29-01-1879: St Thomas’s Anglican Church, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, Victoria.

The foundation stone of the present St Thomas’s church in Mt. Alexander road, Moonee Ponds (formerly Essendon Parish), was laid in 1857 by the Governor of Victoria Sir Henry Barkly[1], and opened for worship on Sunday 6th March 1859 by the Rev R.B. Barlow[2]. The church was erected in the early English style to designs of architects Knight and Kerr[3] and was consecrated on Tuesday 2nd September 1862[4] The first incumbent was the Rev. Edward Puckle[5][6].

The centre stained glass window in the chancel of St Thomas’s contains an historic window created by Melbourne’s first colonial stained glass company, Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne. The window depicts Christ as ‘The Good Shepherd’ and was erected to the memory of John Thomas Smith, M.L.A., who holds the record of having served as Mayor of Melbourne seven times between 1851 and 1864.

The memorial text at the foot of the window reads:

“DEDICATED BY HIS WIDOW TO THE MEMORY OF THE LATE HON. J. T. SMITH. M.P. ONE OF THE ORIGINAL TRUSTEES OF THIS CHURCH WHO DIED JAN 29 1879 AGED 63 YEARS”.

The date of death recorded on the window (29th) is at odds with that recorded elsewhere in the tabloids of the time and his official probate records, which all record the 30th.

Strangely there was also an occurrence of another memorial window erected to his memory in St John’s Church in Latrobe street!

In October 1883 Mrs Ellen Smith (nee Pender 1820-1886[7]), the widow of the Hon John Thomas Smith, M.L.A, dedicated a single light memorial window to her late husband in St John’s Church in Latrobe Street Melbourne. His funeral service was conducted at St John’s on Friday 31st January 1879 and four years later the following was reported in the Argus;

The The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Thursday 18th October 1883, page 5.

“ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, LATROBE STREET. The interior of this Anglican church has been undergoing a process of renovation which has considerably improved its general appearance. A new stained glass memorial window has been placed in the northern wall of the chancel. It is the gift of Mrs. Smith, in memory of her deceased husband, the late Mr. John Thomas Smith…”

St John’s Church in Latrobe Street was demolished c.1920, re-erected nearby, and again demolished c.1957 but what became of the J. T. Smith window or any others is not known.

Photos taken 5th February 2012.

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Who was John Thomas Smith?

John Thomas Smith (1816-1879)[8] was born and educated in Sydney. He married Ellen Pender in St James Cathedral, Melbourne on the 10th April 1839[9].

Having never been considered a true inspirational leader, he missed consideration of a Knighthood by the Queen in 1858, but astonishingly he served as Mayor of Melbourne seven times between 1851 and 1864[10], a record that  is unlikely to be repeated in Melbourne’s history.

His funeral service was conducted at St John’s Church in LaTrobe street in Melbourne on Friday 31st January 1879 and his Masonic Brethren were instructed to appear in full Masonic regalia to follow the remains of their brother, the late “Provincial Grand Master” to his final resting place in the Melbourne General Cemetery[11].

The Australasian Sketcher with pen and Pencil, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 15th February 1879, page 183.

“THE LATE HON. J. T. SMITH, M.L.A.

The late Hon. John Thomas Smith, M.L.A. for West Bourke, who died on January 30, was in his way one of the most familiar of local landmarks. He was a native of Australia, having been born at Sydney, New South Wales, in 1816, so that at the time of his death he had passed his 62nd year. The education provided in the young colony in those days was not of the most liberal description, but his parents accorded him the benefit of the best obtainable, and he was educated at Cape’s school, Sydney. Referring to his youthful days, Mr. Smith has been heard to say, that though he had gained honours from his fellow Victorians of which he was proud, he felt certain that had his early instruction been more comprehensive and complete he would have occupied still higher positions. An impartial estimate, however, of the deceased’s natural abilities hardly justifies the belief that he could ever, under any circumstances, have taken a leading place in controlling the affairs of any large community of men, for though possessing great natural shrewdness, it cannot be said that he was endowed with a statesman’s breadth of intellect. Mr. Smith’s first start in life after leaving school was as a clerk in the bank of Australasia, where, however, he did not remain very long, resigning his position for a situation in the colonial store department. His next position explains the somewhat clerical dress which Mr. Smith has always worn in Victoria, and which often led those who saw him for the first time to believe that he was a minister of religion. In 1837 he was offered the position of assistant teacher in the Church of England Aboriginal Mission Station, Melbourne, the site of which is now occupied by the Botanical-gardens. Having from his early youth a great interest in the aborigines – who, he used to say, should be most kindly dealt as the real possessors of the soil, from which they were gradually driven by the steady advance of the tide of civilisation – Mr. Smith at once accepted the appointment, and came to Melbourne in the James Watt steamer, near the end of 1837; thus having been at the time of his death a citizen of Melbourne for over 40 years. Melbourne in those days was, it need hardly be said, but a very small place indeed – an oasis in the almost desert wilderness of forest-clad hills and plains; and to use Mr. Smith’s words in the Assembly only a few years ago, he had been one of those early pioneers who have had the happiness of living to see “a wilderness where the noble savage held almost undisputed sway transformed into a city almost second to none, and surpassing all who’s existence dates from (then) only 36 years ago.” He quitted the mission-station after having done good work to become manager for the late Hon. J. Hodgson, and subsequently entered into business on his own account. It is unnecessary in a notice of this kind to dwell upon the early business pursuits which the deceased in those rough times entered on, but it may be said that he was successful in his object of gaining a considerable competency. He catered for the entertainment of a not very aesthetic public; but among one of his enterprises which deserves to be remembered was his building of the Queen’s Theatre, of which Mr. George Coppin was among the early lessees. In 1842 Melbourne was incorporated a city, and Mr. Smith was one of the first councillors – a position he has continued to fill without intermission until his death. He has held the honourable office of mayor of Melbourne no less than seven times, but the majority of his elections to that post took place in the earlier years of the City Council, when there was not the same rivalry for the distinction which has for some years existed among the city fathers. At present it is well known there is little chance of any mayor being re-elected to the office, and a second re-election might be looked upon as an impossible occurrence. During the Ballarat riots the mayoralty of Melbourne was no sinecure, owing to the excitement which prevailed, and the rumours flying about of intended assaults on the Treasury and banks. Mr. Smith did good service in restoring the confidence of the population by organising a system of special constables, and for his energy on the occasion he received the thanks of the Governor, Sir Charles Hotham. When mayor in 1858 the deceased was delegated by the City Council to go to England for the purpose of presenting an address of congratulation to the Queen on the occasion of he marriage of the Princess Royal to the Crown Prince of Prussia. It was expected by many that Mr. Smith would return from his trip Sir John Smith, but the expected honours were not bestowed. If any disappointment was experienced by the mayor himself in the matter, it is but fair to say that he showed no traces of it. It will be mainly by his connexion with Melbourne, and the services which he rendered to the city in its youthful growth, that the deceased will be remembered; but it is needless to say, besides being a city councillor, Mr. Smith has, since the establishment of constitutional government in this colony, been a member of the Legislative Assembly. At the time of his death he was entitled to the name of Father of the Assembly, as since his first election for North Bourke, in 1851, to the old nominee-elective Assembly, he has never been out of Parliament. He has had a seat in one Government – viz., as Minister of Mines in the Macpherson Administration, in 1869. Notwithstanding his long parliamentary experience, however, the deceased could not be said ever to have taken a leading position in the House. His best work was done in other and less prominent places. His shrewdness and good humour and knowledge of colonial life made him a useful magistrate, and for many years he was a constant attendant at the City Bench, where his great delight was to talk to the persons to the suit in a private room, and induce them to sink their differences, and settle their disputes out of court. He was an official visitor at the lunatic asylums, and paid assiduous attention to his duties as a member of the Central Board of Health. In the establishment of our principal charities, such as the Melbourne Hospital, the Benevolent and Orphan Asylums, and others, he took an active part, and on several occasions when help was needed in other countries, and Victorians were appealed to, the deceased energetically applied himself to the task of collecting, always supplementing the collections with a liberal donation of his own. The deceased also took great interest in the initiation and progress of the friendly societies, and was a leading member of several of them, besides being a prominent Freemason. For many years he has been Provincial Grand master under the Irish Constitution. Mr. Smith leaves a widow and a family, the eldest of whom is Mr. J. T. T. Smith, Crown prosecutor. A full length portrait of Mr. John Thomas Smith in his robes of office is hung up in the town-hall, and no doubt he will occupy a place in local history as “seven times mayor.”

The reason for J. T, Smith being ignored for a Knighthood could be explained as follows:

Sunbury News, Vic, Saturday 25th March 1905, page 3.

“A VISIT TO THE MELBOURNE GENERAL CEMETERY.

(By Isaac Batey.)”

“…we will take stock of the tomb of J. T. Smith, who enjoyed the distinction of holding the mayoral chair for seven years. He was a live public man in early Melbourne times; then being elected M.L.A. for West Bourke, he became Minister of Lands. Just about the beginning of 1870, he was seen passing through Ballan, on a Ministerial tour, and my worthy old dad, who was evidently personally acquainted with him, told me who he was. Perhaps it will not be out of place to relate an incident about Mr Smith, even if it was given in former scribblings. Well, in 1859, the Princess Royal was married. “Jacky Tommy,” as “Punch” dubbed him, being Mayor of Melbourne, the City Council sent him to England to read an address to the Queen, congratulating Her Majesty on the happy event. The “Argus” had a dead-set on the Mayor. One of that paper’s proprietors (Mackinnon) was in London, and I have lately heard that he laid a trap for the Ambassador. Smith was a gay Lothario; in fact, in that direction, he was too intense, consequently he was an easily caught bird when the right sort of lime was prepared for him. To shorten -it is apparent that some woman was put in his way, and the presumption is, she was bribed to effectually damn Smith in the eyes of royalty. This I do know for a certainty, from the newspapers published in Victoria, that a female prosecuted him for misconduct in a London police court. However, he was thoroughly euchred with respect to the prospective Knighthood, for on reading his address to the Queen, in place of coming out with a handle to his name; he emerged plain Mr Smith. Without doubt the “Argus” had recourse to vile intrigue to block the Knighthood, not for the special reason that Mr Smith had faults and failings, but simply because he had sprung from the ranks’ still designated by some people afflicted with the mania of self-esteem, as “the lower orders.” However, J. T. S. believed that the “Argus” had played him a scurvy trick, because on his return he never allowed that journal to enter his house-a fact that can be vouched for, seeing that the information was derived from a gentleman who was an intimate friend of the family. The monument over the Smiths is a good one. The several inscriptions read as follows: “‘Hon. John Thomas Smith-died 30th January, 1879; aged 61.-Ellen, wife of the above-died 20th July, 1886. James, second son–died 27th May, 1878; aged 31.-Charles Melbourne, sixth son; died let. December, 1874, aged 19.-Harrie Smith, secretary V.A. Turf Club; died 10th July” 1895; aged 44.–J. T. Thorold Smith, L.L.B., and K.C., Crown Prosecutor, and eldest son; died 8th July, 1901; aged 61. Nellie, his wife died 2nd March, 1901; aged 60.” Mrs Smith, senior’s, age was not on tomb, and counting the K.C.’s wife, the life average of the family is 44 years…”

Also see: Biography John Thomas Smith (1816-1879)

About the Rev Edward Puckle:

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 11th December 1937, page 38

“Old Essendon Church.

The early history of St. Thomas’s parish, Essendon, shows that it was originally the charge of Dr. Hussey Burgh Macartney, later Dean of Melbourne. That was in 1849. A small wooden building served the parishioners for 10 years. The foundation of the present church in Mt. Alexander road was laid in 1857 by the Governor of Victoria Sir Henry Barklay, and the building as opened for worship in 1859. The first vicar was the Rev. Edward Puckle, who continued his work till 1878. He remained a parishioner till his death in 1898, aged 98 years. The present vicar (the Rev. C. Hedley Raymond succeeded the Rev. Canon J. T. Baglin in 1934…”

Otago Daily Times, New Zealand, Issue 11205, 30 August 1898, Page 6

“AN EX-NEW ZEALANDER.

The Rev. Edward Puckle, of Essendon, has just died at the ripe age of 98. His wife (86) died in April last, after a happy married companionship of no less than 68 years. Mr Puckle was one of the Canterbury pilgrims, landing in the Randolph at Lyttleton in 1850. He remained in New Zealand only five years, and then came to Victoria. He was in charge of the Essendon suburban parish here for 24 years, and continued to live is Essendon till the time of his death, another 18 years.”

The Rev Edward Puckle has his own memorial stained glass window in St Thomas’s which depicts the Ascension and is erected to the left of the  J. T. Smith window. This window was crafted by the stained glass craftsman William Montgomery of Melbourne c.1898. Another window in the nave is dedicated to his daughter, Mary Shaw Puckle, and was made by Brooks, Robinson & Co, Melbourne, and dedicated in 1934.

All the stained glass windows in St. Thomas’s were created locally in Melbourne. The J. T. Smith memorial window was made by the first colonial Victorian stained glass firm, Ferguson & Urie, and all  other later windows were created by William Montgomery, Mathieson & Gibson, and Brooks, Robinson & Co, between 1900 and 1956.

Other references:

Bendigo Advertiser, Vic, Saturday 1st February 1879, page 1s.

Bendigo Advertiser, Vic, Tuesday 4th February 1879, page 2.

Mercury and Weekly Courier, Vic, Saturday 5th April 1879, page 3.

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 11th December 1937, page 38

Web site of St Thomas’s Moonee Ponds

Foot Notes:

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