27-04-1862: St Giles Presbyterian Church, Geelong, Victoria.

Situated on the west side of Gheringhap street, between Little Ryrie and Myers street in Geelong is the former St Giles Presbyterian Church, also known as the West End or High Church. Ferguson & Urie created the five light west window, which is one of a rare few that have the company name on it, as well as the Burning Bush window at the east end which includes the date “A.D. 1862”.

Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Tuesday 29th April 1862, page 3.

“…The windows in the front elevation (Gheringhap-street) will be of stained glass, five lights each and traceried; they are being prepared by Messrs Ferguson and Urie of Melbourne, a very handsome and elaborate design, and will not be ready for a few weeks…”

The designs of architect Nathaniel Billing were chosen as a result of a competition entry[1] and Boynton & Conway of Geelong were the building contractors. Although initial designs included a spire, this was never built. The foundation stone was laid on Tuesday the 9th of July 1861 by the treasurer of the new church, Thomas Brown Esq[2], and it was formally opened on Sunday 27th April 1862 [3]. By 1938 St Giles had no minister and it was suggested that it should be pulled down[4] and re-erected in place of the wooden Scots Church in Pakington street Geelong West. This never eventuated and the church continued to serve the congregation for another forty years. St Giles was last used for services in 1977 when the Uniting Church classed the building as redundant and it was sold in 1988. It was then used as an entertainment venue which hosted many live bands and performances by famous rockers such as Jimmy Barnes. How the stained glass windows survived unscathed during this period is remarkable! Photos taken 6th January 2012, except the last two photos in the slideshow which show the full perspective of the liturgical west window, and the Burning Bush window at the liturgical east end. These two photos have been contributed by Geoffrey Wallace, taken in 2006 before the internal office space construction began.

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The latest transformation of the former St Giles church was it’s conversion to offices and it now hosts a medical clinic. The liturgical west window facing Gheringhap street still exists in fairly good condition and can be seen from inside from the landing of an internal staircase. The window is also one of a very rare few early Ferguson & Urie stained glass creations that has the company name on it, located at the base of the centre light. The four lobed round window at the east end depicts the Burning Bush with the motto of the Church of Scotland, “NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR” (Latin – ‘Yet it was not consumed’, an allusion to Exodus 3:1-22 and Moses and the Burning Bush), and also has the year “A:D: 1862”.

Significant newspaper transcriptions:

The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Monday 15th July 1861, page 3

“The foundation stone of the new Presbyterian High Church of Victoria was laid on Tuesday, at Geelong, in the presence of a numerous concourse of people. The site of the new building is adjacent to the Presbyterian school on the western side of Gheringhap-street. The ceremony was performed by Mr. Thomas Brown, treasurer to the new church, the Rev. Mr. Fraser commencing the proceedings with singing and prayer. The design of the church is early gothic; it will hold 500 persons, and the entire cost of the edifice with steeple will be £5000. – Herald”

Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Tuesday 29th April 1862, page 3.

“HIGH CHURCH, GHERINGHAP STREET. THIS handsome structure which forms such a prominent feature amongst the ecclesiastical and public edifices of the “west end” of our town may now be pronounced complete. At least, it is complete in so far that it has been devoted to the purpose of its erection, having been consecrated to Divine Worship on Sunday last in presence of a very numerous congregation. The plan comprises the nave, transepts, vaulted recess for rostrum, vestry, two porches, and a tower and spire; and the style of architecture is of the “early decorated” period of Gothic. The tower, and spire, and vestry are not yet built, which, of course, give the edifice externally an unfinished appearance; nor are the nave and transepts, which are to provide the complete seat accommodation; but these are in progress and will be finished by the original contractors. The walls are of bluestone; while the gables, window and door coigns, copings, pinnacles, and dressings to buttresses, &c, generally are of Barrabool freestone. Interiorly – the roof is open to the ridge, supported by arched trusses, the wall-pieces bearing on moulded and carved stone corbels; and all the roof timbers and boarding is stained of a uniform colour and varnished. Ventilation is amply provided by a series of perforated pinnacles and louvred openings, in addition to which the side windows are each made to open partially, and gratings in the passages and in the plinth are arranged with slides to open or shut with pleasure as the state of the weather may require. The windows in the front elevation (Gheringhap-street) will be of stained glass, five lights each and traceried; they are being prepared by Messrs Ferguson and Urie of Melbourne, a very handsome and elaborate design, and will not be ready for a few weeks. The side windows have two lights each with traceried heads, and those to the transepts three lights each. There are also two small gable windows of chaste design. The rostrum and the precentor’s desk and their enclosing railing are of Australian cedar selected with exceeding taste to show the valuable adaptability of this favorite wood for ornamental purposes; and in design the whole is in strict keeping with the other parts of the church. The benches are open, with cut and moulded ends terminating with fleur de-lis; they are all stained and varnished. The whole of the workmanship of the building and its furnishings, inside and out, is of the most creditable character. Mr. Billing, of Melbourne, is the architect, and Boynton and Conway, of Geelong, the contractors for carrying out the works. The church occupies one of the most commanding sites of the town, and, approached by land or seas it will always form a prominent object in the view. It is capable of accommodating about fifteen hundred people.             As we said above, the church was consecrated for Divine Worship on Sunday last. The “opening services” of the day were three – morning, afternoon, and evening. The first and last were conducted by the Rev William Henderson, of Ballarat, and the afternoon service by the Rev Joseph Dare. As an earnest of the interest felt by the congregation in their new church, above L60 was contributed as the customary collections. The opening services will be continued next Sunday by the Rev T. W. K. Frazer, the pastor of the church, the Rev A. J. Campbell, and the Rev A. Love.”


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