Parish’s Name:

St Michael’s, Manilla

Churches in Parish:    

  • Manilla: St Michael’s
  • Attunga: St Patrick’s

Church’s Address:

Court Street

Parish established:    

  • 1894/1938/1972          Manilla
  • 1950                            Attunga

Priests in the Parish:

  • 1889-1899            Rev Fr Patrick Dwyer Ryan
  • 1899-1912            Rev Dean James John O’Neill
  • 1912-1928            Rev Fr John Gibbons, PP
  • 1926-1928            Rev Fr James Walsh, Asst
  • 1928-1935            Rev Fr John Collender
  • 1935-1938            Rev Dean John Joseph English, PP
  • 1936-1938            Rev Fr L Cosgrove, Asst
  • 1938-1944            Rev Fr L J O’Reilly
  • 1944-1967            Rev Fr Stephen O’Brien
  • 1967-1975            Rev Fr Thomas Leahy
  • 1975-                    Rev Fr Bernard Melville

Parish Associates:

Parish History

Excerpt taken from “The Catholic Church in Manilla 1894-1994 – A brief History of St Michaels

1894 – Manilla

New Roman Catholic Church

Consecration Ceremony

On Sunday, November 24, the new Roman Catholic Church at Manilla which has been dedicated to St Michael was opened by the Catholic Bishop of Armidale, the Rt Rev Dr Torreggiani. As we are now beginning to experience genuine summer weather it was decided by such Catholics of Tamworth as determined to be present, to make an early start in order to make the journey in the cool of the morning. Accordingly, shortly after 4am quite a procession of vehicles might have been seen leaving Tamworth and heading in the direction of the Manilla road. There was in fact quiet a good sprinkling of Tamworthians amongst whom were noticeable Mrs Allee, Mrs Plunkett, Mr and Mrs Lees, Mr and Mrs Potts, Mrs Biessker, Mr and Mrs Butler, Mr A J Crowe, Mr Cleary, Mr and Mrs Fardill, Mr B Cohen, Mrs McIntosh, Miss Ahern, Miss Peterson and several members of St Nicholas’ Choir. The pretty township of Manilla was reached shortly after seven o’clock, the drive through the fresh morning air being particularly enjoyable. The country between Tamworth and Manilla is looking splendid, more particularly about Attunga, and all the cattle met appeared in the pink of condition. The wheat fields on either side too could not look better and everywhere signs were visible that the rich harvest was being garnered. Approaching Manilla quite an imposing cavalcade came out to meet the Bishop and escort him to the township and it was easily to be seen that the Catholics of the district had mustered in force to attend the ceremony at the new church and to do honour to the popular prelate who presides over them.

The want of a church at Manilla has been felt for some time, the Catholics of that place having been compelled hitherto to journey to Upper Manilla a distance of some nine miles whenever they wanted to attend divine service.

With the object of putting an end to this undesirable state of things a meeting was called and a committee consisting of Messrs G Boland, P Donnelly and H King, was formed to make arrangements of the erection of a church and the obtaining of the necessary funds to pay for the same. Dr Torreggiani supplied Father Ryan with the necessary plans, the design being taken from the mortuary chapel at the Armidale cemetery, and the work of preparing them was entrusted to Fr French, architect of Armidale.

The Church which has been built on slightly different line to those in the sketch submitted and the work has been admirably carried out by Mr T Bowen, contractor of Manilla. The cost has been, including the land, somewhere about £500 but such progress did the committee and those associated with them make in the direction of  raising funds that something like £300 has been raised and the debt at the present time is only about £200. As something over £50 was contributed at the door on Sunday, it will thus be seen that the debt is now only about £150, and considering the energy that has been displayed hitherto it is reasonable to suppose that this burden will not be long in existence. The Church is a pretty building, situated on an eminence, and presents an imposing appearance on entering Manilla from the Tamworth side. It is beautifully finished and is well lit, lofty, and ventilated. It will seat about 200 and its capacity was taxed to the utmost on Sunday. Mass was celebrated on Sunday morning by the Bishop, Father Ryan assisting. The music was provided by the choir of St Nicholas’ Church, Mrs Bissaker presiding at the organ. At the conclusion of the Mass, Dr Torreggiani preached: …

Turning to the present occasion, Dr Torreggiani said he was greatly pleased with the pretty little Church which that day had been dedicated to the service of God. He was also greatly pleased with the energy of those at whose hands it had been created and particularly with their worthy pastor who presided over the district, the Rev Father Ryan. He was highly gratified with the way things had been carried out, and he wished them every comfort and joy and that Almighty God would reward them for their work – a work of love for their religion. The land and building had cost altogether something like £500, and he was sure when they saw the substantial edifice they had obtained they would not say it had been too much. It indeed seemed a very fair price, but when he heard they were going to for such a building he though it was a little too heavy load for the congregation of Manilla to bear. He could not give them the encouragement he otherwise would have owing to the excessively bad times and the fact that the bank had closed down upon him. There was a time he could have drawn a cheque for a hundred pounds to help their building fund without any difficulty, but now any money that came to him had to go to assist in reducing his debt to the bank. Despite the times, however, the Manilla congregation had made stupendous efforts in the direction of raising funds, and from statements made to him he believed their debt was something like £200. In generous manner by those belonging to denominations other than the Catholic Church, and he said all honour to such liberal heartedness. He returned his most grateful thanks to their kind friends. That was the spirit which should permeate every denomination, for in these days of so called socialism, it behoved them to remember the old adage, “United we stand, divided we fall.” He trusted that they would continue to assist one another and to foster that catholic spirit among all men. If they had a bazaar next year and that appeared one of the ordinary fund raising funds – he would promise them some goods for the stalls. He could not help them with any large money present, but he would forward them some goods. In conclusion he wished them every joy, prosperity and happiness and prayed to God to reward them a hundredfold for all they had done in the cause of religion and education.

After partaking of luncheon most of the visitors returned to Tamworth, which was reached about 7 o’clock. The Catholics of Manilla are to be congratulated on the erection of such a fine church which is superior to many in far larger places.

May 1937

New Roman Catholic Church Blessed and Dedicated

In glorious sunshine the new Roman Catholic Church (St Michael’s) was officially opened on Sunday by His Lordship Bishop Coleman. There was a large and representative gathering, including heads of public bodies and leaders of business circles. Also there were visitors from far and wide, all of whom came to do honour to the local Roman Catholic people on the opening of their fine new church.

The Bishop referred to it as “a grand edifice expressive of the faith of local Catholics.” It was a colourful ceremony; and at the conclusion of the blessing and dedication the church was packed with people – every seat was occupied, many having to remain standing. The new church was greatly admired by everyone present.

The Dedication

The ceremony commenced with the blessing and dedication of the church by the Bishop of Armidale (Dr Coleman) who was attended by Father Mohoney (Barraba) and Father O’Reilly (Manilla). The procession, led by the acolytes, then passed into the church and assembled before the Altar which likewise was blessed and dedicated. Father Mahoney was the celebrant at Holy Mass.

The Building

Standing on the corner of Rowan and Court Streets the building occupies a commanding position and is visible from every part of the town. The church is bold in conception, and refined in detail, making an imposing addition to the architectural features of the town. The western impressiveness, a large rose window of synthetic granite and two shades of cathedral glass adding to the tone of the appearance at this view point. The main brick work is composed of Manilla sandstocks, with the base and features built of Tamworth dark bricks. Two oblong windows and five small windows in corresponding style add to the motif of design. The crosses on the main gable and the cross on the sacristy are of synthetic marble. The main church building is 95 feet x 35 feet, and there is a touch of soft beauty and reverence about the interior that is quite noticeable. The walls are 21 feet high from the floor level. The ceiling is a semi-circular barrel vaulted one, made with silky oak and panelled out, the effect being impressive. The same design of ceiling is carried into the sanctuary, 26 feet x 22 feet, with a polished Tasmanian oak secret-nailed floor. The predella steps are similarly made. The communion rail is of a nice design, composed of Pacific oak. A handsome marble Altar, described elsewhere, adorns the extreme east end of the sanctuary. The well-appointed priest’s sacristy, on the south-easterly part of the building is 13 feel x 14 feet, and the boys’ sacristy adjoining is well proportioned. Both apartments are provided with cupboards for robes. On the west end of the church there is a gallery, 35 feet x 17 feet, supported on a steel girder. The ceiling and girder are boxed in with silky oak to match the main ceiling, features of which are the deep mock beams, also panelled with silky oak, finishing on to a detailed corbel at the wall. The internal walls are cement-puttied to a height of 4 feet 6 inches, and from there set in hard wall plaster. The confessionals, on each side of the building, are finished in silky oak. Three Holy water stoops are provided, and these are made from terracotta. The baptistery adjoins the stairway to the gallery, the staircase being composed of Pacific maple. The nave is 75 feet long and 35 feet wide. Forty pews are provided, each 12 feet 6 inches long, and these are made of silky oak in flat lacquer finish. Folding kneelers are attached to each pew. The lighting comes from electric wall lights in oblong opalescent glass boxes. The main entrance to the church is through a large, distinguished-looking porch at the north-western corner, and two other entrances are provided, one on each side of the building.

The roof is composed of tinted Wunderlich tiles, which give a crowing effect to the whole structure.

A pulpit, made from silky oak and designed in keeping with the communion rail, was given as a memorial to the late Dean English by the architect, the builders (Messrs C Davis and Sons), and their employees.

The foundation stone, set on the western front of the building, bears the following inscription: “This stone was blessed and laid by Right Rev J A Coleman, DD PhD, Bishop of Armidale, Sunday, October 24, 1937. Very Rev Dean J J English, PP.”

Cement walks, five feet wide, run right round the building, and from these terrazzo steps lead to the entrances to the building.

The main fence is of brick work, picked out with dark bricks, in keeping with the main building. Crosses are provided on the wrought iron gates. The internal fence is a park raid design, and a similar fence has also been carried along the front of the nearby old church, which from now on will be used exclusively as the Convent school.

18 August, 1971

Fire Destroys St Michael’s Church

Fire last Wednesday afternoon gutted St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church situated on the corner of Court and Rowan Streets.

Only the brick outer walls of the church remain standing, supporting twisted steel roof girders, along with a portion of the vestry on the southern side, from which sacred vessels and vestments were taken as fireman arrived on the scene.

Damage is estimated at up to $100,000.

Daily masses are at present being conducted in St Michael’s school building and a meeting of parishioners will be held this Friday evening to decide on a re-building scheme for the church.

An appeal has been opened to assist in the re-building programme. Donations may be sent direct to Father T Leahy at the Presbytery and will be acknowledged through the columns of this newspaper. Manilla branch of the Australian Labor Party has opened the appeal with a donation of $100.

Alerted by smoke under eaves

The alarm was sounded about 4.20 pm when Mrs M Moran who conducts a small store almost opposite the church, noticed smoke issuing from under the eaves of the building.

After telephoning the fire brigade and returning to the front of the shop, which took only a matter of minutes, the building had erupted into a mass of flames.

Although firemen were quickly on the scene, they could do little to control the blaze. Their efforts continually hampered by blazing roof beams falling as the church roof caved in.

Many local residents rushed to the scene but could do little to assist firemen.

At the height of the blaze, thick black smoke billowing from the building was visible up to 15 miles away. … Firemen took more than two hours to bring the fire under control. The brigade was re-called to the scene to extinguish threatened flare-ups at 8.45 pm Wednesday and again at 8 am the following morning. … Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire. Cause was believed to be an electrical fault.

New St Michael’s Church Ceremony

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Armidale, Most Rev H J Kennedy, DD, on Sunday morning performed the blessing and official opening of the new St Michael’s Catholic Church. …

The new St Michael’s is of contemporary design and furnishings, replaces the former building destroyed by fire on August 18 last year.

It is built on the same site as the former church. … It cost some $50,000 and most of this has been met from insurance cover on the former building. The new building is of a square design, some 36 squares in size with seating accommodation for 250 persons.

It was designed – as explained by the architect Mr K Bonner, of Tamworth – on the basis of the Catholic teachings with an endeavour to bring people as close as possible to the sanctuary.


Assisting Bishop Kennedy in the service was Manilla Parish Priest, Monsignor T Leahy and Monsignor G O’Connor, Parish Priest of Gunnedah.

Addressing the big congregation, all of which had been accommodated in the church with the provision of extra chairs, Bishop Kennedy said hist visit to Manilla was a three-fold event.

It was his first visit ever to the town. He was to confirm several candidates and also bless and open the new St Michael’s.

It was indeed, he said, a memorable day not only for the people of Manilla but for him personally.

When he had arrived in Manilla on Wednesday and had had his first look at the church with workmen still hard at it, he was very apprehensive that it would be completed in time for Sunday’s service.

He had visions of holding the opening and blessing and then the workmen would move in again on Monday to finish it off. However, he was amazed at the way the builder and all associated with him had worked on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday to come up with such a magnificent edifice as all were seeing that day.

He congratulated the parish priest, Monsignor Leahy, the architect (Mr K Bonner), the builder, Mr S Meere (a principal of the contracting firm, F S & P O Meere, of Tamworth) and all subcontractors for their magnificent efforts.

No further information has been provided at this stage. Please forward any information to the Catholic Schools Office

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