Xavier College South Wing, Great Hall and Memorial Chapel, Kew

Xavier College South Wing, Great Hall and Memorial Chapel, Kew

The foundation stone for this majestic college and historic Kew landmark was laid in 1872. The land for the new boarding school had been purchased the year before by Jesuit Fathers Joseph Dalton, Francis Murphy and Edward Nolan SJ and included some 70 acres bordered by Barkers Road from Denmark Street to Glenferrie Road.

The front half and the corridor of the South Wing were completed with a temporary back wall in time for St. Francis Xavier's College to open on Sunday 10 February 1878, with 92 students, 71 of them being boarders. The original design by Mr. Kelly was for three levels, but he was replaced by the firm of Gilbert, Dennihey and Tappin at some point. The building accommodated cellars, a kitchen, chapel, boys' refectory and dormitories as well as the Jesuits' dining room and living quarters.

The South Wing was completed by the second Rector, Father Edward Nolan SJ, in 1884. The ground floor now hosts administration offices and the Staff Common Room, with the Brennan Resource Centre (Library), audio visual rooms and staff offices on the top floor.

The Great Hall owes its existence to the vision and courage of the fourth Rector, Father Thomas Brown SJ, who initiated the building of the Great Hall in 1890. This spacious building, built in the style of a giant conservatory, was added along the eastern wall of the new West Wing and measures 183 feet long, 48 feet wide and 39 feet high. It is used on a daily basis and hosts campus Masses, assemblies, social events and exams.

The lack of a chapel at Xavier had been of concern to the Xavier community, as it was the one building that had been planned for, but never built. By the end of 1919, the Old Xaverians' Association had proposed that the new chapel be a Memorial Chapel, to commemorate Old Xaverians who had fallen in World War I.

The Chapel design is by Schreiber & Jorgensen and Ole Jorgensen became the responsible architect and contractor over the build period. The foundations were completed in October 1927, but drought and the Great Depression impacted the works as funding dried up. Building stopped and started over the next few years and it wasn't until 1934 that the building was completed.

The Chapel has been described as 'one of the most formal classicising Baroque church designs in Victoria, with a giant order Roman Ionic portico, vestigial west towers and a dominant dome and drum over the crossing'. The Xavier College Memorial Chapel now stands as a memorial to all Old Xaverians that made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars.