Monday, 6 April 2015

137 Harrington St The Rocks


It is built on land donated by William Davis, an Irishman sentenced to ‘Transportation for life’ without trial for his part in anti–British political uprisings in Wexford in 1798. Davis and his wife Catherine Miles took up land in the Rocks in 1809 and built a cottage on the corner of Harrington Street and Charlotte Place (now Grosvenor Street). William and Catharine were both active in the effort to gain recognition of the Catholic faith in the colony, the practice of which was proscribed by Governor Macquarie. In 1818, when Fr. Jeremiah O’Flynn was deported for ‘disseminating principles of resistance to the General Orders of the Colony’ he left his pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament in Sydney, where it was held in the Davis house. For the next two years, when the Roman Catholics were without a priest and had no formal place of worship, the Davies house became a natural focus of Catholics endeavour. 
John Joseph Therry and Phillip Connolly, the first officially appointed catholic priests to arrive in the colony, stayed in the Davis house on their arrival in May 1820. In July, Therry Davis and others petitioned the government for land in Charlotte Place on which to build a chapel. The petition was unsuccessful but land was made available on the eastern side of the town, where St Mary's Cathedral now stands. Davis would journey there on the donkey he kept in the paddock behind his house in Charlotte Place. Following Catherine’s death in 1839, William Davis donated his Charlotte Place paddock, a considerable quantity of stone and one thousand pounds, for the construction of a substantial church to the design of the architect J.F. Hilly. Although William witnessed the laying of the foundation stone he died in August 1843, six months before the church was completed. 
From 1857 until 1868 the great pioneer priest John McEncroe had charge of the parish. In 1862 he replaced the Davis cottage on the corner with a shop and house, the lower ground floor on which still survives (5). It can be accessed by arrangement with the Courtyard Coffee Shop (03). Fragmentary remains of the Davis cottage also survive beneath the Coffee Shop itself. 
In 1865, when the Sisters of Mercy arrived to Australia, McEncroe encouraged them to take over parochial education and purchased 141 Harrington Street, a 2 storey house adjacent to the Davis cottage, for their use as a convent. The basement of this building survives beneath the parish offices (6). 
On his deathbed, McEncroe arranged for the care of the parish to be on to the recently established Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) from Lyon. The French Marist influence is particularly evident in the stained glass, brass altar and the statuary around the walls of the church, all of which was brought from Paris. An early initiative of the first Marist parish priest, Joseph Monnier, was to combine McEncroe’s shop and house, install the Sisters of Mercy there, and build them a chapel in the courtyard. 
Following a fire in the adjoining Tobacco Factory, Monnier’s successor Pierre Le Rennetel purchased the site and build the handsome presbytery with a roof-top ambulatory, which occupies the site today (10). Busts of Monnier and Le Rennetel flank the archway linking the church courtyard with the Quadrant Building (8). 
Following the completion of the new presbytery, Le Rennetel commissioned R.J. Dennehy to re-model the convent on the corner of Harrington and Gloucester Streets. The sandstone walls and basement of McEncroe’s house and shop of 1862 were retained, an extra floor was added and the street frontages were replaced by a pressed brick facade. The old twelve pane windows were relocated to the courtyard side, where verandas were added to permit external circulation and provide a link to the convent chapel. Recent conversation works have enabled recovery of much of the original decoration of the chapel interior, which is now open to the public. 
Daniel Hurley became the first non-French Marists at St Patrick’s in 1926 and established the tradition of daily exposition of the blessed sacrament on the high altar, a spectacular piece of brasswork brought from Paris by Le Rennetel in 1889. Hurley continued to support education on the site and was responsible for the establishment of the Girls Commercial College (6), and a new primary school on ground where the Quadrant building now stands (9). 
The Sisters of Mercy established parochial education at St Patrick’s in 1865. At first classes were held in the crypt and at St Brigid’s in Millers Point. The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed major expansion. In 1910 a two storey Girls High School was built on the site of the First Convent in Harrington Street (6), followed in 1915 by the construction of a new Hall & School with roof-top playground (11). In 1930 a row of 8 terraces on Gloucester Street, built 100 years before by Matthew Harris, was replaced by a new Primary School. This is now the site of the Quadrant Building (9). The complement the work of the Sisters, The Marist Brothers conducted a Boys School on the lower side of Harrington Street from 1872-1962.

Following transfer of the Marist Boys School to Dundas, an opportunity arose for the church to exchange the site of the Boys School for the site of the State Clothing Factory. By this means a large site was consolidated on the eastern site of Harrington Street, where the office building known as Grosvenor Place was erected. On the west side a development site was created which had a potential to fund the restoration of the heritage buildings on the site. Until that opportunity arose, the State Clothing Factory was adapted for use as a Girls High School.
In 1997 a major program of refurbishment of the historic building on the site was commenced under the direction of Father Garry Reynolds SM and the architect John Graham. The Sisters of Mercy vacated their convent on the corner, allowing the Marists to once again occupy it as their presbytery. As part of the process of renewal a system of circulation was devised to link all parts of the complex to the courtyard, enabling the public to move freely across the site. 
Archaeological investigation undertaken by Godden Mackay Logan revealed evidence of building fabric dating from the beginning of European settlement, which enables all four centuries of European occupation of this site to be viewed in the one location (7). 
Outlined in the pavement of the Presbytery garden is the cottage of the First Fleet convict Thomas Prior (c1796). On the left is the Marist Presbytery (1889). On the right are the fragmentary remains of Sutton’s Tobacco Factory (c1840) and the north wall of a gothic style girls High School (1910) which was later incorporated into the Commercial College (1927). Overhead the Quadrant building (2002) looks into the garden. 
The conservation of the historic precinct of St Patrick’s Church Hill was made possible by a combination of generous donation and proceeds from the development of adjoining school lands, on which grocon erected the cove apartments to the design of the architects Harry Seidler & Associates.
The Cove: The 44 storey rower contains 214 apartments, beneath which 9 levels of carparking have been excavated from yellow block sandstone, a large quantity of which was quarried for use in the restoration of Sydney’s heritage buildings. The carpark extends under the old St Patrick’s Hall & School, which was erected in 1915 to the design of the architects Sheerin and Hennessy. The ground floor Hall now houses the Belgian Beer Cafe. The first floor School houses the headquarters of Grocon. The roof top playground has been reconstructed as recreational space for the apartments. A separate five storey quadrant shaped office building attached to the old Marist Presbytery has been designed to provide the church with an income to maintain its culturally significant precinct in perpetuity.

Prior to excavating for the carpark, the ground floors of the Hall & School, the Primary School (1930) and the State Clothing Factory (1904) were removed to permit an archaeological excavation. The State Clothing Factory and Primary School were then demolished but the Hall & School, which contains fine examples of pressed metal work and a lively street facade, was preserved. This was achieved by underpinning the structure on steel columns lowered into holes bored to 15 metres below sea level. And allowed quarrying and excavation to take place without disturbing the remaining building fabric.

On the Harrington Street site, remains of the central access way to the courtyard and parts of the basement of a ‘Counting House and Coach House’ (later occupied by Nation’s Printing Works) have been preserved beneath a glass floor in the entrance to the Belgium Beer Cafe.

By 2003 the new development had been completed and all heritage buildings on the site had been restored. 

One of the first new tenants in this historic redevelopment, GSA moved into 'The Old Presbytery' in August 2002.  The presbytery had undergone a revamp to make it suitable for use as office space and GSA have attempted to maintain a sense of character and history within the building whilst at the same time creating a modern and workable office.

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