In the 1880s Melbourne was a city that was developing fast and there was a demand for grand public and private buildings as well as a need for schools to educate the children of the city. The Catholic community of Melbourne saw the need to build parish schools to accompany the parishes that were growing at this time.
The parishes of Kew, Camberwell and Hawthorn were established by 1889 and the area which our parish of Deepdene encompasses was, at this time, part of the parishes of Camberwell and Kew.
A letter from a local Catholic, Stanislaus Day in 1919 acknowledged that there was a population of Catholics who lived on the boundary of the parishes of ‘Hawthorn, Kew and Camberwell’ but that were ‘about 2 miles from each church’. There was very little public transport in the area at this time and this posed great difficulties for those who wished to go to Mass. Stanislaus Day wrote to the then Archbishop of Melbourne, Doctor Daniel Mannix, to ask if a ‘small church should be built… for the elderly people and Maids at Service’. From 1919 to 1929 over 20 new parishes were established and amongst them our own parish of Deepdene which was established in 1922. At this time and for a number of years this was an area of market gardens and was rural in character.
The first Parish priest was Father T.B.Walsh. He was appointed to the parish in 1922 and at that time there was no church and no school. The masses were celebrated in the old Genazzano chapel and marriages and baptisms took place in the surrounding parish churches. Father Walsh bought the residence that was to become the presbytery and then the six building blocks that were to be used for the parish school and Church. The first building, on the Whitehorse Rd site, which is now part of the school, was used by the parish as both a church and a school. The foundation stone was blessed by Archbishop Mannix on November 26th 1922.
The new parish started with about 80 families, which meant there was a heavy burden of debt for the parishioners to carry. In order to raise the funds to build the school and the church, the parishioners held many functions, dances, fetes and raffles to try to raise funds and it required a concerted effort and the good will and hard work of these families. At present we have 1200 families in the parish.
Father Walsh commenced building near what is now the corner of Whitehorse Road and Campbell Road and the building served as both a church and a school for a number of years. The Church accounts for this period of time show how the parish debt grew and then reduced over the 10 years of Fr Walsh’s time as parish priest. The parish Church was begun when Father Godwin was the parish priest and was completed in 1955. The long narrow shape of the church was dictated by the land that was available between the presbytery and the school. At the opening of the Church, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix congratulated Father Godwin on the beauty of the Church and said ‘for many generations this church built by Father Godwin and his people will stand, I think, almost unrivalled in its beauty and perfection’.
At the time, ‘Good Counsel’ the parish magazine included a description of the architecture of the church. The design utilised the “traditional basilica type plan with a prominent central tower dominating the front of the building. The tower covering the whole of the narthex is 66 feet high terminating with aluminium cross, rising 76feet above the ground. External walls are carried out in oatmeal tone brickwork set off and relieved with ivory white architectural terra cotta motifs and trimmings”. The wooden statues of Our Lord and Our Lady which stand either side of the altar were carved by Hans Knorr were added to the church at a later time whereas the large painting Our Lady of Good Counsel was probably placed in the church around the time of its building.