Our church was blessed and opened in 1906. But its history really begins in the spring of 1891, when Bishop Matthew Gibney rode out from central Perth north along the partly unmade road we now know as Beaufort Street. He chose the area at the top of Highgate Hill as the future site of a school and church, surrounded by residential lots.
The land was subdivided into 79 lots, with a site in the middle named Alacoque Square in honour of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, founder of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mount Heart Estate was auctioned on 23 January 1892.
By early 1897 Catholic residents of the area were asking for a school and church in the rapidly growing suburb of Highgate Hill.
Their Bishop agreed that a church could be erected on the site. A small timber and iron building was erected by residents and mass was first said there on 4 April 1897.
Later that year, on 25 October, five Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions opened the first school in the same building.
During 1898 an impressive Convent/School building was erected next to the little church. In 1903 Highgate received its first parish priest, Fr Thomas Crowley. Fr Crowley served at Highgate Hill until 1936. A colorful character, he resided initially at the Queens Hotel on Beaufort Street until a presbytery was provided for him. There is a memorial tablet to him in the church.
Fr Crowley’s first priority was to provide a permanent parish church for his flock. He began planning for this in July 1904. A major fundraising event, the Federal Fair, was held in the Perth Town Hall in November.
In March of the following year a public announcement about the new church was made, and by May noted architect Richard Dennehy has been appointed.
The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 20 August 1905. It still stands to the right of the main entrance. Its latin inscription means: This foundation stone of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was blessed and placed in position by the Reverend Matthew Gibney DD on the 20th day of August 1905.
The church as originally built was less than half its current size. It included a temporary chancel and sacristy, and a wooden choir loft. The stained glass window featuring the Sacred Heart is the only one dating from this time.
The debt on the church was not cleared until 1914, after which the parishioners immediately set to work on a further project, a new parish primary school building.
In February 1919 the large stone cross above the main entrance of the church was struck by lightning and crashed to the ground, narrowly missing worshipers arriving for Benediction. It was replaced in an impressive ceremony.
The 1920’s were a period of rapid expansion in Highgate, and in 1928 the sacristies and sanctuary were added to the church. Once again Richard Dennehy was the chosen architect. Thanks to generous donations the beautiful stained glass windows became a major feature of the church.
The convent/high school complex was also extended significantly during this period, thanks to enthusiastic fundraising by local residents.
In the period after the end of World War II Highgate parish again experienced a period of great vitality with the arrival of many migrants from Europe.
The beautiful Lady Chapel on the western side of the main church building was opened on the 25 March 1954, the architect being Edgar Le Blond Henderson. His father had been the architect of the original Convent/School complex, and he designed the extensions to the Convent built in the 1920s and 1930s.
The ‘high relief’ sculpture of the Virgin and Child in the Lady Chapel was the work of noted sculptor Edward Kohler. In the past decade a series of stained glass windows, the work of Ken Wildy, have replaced the originals, which were of tinted glass particularly suited to the Chapel’s use for evening Benediction.
In the main body of the church there have been several changes to the sanctuary, initially as a response to the Second Vatican Council. The striking Stations of the Cross, the work of Margaret Krasenstein were added in the late 1960s. Sadly two have been stolen in recent years.
The porch was constructed in its present form in 1958, the organ built in 1965, and the choir loft in 1972. The inner door commemorates the Jubilee Year of 2000.
In 1986, to mark the International year of Peace and the visit to Australia of Saint John Paul II, Assistant Parish Priest Father Alfonsas Savickas was the artist for the sculptures adjacent to the cross on the roof of the Church and the wall of the Parish Hall.
Our church tells the story of the life of the Catholic community of Highgate over the past century.
Please visit us soon.