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History of Pittwater Parishes


The Catholic history of the Pittwater area dates from 1833 when the pioneer priest Fr John Therry was granted 1200 acres of land at Pittwater, with 280 acres added four years later. This land covered the area south from Surf Road, Whale Beach to Attunga Road, Newport Beach. It extended from the sea through to Pittwater.

Father Therry himself probably had little chance to spend time in the area for some years. He was Parish Priest of Campbelltown (which stretched to Yass) from 1835 to 1838 when he was sent to Van Diemen's Land, returning permanently to New South Wales in 1856 when he was appointed to Balmain as Parish Priest. He died at Balmain in 1864. He left all this land to the Jesuits who sold it off in smaller lots.

 A small wooden Church was built at Careel Bay, perhaps on the corner of the present Patrick and Joseph Streets, Avalon. The Church was dedicated to St Joseph and was made of pit-sawn timber slabs with a shingle roof.

This chapel was built in 1830, to serve the needs of those working on farms in the area, and for workers at the unsuccessful coal mine which Father Therry started near Bilgola Headland, including the site of the present Avalon golf course. In practice, Mass was rarely said there as the area was sparsely populated, remote and isolated.

The Original Careel Bay Church photographed at Narrabeen with  Fr Amiel Joseph Sobb P.P. 1949-1982.


From 1876, Manly Parish was responsible for the Peninsula as far North as Palm Beach. In the 1885 Australasian Catholic Directory, Careel Bay was listed as an official Mass Centre within the parish of Manly. In 1889, a petition from several Catholics in the Barrenjoey area asked for a Priest to visit, as there had been no Mass said in the District for over a year.

 About 1917 Fr (Tom/Michael?) Farrell P.P.of Dee Why moved the old church to Narrabeen where for many years it was used as Mass Centre and a hall until the construction of the Church school in 1939.

Pittwater Parish records that this building was demolished in the 1940s and the timbers taken to Port Macquarie to be used there. This is incorrect as it was used by the Narrabeen Parish between 1939 and the 1960’s as a Schoolroom, Playroom, Lunchroom, Meeting room, Tuckshop, Clubhouse, Sports Hall, etc and generally referred to as “The Shed”. Also Mr William Clarke, an early parishioner recalls that Fr A.J. Sobb gave the “The Shed” to Fr K. Hannan P.P. of Emu Plains in the 1960’s.

In 1923 St Kevins Church was built in Oaks Ave., Dee Why and the Parish of Dee Why was established in 1928 with a Fr. Michael Farrell appointed as Parish Priest, who stayed to 1942. This Parish extended from the Curl Curl / Brookvale areas on the south, west to Wakehurst Parkway and and north to Pittwater.

Fr Farrell constructed St Josephs Narrabeen in 1938 and The Sacred Heart Mona Vale in 1939.