1871: Christ Church, Anglican, Beechworth, Victoria.

The foundation stone of the Anglican ‘Christ Church’ at Beechworth, was laid by Justice Thomas Spencer Cope (1821-1891) on Saturday 13th November 1858[1] and was built to the designs of prominent Melbourne Architect Leonard Terry (1825-1884). The foundation stone is now hidden beneath the tower which was erected in 1864[2].

Many 19th Century Australian Stained Glass artists and companies are now represented by later stained glass windows erected in Christ Church but only two of the original windows remain which were created by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of Curzon Street North Melbourne.

Photos dated 18th December 2011.

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At the liturgical north-west corner of the nave, near the tower entrance, are the remaining two original examples of Ferguson & Urie stained glass. These are just plain single light windows with the simple red and blue stained glass border designs with plain in-fill diamond quarries. These simple designs can be found in many Victorian Churches from c.1861 – c.1888. It’s likely that all the original windows in the church were created by the Ferguson & Urie Company at the time of its erection, but the course of time sees these original windows inevitably being replaced by memorial windows.

At the base of one of the two original windows is an obscure clue as to its donor. The lower edge of one window has the text;Presented 1871 BTW. A small pink and yellow flower appears on the bottom left of the text and the heraldic symbol of a demi-wolf on the bottom right. The Latin text below the wolf reads Res Non Verba, meaning “things, not words” or “facts instead of words,” but probably more commonly known in modern times as “actions speak louder than words.”

This a very clever, simple, and very conservative adaption of one of Ferguson & Urie’s plain ‘stock’ windows. In most cases these simple windows with coloured borders were the first windows to be erected in a new church but this particular modified window is the only one found to date that has the bottom edge modified, very simply, to include the text of the donor and his coat of arms.

Although the clues at the base of the window are obscure, a logical process of elimination has narrowed down the donor of this stained glass window as extremely likely to be ‘Bowes Todd Wilson’ (c.1812-1882), Superintendent of Police for the Beechworth district Apr 1869 – Dec 1870.

Who was Bowes Todd Wilson?

In 1857 Bowes Todd Wilson (1812-1882) was Inspector of Police and District Paymaster at Kyneton[3]. In May 1859 he was appointed Territorial Magistrate for Swan Hill by His Excellency, H. S. Chapman[4] which he resigned in February1861[5]. In April 1869 he was appointed Superintendent of Police for the Beechworth District and retired in December 1870[6] with a Government pension of £186 p.a[7]. He remained in Beechworth for a short period after his retirement and later removed to Melbourne where he died at the ‘Parade Hotel’, East Melbourne on the 12th August 1882[8], aged 70 years[9].

The heraldic symbol and associated Latin text in the stained glass window is identified as being the armorial crest of the “Wilson” family name;  “..This Lion is actually a “Demi Wolf”, and the motto is associated with the families names Wilson, as is the Demi Wolf…”[10]

About Christ Church:

On the 6th of November 1856, Major-General Macarthur had approved the appointment of the trustees of land set apart for the Church of England purposes at Beechworth. Those he appointed as Trustees were; Melnoth Hall, William Gore Brett, Edward Graves Mayne, Charles King and Samuel George Hogg. [11]

Two years later, William Gore Brett, was bestowed with the responsibility for the official invitations to the laying of the foundation stone of Christ Church and his invitation to the Beechworth Shire Council was read at the council meeting the previous day, 12th November 1858[12].

At the appointed time of two o’clock on Saturday the 13th November 1858, Judge Cope laid the foundation stone and immediately after the ceremony a Bazaar to raise money for the building fund was held in the former El Dorado Hotel “…which has been tastefully decorated with evergreens, and colors of all traditions, (including the Chinese)…

Significant tabloid transcriptions:

Ovens & Murray Advertiser, Beechworth, Wednesday 10th November 1858, page 3.

“THE NEW CHURCH OF ENGLAND.- The foundation stone of the new edifice, the erection of which has just commenced, will be formally laid this day by his Honor Judge Cope. The ceremony will take place at 2 o’clock p.m. and will doubtless attract a large number of visitors to witness it.”

Ovens & Murray Advertiser, Beechworth, Thursday 11th November 1858, page 3.

“THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE NEW CHURCH OF ENGLAND.- A mistake occurred in our notice yesterday as to the day on which the interesting ceremony would take place, but the fault in this case was not ours. The foundation stone will be laid on Saturday (D.V.) with the formalities usual on the occasion of this nature, by His Honor Judge Cope. Two o’clock in the afternoon is the hour named and the event will we have no doubt attract a large concourse of persons.”

Ovens & Murray Advertiser, Beechworth, Saturday 13th November 1858, page 3

“THE FOUNDATION STONE of the Church of England in course of erection, will be laid at 2 o’clock this afternoon by his Honor Judge Cope.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 14th Aug 1882, page 1.

“WILSON.- On the 12th inst., at the Parade Hotel, East Melbourne, Bowes Todd Wilson, formerly Superintendent of police.”


[1] Ovens & Murray Advertiser, Beechworth, Saturday 13th November 1858, page 3

[7] prov.vic.gov.au, Will & Probate documents, Bowes Todd Wilson, 1882.

[9] Bowes Todd Wilson, Vic BDM: 9368/1882, age 70.

[10] Stephen Michael Szabo, Hon. Secretary, The Australian Heraldry Society– email, June 2012.

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