Thomas Little Memorial Hall

by Margaret Giumelli
Updated: 21 March 2022

Thomas Little Hall was once the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the first Catholic church to be built outside of Perth. It was renamed the Thomas Little Memorial Hall in 1978. When one walks into this beautiful little building, the first thing that meets the eye is the only portrait we have of the Catholic community’s benefactor, a bewhiskered, Thomas Little, founder and benefactor extraordinaire of the community.

On 19 October, 1852 Thomas Little drew up a deed in which he gave 50 acres of land sectioned off from his Lot 25 along with 100,000 bricks (handmade from local clay), 50 bushels of kalsomine with the approximate value of £100. Archbishop Bede Polding of Sydney, while visiting the western colony on matters of Church disputation, saw the need for a church for the growing Irish Catholic community in the area and made the suggestion while he was Thomas’ guest in 1852

Arriving in Dardanup as acting Catholic Bishop of the Swan River Colony, Bishop Salvado blessed and laid the foundation stone on the 25th March, 1854 to begin the building of the little chapel under the trees.

“.  .  .  it was in the midst of the woods under the canopy of heaven that the ceremony was accomplished not with pomp, but with great spiritual joy.”  

Completion and Opening as the Church of the Immaculate Conception on 
1st April, 1857 by the Benedictine priest, Father Vernancio Garrido.
The original Church of the Immaculate Conception showing school cottage next door

Following its completion, the Church was also used as a school.

When the current church was opened in 1938, the original church was deconsecrated and continued to be used as a classroom by the Sisters of Mercy. The school has used this building constantly over the years for a variety of purposes: a vaulting horse and springboard took pride of place for the boys to enjoy gymnastics and it was also a great place to learn basketry and woodwork.  In later years it made a very cosy library. When there was need for space for any given activity, the little building was always generously made available.

The old church, much in need of repair – Date unknown
1956 – The old church seen from the new Dardanup Hall, one hundred years after it was built

After extensive damage caused by Cyclone Alby in 1978, a program of restoration was effected and the building renamed “The Thomas Little Memorial Hall” in honour of the respected donor of the land on which it stands.

A program of restoration was carried out again in 1996 with architect Michael Broderick.

In the 2000s, showing signs of further distress, a State Heritage Grant was used for restoration work. 

Another very substantial grant from the State Government allowed for major works on the little building and this was completed in 2020 coinciding with the 125th anniversary celebrations of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School.

The Thomas Little Memorial Hall is still a generous little building opening its doors as a wonderful facility and gift to the local and wider community