1867: The Royal Visit – The Illuminations and decorations throughout Melbourne.

On the 31st of October 1867, Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Australia to begin the first tour of the Colony by a member of the British Royal family. By the time the Duke had arrived in Melbourne, the city had decorated shop fronts and streets throughout the city and suburbs in anticipation of the historical visit.

The most popular decorations, and undoubtedly the most expensive, were the decorative transparencies on glass which were illuminated at night by various methods of gas and kerosene lighting. There were many reports in the tabloids of the time which described these various decorations in great detail and the company name Ferguson & Urie appeared many times as the makers of these ‘transparencies on glass‘.

The Argus, Melbourne, Wednesday 27th November 1867, page 1.

 “…Insolvent Court – Transparency on glass by Ferguson & Urie, representing the star of the garter, the Duke’s shield, with anchor and coronet, with star and anchor. The Australian Mutual Provident Society had a star in gas-piping, size 6ft. 6in, by 6ft. and within it a transparency in glass, painted by Ferguson and Urie, representing a union jack. Crown law Offices – Transparency on glass, painted by Ferguson and Urie, 9ft x 6ft, an Imperial crown; all the windows filled with pyramids of candles. Audit Office – Transparency on glass, by Ferguson and Urie, the Royal arms; all the windows illuminated with pyramids of candles…”

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, Melbourne, Friday 20th December 1867, page 6.

At the warehouses of Messrs James McEwan and Co“. were to be seen several transparencies on glass, prepared by Messrs Ferguson & Urie and Lyon. One contained a large figure of Britania, with an anchor, supported by sea horses, below and above cherubs carrying scrolls, with the word “Welcome”. The whole surrounded by a border of flowers. In another, the Duke’s shield, and in another, the star of the Order of the Thistle”. The Crown Law Offices also had a Ferguson & Urie transparency of the Royal Arms.

The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian, Vic, Saturday 30th Nov 1867, p2.


“We are confirmed in our opinion that it was a mistake to have the suburban illuminations on the same night as those of Melbourne. There was a really excellent show made in Prahran, which, if it had been given separately, would have proved very attractive. As it was, it was witnessed by comparatively few persons. We hear the Town-hall is to be lighted up again to-night, and it will no doubt prove a great attaraction. We subjoin a list of the most prominent sights:-


Town-hall – Three painted glass transparencies between the pillars in front of the building, painted by Messrs. Ferguson & Urie, and consisting of Scotch thistle with circle containing the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit,”[1] with fluted rays in white; royal crown, Irish shamrock, and cross, encircled with motto “Quis separabit,”[2] and white fluted rays from edge of circle. Four main windows painted in various designs, and lit with kerosene lamps having powerful silver-plated reflectors. The windows in the tower coloured and ornamented with various designs. The faces of the clock were illuminated with a subdued light, and the lantern, or top most part of tower, lighted with a brilliant ruby colour. The whole of the internal arrangements were under management of Messrs. Ridoutt and Sons, to whom great credit is due for the success attending their efforts…”

The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian, Saturday 28th Dec 1867, page 3.

“…Councillor Crews moved –
“That the following sums be paid by this council for illuminating the Town-hall on the occasion of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the colony:- Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, for transparencies, £23 10s.; Ridoutt and Sons, for illuminating, £20; Mr. Dobie, erecting scaffolding for illuminations, £11 14s. That a loan of £100 be granted to the Prahran Royal Reception Committee until that amount be paid by the Royal Reception Commission as promised…”

Apart from the Duke witnessing the many public decorations made by Ferguson & Urie which decorated the streets of Melbourne and suburbs, his visit to Tasmania would have undoubtedly afforded him very close inspection of one of Ferguson & Urie’s most prominent secular stained glass windows in Tasmania. In January 1868 the Duke was to be a guest of the Hon Robert Quayle Kermode at his Mona Vale mansion near Ross in Tasmania:

“…Mona Vale, where His Royal Highness stayed on his upward and downward journey, and where every provision was made for his comfort, which the real genuine hospitality of an English gentleman could devise, or Princely munificence accomplish. The mansion of Mona Vale is, I have no hesitation in saying, one of the most splendid and magnificently furnished residences in the whole of he Australian colonies, and it is replete with every comfort and conveniences that modern art has yet suggested” [3]

When Kermode commissioned the architect Henry Hunter to build Mona Vale, Hunter included stained glass windows as part of the designs and he selected these works from Ferguson & Urie during a visit to Melbourne:

“…beautiful windows of stained glass, which surround the front door. The fanlight is especially worth mention, having in the centre Mr. Kermode’s crest, an arm and dagger surrounded by a handsome design. The side lights have a stained glass bordering, with centre pieces in frosted glass of floral design. Arrived at the foot of the grand staircase, I observed that the whole of the windows by which it is lighted were also of stained glass, showing groups of flowers most tastefully arranged. The whole of these windows are in the style known as enamel painting, and were executed by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, of Melbourne…” [4]

Although the Duke’s visit to the Antipodes was a highly successful moral boost to the colony’s, it was not without incident.

His visit to Sydney was marred by an assassination attempt on the 12th of March 1868 by an Irishman named Henry James O’Farrell  who shot the Prince. Although seriously wounded, the Prince made a fast recovery.

Justice was swift and decisive and O’Farrell was convicted and hanged six weeks later on the 21st April 1868.

MELBOURNE Princes Bridge 1867

Decoration of Princes Bridge Melbourne for the Royal visit in 1867.

Unfortunately there are no known existing examples of these transparencies on glass by Ferguson & Urie.

Related posts:

1887: The Royal Visit – Illumunations & Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
20-01-1868: Mona Vale Mansion, Ross, Tasmania, Australia.

Foot notes:

[1] “No one attacks me with impunity”: Latin motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army.

[2] “Who will separate (us)?”: Latin motto of many British & Irish Regiments .

[3] The Mercury, Hobart, Monday 20th January 1868, page 3.

[4]  ibid

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