Colonial Victoria’s famous stained glass company, “Ferguson & Urie” left their artistic mark in Australian history between 1853-1899. Well over a century later many of those amazing stained glass windows still exist.
Here you will find hundreds of articles and historic newspaper transcriptions, thousands of photographs and a goldmine of historical information, not only about the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company, but also about our Colonial pioneers who were memorialised in the stained glass windows they made.
“Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows not only tell stories of the Bible but encompass medicine, explorers, humanitarians, sea tragedies, war, love and respect, royalty, bravery, Shakespeare, education, human suffering and even a famous race horse!” – Janice Ball, 2013
In late April 1853 three Scots from Ayrshire arrived in Victoria and laid the foundations for Australia’s first commercial stained glass company.
Initially starting out as Plumbers, Slaters and Glaziers, they seized upon the revival of Gothic architecture and art and the immense wealth generated by the Victorian gold rush. By 1861 they began to concentrate the business solely on the medieval art of stained glass craftsmanship and after a 46 year period the company would be firmly cemented in history as “Ferguson & Urie”, Australia’s Historic Colonial Stained Glass Craftsmen.
“I have just received per mail, a photograph of a splendid piece of work – in the shape of a magnificent stained glass window, it is equal to anything of the kind produced in the old country, and is a credit to the colony. This splendid piece of work has just been completed for the new theatre now about opening in Melbourne, and has been manufactured at the works of Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, of Curzon-street, Melbourne, its designers and the artists to whom it will testify for years to come; they have successfully carried out a specimen of the fine arts, such as could not be excelled in any part of the Queen’s dominions…”
When I began this quest in about 2008 there could only be found isolated individual references about stained glass windows created by the firm in a handful of obscure publications and historical records. There has never been any single focused research of the company or their stained glass windows. My aim is to change that and create the first dedicated repository of the Ferguson & Urie Company history and their stained glass windows.
Research to date indicates that Ferguson & Urie were the first company to have started manufacturing stained glass windows on a commercial scale anywhere in Australia. The very first evidence of their foray into stained glass production occurred in early 1855 (although not on a commercial scale), less than two years after they started business as Plumbers, Slaters, and Glaziers at North Melbourne in August 1853.
The aim of my research is to locate, photograph and document the firm’s stained glass windows and to transcribe historic newspaper articles mentioning the firm, or the firms employees and their histories. Where possible, I’ll delve into the mysteries and stories surrounding the windows and where they were erected and the history behind the colonial pioneers who donated the windows or who had windows made in their memory. It’s impossible for me to do all this on my own and I thankfully have great support from some family members overseas, in particular New Zealand, as well as the academics and modern day artisans involved in the field of historic stained glass
As at May 2015 there are over 224 buildings located with one or more extant stained glass windows created by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company. Although this seems like a lot, it is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the number of stained glass windows that have been erected in churches and public or private buildings on the eastern side of Australia since colonial times. Ferguson & Urie had a 46 year history with 38 of those years solely dedicated to the production of stained glass. I suspect that what I have discovered to-date is a fraction of what could still be out there somewhere!
The oldest ‘known’ figurative stained glass window to have been erected anywhere in Australia was created by the English stained glass artist William Wailes and was erected at Christ Church, Longford, Tasmania in 1844. In comparison, the oldest known locally made extant window by the Ferguson & Urie company is dated only seventeen years later, in November 1861, and is located at St Margaret’s Church at Eltham in Victoria.
Most of the historic stained glass windows in our Australian churches have been reasonably well preserved and have survived more than 150 years. Secular windows crafted for private homes and mansions have been been the most elusive of all to find. Only a handful of privately owned windows have been located and photographed to date and most of these have been found in historical buildings now owned by the National Trust or protected by Heritage legislation.
There’s probably something of interest here for everyone, and as my New Zealand cousin Janice remarked to me in 2013, the company history encompasses, Australian, New Zealand and UK history, family history, religion, architecture, art, heraldry, biographies, pioneers, colonists, squatters, politicians, sailors, rogues, charlatans, thieves, murderers, soldiers, entertainers, poets, race horses and jockeys and much more.
Some family historians may even find some interesting windows on this site that have been dedicated to their pioneer ancestors! – If you do, drop me an email and tell me their history as you know it.
If you believe that you have some information to contribute, no matter how small, which may assist in the research of the Ferguson & Urie company and their stained glass windows, feel free to contact me via the contact page. Each of the individual articles also have the option to leave a comment which is automatically sent to me for moderation.
If I’ve managed to gain your interest to this point then you should take the next step and view a brief outline of the Ferguson & Urie company history.