24-05-1884: St Michael’s Catholic Church, Little River, Victoria.

In 1884 Ferguson & Urie erected a two light stained glass window over the altar of St Michael’s Catholic Church at Little River, west of Melbourne. The window depicts Jesus in the left light praying to a chalice and St Michael in the right light also kneeling in prayer. The window was originally erected in the first bluestone church in 1884 at the instigation of a Miss Ellen Bannon[1], The original bluestone church was demolished in 1921 and a new red brick church was built in its place with some of the original bluestone from the old church used for the foundations. The stained glass window was also re-erected over the altar of the new church which opened in April 1922[2].

Photos were taken: 14th Dec 2012 & 2nd Jan 2013.

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Advocate, Vol. XV, No. 801, 24 May 1884, p.15.

“GEELONG [From our own correspondent]

 The additions and improvements to the Catholic Church at Little River are now nearly completed.  A generous lady, Miss Banim[3], who has already contributed largely towards the funds of the church, last week sent an order to Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, of Melbourne, for a handsome stained glass window, to be erected over the altar; while another lady promises a carpet for the sanctuary, and a chest of drawers for the vestments, etc….”[4]

The memorial text across the bottom of the windows reads:


The donor of the window, Miss Ellen Bannon/Bannin died two years later in 1886 at the Prince Alfred Hospital aged 46, and she was buried at the St Kilda General Cemetery[5]. The name of the “Rev M. Murphy” mentioned on the window is more elusive. The text says in “Honour” rather than “In Memory” so there is some conjecture as to whether the Rev M. Murphy was actually alive or not at the time of the window being commissioned by Ms Ellen Bannon in 1884. From the Catholic directories National Council of Priests[6], the only recorded name match is for a “Rev Michael Denis Murphy” who died 13/02/1939 and ministered in the parishes of “Meredith, Footscray, etc, Victoria” (no other specific detail known).

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 8th March 1886, page 1.

“BANNON.- On the 6th inst., at Alfred Hospital, Ellen Bannon, late of Lara. Aged 46 years. R.I.P”.

“THE Friends of the late Miss ELLEN BANNON, late of Lara, are most respectfully invited to follow her remains to their last resting-place, in the St. Kilda General Cemetery. The funeral is appointed to leave the Alfred Hospital, THIS DAY (Monday), at 11 o’clock a.m.  BENJAMIN T. STEVENS, undertaker, 280 Church-street, near Swan-street, Richmond”.


St Michael’s Little River Catholic community started in 1857, when Fr. Ranald Rankin was appointed resident priest by Melbourne’s first Archbishop, James Goold. Fr. Ranald Rankin came out to Australia from Scotland on the Marco Polo in 1853.  At that time, the Parish extended as far as Anakie and Footscray and it was the only church between Williamstown and Geelong. Fr. Rankin built St. Michael’s Church from local bluestone. During the week the church was also used as a denominational school. When Fr. Rankin died in February 1863, the parish was closed because of a shortage of priests. It was incorporated into the Geelong Mission. In 1906 Archbishop Thomas Carr created the parish of St. Andrews Werribee which incorporated St. Michael’s Little River. The old bluestone church was demolished and the present one was built. It was blessed and opened by Archbishop Daniel Mannix on the 2nd of April 1922… [7]

The death and burial of Ellen Bannon/Bannim in 1886:

Vic BDM: 3078/1886, Bannin, Ellen, age 46, died PRN ALF H (Prince Alfred Hospital). Parents listed as unknown.

St Kilda General Cemetery, Ellen Bannin, age 46, buried at ROMAN CATHOLIC, MONUMENTAL, COMPARTMENT D GRAVE 616.

There is obviously some confusion as to the spelling of her surname as either Bannin or Bannon. The stained glass window, obituary and funeral notice both have “Bannon” and the BDM Index entry and cemetery record both have “Bannin”.

Werribee Shire Banner, Vic, Thursday 6th April 1922, page 2.


“Nearly 2000 people witnessed the solemn blessing and opening of a new Roman Catholic Church at Little River on Sunday afternoon last by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Mannix. The sacred edifice, which cost in the vicinity of £2,500, may be recognised as a gift church, the late Huon McNaughton having left he sum of £2,300 for this purpose. The construction of the church was commenced some twelve months ago, but owing to unforseen circumstances it was not completed until recently, when work was finally executed by Mr. John Smith, of Meredith. The church which is built of brick, and neatly furnished, will accommodate about 200 people, and the parishioners of Little River can well feel proud of having one of the most handsome and elaborately equipped churches in the country parishes of Victoria…”

[1] Advocate, Vol. XV, No. 801, 24 May 1884, p.15.

[3] Ellen Bannon, as per dedication text on window. Interchangeably spelt as Bannin and Bannon on other notices.

[4] Article sent from Dr. Bronwyn Hughes, email, 14 Dec 2012.

[6] Sally Heath, NCP, email 4 Jan 2013.


One comment on “24-05-1884: St Michael’s Catholic Church, Little River, Victoria.

  1. There is no memorial gravestone at St Kilda Cemetery as at 29th Nov 2014. The cemetery records her as Ellen Bannin buried at Roman Catholic, Compartment D, Grave 616. This area is very small as about 15 square meters and no memorial was found.

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