Text & Images: Elisabeth Anderson
St Matthew’s Church has stood at No 1 Wembley Avenue in Bridgewater since 1966. It was erected to accommodate a growing Hills population and became the main place of religious worship for what was then known as the Stirling Catholic Parish. In the preceding 14 years local people had used the Bridgewater Institute for Sunday Masses.
The church, large enough to accommodate 300 people, was designed to capture the nature of the Hills, with Littlehampton bricks, natural finishes throughout and a four-gabled roof rising to a central steel spire and cross. The architect was Mr C.W. Peters and the builders were Russell Thomas Pty. Ltd.
The foundation stone was laid in the presence of a large crowd by Co-adjutor Archbishop James Gleeson on 27th March 1966 and on 7th August that year the church was blessed and opened by Archbishop Matthew Beovich, in whose honour it had been named St. Matthew’s.
The work of Stirling artist Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski may be seen in the vertically patterned windows in shades of amber and in a baptismal font featuring St Gobain French glass in multiple colours, wrought iron, copper and vitreous enamel.
The interior walls of the church are hung with 14 relief images of the Stations of the Cross which were the work of well-known Perth sculptor and craftsman Phil Somers (d. 1984 aged 68) and based on a design by Dublin artist Richard King (1907-1974).
In 1980 a parish house was built on the property to accommodate the parish priest and provide office and meeting space and at the time of writing in 2020 a hall – named Our Lady of the Adelaide Hills – was nearing completion alongside the church.
NOTE: Bridgewater’s community was served by Mt Barker clergy until Father Gavan Kennare founded the Stirling Catholic Parish in 1957. Since 1996 it has been part of a larger Adelaide Hills Catholic Parish.
Do you have memories of this church and the community it served? Contact us at email@example.com or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.