1880: The Kernot window from ‘Firenze’, Sydney Rd, Parkville.

In 1880 Professor William Charles Kernot had his two story home “Firenze” built in Royal Parade (Sydney Road) at Parkville[1] and commissioned the Ferguson & Urie Stained Glass Company of North Melbourne to create a window for the west wall above the landing of the staircase.

The arch shaped window contains Gothic floral designs with Acanthus leaves and Passion flowers. The centre roundel of the window contains the intertwined initials “WCK” (William Charles Kernot).

Kernot originally named his two storey house Firenze after the Italian name for the city of Florence in Italy and between c.1916 and c.1950 the house was known as ‘Quamby’ and owned by classical ballet teachers, Jennie and Eileen Brennan.

In 1950 Quamby was purchased by the Government for use by the CSIRO[2] but was demolished circa 1990’s[3]. Fortunately the stained glass window was removed before the demolition and gifted to the University by the CSIRO.

Conservation and restoration work on the window was carried out in 2007 by the Universitys’ Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation by Senior Objects Conservator Ms Holly Jones-Amin and her colleagues Jordi Casasayas and Raaf Ishak[4].

In 2006 the University established the Kernot Fellowship and the central design from the stained glass window with Kernot’s initials are featured on silk scarves especially made for donors to the Fellowship[5].

The Kernot window was unveiled on Kernot Fellowship Day, 19th April 2007 by Mr James Minifie, a descendant of Professor Kernot[6].

As at 2013 the window is now installed in the conference room of old Engineering Building with artificial back-lighting.

Photos taken: 6th September 2013.

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Professor William Charles Kernot (1845-1909)

William Charles Kernot was born at Rochford, Essex in 1845 and arrived with his parents Charles Kernot[7] and Mary Wright[8] and younger sister Mary Jane[9] aboard the ‘Duke of Wellington’ in February 1851[10]. His father, Charles Kernot (1820-1882), was a Chemist and Stationer in Moorabool street Geelong[11] and in 1864 was elected Mayor[12].

William was educated at Geelong Grammar and later matriculated at Melbourne University in 1861 with three Arts degrees and circa 1863 a certificate in Civil Engineering.

After a number of Government posts he began lecturing in Engineering at Melbourne University circa 1869 and in 1883 was appointed the first professor of engineering at the Melbourne University, a position which he held until his death in 1909. Over the course of his career he had donated thousands of pounds to the University for the establishment of scholarships and purchase of equipment and since 1926 the prestigious “Kernot” memorial medal is awarded at the University for distinguished Engineering achievement[13].

Detailed accounts of his career achievements, philanthropy, obituary and biographies were published in the Argus in 1909[14] and the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1974[15]

Two of his younger brothers, Wilfred Noyce Kernot (1868-1945) and Maurice Edwin Kernot (1852-1934) also became distinguished engineers and professors in Engineering at the University.

William Charles Kernot was unmarried and lived at “Firenze” in Sydney Road Parkville with his younger siblings until his death on the 14th March 1909. He was buried at the Kew Boroondarra cemetery on the 16th  March [16].

His sister Mary and brother Wilfred were interred with him at the Kew Boroondarra Cemetery in 1932 and 1945.

The Kernot gravestone at the Kew cemetery reads;




Significant tabloid Transcriptions:

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 16th March 1909, page 1.

“KERNOT.- On the 14th March, at his residence, “Firenze,” Royal-park, William Charles Kernot, M.A., M.I.C.E., professor of engineering, Melbourne University, aged 63 years.”

“KERNOT.- The Friends of the late WILLIAM CHARLES KERNOT, M.A., are respectfully invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, Boroondara Cemetery, Kew. The funeral will leave his residence, “Firenze,” Royal-park, THIS DAY (Tuesday, March 16, 1909), at 11 o’clock, arriving at cemetery about a quarter past 12. JOSIAH HOLDSWORTH, Funeral Director, 380 Lygon-street, Carlton; and 659 Nicholson-street, North Carlton. Phone 1192.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 16th March 1909, page 5.


Eloquent tributes to the worth of the late Professor Kernot and the late Mr. W. W. Cornwall were paid by the Chancellor of the university at the meeting of the University Council yesterday. Sir John Madden said that in their late registrar the University had a man of a rare type…”

“…As to the late Professor Kernot, who had also passed from their service, who was there who did not know his immense worth, his great learning, his great skill, his patriotism, his total disregard of all selfish interests, and the work that he had done for education and for his fellow countrymen? Of a kindly and generous disposition he worked for the University persistently and enthusiastically and well. Whenever he had money to spare he spent it in the interests of the University, and for the encouragement of those who were to follow him. He left nothing undone to make the institution one of glory and advantage to the country in which he lived and which he was educated. Sir Henry Wrixon (Vice-Chancellor) added a few words to the appreciation of the deceased officers. The members of the council requested the Chancellor to convey the sympathy of the council to the families of the late Professor Kernot and the late Mr. Cornwall”. The funeral of Professor Kernot will proceed from “Firenze,” Royal-park, to the Boroondara Cemetery this morning. It has been arranged that members of the University shall meet in academic dress at the corner of Studley-park road and High-street, Kew, at 20 minutes to 12, in order to walk in procession to the cemetery. A train leaves Flinders-street for Kew at 13 minutes past 11. The Institute of Engineers, the Institute of Surveyors, and the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Geelong College, the Working Men’s College, and other institutions will also be represented at the funeral. No lectures will be given at the University before 1 o’clock, and the Working Men’s College will be closed from 9 o’clock until 1.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 15th March 1909, page 7.



 Widespread regret will be felt at the death of Professor Kernot, which occurred at his residence, “Firenze,” Royal-parade, Parkville, yesterday morning. His illness was of brief duration. About a fortnight ago Professor Kernot complained of feeling unwell, but his illness was not regarded as serious. Two days later he worked at some University examination papers, but on the following day he was confined to his bed. His medical adviser (Dr. Hobill Cole) attended him regularly, and last week, on his suggestion, Dr. Stawell was called into consultation. The patient was advised not to start work with the University term, but to take six months’ rest. On Saturday afternoon Professor Kernot had a slight paralytic stroke. This seizure, supervening upon internal troubles, was the cause of death at 20 minutes to 1 o’clock on Sunday morning. Mr. W. N. Kernot, who was with his brother at the last, mentions, as a coincidence, that the tramway cables which run past the door of Professor Kernot’s residence, stopped just as the end came.

With the death of Professor William Charles Kernot, who for the past 26 years has been professor of engineering at the Melbourne University, a remarkable and distinguished career has closed. He was born at Rochford, Essex, in 1845, and when six years of age he was brought to Australia. His father, the late Charles Kernot, practised as a pharmaceutical chemist at Geelong, and was afterwards in Parliament. Professor Kernot’s early education was received at the National Grammar School at Geelong. He matriculated at the Melbourne University in 1861, obtained the degree of master of arts in 1864, and received his certificate in civil engineering two years later. After being engaged in connection with the Geelong and Coliban waterworks, he entered the Victorian Mining department in 1865. Two years later he became associated with the Water Supply department, in which he remained until 1875. While in that position, however, he succeeded Mr. James Griffith as lecturer on surveying at the Melbourne University. In 1869 he began lecturing on engineering at the University, and in January, 1883, was appointed professor of engineering, a position he held until his death. In 1874 he was chief of the photo-heliograph party which made investigations from the Melbourne University in connection with the transit of Venus. In 1876 he was associated with Mr. Louis Brennan in the work of developing the Brennan fish torpedo, which was afterwards purchased by the British Government for over £100,000. In addition he was chairman of the two principal juries on machinery at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1881, and was a member of the Royal Commission on Bridges in New South Wales in 1886. Subsequently he reported on the Derwent Valley railway bridges in Tasmania, and on a proposed underground telephone-wire service for Melbourne.

            Amongst the papers most prized by the late Professor Kernot was a letter which he received from His Majesty the King (then Prince of Wales) in 1881. The manuscript, now faded and worn, at the folds, bears the signature of His Majesty.

            As a jubilee gift Professor Kernot presented to the University, in 1887, the sum of 2,000 to endow scholarships in physics and chemistry. With Mr. Francis Ormond he assisted in the development of the Working Men’s College, and made various gifts to the institution. He was president of the Institute of Engineers for six years, including the term 1906-1907. For some time he occupied the position of chairman of directors of the new Australia Electric Company, which supplied electric light in Melbourne from 1882 until 1890. An interesting incident in his career was his experience on the occasion of the railway strike. At that time he voluntarily undertook the task of instructing new drivers in the use of locomotives. His services were recognised by the Railway department, whose commissioners presented him with a gold medal set with diamonds. Last year, when the circumstances of the Sunshine railway disaster were being investigated, he rendered valuable assistance by superintending the brake tests. In addition to being a member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society, he was a prominent member and office bearer of the Albert-street Baptist Church, and officiated at the ceremonies of laying the foundation-stones of the Elsternwick and Camberwell churches.

            On one of his trips abroad Professor Kernot happened to reach South Africa at the time of the Boer war, and while travelling through the country was for a while held as prisoner of war. His best known publication was ‘Some Common Errors in Bridge Building.” Professor Kernot, who was 63 years of age, was unmarried. His four brothers are Mr. Maurice E. Kernot, engineer in chief of the railway construction branch of the Board of land and Works; Mr. F. A. Kernot, dentist; Mr. P. W. Kernot (Messrs. Campbell and Kernot), architects; and Mr. W. N. Kernot, who is in charge of the engineering department of the Working Men’s College. One sister resided with Professor Kernot, another is married to Mr. C. E. Oliver, engineer-in-chief of the Metropolitan Board of Works, while a third sister is the wife of Mr. E. Cooke.

            The funeral will take place at 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning. It will be attended by University students, who will march from Kew to the Boorondara [sic] Cemetery.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 6th July 1945, page 15.

“WILLIAM CHARLES KERNOT, late of “Firenze,” Sydney Road, Parkville, Professor of Engineering, Deceased, Intestate.- After fourteen days Charles Home Kernot, of No. 2 Sidwell avenue, St. Kilda, civil engineer, one of the legal representatives of Maurice Edwin Kernot, formerly of the Victorian Railways, chief engineer for construction, late of “Ardoch,” Dandenong road, East St. Kilda, civil engineer, deceased, a brother of the said William Charles Kernot, deceased, will APPLY to the Supreme Court for LETTERS of ADMINISTRATION of the estate of the said William Charles Kernot, left unadministered by Mary Jane Kernot, of “Firenze,” Sydney road, Parkville aforesaid, spinster, deceased, and Wilfrid Noyce Kernot, late of 10 Princes avenue, Caulfield, professor of engineering, deceased, the legal representatives of the said William Charles Kernot, deceased, may be granted to the said Charles Home Kernot, as such legal representatives of the said Maurice Edwin Kernot, deceased. Dated this sixth day of July, 1945. HOME, WILKINSON, & LOWRY. 100 Queen street, Melbourne, proctors for the said Charles Home Kernot.”

External links:

Melbourne School of Engineering:


[2] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (originally formed in 1926 under its present title).

[3] The History of the CSIRO Laboratory at 343 Royal Parade; Rivett, Ward & Belkin; CSIRO Publishing 1996.

[5] Annual Report 2006, The Melbourne University Engineering Foundation, Page 3-4

[6] University of Melbourne Heritage Society Newsletter, June 2007, page 1.

[9] Mary Jane Kernot (1847-1932). Spinster.

[13] Wikipedia: The Kernot Memorial Medal (accessed 1 Sept 2013)

[16] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 16th March 1909, page 1.


My thanks to Michelle Mackay and her time and to the University of Melbourne for inviting me to see the window.

Short link to this article: http://wp.me/p28nLD-28N


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