Monsignor John Hawes, the man who shaped the architecture of the Mid West.
John Cyril Hawes as a young man in England studied architecture as well as sculpture and stained glass crafts. At the age of 21, he was working as an architect and designed a unique four story white tower to be a dwelling for himself and his brothers to take advantage of ocean views at Bognor Regis on the south coast of England. This first Hawes creation is now a heritage listed building. With a strong interest in the church, his next work of note was designing St Christopher’s church in the Northumberland town of Gunnerton, a traditional stone church with stained glass windows built in 1899.
Changing to Catholicism, he was ordained a Priest in Rome in 1915. Coming to Western Australia later that year, he work in a large parish in the Murchison region during the heat of summer. What a contrast to England in winter. He was then commissioned to work on the Geraldton Cathedral, which was the commencement of influence on the architecture of the region.
During fourteen years spent in the Mid West, he designed at least 22 buildings and in some cases was involved with the physically construction. While mainly churches or chapels, also included is Nazareth House in Geraldton which, with additions, operates as an aged care home. This grand building overlooks the ocean. In the wheatbelt, Tardun Agricultural College was constructed to Hawes design, teaching mainly “orphan” migrant youths work skills for a farming environment.
He designed a small cottage, the hermitage, adjacent to the new St John of God Hospital in Geraldton. Hawes declared the building, completed in 1936, was to be his retirement home. However, in 1939 Monsignor Hawes left for Cat Island in the Bahamas, never to return. He lived out his life as a hermit, and died on June 26th, 1956 in Miami, Florida aged 79 and was laid to rest on Cat Island.
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