02-10-1871: St George’s Church, Battery Point, Hobart, Tasmania

The foundation stone of St George’s Anglican Church was laid by Governor George Arthur[1] on the 19th October 1836 on land at Battery Point, previously known as ‘Kermode’s Hill’ that was purchased from William Kermode[2] for a reported £250.

St George’s has a Georgian facade and three-tiered bell tower which is quite unusual amongst the predominantly Gothic Architecture of other Hobart Churches.  The main body of the church was designed by the Government architect John Lee Archer[3] and the later tower and porch by the convict architect James Blackburn[4].  The church was consecrated in 1838[5] by the Bishop, Rev William Grant Broughton[6]The unusual three tiered bell tower designed by Blackburn is supposedly a copy of the ‘Temple of the Winds[7]in Athens.

In late 1871, it was reported that a Ferguson & Urie stained glass window was erected in the chancel of St George’s, but the current chancel window, seen as at 2012, does not resemble anything like other known Ferguson & Urie windows. The obscure description given in the tabloids of the time only described it as “neat and un-ostentatious”. That description could easily apply to the window seen in the chancel now, but such an obscure description could broadly apply to anything.

Photos taken: 13th August 2012.

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On the 4th February 2012, the Rev John Langloise from St George’s wrote:

“The only record I am aware of is in a booklet on the history of the church which records this: Sanctuary Windows: Obtained from Germany in 1871, and said to be unique. It is of very thin German glass with the colours burnt in. The Greek key design surrounds it, and we remember that St. George is the patron saint of Greece. It is 8½ feet (2.59 metres) across at the bottom, and is now backed with plate glass. Please note that all the windows are of the same shape. The window is still there in its original condition, though the colour seems to me to be painted on rather than burnt in, But I am no expert : -)…”

This throws some confusion into the windows origins. There isn’t any actual evidence to confirm the window as being of “German glass” other than the obscure mention of , “Obtained from Germany in 1871,”  in the church history booklet. There is no source reference given. The mention of the windows as being “the same shape” is probably not quite correct either, as the bottom of the window is probably a good 20cm wider than the top and each of the ten panes on the left and right edge are each slightly smaller as they reach the top of the window.

In two separate instances, in October 1871, the Hobart Mercury reported that a window by Ferguson & Urie “has just been placed in the chancel of St. George’s Church, Battery Point”. There maybe three likely possibilities that explain this:

  1. Option 1: Possibly the newspaper reports of the time were incorrect.. This has been known to happen, but it seems highly unlikely in this case considering that they actually got the company name correct. There are also no known “letters to the editor” of the time that refute the claim that the makers were not Ferguson & Urie.
  2. Option two: If this is actually German glass, then it must have been installed many years later to replace the 1871 Ferguson & Urie window. How much later is another matter to consider! Between 1871 and 1942 is a reasonable guide.
  3. Option three: I consider this scenario to be the most likely and in fact I’m absolutely convinced of it!
    The original newspaper articles were indeed correct and the window was, as reported, supplied by Ferguson & Urie. I’m sure that the window is a very, very rare example of one of the companies transfers or transparencies on glass[8], of which no others are known to still exist. The transfers were of a similar process to the “Glacier” or “Crystograph” patent window film of which Ferguson & Urie were known to have done en-masse during the 1867 Royal Visit to Melbourne .The likelihood of this is plausible, but its longevity to this point in time is questionable, as any prolonged exposure to light (especially in the case of over a century or more) causes this window film to degrade and ‘craze’ so it looks like thousands of cracks as the window film deteriorates on the surface of the glass. In this case it could be possible as the chancel window is completely internal and doesn’t have any direct exposure to light. The other unusual factor to consider is the complete lack of any lead lines. There are none whatsoever! One of the closeup photos is the best clue as to the windows composition which shows a very distinct trait of a dull greyish film on the glass. An article in 1882 referred to the window as “the mansion staircase window behind the communion table”?

On Christmas day in 1905 an article about the Christmas decorations in St George’s included a short description of the chancel window which describes the designs seen in the window today.

“…The principal decorative feature was the chancel, which, in its simplicity, resembles a tabernacle, across which runs the appropriate line, “The Lord is in this Holy Temple,” the effect being heightened by the lofty oblong window of pale white glass at the back, covered with differently coloured mathematical figures resembling crosses and stars…” [9]

Another unusual aspect of the window is its shape. The article from 1905 describes its shape correctly as an oblong. The frame gives the illusion that the window is a true rectangle but, it is wider at the bottom than at the top, which gives the impression that the window was possibly custom made to fit an opening that may have been the result of a building design flaw, or it was designed that way to give the illusion that it is taller than it really is!

In May 1938[10], the Hobart Mercury included a picture of the chancel of St George’s which, although black and white and poor quality, clearly shows the patterns in the window as seen in 2012.

At the height of WWII, the civil defence regulations placed stringent rules on exposed plate glass windows. Whether these rules applied to the chancel window or not is not known but the church decided to remove the window as a precaution against air raids. In March 1942 the Hobart Mercury included a photo of workmen loading the entire window frame onto a truck with the caption:

“The stained glass windows of St. George’s Church of England are being removed to a safer place as a precaution against possible air raids”[11]

A close inspection of the newspaper picture shows that there are ten panes deep and five wide in the frame of the window, which exactly matches the number of panes seen in the chancel window as at 2012.

The Mercury, Hobart, Monday 2nd October 1871, page 2.

“ST. GEORGE’S, BATTERY POINT. – A neat and un-ostentatious stained glass window manufactured by Messrs. Ferguson, Urie, and Lyon, of Melbourne, has just been placed in the chancel of St. George’s Church, Battery Point. Most of the cost has been collected from the working classes by ladies of the congregation. Yesterday at both morning and evening services collections in aid of the same object were made. …”

The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, Saturday 7th October 1871, page 4.

“… Sermons were preached at St. George’s Church, Battery point, on the 21st inst., and collections made to supplement subscriptions (principally) by the working classes for a neat and unostentatious stained glass window, manufactured by Messrs. Ferguson, Urie, and Lyon, of Melbourne, and placed in the chancel of the church…”

The Mercury, Hobart, TAS, Friday 7th April 1882, page 3.

(About St Georges Church Hobart)

“…But the interior, elegant, well-arranged and admirably lighted, leaves little to be desired, except stained “ecclesiastical: glass to replace the “mansion staircase” window behind the communion table”

Foot notes:


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