Church Life, Catholic

In 1863, with no church buildings to meet in, the celebration of the first Christmas in Lambton was a private affair. The only public festivities were of a strictly commercial nature when 120 employees of the Lambton colliery gathered for a dinner on Boxing Day to inaugurate the opening of the mine.

The Scottish Australian Mining Company however was not unmindful of the spiritual needs of the miners and their families, and in the ensuing years supported the establishment of churches with land grants for the erection of church buildings. By 1870 the Church of England, Presbyterians, Primitive Methodists, Welsh Baptists, English Baptists, and Welsh Independents had buildings in Lambton.

The Roman Catholics however, had to travel in to Newcastle to attend church, where the service was held at 11am to allow time to travel in from the suburbs. In 1871 the Catholics erected a small wooden building in De Vitre St, to be used as a school during the week, and as a church on Sundays. The church was solemnly blessed and opened on 19th November 1871.

Two years later the Catholic parish of Lambton was established, stretching from Mayfield to Teralba, and Father James Ryan, a newly ordained Irish priest appointed to the parish. Father Ryan’s labours were soon rewarded, for by 1876 the wooden church in De Vitre St had to be enlarged. With continued growth and an eye to the future, land was acquired in Dickson St in 1892/1893 for a new building, and in 1921 the current brick church of St John the Evangelist was constructed.

In New Lambton, St Therese’s began with a building in Royal St in 1926, used for both school and church. New Lambton became a separate parish in 1954, but fifty years later merged back with Lambton and Waratah to form Holy Trinity Parish, Blackbutt North, an ongoing community where Christmas is publicly celebrated as much more than just commerce.

The first Lambton Catholic Church in De Vitre St, on the site of St John’s Primary School, 1891. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Newcastle Region Library.

The first Lambton Catholic Church in De Vitre St, on the site of St John’s Primary School, 1891. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Newcastle Region Library.

St John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Dickson St Lambton, 2016

St John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Dickson St Lambton, 2016

Foundation Stone of St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lambton.

Foundation Stone of St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lambton.

The article above was first published in the December 2016 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.


In the article I say that the building erected in 1871 was to be used as a church and school, however at the opening of the first wooden church in 1871 it was reported

“Mr. T. Croudace, having given the allotment on which the church is built on the express condition of it not being used as a school.”

The building was first used for school purposes in May 1872, when a school with 56 children was commenced.

Additional information

Some of the material for this article was sourced from “Song of the People, A brief history of the Catholic Parish of St John’s Lambton”, by Darrell Bailey, published in 2003 to mark the 130th anniversary of the parish. The Newcastle Family Historical Society library in the Mechanics’ Institute building has a copy of this publication.

There are a couple of errors on page 7 of this publication that need correction.

  1. The first paragraph states that the the Lambton Colliery “mine entrance was located in Lambton park, possibly near the existing Council Library building.” The mine entrance was not in Lambton Park, but where Lewis Oval in New Lambton is currently located.
  2. The second paragraph states that “Father Thomas Lonergan celebrated the first mass on 19 November 1871 during Bishop Murray’s absence in Rome and Ireland.” This is a most curious error, as the newspaper article referenced in footnote 12 at this point clearly states that Bishop Murray was due to attend but was prevented by illness.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Sep 1868"The Rev. Father Walsh, pastor of the Roman Catholic Church, in this city, gave notice on Sunday last to his congregation that the hour of service on Sunday mornings would, in future, be eleven o'clock instead of ten o'clock, as of late."
22 Oct 1870A movement is on foot to build a Roman Catholic Church in Lambton. The Lambton colliery company has granted a piece of land for the purpose.
23 Sep 1871Seven denominations meeting in Lambton: Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Primitive Methodist, Welsh Baptist, English Baptist, and Welsh Independent, all having churches of their own, and the Wesleyan congregation renting a place to preach in.
2 Dec 1871
19 Nov 1871
Catholic church building in De Vitre St Lambton solemnly blessed and opened.
18 May 1872
6 May 1872
Catholic school opened, with 56 children in attendance.
12 Dec 1876The Roman Catholic Church is being lengthened and a porch added.
14 Apr 1877Valedictory address to Father James Ryan, the first priest in the Catholic parish of Lambton.
9 Aug 1920Construction of the new Catholic church in Dickson Street is about to commence. The article confirms that the former building was on De Vitre Street, and used for both school and church purposes.
12 Aug 1920
10 Aug 1920
Lambton Council approves the plans and specifications for the new Roman Catholic Church in Dickson St.
6 Sep 1920
5 Sep 1920
"The ceremony of laying and blessing the corner stone and blessing the foundations of the new Roman Catholic Church at Lambton was performed yesterday afternoon by the Right Rev. Dr. Dwyer, Bishop of Maitland, in the presence of a large gathering. "
11 Jul 1921
10 Jul 1921
"The Roman Catholic Church of Mary Immaculate and St. John the Evangelist, Lambton, was blessed and opened yesterday morning by the Right Rev, Dr. Dwyer, Bishop of Maitland."

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