history aerial 450Until the 1920s the area of the two parishes of Armadale and Toorak belonged to the neighbouring parishes of St Mary East St Kilda (1862) and St Joseph South Yarra (1887).

In the 1920s and after the First World War (1914-1918) Archbishop Mannix established many new parishes in the inner south-eastern area of Melbourne.  The parish of Armadale-Toorak was created in 1922.  It was entitled Out Lady of Lourdes.  The foundation of St Peter’s Parish Toorak followed in 1929.

The erection of a chapel-of-ease in Toorak in 1912 shows that pressure had been exerted even before the First World War from the eastern section of the South Yarra parish by a few of the wealthier parishioners and also the Catholic maids who worked in the houses of the well-to-do Protestant population of the Toorak area.  Opening the chapel of St Stanislaus Kostka (on the site of the sanctuary of the present St Peter’s Church) in February 1912, Archbishop Carr acknowledged the letters he had received from the young servant girls, as well as the generosity of the Catholics and Protestants of Toorak who had subscribed to the building fund.  He also congratulated the parish priest for his energy and zeal.  Given the name of the chapel we can also admire the finesse of the priest, Robert Stanislaus Benson.

The growth of the South Yarra parish in the early years was rapid.  Archbishop Carr laid the foundation stone of the church in 1888 and, despite the Depression of the 90s, Carr opened the parish school in 1891.  The South Yarra and Toorak Coronation Fair had been held by the parish in 1911 specifically to raise funds for the building of St Stanislaus Chapel.  The title of the Fair shows that the Catholics were quite happy to demonstrate their loyalty to the Crown.  King George V was crowned in that year.  Three years after the opening of St Stanislaus’ Chapel Carr opened St Thomas Aquinas Chapel in Bromby Street on the western side of the parish.

history olol site 250In February 1922, a new parish was formed in the area of Armadale and Prahran.  This Parish also covered the area of Toorak and was accordingly known as the Armadale-Toorak parish  The site was, and is, at 631 High Street Prahran where the original 1880s house, Cavendish House, still stands and is used as the presbytery.

The first parish priest was Father Michael Ignatius O’Brien.  Born in Geelong he had been an AIF Chaplain in France during the Great War.  He took on all the details of planning and building of the new church with a school attached to it.

The church school was opened in October 1922 and the school began in February 1923 with approximately 200 students. 

frebsworththanks 250By 1929 the area of Toorak in the Armadale parish was considered sufficiently strong to be created a parish in its own right.  Fr Walter Ebsworth was appointed parish priest until his retirement in 1970.

Born in Melbourne in 1895 he attended the Parade College in East Melbourne and was educated for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College Manly.  As parish priest he inherited St Stanislaus Chapel and two titles of land purchased successively by Fr Benson in 1904 and 1918.  Despite the Depression of 1929 Fr Ebsworth set about gathering support and funds for the building of a new and larger church to be dedicated under the title of St Peter.  By December 1933 Archbishop Mannix laid the foundation stone at what is now the eastern side of the now completed church building.  The architect was Otto Jorgensen who had helped to design Our Lady of Lourdes Church of 1930.  In November 1934 Archbishop Mannix blessed and opened the completed section of the church: sanctuary, top of the nave and sacristy.

restoration01 250

Over the past decade the renewal and development project has comprised the construction of The Benson Retirement Village, the construction of the new Parish Centre and the major restoration and renovation of St Peter’s Church.

The project was initiated due to the deterioration of the sandstone façade of the church and the potential danger of falling sandstone fragments. The opportunity was also taken to restore and improve the interior of the Church.  The funding for the project was secured by the redevelopment of the two blocks of land adjoining the church.

Father Brendan Hayes, Parish Priest, and the Parish Renewal and Development Committee chaired by John Ralph AC are very grateful for the constant and helpful support that has been generously forthcoming from the Archbishop and from his predecessor, Emeritus Archbishop Denis Hart, over the long period of development, which was completed in November 2020.