A historic treasure hidden in plain sight in the centre of Guildford. For anyone travelling on the Midland train line could not help but notice the picturesque St Matthew’s church located in the centre of the park at Stirling Square. What most people may not realise is that the town of Guildford was originally planned around this church square with it being the exact centre point of the town. The present church building was erected in 1873 after the previous building was destroyed by a hurricane during a baptismal service the previous year. Fortunately, no one was injured. The Church has a magnificent pipe organ that was installed in 1911 and was built by the Adelaide builder J. E. Dodd and was fully rebuilt in 2004.
To add to the history and show just how unique a historical gem it is, St Matthew’s is also the only Garrison Church in Western Australia. A Garrison church is one which has direct association with both the community and military units. The church has significant military history, being the Garrison Church for the 10th Light Horse and Royal Australian Artillery during the First World War.
The historical significance of the church and hall have been recognised at various levels through its listing on the State Heritage Register, the City of Swan Heritage List, and the National Trust of Western Australia’s list of Classified Places.
Whilst the building has stood up remarkably well for its age, the last 149 years are starting to take their toll. There are numerous cracks visible in several locations and restoration work is urgently required. The church received significant cracking following the 1968 Meckering earthquake and whilst some repairs were undertaken at the time, the cracking has increased and become progressively worse. St Matthew’s have engaged a heritage architect who has developed a Heritage Conservation Plan to help guide repair works. Key to this work is remedial action to secure the foundations to prevent further cracking and allow repair of existing cracks.
Future work priorities include but are not limited to the following:
- Remove the external cement rendering and undertake works required to ensure structural integrity of the church remains;
- Repointing bricks on some sections of the hall – some bricks are fretting and breaking away;
- Repainting the hall – Paint is peeling in various sections as it was last painted around 30 years ago;
- Levelling the parking area and surrounding grounds to further improve site drainage and direct water away from building foundations;
- Hall floor repair, sanding and sealing;
- Repair and repaint all external church window frames;
- Replace remaining security screens on windows from thick opaque Perspex to fine wire mesh to better show existing stained glass features;
- Repair cracking throughout the church and hall;
- Remove all acrylic paint from internal church walls and repaint with appropriate paint – As a result of the Meckering earthquake and to help strengthen the church structure at the time a concrete render was applied to the lower sections of the external walls. Unfortunately, this has prevented the brickwork from being able to ‘breathe’ properly and there are now rising damp issues as a result. New paints are available which do not seal the walls but allow the structure to breathe as required but will require the old paint to be completely removed and stripped back to plaster before the new paint is applied.
Your donation to the St Matthew’s National Trust Fund will be most welcome as we endeavour to continue our restoration work to preserve this truly unique national historic treasure for the next 150 years.
All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.