St Aidan’s is a congregation of the Uniting Church in Australia within the Synod of Western Australia.
The land for a Presbyterian church was donated by local timber merchant, John Maxwell Ferguson. The originally symmetrical building was dedicated on 4th May 1903. In 1911 the church was extended to the west, giving it two aisles and the hall was built.
The limestone and iron church and the red brick and iron hall, with their oregon ceilings, are examples of the Federation Free Gothic design style.
In the late 1930’s, the congregation adopted the name St Aidan’s. St Aidan was an Irish-Scots monk sent from a monastery on the isle of Iona in 635 AD to work in Northumbria as a missionary bishop, at the request of the Anglican king.
Aidan established a small monastery on the isle of Lindisfarne and began preaching the gospel, with the king himself translating until Aidan was proficient in English. More missionaries followed and the Christian faith gained wider acceptance. Aidan died in 651 AD.
In 1977, a union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Australia saw St Aidan’s join with the Claremont Congregational and Methodist congregations as a parish of the Uniting Church. In 1980 they decided to use St Aidan’s as their worship centre.
St Aidan’s has been serviced by 20 ministers. In 1997, the Revd Margaret Tyrer became St Aidan’s first woman minister.
St Aidan’s was constructed in 1911. The congregation celebrated its centenary in November 2011.
The St. Aidan’s organ is the first pipe organ built in WA and the first of 5 instruments by Robert Cecil Clifton. It was begun in December 1875 as a spare time hobby when Clifton was 21 and a clerk in the Survey Office of the Lands Department. After its completion in October 1878, the organ was installed in the original St John’s Anglican Church, Fremantle, where he was organist and choirmaster.
The Herald, in its issue of 19 October 1878, ran an article which commenced as follows:
‘COLONIAL GENIUS: – Mr R Cecil Clifton, a young gentleman, born and educated in the colony, has just accomplished one of the most surprising mechanical and artistic performances we have ever heard or read of. Literally – almost unaided – he has constructed throughout a large organ, which has been pronounced by competent judges to be as perfect in every respect – with the exception of ornamental cabinet work – as any instrument turned out by first class firms of organ builders.’
In mid-1882 the organ was shifted into the new St John’s. At the same time, Clifton began working on a larger instrument for the church, and when this was completed in 1884, the original organ was sold for the equivalent of $500 to St Matthew’s Anglican Church at Guildford. It remained there until 1911, when the Adelaide firm of JE Dodd accepted it as part payment on the new organ they were building for the church. The Clifton organ was substantially re-built and sold to the Claremont Presbyterian Church (now St Aidan’s)
for the sum of £280.
Further work was done in 1975, 1987 and 1999 by FJ Larner & Co. The most visible change from that period was the beautifully executed diapering of the set of show pipes by Graham Devenish to a design found on several pipes within the organ; these may possibly have been some of the original show pipes added by Clifton in 1883, a year after the instrument was shifted into the new St John’s, Fremantle.
Original position of the organ is in the south east corner of the church. Maintenance and tuning of the organ is currently carried out on a regular basis by Pipe Organs WA. In 2013, the organ was again restored by Pipe Organs WA.
In Leon Cohen’s 1979 biography of Robert Cecil Clifton ‘Gathered Fragments’, the following is worth quoting:
“This organ is now in its second century of duty, following a long, at times almost romantic history. It is hoped that all who play and hear this instrument will be mindful, not only that it is the first organ built in Western Australia, but also that it represents the fulfilment of one young man’s patience, ingenuity and determination to succeed.”
A timeline of construction and refurbishment of St Aidan’s Church and associated buildings:
o The St Aidan’s Church building was constructed in 1911
o In the post war years, the south west corner of the site behind the hall was developed as a vestry, lounge, kitchen, store and toilets, with an entrance to Pennell Road.
o Rationalisation of the Claremont Parish properties occurred in 1982 with the decision to sell both the Wesley and Highway Churches. St Aidan’s Church was retained as the home of the Claremont Parish.
o In 1984, St Aidan’s Church and Hall were refurbished to better suit Uniting Church liturgy and to adapt the Hall for greater flexibility, with a north lounge and mezzanine over. The courtyard was landscaped at that time.
o In 1999 the conservation plan was completed.
o In 2003 a generous benefaction enabled the construction of the current courtyard and labyrinth, the verandah to the Hall and glazing of Hall doors.
o In 2006 the west wall of the Hall was structurally underpinned and stormwater drains replaced.
o In 2008 the south wall of the Church was consolidated to prevent rain penetration.
o In 2011 the Hall was refurbished with expanded north lounge, upgraded mezzanine and air conditioning.
o In 2012 the south west post-war additions were demolished and replaced with new Vestry, Administrator’s Office, South Meeting Room, Toilets, Kitchen and Gallery connecting the Hall, courtyard and entry via Pennell Road.
o In 2013 the Church was rewired to bring up to electrical compliance, the Clifton/Dodd organ was restored and the Church Lantern reconstructed.
o In 2013 the Town of Claremont presented the St Aidan’s congregation with its 2013 Urban Design Award.
To many, life can be compared to a labyrinth; to others, life is a maze, and that is not at all the same thing.
Labyrinths and mazes are found in all parts of the world and have been a source of fascination through the ages. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two:- labyrinths have a centre reached by a single path, whereas mazes contain dead-ends and branching paths and lack a clear path.
The path through a classic labyrinth runs along concentric circles or a rectangular form which makes sense only when viewed from above, like the ground plan of a building. Seen from this aspect, the lines appear as delineating walls and the space between them as a path, to define the fixed pattern of movement. The path begins at a small opening in the perimeter and leads to the centre by wending its way in circuitous fashion across the entire labyrinth. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth’s path is not intersected by other paths and allows no choices, inevitably leading to and ending at the centre. Once there, the walker must turn around and retrace the same path to return to the outside.
The perimeter may take a round, rectangular or polygonal form which usually determines the shape of the circuits inside. St Aidan’s Uniting Church labyrinth is rectangular in shape, incorporating a pathway around a semi-circular garden. The outdoor courtyard area determined the definitive design.
Therefore, the design is considered a labyrinth only if the path:
* is not intersected or requires the walker to make any choices
* folds back on itself, continually changing direction
* fills the entire interior space by wending its way in the most circuitous fashion possible
* repeatedly leads the walker past the centre
* inevitably ends at the centre
* is the only way back to the entrance
Labyrinths date from ancient times, around 4000 years ago and early designs are made up of seven circuits and eight walls. A single continuous pathway winds into the centre, and the same design shows up in Greece, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, Pakistan, India, in certain tribes in North and South America and in the “dreaming tracks” of Australian aborigines.
Labyrinth designs have been found through the ages on coins, clay tablets, mosaics, cave paintings and textile materials incorporating embroidery, and outdoors using stones and turf as construction materials.
Medieval labyrinths were constructed using white and blue-black flag-stones and several can be found on floors within cathedrals, the most famous being in Chartres, France, which is the oldest walking-sized Christian path in the world. It is beautifully designed, being 12.8 metres in diameter and has a unique rose centre and 112 crenellations around the outside.
Modern labyrinths can be found in parks and public spaces, in hospital grounds, churches, retreat centres, wilderness areas, schools, in private gardens, beside roads, in paddocks or fields, on heathlands or in forests, and beside rivers. They can be created quickly in sand on a beach or can be constructed of more permanent materials in concrete, stone, timber, hedges, painted on acrylic canvas, planted with flowers or native grasses …….the possibilities are endless.
The purpose of labyrinths vary. Some guide-books suggest that those constructed on floors within cathedrals originated as an alternative to actual pilgrimages to the Holy Land. A labyrinth may be used as an aid to meditation. The walker may seek inner peace or spiritual renewal. Labyrinths near or within churches may encourage people to come inside to be reminded that God is our source of peace and renewal.
“In a labyrinth, one does not lose oneself,
In a labyrinth, one finds oneself.
In a labyrinth, one does not encounter the Minotaur,
In a labyrinth, one encounters oneself.”
“Through the Labyrinth” – Hermann Kern
Published by Prestel Verlag, Munich, Germany 2000
ISBN 3 – 7913 – 2144 -7
“Labyrinths. Ancient Paths of Wisdom and Peace” – Virginia Westbury
Published by Landsdowne Publishing Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia 2001