Saint Patrick's Church on Grote Street is one of several historically significant Catholic Church buildings in the southwest corner of Adelaide's CBD. The original building was the first Catholic Church in Adelaide. The present-day Saint Patrick's Church was completed in 1914, while the original building was demolished in 1959. Today the Church is used for services in languages other than English, including Portuguese and Croatian.
In 1844 Dr Francis Murphy was consecrated as South Australia’s first Catholic bishop. In December that year tenders were called for the construction of a school house near the corner of West Terrace. Designed by Kingston, this school on acre 320 on the north side of the street opened on 5 October 1845. It was also intended to serve temporarily as a church yet two months later the foundation stone for Adelaide’s first Catholic church, St Patrick’s, was laid on acre 320. In 1846–47 the school-church was expanded by the addition of a gallery. How much schooling was undertaken in that building is not known. However, during the 1870s Father Julian Tenison Woods (1832–89) and a few religious brothers taught for some time at St Patrick’s School. This structure was on the northeast corner of acre 318, a short distance from the first church on what is now the western side of Gray Street.
St Patrick’s Church was the principal place of Catholic worship in Adelaide until St Francis Xavier Cathedral opened on Wakefield Street in 1858. Tenison Woods was ordained there in 1858, probably the only ordination of a priest in the church. Alterations to the simple stone building of St Patrick’s Church included the addition of a chancel in 1859–60 and a tower, designed by architects Wright & Hamilton, in 1876. By then St Patrick’s was the parish church for residents in the west of the city.
By the early twentieth century St Patrick’s Church was too small for its congregation. A much larger building, said to be based on the Church of the Holy Spirit in Florence, was designed by the architects Woods and Bagot. The original plan as proposed by Walter Hervey Bagot included a large dome and sacristy, but these aspects of the Renaissance style building were not implemented due to limited funds and the commencement of the First World War.
The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 10 November 1912. An estimated 10 000 people attended the ceremony on the corner of Gary Street and Grote Street. The completed church was dedicated on 15 March 1914. In about 1926 the organ from the disused Congregational Church in Hindmarsh Square was installed in the church. St Patrick’s continued to serve as the parish church for the western part of Adelaide until the late 1970s. In the twenty-first century it is primarily used for services in languages other than English, including Portuguese and Croatian. The original church was demolished in 1959 because of salt damp and today the site is primarily used as a car park.
Murphy, Sister Mary Attracta, St Patrick’s Church, Grote St, Adelaide 1845–1975 (Adelaide: typescript, 1975).