Many years ago, Steve stumbled across the story of John Hawes, an English priest and architect who lived in the midwest region of Western Australia in the early part of the 20th century. He was captivated by the life story of this remarkable man, who left about 25 buildings in Western Australia as well as several in the UK and more in The Bahamas. It led to a photographic project to record the West Australian buildings, and a book "The Builder Priest" which was completed in 2012.
While Steve always had the idea of travelling to the UK and The Bahamas to photograph the buildings Hawes left in those places, the possibility seemed to fade as time went on and he had all but given up on it. But then in late 2017 he learned that a group from Geraldton was putting together a "pilgrimage tour" which would do exactly that, in May 2018, so he signed up and was able to extend the portfolio to include almost all of the existing Hawes buildings. The tour was a wonderful experience, and the 17 "pilgrims" in the group were treated almost like celebrities at many of the places visited, especially in The Bahamas. It enabled production of the second book, "Stone Upon Stone", completed in 2019, which effectively supersedes the first book.
There are other books about John Hawes, including two biographies and a detailed study of his architectural works. This book is a simple photographic appreciation of his remarkable legacy. Click here for a preview of some of the content, and a precis of his biography. The book is 183 pages, A4 landscape size.
There is an organisation in Geraldton called Monsignor Hawes Heritage Inc, dedicated to promoting the John Hawes heritage and the preservation of the buildings. Their website is at www.monsignorhawes.com.
In late 2012, the Geraldton Diocese initiated a project to undertake a significant renovation of the cathedral, and build a heritage centre in the area to the west of the main entrance, to display historic material about the cathedral and the life and work of John Hawes. The first actual work started in early 2015 with the removal of the old asbestos roofing: the nave, transepts and sanctuary were re-roofed in terracotta tiles and the dome in zinc. This was the start of several years of work, and the expenditure of nearly A$9 million. The cathedral finally re-opened in November 2017 with only a few details remaining to be tidied up, including the installation of the new carillon of bells. This was completed in late 2019 and the dedication and first official ringing was on 29th November.
The renovation has transformed the cathedral into something truly magnificent. It is a reason to visit Geraldton, if it was not already. The project website is at www.sfxcathedralproject.com.au