Sacred Heart Catholic Church is the fourth Catholic church built in Hobart after St Virgil's Wooden Chapel (on the site of the current Cathedral), St Joseph's Church (which functioned as pro-Cathedral while St Mary's was being built) and St Mary's Cathedral. The church at New Town was established largely as a result of the work of Father P. R. Hennebry, who appears to have had charge of the New Town, Glenorchy, Bellerive, Rokeby, and Kingston congregations from about 1869 until 1888, when the district was severed from St Mary's Cathedral.
The Church was officially opened in 1880, although the sanctuary was not completed until 1882. At the time work started, it was a green-field site, purchased by the Church for £120, and served a semi-rural community. The Church was designed by local architect Henry Hunter (who also drew up the modified design of St Mary's following its structural issues), and some of the builders had experience working there.
The foundation stone of Sacred Heart Church in New Town was laid on 3 February 1878. Excerpts from The Mercury newspaper at the time say:
"Dr. Murray, Bishop of Hobart Town, led the procession to the site of the future church, and halted at a wooden cross, erected on the site of the future altar. Here a circle was formed, and the office commenced by prayers, which were said by the Bishop of Hobart Town, who then sprinkled the whole of the outline of the foundations with Holy Water. The foundation stone was sprinkled with Holy Water and lowered to its place. In a cavity beneath it were placed the formal documents, copies of the daily papers, coins, etc. According to a report published in the Hobart Tribune, relics from Ireland were also placed below the foundation stone: “A small packet of ashes, alleged to have come from the tomb of St Patrick, was also committed to the cavity.”
About the opening on Sunday 18 January 1880, The Hobart Mercury reported:
“The new building, though not very large in size is well arranged and well lighted on all sides. The style of architecture is Gothic, late in the early English period. The plan comprises a nave 63ft. by 29ft., capable of accommodating about 300 persons; a chancel, with an apsidal termination (which is not yet, built), 26ft. by 14ft; and sacristy, I6ft. by 14ft. The building stands due east and west, and has on the north side a porch 11ft. by 10ft. At the north-west angle of the nave an octagonal turret is, carried up for a belfry. At present it is only built high enough to clear the coping on the nave gable, and is there covered over with a temporary roof….. At the west end, are two handsome two-light windows with traceried heads, and a circular window above filled with tracery, the whole being connected by a cusped label mould, running round the window heads across the entire gable. The entrance doorway in porch, is deeply recessed and moulded. The roofs are slated, and are open internally to the ridge, supported on arched principals, springing from moulded corbels built in the wall, The roofs are of Oregon pine throughout. The chancel arch is deeply cut and moulded, and springs from semi-octagonal piers having moulded caps and bases. The opening is 25ft. by 16 ft. in the clear, and is, for want of funds, temporarily enclosed by a wooden structure which forms a quasi chancel."
“The church…is built of brown stone from Derwent Park quarry, relieved by Kangaroo Point white stone, ….The contract for erection of the edifice was taken by Mr. P. Cronly, who has faithfully carried out the work, from the design and under the immediate supervision of Mr. Henry Hunter,…”
“The altar and screen at back of same, together, with other fittings, are those which have been for so many years in use in the Catholic Chapel at the Queen’s Asylum, and which have been generously handed over to Father Henneby by the hon. the Colonial Secretary."
Sacred Heart was finally completed with the construction of the sanctuary which was consecrated on Sunday 16 January 1882:
“The lately erected sanctuary of the Church of the Sacred Heart, New Town, was, yesterday morning, consecrated and opened for the celebration of Mass,… The sanctuary, which has been erected under the supervision of the architect, Mr. Henry Hunter, is in dimension 18ft. by 22ft., the height of the walls being 19ft.. Attached to it on the south-west side is a sacristy 16ft. by 14ft., both erections being plastered and completely finished, making the church a commodious and handsome building, excellently suited to the sacred purposes for which it has been erected. The altar window, most generously presented to the church by Mrs. John Young and her son, Mr. John Clay Young, depicts in rich colours the Three Mysteries—the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and is from the establishment of Messrs. Ashwin and Faulkner, of Sydney, the well-known glass-stainers, the capability of the firm being testified to by the fact that Mr. Ashwin prepared, when in London, a stained window for Westminster Abbey. The window is noticeable for the richness of its colours, and is a feature of the building of which its congregation has reason to be proud. It cost the sum of £100."
Sacred Heart Church has long been connected with the School that now surrounds it. The foundation stone for the first dedicated building of Sacred Heart School was laid in 1887. From 1908 the Sacred Heart Convent School at New Town was run by the Sisters of St Joseph.
The first organ installed in Sacred Heart was built c.1843 by James Eagles of London for Bishop F.R. Nixon. It was first installed at St Mary’s Cathedral and then installed in Sacred Heart, Newtown in 1895. In c. 1952, it was removed & broken up. The present organ was built in 1971 by George Fincham & Sons. It has 1 manual, 3 ranks and electro-magnetic action.