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In 1850 a 2-acre Government grant was obtained for a Roman Catholic Church in Bridge Road, Richmond and in August 1853 Fr Madden called tenders for a brick church-school to be erected there. This block on Bridge Road was bound by Griffiths, Palmer and Coppin Streets. The trustees appointed later were Bishop Goold, Rev J J Madden, Joseph L'Estrange and William Henry Archer.

The Herald newspaper of 26 September 1853 recorded the laying of the foundation stone:

The foundation stone of the new Roman Catholic chapel was laid at Richmond yesterday (Sunday) by the Right Rev Bishop Goold in the presence of a large concourse of people. The sight is a very picturesque one and the edifice will be dedicated to Saint James. A considerable sum was laid on the stone to forward the good work.

The church was probably named St James', because this saint was the patron saint of the first Catholic Bishop of Melbourne, James Goold and also of the first parish priest of Richmond, Rev James Madden.

The Catholic Directory of 1855 stated that:The first St James' Church in Bridge Road, Richmond.  Artist: Unknown.

The small but handsome chapel-school at Richmond was solemnly opened and dedicated to God in honour of St James on the Feast of St Agatha, February 05, 1854.

The Herald of that same week described how the blessing was followed by the Pontifical High Mass, Rev Dr L B Shiel preached an impressive sermon and Rev W Cunningham directed the choir. Richard Fitzgerald was named the builder of this Ancient Gothic building. The total cost of the church-school and furniture was given as £2,667.3.9, of which £900 was subscribed by the people.

 

Mr Joseph L'Estrange - Owner of home 'Erindale' where the first Mass in Richmond was offered.  Photographer: Unknown.Fr Joseph Madden - First resident priest in Richmond.  Photographer: Unknown.In March 1853 Bishop Goold had appointed Fr James Joseph Madden to care for the growing congregation of Richmond Hill. As there was no church in the area, Mass was celebrated for a time in the home of Mr Joseph L'Estrange at 'Erindale', a fine bluestone building near the corner of Highett Street and Bromham Place. Fr Madden's first presbytery was a house in Charlotte Street.

James Plunkett was a parishioner and conductor of the choir at St James' in the 1850s. His sister, Mary Jane, married Michael Keogh, a brother to Mrs Joseph L'Estrange. In Plunkett's diaries of the 1850s, there are several references to St James' Church and Fr Madden. (Note that 'M J' is Mary Jane Keogh, and 'M' is Michael Keogh.)


Thursday 27 December 1855 Went with Michael to L'Estranges, Mr and Mrs Archer, Dr and Mrs Stewart, Fr Madden, Geary, M J, Dear Mother, Daley and Charley. Good fun.
Tuesday 8 January 1856 Went to Archers with M J, Mother, Mr and Mrs Forbes, Mr and Mrs L'Estrange, Fr Madden and Daley. Charley there after we left.
Tuesday 10 March 1856 Went with M and M J to Mrs L'Estrange's Miss Chapman, new governess there. Fr Madden also. L'Estrange gone to Van Dieman's Land.
Sunday 28 February 1858 Conversation about a choir for Richmond.
Monday 2 August 1858 Preliminary meeting at Fr Madden's concerning organ for Richmond.
Monday 12 September 1859 Henry Joseph Keogh baptised by Fr Madden.

 

In 1859, Richard Fitzgerald constructed a two-storeyed brick presbytery on the corner of Bridge Road and Coppin Street, alongside the church. In the glass pane above the door were the words St James' House. The building cost £2300.

Fr P Smyth succeeded Fr Madden as parish priest in June 1864. He was assisted for a short time by Fr I J O'Callaghan. In 1865 Fr E McCarthy became the Richmond pastor for a few months. Other priests remembered at the old St James' were Frs F O'Donnell, J O'Donnell and Francis McCarthy. In April 1866 the Jesuit Fathers took over the Richmond Mission. Frs Dalton and M'Kiniry lived in St James' House.

With the increase in population over the years it became evident that a larger church was necessary on a more suitable site. Although attempts were made to set the project in motion, no movement was successful until the Jesuit Fathers arrived. Land was purchased in Church Street on the very top of the hill. The foundation stone for the new church of St Ignatius' was laid on 04 August 1867.

In 1876 the old St James' church-school was demolished, however the presbytery remained and was demolished as late as August 1958.

The foundation stone was preserved to be included in the new church of St James' in Kent Street which opened on December 16, 1900.