St Aloysius College: the Beginning

House of Mercy

On June 5, 1880 the Sisters purchased the home of Mr G. Dutton-Green in Angas Street, Adelaide and established a Mother House under the leadership of Mother Evangelista. The largest room of the house was converted into a chapel and the stables and coach-house behind the Dutton-Green house were converted into boarding accommodation for poor girls and orphans. On August 12, 1880 this temporary House of Mercy was opened, offering these young women training in domestic service to work in the homes of Adelaide’s wealthy. This House of Mercy proved so successful that a new building, St. Philomena’s House of Mercy, was erected and opened in 1884. The building adjoined and ran parallel to St. Francis Xavier Hall.

As they did in Buenos Aries, the Sisters offered religious instruction to adults as well as visiting prisoners and the sick, but the real need in Adelaide was for education.

Sisters of Mercy, Adelaide. 1899. From St Aloysius College Archives
Sisters of Mercy, Adelaide. 1899. From St Aloysius College Archives
  • St Francis Xavier Cathedral and School Hall

    August 6, 1880

    The Sisters established 2 schools, which were housed in St Francis Xavier’s Hall, next to the Cathedral in Wakefield Street. St Anthony’s for the younger boys and St Angela’s for the girls provided a primary school education for the poor boys and girls of the parish. There were 2 separate playgrounds – one for boys and one for girls.

  • March, 1882

    St Angela’s Select Intermediate School for Girls was established in the upper rooms of St Francis Xavier Hall. Catering to the wealthier Catholic families from suburban Adelaide as well as boarders from country South Australia, the focus was on education in the arts and academics. Both the Select school and the parish school for girls were dedicated to St. Angela. Following the tradition set by Catherine McAuley, the fees from the Select school helped the Sisters to run the primary school for poor children.

  • 1904

    Two inheritances gave the Sisters the funds to erect a new building for St Angela’s next to the House of Mercy. This three story building at the northern end of the convent property, was named McAuley House and was the new home of the Select school. This building was later to be called the Dunlevie Building. The poorer children of the parish continued to be educated in the Cathedral Hall.


  • 1904

    St Angela’s  Select Intermediate School for Girls was renamed ‘St Aloysius College High School and Boarding School’ in honour of St Aloysius, Patron Saint of students. The parish school for girls in the St Francis Xavier Hall continued to be called St Angela’s.

  • 1920

    Mother Cecilia Cunningham inherited a large fortune from her parents in Argentina. The money was used to purchase three properties and two blocks of land on the eastern side of the Convent. The Barr Smith house in Angas Street was purchased in November and provided additional accommodation for the Sisters, a kitchen and two dining rooms. The rest of the house was used by the Novitiate.

  • 1921

    Acraman House, on the eastern side of the Convent, was purchased and the two houses joined to form the current Convent of Mercy. The architect extended Acraman House towards Angas Street to bring it into alignment with the Dutton-Green house.

  • 1921

    A number of cottages and small shops were purchased to extend the Angas Street property to Chancery Lane. More properties in Chancery Lane were bought as well as a block on Wakefield Street to extend the College grounds. There was now space for a number of tennis courts.

  • 1922

    The Memorial Chapel was built on the site of the  kitchen and laundry of Acraman House. This formed part of the eastern side of the present cloisters.

    The McAuley Building (currently Dunlevie) was extended by demolishing the stables and hayloft of Acraman House and adding another two-story wing.


  • 1925

    St Cecilia’s Hall and Primary School was erected next to the Barr Smith house on the the corner of Angas Street and Chancery Lane. This primary school was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy and replaced St Angela’s that had previously been housed in St Francis Xavier’s Hall next to the Cathedral (St Anthony’s for younger boys had been closed in 1915). The fees from St Aloysius College subsidised the schooling for St Cecilia’s students and the two schools operated side by side.

  • 1954

    The boarders left St Aloysius College and went to the new day and boarding Mercy School, Mercedes College at Springfield. This spacious property had been purchased by the Sisters in 1953 to overcome the problem of the increasingly overcrowded city school.

  • 1957

    St Cecilia’s School was closed and the girls from St Cecilia’s were absorbed into St Aloysius College.

August 6, 1880March, 1882190419041920192119211922192519541957

By Carol Grantham, 2019


About Catherine 2019Mercy International Association, viewed 11 October 2019, <>.

Angas Street, Adelaide 1922PhotographState Library of South Australia B 1108, viewed 9 February 2020, <>.

Astbury, H 1980Centenary: The Sisters of Mercy South Australia 1880-1980Sisters of MercyAdelaide.

Barr Smith house 1903PhotographState Library of South Australia PRG-631-2-280, viewed 25 October 2019, <>.

Chapel, Convent of Sisters of Mercy 1922PhotographState Library of South Australia B 1116, viewed 25 October 2019, <>.

Gall, E 1903Convent of Mercy, Angas StreetPhotographState Library of South Australia P 631/2/1803RG, viewed 9 February 2020, <>.

Mercy Sisters 1899St Aloysius College Archives, St Aloysius College, Adelaide.

St Aloysius College Centenary Journal 1980St Aloysius CollegeAdelaide.

St Cecilia’s Hall and Private School 1926PhotographState Library of South Australia B-3408, viewed 25 October 2019, <>.

Stapleton, N 2013Short history of SACDocumentSt Aloysius CollegeAdelaide.

St Francis Xavier cathedral and School Hall 1905PhotographState Library of South Australia B-72310, viewed 25 October 2019, <>.