by Janice Calcei
Updated: 25 January 2023
The original Pioneers Church, built in 1879, was burnt down in 1950 and rebuilt again with the effort of many local families. The Ferguson Peoples’ Church was officially consecrated and opened on 21 March 1954.
A plaque on the altar chair commemorates the Rev. Andrew Buchanan who established Congregational Worship in the Ferguson on the 7 August 1866 at ‘Rosehill’, the home of Mr James Higgins. During the next few years, attendance grew too large for a private home so Ephraim Gardiner, youngest son of Jesse and Jane Gardiner, generously gave an area of land for the original Church adjacent to the cemetery on condition that “a Peoples’ Church be created thereon”. This land was held in trust by the Anglican Diocese until 1934 when it was transferred by deed by Guy Gardiner, son of Ephraim.
The original Church, built by local settlers and builder Matt Wallis, was always a community church. It was constructed with bricks made locally by Mr Valantine, and can be seen rendered white in early photos. The timber was carted by settlers from the old Bendigo Mill.
The opening Service in 1879 was attended by a large congregation of about three hundred, with one hundred inside the church and the rest outside. It was jointly conducted by Rev. Purnell (Church of England) and Mr James Hough (Congregational). The church was used by all denominations with the first wedding recorded on April 15 1885 between Jane Waddingham and Matt Wallis conducted by Methodist Rev Morland. Renovations in the 1920s were carried out by Mr Russell Fowler (Honorary Minister of Bunbury Congregational Church), and his community helpers.
The current picturesque red brick Church in the Ferguson Valley was built in 1954 after the original Church was burnt down in the early hours of the morning on Friday 14 April in the fires of 1950, which swept through from the Collie River to Donnybrook.
John Gardiner was one of the many direct descendants of Jesse and Jane Gardiner who had arrived at Australind from England on the ship Trusty on 6 December 1842 and who took up three of the first homestead blocks to be allocated in the Ferguson in the early 1850s. Jesse donated a small parcel of land in those early days for use as a cemetery, next to where the current Church stands today.
The local Community banded together after a meeting on 23 September 1953 to build the new Church with much of the rebuilding done voluntarily by local residents and the Congregational-Presbyterian Church of Ferguson Building Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr Fisher Muller and Mr H.S. (Bert) Kerr as Secretary/Treasurer.
Most of the fittings and furniture were donated by families in the Community as memorials. Plaques on the sheoak pews and other furniture recording these memorials can be seen today and are documented in the Rector’s letter of 1954 copied on the back of the Church door.
The Dedication Service of the new Church was held on March 21,1954 and jointly run by Canon Fred J Boxall (Church of England Rector of Boyanup) and the Rev J Edwin Davies, MA (Minister, St Augustine Congregational-Presbyterian Church, Bunbury). There was an attendance of about 400 with afternoon tea in the Ferguson Hall.
The service Collection of £73-5-2 was put towards the building fund and banked with a donation of a further £88. The building was opened 6 months later with a sum of £100 owing which was paid off in the following months – a credit to the community.
The first Congregational-Presbyterian Church Service was held the following Sunday on March 28 1954 by Rev Edwin Davies with alternate services by the Anglicans each Sunday as for the original Church. The first Christening was recorded on April 4, 1954, of Graeme Charlton Fowler.
The Seventh Day Adventists held the first marriage between Jeanette Weetman and Colin Lockyer on 5 September 1955. The last Congregational Service is recorded on February 23 1969 taken by Mr Sybranda.
The plaque on the front of the Church names the Church as St Aidan’s, Church of England – Congregational – Presbyterian Church, 1953. Aidan was an Irish monk of Lindisfarne who became a Bishop in Northern England ad died in 651 A.D. He was known for his gentleness, asceticism and kindness to the poor. Legend has it that he prayed successfully for the wind to change and thus save the town of Bamburgh from fire.
The Church is still in use today by all denominations.
- Jones, Robyn: 50th Anniversary Ferguson Church from data collected from Ferguson Church Guild and John Gardiner, published District Times – Dardanup/Waterloo/Ferguson/Wellington Mills/Dardanup West, Issue 2, March 2004.
- Photos provided by Michael Hall