23 January 2023

Old Gunning Catholic convent to go up for auction

| Sally Hopman
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Old convent

Gunning Convent, commissioned in 1924, has just gone on the market for only the second time in its history. It will go up for auction on 20 February. Photo: McCann Properties.

Stephen Clancy, a sixth-generation Gunning district man, remembers only once venturing into the Catholic convent on top of the village hill.

He’s not sure now whether it was for disciplinary reasons when he was a youngster at the adjacent school, but he does remember it was quite unusual to go inside. Unless it was your job to chop firewood for the priest.

The convent has towered over the village of Gunning, about an hour’s drive from Canberra, since it was commissioned in 1924. With the convent, the church and the school, it was known by locals as Catholic Hill.

Back in Gunning’s early days, the local Catholic priest deemed that a school was needed to cope with the increase in population, so he secured the funds and the convent was built. In its prime, the convent housed the priest and up to eight nuns who taught at the adjacent school. Back then, Mr Clancy recalls, there was even a high school in the village.

“The convent wasn’t a place people went into,” he said, “unless you were called in for a particular reason.

Convent sitting room

With the stunning stained-glass windows still in position, the memory of the convent remains in the new formal sitting room. Photo: McCann Properties.

“I remember being called in once, but I was always a slow learner,” he joked. “You could go into the first room from the front door, but never anywhere else.

“It was the sort of place that you knew was there, but you weren’t really allowed to go inside – unless it was for a reason.”

But with a diminishing population, the decision was made to close the Catholic school in the 1960s and because the nuns were the teachers and there was no longer work for them, the move was made to sell the convent.

“It’s only ever had two lots of owners after the church,” Mr Clancy said. “From memory, I think they wanted about six thousand pounds for it. The reason I remember that is because my father was interested in buying it but we didn’t have that sort of money.”

It ended up being sold to the Redmond family, who kept it for about 20 years, did not do extensive work on it and left it ostensibly as it was, Mr Clancy said.

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Before its two owners, Mr Clancy said, it was in God’s hands.

The current owners, who are selling because they are moving north, have also had it for about 20 years.

An enormous amount of work has been done in that time, transforming the gloomy house on the hill into a stunning, modern family residence complete with eight bedrooms – much larger than the cell-sized ones the nuns lived in – on a huge 1800-square-metre block.

The convent has just gone on the market, according to agent Ian Blackburn of McCann Properties.

Although it still looks like a convent, albeit an opulent one, the property now towers above the village as a beacon of modern luxury living.

Convent country kitchen

The former convent’s kitchen has been transformed into a modern, cosy room for family meals. Photo: McCann Properties.

But it has kept many connections to its religious background, including stunning stained-glass windows throughout, high ceilings, crosses still featured in the walls, and a tranquil outdoor living and garden area.

The ground floor features a new kitchen, formal lounge, dining and living area, and the main bedroom has an ensuite with a walk-in wardrobe. Upstairs are seven bedrooms, a sitting room and a large bathroom.

Mr Blackburn said although the property had only just hit the market, significant interest had already been shown.

It will go up for auction on Monday, 20 February, 2023, at 6:30 pm. It is open for inspection this Saturday and next at 11 am in Wombat Street.

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