murphy arrived in Adelaide in November 1844. Five weeks later he laid the foundation of St Patrick’s School Church, on the corner of Grote Street and West Terrace.

This small church, which was opened on October 5, 1845, was the main centre of Catholic worship in South Australia until the Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier opened in July 1858. The cathedral then provided for the Catholics of east Adelaide, while those living in the western half of the city continued to worship at St Patrick’s.

By the turn of the century St Patrick’s School Church had become too small for its congregation. Architects Woods and Bagot prepared plans for the new church, a tender of £13,425 was accepted, and the foundation stone was laid on November 10, 1912. An estimated 10,000 people attended the ceremony.

The Catholic newspaper Southern Cross of March 13,1914, described the building as basilican and indicated that the section built was only part of a much larger work. St Patrick’s was dedicated on March 15, 1914.

The Southern Cross said the new church was “probably the most artistic ecclesiastical structure in the State and is in accordance with the best traditions of ecclesiastical architecture. Based on the Church of the Holy Spirit in Florence by Brunelleschi (1428) . . . the design of the front is Italian from a British point of view”. As the church was incomplete, the architects had to improvise, but they could not “ignore the traditions of Sir Christopher Wren and the British School of Renaissance architects”.

The original design included a sacristy and an impressive dome above a section that would have made the church half as long again. This was not carried through as church funds were limited and construction coincided with unsettled times before the outbreak of World War I late in 1914.


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The building is a highly creative with a facade that evoked the later Renaissance period. It is an early design by W.H. Bagot, an important Adelaide architect noted for his attention to architectural history and accuracy of detail. It has been only superficially altered as a result of liturgical changes. The church is a landmark of north-west Adelaide.

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City of Churches

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Images of St Patrick's Catholic Church

  • St Patrick's Church, 2014
Walter Bagot
W B Bland
Building materials
Brick, Render, Stucco
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915), 3.5.1 Romanesque
1912 - 1914
Architecture and design features
Walter Bagot, parapet, plinth, pediment, leadlight, tower, column
Engineering features
West End
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Catholic Church
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Religious, Church
AS2482 classification
15500 - Religious Building
Public Access
Opening hours only
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5604/216 F181133 A291
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
NTSA classified
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.3 City Dwellers: Householders, Boarders and Tenants
6.3 Worshipping
6.3.1 Places of worship/Churches
Bishop Francis Murphy
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Annual report 1912, p. 13, Smith Survey 1880, fieldbook No. 8, p. 18; Byrne, E,
  • History of the Catholic Church in South Australia, 1914, p. 28; Catholic Archives, Sister
  • Mary Attracta, St Patrick's - Grote Street, 1975, St Patrick's Church committee book (minutes and financial), 1906-20; Chronicle, 28 February 1925; Mail, 14 March 1914; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acres 318, 319), Southern Cross, 1 November 1912, 1 January
  • 1913, p. 61; Press, M., From our broken toil, 1986; South Australian Gazette, 29 September
  • 1938.

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