History of the School

St Ambrose’s Catholic Primary School was established by Fr. Bolton in 1936 under the direction of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.​

In 1928, Archbishop James Duhig purchased the home of Mr. Fred Brown ‘Corinthia’, a home on the present Church Corner of Enoggera Road and Davidson Street. Father Brian Bolton, after six years as Secretary to His Grace Archbishop Duhig, was appointed to the new Parish of Kelvin Grove in Corinthia House.

The first Mass was on March 10th, 1928, at which 30 people were present. By May 6th, the average attendance had grown to 100 people. In 1929, the congregation had grown so large that the house could no longer comfortably seat the increasing Parish community.

This increase coincided with the Great Depression in the late twenties. As in other cities world-wide, Brisbane struggled through years of high unemployment, poverty and plummeting incomes. Fr. Bolton’s sermons were a remedy for the Parish, who flocked to his church for “his [charismatic] personality as by his priestly qualities” (The Catholic Leader, 1936).

To accommodate the new parish community, Fr. Bolton built a brand new church above the creek on the hill, right in front of Carinthia House in 1929. This building was to function as a church and as a school. The foundation stone of the church-school was laid by his Grace on the 7th April, 1929. On July 8, 1929 when His Grace blessed the school – he also spoke of current unemployment and the need for relief.

The church-school was opened a year later, 7th July 1930. However, the church-school was to serve as a church only for over forty-five years. The school of St Ambrose’s (as it is now known) was delayed for 7 years.

Then on July 5th, 1936, the parish of Kelvin Grove saw the opening of a new school – St Ambrose’s Primary Catholic School. A large opening ceremony was presided over by Archbishop J. Duhig, who declared that day as the happiest day in 8 years “because they were commencing their real work … [giving] their children a Christian education” (The Catholic Leader, 1936). As a free gift to the parish, Archbishop Duhig gave the deeds of the property, valued at 1250 pounds.

With the completion of the school and a new presbytery for Father B. Bolton, the parishioners of Newmarket had a splendid group of buildings. The former presbytery was handed over by Father Bolton to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who were to have charge of the school. By July 5th, 47 students were enrolled with the Good Samaritan Sisters. There were 94 enrolments by the end of the year.

The Good Samaritan Sisters were a community of of five sisters, with Mother Ignatius in charge, had travelled from New South Wales to education the children of Newmarket. They had a splendid reputation in the south, particularly in NSW and VIC, and for 35 years they had been working with great success in QLD – at first in Charters Towers and then in Brisbane. Their Good Samaritan Order was a purely Australian foundation, dating from the days of Dr. Polding.

Father Bolton assured the people that the Sisters would leave nothing undone to see that the children received a thorough education.

In the eight years since the property was purchased, the Kelvin Grove parish had “grown like a young giant” and borne witness to “a splendid Holy Name Society, a well organized parish, and … a flourishing Catholic school” (The Catholic Leader, 1936).

Fr. Bolton was responsible for the pioneering work at Newmarket, which was the first and only Parish of which he was pastor. He died in 1970 after being parish priest for 42 years. The pastor Fr F. ​P Scanlan, succeeded him in 1978.  The first lay principal in 1975 was Mr Jim Childs, who continued until 1989 when Mr Bob Taylor was appointed.

With the decline of religious vocations, the Good Samaritan Sisters eventually withdrew from the school. Their place has been taken by a lay staff who are continuing the traditions and ideals of a Catholic school.

St Ambrose’s has transformed into a vibrant school community that continues to celebrate and maintain its links to a rich heritage.  In the 80 years since St Ambrose’s Parish was founded, many hundreds of people have contributed their prayers, support and work to continue Father Bolton’s dream and the Good Samaritan philosophy.

Fr. Bolton’s vision is the same we share today. We are a community of hope, where education and faith provide a secure and safe stepping stone to a successful future.


The major facilities developments at St Ambrose’s over the years have included: 

  • ​Further additions to school and convent were completed in 1961 and again to both buildings in 1970.
  • The original church was replaced in 1973 with the newly updated and refurbished church we use today.
  • In May 1977 the Parish Hall was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt, blessed and reopened in November 1977. 
  • In 2005, St Ambrose’s began refurbishing the school after attaining Block Grants.
  • Stage 1 was the refurbishment of the original house two storey house, now school block 2.
  • Stage 2 was the refurbishment of the original Carinthia house to transform it into a school administration building.
  • In 2007, Stage 3 saw the building of a new toilet block and resource centre.
  • In 2008, Stage 4 included updating all classrooms in the school Block 2, along with the refurbishment of the tuckshop.
  • In 2010 the Building Educational Revolution enabled St Ambrose’s to build a new After School Care facility with a huge stage and Hall area. In 2011 as part of the Block Grant Authority, a further two classrooms were built.​ 
What remains today:​

  • The original house on the property, ‘Carinthia’, served from 1929 to 1974 as a temporary church and in turn, the Presbystery, and then the Covent. It is now the office of St Ambrose’s Primary School.
  • The original school building that the sisters taught in remains central to the school architecture, currently housing classrooms.
  • The church bell is the original from 1937, the Grotto to Mary also dates from that year.
  • The gates at the front of the current Church were given as a gift to Fr Bolton from the Archbishop’s private residence 'Dara’ house.​