26-06-1868: St. John’s Anglican Church, Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria.

The liturgical east window of St John’s in Toorak is a memorial to William Crocker Cornish who died in 1859 and his wife Jane (née Rowell), who died in 1867.

The four light window represents the Nativity, Baptisn, Crucifixion and Resurrection and was made by Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne in 1868.

In 2010, the Verger of St. John’s church told me that the window was restored sometime c.1960’s and when it was reinstalled the lower panels of the centre two windows were installed out of sequence. The verse, “John, Chapter, 19, Verse 16” (The Crucifixion) is installed beneath the scene of the Baptism and the verse “Mark, Chapter 1, Verse 10” (The Baptism) is installed beneath the Crucifixion scene.

In 1984 Australia Post issued a prepaid Aerogram envelope for Christmas that depicted the Nativity scene from this window at St. John’s. I obtained a mint specimen of it from a collector in 2010 and a copy is shown in the slide show of photos. In Feb 2013 one of Ferguson & Urie’s original designs was found for this window amongst the State Libraries Collections and a copy of the design is also included along with its comparison to the window as seen in 2010.

Photos – 31st October 2010.

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The Cornish family are buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery. Their monument is amongst the more elaborate gravestones in the cemetery and as can be expected it has degraded significantly over nearly a century and a half. Photos of the monument were taken 19th October 2014 and these maybe the last images of it before the spire topples and the memorial text can no longer be read. Hopefully their memorial stained glass window at St John’s in Toorak will be looked after better and last for many more centuries.

Significant transcriptions:

The Argus, Melbourne, Friday 26th June 1868, page 5.

 “MEMORIAL WINDOWS”

 “…The window in the church at Toorak has been raised to the memory of the late Mr. Cornish, by Mr. and Miss Cornish. It is the work of Messrs. Ferguson, Urie, and Lyon, of this city, and does high honour to their skill and art. The architecture of the window, being of the decorated Gothic style, is eminently favourable to the development of a rich and harmonious style of colouring. The design of the stained glass is to illustrate the principal events in our Saviour’s life – the nativity, baptism, crucifixion, and resurrection. In the first, we have the Virgin with the child in her arms, Joseph hanging over her, and the shepherds looking intently at the babe. The second represents the baptism at the Jordan, and the third the crucifixion. The latter is peculiarly well treated, and the figures of St. John at the one side, the Virgin at the other, and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross, are full of mingled sorrow and affection. In the last, the resurrection, the Saviour is represented emerging from the tomb, while an astonished soldier falls down before him. The figure is full of majestic dignity, and the folds of the mantle in which he is enveloped hang about him with natural grace. In the top tracery is the ascension witnessed by St. John and the Virgin. The last two are in medallion form, and are exceedingly well executed; the softness and heavenliness of expression in the Virgin’s face almost approaching that of some of the pictures of the Madonna. In the trefoil pieces are signs of the four evangelists, and in other parts of the tracery the “Agnus Dei,” and certain scripture texts. The colours of the picture are exceedingly well chosen; brilliant and effective, as all glass painting ought to be, but at the same time harmoniously and tastefully blended. A process of colouring has been adopted more suitable to the clear light of our atmosphere, and the consequence is that the window possesses a richness of tone, which agrees well with the style of art to which it belongs. We may add, that the chancel of the church in which this window is placed promises to be one of the most richly-decorated in the colony. At each side of the central window are two tablets of the law, in a highly illuminated style of writing; underneath are to be three tablets – one with a Calvary cross, and the other two with texts in scroll work; and the remainder of the space is being covered with an ornamental design in stencilling – the last work being performed by the ladies of the congregation. The side windows are also to be filled with stained glass representations of Faith, Hope, and Charity. A very fine altar-cloth has been recently received, as a present, from Mr. John King. It is made of rich Utrecht velvet, and has a large cross, studded with precious stones, in the centre.”

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, Melbourne, Friday 10th October 1873, page 170.

“The Church of St. John the Evangelist, Toorak, is erected on a site given by Mr. Alfred Ross, forming part of the Orrong estate, at the angle formed by the Gardiner’s Creek and Clendon roads. The foundation-stone was laid by Sir Henry Barkly in April, 1860. The designs were made by Mr. W. W. Wardell, architect, presented to Mr. Henry Dauglish, one of the trustees, and carried out by Mr. F. M. White, architect. Messrs. Gosling Brothers were the contractors. The opening services were celebrated on Sunday, 13th July, 1862, by the Rev. Dr. Bromby, who continued as officiating minister during a period fifteen months, until the arrival from England of the Rev. Walter Fellows, B.A., of Christ Church, Oxford, since which time the congregation has steadily increased…”

“…The chancel is 20 feet deep, having a four-light window, enriched with tracery and filled with stained glass representing the Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion and Resurection of our Lord; also on the north side is a smaller two-light window…” 

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 1st April 1859, page 4.

“DEATH of MR. CORNISH. – We announce with great regret the death of Mr. Cornish, of the firm of Cornish and Bruce, the contractors for the Melbourne and Murray River Railway. Mr. Cornish expired yesterday afternoon at his residence, at Brighton, after a lengthened illness, at the age of 44 years. The medical gentlemen in attendance upon him (Drs. Motherwell, Ford, and Brownless) ascribe his death to a complication of maladies, arising from disorganisation of the heart, the liver, and the lungs, and there is no doubt that these have been aggravated to a very considerable extent by the mental harassment and anxiety which are inseparable from the important business responsibilities in which he has been involved. The immediate cause of death, however, is said to be effusion into the pericardium – water on the chest – from which complaint he has for several months been a sufferer. The death of Mr. Cornish, in the midst of the vast undertaking in which he has been actively and successfully engaged, must be regarded as a great calamity, and will excite feelings of deep regret throughout the community. We believe that the funeral will take place on Monday.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 2nd April 1859, page 8.

“THE Friends of the Late WILLIAM CROCKER CORNISH, Esq. (of the firm of Cornish and Bruce, railway contractors), are respectfully invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, in the Melbourne General Cemetery. The funeral procession is appointed to move from his late residence, Myrtle Grove (opposite the residence of J. Bignell, Esq.) Brighton, at 1. and pass the Prince’s Bridge about 3 o’clock, on Monday, April 4. JOHN SLEIGHT, undertaker, 71 Collins-street east.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 5th April 1859, page 4.

“FUNERAL OF THE LATE MR. CORNISH. – The remains of this gentleman were yesterday consigned to their resting-place in the New Cemetery, Melbourne. The cortége left the residence of the deceased, at Brighton, at 1 p.m., arriving at Prince’s Bridge shortly after 3 o’clock. At this portion of the route the procession was joined by a large number of friends of the late Mr. Cornish in vehicles and on horseback, also by a party of work- men employed by Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, on foot. The religious services at the place of burial were performed by the Rev. S. L. Chase, the principal mourners being the three sons of the deceased and his late partner, Mr. Bruce.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Wednesday 8th May 1867, page 1.

“On the 7th instant, at Petty’s Hotel, of paralysis, JANE, widow of the late W. C. CORNISH, of Melbourne, aged 44 years.”

St John’s – its story for seventy years, 1860-1930, page 23.

“THE EAST WINDOW is an old Melbourne work by Fergusson and Ure [sic], and was erected in memory of William and Jane Cornish, who died in 1859 and 1867 respectively. It represents the leading incidents in the Life of Christ. Like the West Window, it has latterly been “graded” with a tinted glass outside to protect it, and also to lower the primary colouring.”


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