Benedictine Order in Parramatta

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The Benedictines were brought to Australia when the Roman Catholic archbishop in the colony, the English Benedictine Dr John Bede Polding, established two monasteries: St Mary’s in Sydney in 1843 where monks practised; and Subiaco in 1849 for the nuns, on the banks of the Parramatta River. The Church’s ministry was to conduct schools, which it did at Lyndhurst in Glebe, opening in 1852 through to 1877; and at Subiaco from 1851 to 1921.


Subiaco was the former home of Hannibal Macarthur (1788-1861), nephew of John Macarthur. In 1813 Hannibal bought the property known as the Vineyard, one of the earliest land grants made by Governor Phillip in 1791. Philip Schaffer had been the original grant holder. It was later owned for a period of time by Captain Henry Waterhouse who had brought the first Spanish merino sheep to Australia in 1797. Hannibal Macarthur expanded the size of the property to 700 acres (280 hectares) and built a grand mansion on it, designed by John Verge and completed in 1836. Maria Macarthur, wife of Hannibal, was the daughter of Philip Gidley King, former governor of New South Wales. The Vineyard homestead was surrounded by an orangery, extensive gardens and a circular terraced vineyard. Parrots and possums were brought to the Macarthur children as pets. Hannibal Macarthur lost his fortunes during the depression of the early 1840s and a portion of 140 acres (56 hectares), which included the house, was sold and renamed Subiaco in reference to the place where St Benedict had spent some of his early monastic life.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.