26-07-1885: St John’s Anglican Church, Port Albert, Victoria.

On the 14th of January 1884 the tiny wooden church of St John’s at Port Albert was burnt to the ground as a result of a bushfire. Less than a month later a tender of £262 was accepted for its re-construction with the official opening ceremony taking place on the 26th of July 1884.

The Ferguson & Urie three light stained glass window in the chancel is dedicated to Foster Griffiths, the infant son of Griffith Griffiths and Charlotte McCall, who died in October 1872. Griffith commissioned Ferguson & Urie of Melbourne to create a memorial window to his son with the intention of it being installed at a church in the nearby town of Foster but at that time a church had not yet been built at the town. After many years had passed without any action to have one erected it was eventually passed to the Reverend Betts who had it installed in the new St John’s Church at Port Albert in 1885. As at 2012 this is the only Ferguson & Urie known to still exist in a wooden building.

Photos taken 24th April 2011.

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The text in the ribbons of the central window reads: “I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH Job 19-25”.

The scene depicting the empty tomb has the text below: “HE IS NOT HERE”. The scene does not specify a particular verse and could be one of four accounts of the resurrection written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Church Booklet – St John’s Anglican Church Port Albert – Melva F. James, Yarram & District Historical Society 2011, page 20.

“Stained Glass Window – In the Chancel of the Church is a magnificent stained glass window, the principal subject of which is the Saviour’s Resurrection.  The inscription on the bottom states “In Memory of Foster Griffith, died October 5th 1872.” Foster Griffiths was the infant son of Griffith Griffiths who was a prospector at Foster. On the death of his son at the age of six months, Griffiths obtained this window for the nearby town of Foster, but as there was no church in Foster, it was given to Rev. Betts, (who conducted services in the Foster Mechanic’s Hall), and was placed in the Port Albert Church when it was re-built after the fire.”

The window was restored in 1999 and a brass plaque to the left of the window reads:

“This window was restored in memory of Maud Robinson by the ladies guild and her family, in recognition of her service to this church”.

After the windows restoration, the memorial text at the bottom of the left lancet no-longer has the first few words “In Memory of”, and instead, a duplication of the windows border colours were filled in its place. If Griffith had possibly commissioned Ferguson & Urie to create the window in 1873, but not installed until 1885, there would appear to be a 12+ year gap missing in the windows history. The design and grisaille pattern work employed in the window are typical of Ferguson & Urie’s early 1870’s work and not like their later designs of the mid 1880’s.

Gippsland Times, Vic, Wednesday 29th July 1885. Page 3

“The opening of the new Church of England at Port Albert, which was built to replace the structure that was destroyed by fire in January, 1884, took place on Sunday last, when sermons were preached morning and evening by the Rev. C. P. Thomas, of Rosedale. The choir sang Jackson’s service and hymns appropriate to the occasion in a highly finished manner. There was a large congregation, filling the church both morning and evening to its utmost capacity. Next Sunday the Rev. Mr Groundwater will preach”.

Gippsland Times, Vic, Wednesday 16th January 1884, page 3.

EXTENSIVE FIRES
(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENTS)

“PORT ALBERT, Tuesday Evening.

The most destructive fire that has ever occurred in this district was burning from about ten o’clock until sundown yesterday. The fierce north wind commenced to blow early in the morning, and a small fire that sprung up early in the day in the vicinity of the Old Port, increased in power, and came rushing madly on towards Port Albert, sweeping over many miles of country. Mr George Hastings and Mr John Rossiter, of the Standard office, had narrow escapes of losing their houses, situated on the Alberton road, as the wind kept veering round at intervals. However, owing to the timely assistance of a number of residents who turned out, the only loss sustained there was that of a fence enclosing one of Mr Rossiter’s paddocks, the fire being prevented from reaching a stack of hay and house close at hand. From here the fire crossed a metal road, destroying a wooden culvert, and making towards the township. The bells of the English Church were rung as an alarm, but a spark caught the wooden blocks and then the shingle roof, and in less than half an hour the church was completely demolished. The harmonium and seats were saved. The police buildings at Palmerston also caught fire, but they were with great difficulty saved. The escape of the township and the residences in the vicinity of Palmerston is hard to be accounted for”.

South Australian Register, Adelaide, Tuesday 15th January 1884, page 5.

“A destructive bush fire is now raging in the neighbourhood of Port Albert, South Gippsland. The English Church, a wooden building, was seized by the flames and burned to the ground in spite of the great exertions made to save it by the inhabitants.”

The Maffra Spectator, Vic, Thursday 7th February 1884, page 3.

“A special collection will be made at St. John’s, on Sunday evening, to assist in the rebuilding of the church burnt at Port Albert.”

Gippsland Times, Vic, Friday 13th February 1885, page 3.

“The tender of Mr. J. Avery, jun, has been accepted for the erection of the new church of England at Port Albert, the price being £262”.

Gippsland Times, Vic, Friday 29th February 1884, page 3.

“It will be very gratifying to our readers (says the Standard) to learn that the Rev Canon Chase, incumbent of St John’s Church, Melbourne, (acting of course in conjunction with the committee) has paid a very graceful compliment to the Rev. H. A. Betts, who formerly filled the office of curate at St. John’s. Since the destruction of the Port Albert Church by fire Mr Betts has exerted himself in various ways to aid the building fund, and he wrote to some old friends who attended St. John’s Church in Latrobe street during his curacy, asking them for a little private help. But this request appears to have been the signal for combined action, and on Sunday evening last, at a full choral service and harvest thanks-giving, a special collection was made “in aid of the building fund of the rev. H. A. Betts Church at Port Albert,” and the sum of £12 2s was the result. This agreeable surprise comes to us all the more acceptably on account of it’s warm-hearted and spontaneous mode of inception and consummation, and a word of commendation is due to the rev. Canon Chase and his committee (as also to the congregation as a whole) for this proof of good fellowship and kind remembrance towards their late curate, in the practical step they have taken to help a small congregation in the country to erect a building to take the place of that which was reduced to ashes by a bush fire on the 14th ultimo.”


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