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New South Wales - Organisation

Roman Catholic Orphan School (1837 - 1844)

  • Waverley House

    Waverley House, 1890s, courtesy of Waverley Place Names, Waverley Council.

Catholic, Home and Orphanage

The Roman Catholic Orphan School was established at Waverley House, a large home in Waverley, in 1837. It was the first Catholic orphanage in Australia. It was opened in response to community concerns about Catholic children being placed in the government-run Protestant orphan schools, where they were raised as Protestants, not Catholics. The home was run by the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney, but received financial support from the State Government. The Home had capacity for approximately 100 children. It took in both girls and boys, housing them in separate 'schools'. The children were taught reading, writing, and arithmatic, and were sent to apprenticeships once old enough. The Home closed in 1844.


In December 1840 it was reported in the Australasian Chronicle that a dinner had been held for the children at the Orphan School, funded by a local benefactor. The children ate roast beef, mutton, vegetables, and plum pudding. The benefactor requested that the dinner be an annual event for the children, held at her expense.

In November 1841 the Roman Catholic Orphan School was struck by lightning during a large storm, which resulted in the deaths of three children at the Home, and many others being knocked to the ground but not receiving significant injuries. The Home itself was also damaged during the storm.

In 1844, following the opening of the Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta, the school at Waverley closed, and all 114 children in residence were transferred to the Parramatta Home.


1837 - 1844
Address - The Roman Catholic Orphan School was located at Waverley House, on the corner of Waverley Crescent and South Head Road, Waverley (now Bondi). Location: Waverley


Online Resources


Waverley House
Waverley House
Waverley Place Names, Waverley Council


Sources used to compile this entry: Domestic Intelligence: Roman Catholic Orphans, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 31 August 1839, 2 pp,; The Catholic Orphan School, Australasian Chronicle, 5 December 1840, 2 pp,; The late Storm - Three lives lost, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 4 November 1841, 2 pp,; Legislative Council: Roman Catholic Orphan Schools, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1843, 2 pp,; Dowd, B. T., History of the Waverley Municipal District 1859-1959, Council of the Municipality of Waverley, 1959, p.18-19.; Aldis & Co & Stephen, Jaques & Stephen (189-?) 'Waverley House Estate' [map]. Retrieved from (accessed 3 February 2023).

Thank you to CLAN for discovering this Home and bringing it to our attention.

Prepared by: Constance Thurley-Hart