The ongoing research to find extant Ferguson & Urie stained glass has revealed many of their works of art in remote locations, sometimes thousands of kilometres from the company’s workshops in North Melbourne.
The latest discovery is in the tiny township of Porangahau on the South East coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The Anglican church of St Michael and All Angels in Porangahau is now the sixth location in New Zealand found to contain an historic Ferguson & Urie stained glass window. This window is the only one known to have been created by the company as a memorial to a soldier who died in an armed conflict in the Antipodes.
Photos: From St Michaels, Porangahau, NZ, Janice Ball, New Zealand 11th March 2014.
[See all attached files]
The idea for a memorial stained glass window in St Michael’s was conceived as early as 1878 when the Porangahau congregation began to raise subscriptions to build the church.
On the 22nd of July 1878 it was reported that a local land owner by the name of John Davis Canning had presented £125 towards the cost of a stained glass window to be erected in memory of his brother, Davis Canning, who fell in action at Ruatikuri during the Maori Wars on the 8th August 1868.
Two years later, in September 1880, a tabloid correspondent described the progress of the church construction and of the stained glass window they wrote:
“…The effect, seen when sunlight falls on it, is grand, and the chiaroscuro well defined – in fact the whole would do credit to a large old world cathedral, and is, I believe, not equaled in this colony. It is grand – more cannot be said…”
St Michael’s was consecrated on Friday 11th February 1881 by the Bishop of Waiapu and the following Tuesday the Hawke’s Bay Herald described the three light stained glass window in great detail. The Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of Melbourne were explicitly mentioned as the firm who made it;
“…One great feature, internally is a large stained-glass east window, containing three lights and tracery. The subjects are the baptism of our Lord, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. The draperies about the figures are of the richest quality of antique glass the colors being so arranged as to blend harmoniously, while all crude or harsh coloring is avoided. The background is light grisailler work, so subdued as to make the subjects stand out prominently. On the lower panels and in the tracery are suitable emblems and monograms. The general effect is exceedingly rich and handsome. Beneath it is a brass plate bearing the following inscription:- “This window is erected by the family, in memory of Davis Canning, gent., who fell in action at Ruatikuri, 8th August, 1868 whilst leading the advanced guard,” The window is from the firm of Ferguson and Urie, Melbourne…” 
The precise description of the window given in 1881 matches that of the east window in St Michael’s today and the photographs taken by Janice on the 11th March 2014 leave absolutely no doubt that it is the work of Ferguson & Urie.
But there is a strange anomaly with this window that appears to have gone undetected for possibly fifty years or more!
Beneath each of the biblical scenes is a reference to a chapter and verse from St Mark in the King James Bible which would aptly describe the event depicted above but the chapter and verse beneath the first two are under the wrong windows!
The reference under each window is currently shown as;
“Mark c.15 v.25” – (“And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.”) This reference is located under the first window on the left which depicts Jesus being Baptised by John in the River Jordan. Below this is the Lamb of God or ‘Agnus Dei,’
“Mark c.1 v.9” – (“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptised of John in Jordan”). This reference is located under the centre window depicting Christ being crucified. Below this is the Pelican in the act of self-sacrifice feeding its own blood to her young.
“Mark c.16 v.6” – (“And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him”). This reference is, correctly, located under the right window depicting Christ emerging from the tomb in the Resurrection. Below this is the phoenix rising.
Logically, the reference “Mark c.15 v.25” should be under the centre window depicting the Crucifixion and “Mark c.1 c.9” should be under the first window depicting the Baptism.
On the 27th Feb 2014, descendant Davis Canning wrote:
“It [the window] was completely redone (removed, repaired, releaded and reinstalled, rededicated etc) in the early 1960’s I think and was in good condition even then. I was responsible for the complete restoration of the church in 1998 and the east window was in such good condition it did not need any work done on it. I think it is still sound and has an exterior cage over it so it is not damaged by bird strike…”
The 1960’s restoration would seem to be the most likely point in time that the pieces of the window with the bible verses were re-installed in the wrong order. It could be argued as to whether the lower scenes depicting the Lamb and Pelican are also under the wrong scenes, meaning that possibly the entire lower sections of the window have been swapped.
It’s not known whether there had been any other restoration work done on the window prior to the 1960’s, but most historical stained glass windows usually require some significant conservation work every fifty years or so depending on their level of exposure to the weather.
There have probably been many events in the last 130 years that could have decided the fate of this historical window. This windows most recent miraculous escape from disaster occurred in December 2011 when a fire broke out in the church and destroyed the altar. Fortunately the fire was contained to the altar space only and there was no reported damage to the window.
Every step of the research draws you deeper into the history of the window. It’s not just a remarkable piece of work by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company, it has a story to tell of its own, apart from the biblical one, such as who was it dedicated to and who was the donor? There is also the remarkable coincidental link to another memorial stained glass window to the Canning brothers on the other side of the world which I’ll explain further on.
John Davis Canning (1822-1883)
John Davis Canning (1822-1883) was the donor of the stained glass window at St Michael’s in Porangahau.
He was born at Ogbourne, St Andrews, Wiltshire, in 1822 and arrived at Port Cooper (Lyttelton), New Zealand aboard the “Cornwall” on the 10th December 1851with another brother, Charles. He later proceeded to Hawke’s Bay circa 1852 where he took up “Oakburne” located between Waipukurau and Porangahau.
The years 1868 and 1869 were tumultuous times for John Davis Canning. In November 1867 his mother Elizabeth (nee Tanner) died aged 74 at Weyhill near Andover and in August 1868, at the height of the Maori wars, his younger brother Davis rode off to join Colonel Whitmore’s troops in the hunt for the Hauhaus and was killed at Ruakaturi on the 8th August 1868.
Just over two weeks after the death of his brother he married Elspeth McQueen (1837-1920) at Mangatarata farmstead in the central Hawke’s Bay area.
Between 1869 and 1872 John and Elspeth had three children but Elspeth became ill and was invalided back to Wiltshire for the benefit of her health. In 1881 John began to make arrangements for his return to England to visit Elspeth and in mid February of 1881 he placed advertisements in the newspapers to sell a number of his short horn cattle, draught horses and Cottswold rams at public auction. By late March he was temporarily residing at the Hawke’s Bay Club in Napier and on the 28th of March he advertised that was looking for a suitable house in Napier for short term lease;
“WANTED, in eligible situation, with a good view and a desirable situation on the hills, a Commodious House (furnished), with good garden and grounds, for a period of at least three months. Apply, stating particulars, to John Davis Canning, Hawke’s Bay Club, Napier. 28th March, 1881”
On the 24th of October 1881 he resigned his commission as a Justice of the Peace and shortly after returned to England. His health declined over the following two years and he died at Marlborough on the 20th September 1883 aged 61. 
“News has been received by cable of the death of Mr John Davis Canning at Marlborough, England, on Thursday last. Mr Canning was one of our earliest settlers arriving about 1855 [sic]. At one time he was in partnership with Mr John Harding in the Mount Vernon run, and on dissolving the partnership Mr Canning for some time occupied part of Mr Tiffen’s Homewood run, subsequently removing to Wallingford, where he acquired a considerable tract of native land. There he resided until he left for England, about two years ago. Mr Canning was an excellent judge of stock, and his importations, especially of shorthorns and horses, did much to improve the stock of Hawke’s Bay.”
John was buried in the Ogbourne, St Andrew’s Church yard in Wiltshire. His gravestone still exists and although the memorial text is fading with time it still can be read;
“John Davis CANNING, Who died Sept 20th 1883, Aged 61 years.”
In 1884 his sister Elizabeth commissioned a stained glass window to be erected in St. Andrew’s in Memory of her brothers John and Davis. Legend has it that the window in St Michael’s at Porangahau was a copy of the window in St Andrew’s in Wiltshire:
“The east window at St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in Porangahau was given by the family in his memory and is a copy of the window in the church at Ogbourne, St Andrews…”
Unfortunately this legendary tale is not true. The stained glass window St. Andrews in Wilthshire was erected three years after the window at St Michael’s at Porangahau in New Zealand and it doesn’t follow the same biblical theme or resemble the figurative work in any way whatsoever.
The memorial text on a brass plaque at the foot of the Canning memorial window at St Andrew’s church in Wiltshire reads;
“TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF JOHN DAVIS CANNING WHO DIED SEPT 20th 1883 AGED 61, ALSO DAVIS CANNING WHO DIED AUGUST 8th 1868 AGED 39. THIS WINDOW IS DEDICATED BY THEIR SISTER, ELIZABETH MARY MOORE, A.D. 1884.”
The upper half of the window at St Andrew’s depicts four women representing “Fortitudo” (Fortitude), “Temperantia” (Temperance), “Justitia” (Justice) and “Sapientia” (Wisdom).
The scenes in the lower half of the window depict what I believe are four of the acts from the Corporal Works of Mercy. On the other side of the world, the Ferguson & Urie window at Porangahau in New Zealand depicts the Baptism, Crucifixion and Resurrection.
John’s wife Elspeth eventually made a full recovery in England and in the early 1890’s returned to New Zealand where she resided at Napier in good health into her advanced years.
Elspeth died in New Zealand in 1920 at the age of 86.
Davis Canning (1829-1868)
The Ferguson & Urie stained glass window in St Michael’s is a memorial to Davis Canning, the younger brother of John Davis Canning.
When Davis actually arrived in New Zealand is not known, but can reasonably be assumed to be 1852 or later. His brothers John and Charles arrived aboard the “Cornwall” from England in December 1851 but Davis was not listed as a passenger on the same ship with them.
Davis resided at “Oakburne” near Porangahau with his brother John. At the age of 39 he was described as a “young man full of adventure.” It was probably inevitable that this adventurous spirit would lead him to joining the militia. Sometime in late September or early August 1868 he rode off and joined Colonel Whitmore’s government forces to fight against the Hauhaus led by the Maori rebel “Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki.”
On the 8th August 1868, during a battle at Ruakituri, Davis Canning and a Captain Oswald Carr were shot dead;
“…On the 8th the force was well up the gorge-like valley of the Ruakituri, and the advance-guard led by Mr. Davis Canning, a gallant settler from Hawke’s Bay, was hot on the trail of the Hauhaus, who were heard shooting pigeons in the distance. Early in the afternoon Captain Carr (Hawke’s Bay), who had been an officer in the Royal Artillery, reconnoitered through the bush along the river-bank, and reported that the Hauhaus were halted a short distance up the river. The swift and ice-cold river was forded several times and the European and Maori force advanced to the attack. Captain (afterwards Colonel) Herrick with part of the force moved on to take the Hauhaus in flank and reverse, and when his men were in position Whitmore directed the advance-guard to push forward. It was soon driven back, leaving both Canning and Carr dead on the field. The former was shot dead while gallantly leading the men…”
Ten years later, in July 1878, his older brother John Davis Canning subscribed the amount of £125 towards a stained glass window to be erected in memory of his brother in the yet to be erected St Michael’s Church at Porangahau. In September of the same year the Hawke’s Bay Herald reported something similar but with a differing cost for the window;
“…J. D. Canning, Esq., of Oakbourne, has given a superb stained glass window of the value of £150…”
St Michael’s was consecrated by the Bishop of Waiapu in 1881 and the Ferguson & Urie stained glass window to the memory of Davis Canning still exists to this day.
Beneath the window is brass plaque inscribed:
“This window is erected by the family, in memory of Davis Canning, gent., who fell in action at Ruakituri, 8th August, 1868 whilst leading the advanced guard.”
Another memorial to Davis appears at Ruakituri Cemetery Reserve near Wairoa. A brass plaque is mounted on a rock cairn in memory of Davis Canning and Canning family lore has it that this plaque went missing after a flood in the late 1800’s and was missing for over a century until being found in the 1980’s-90’s in a creek bed two miles away.
The plaque has the wording:
“IN MEMORY OF DAVIS CANNING, KILLED IN ACTION 8th AUGUST 1868”.
“NE CEDE MALIS SED CONTRA”
(Latin: “Yield not to misfortunes, but advance all the more boldly against them”)
Significant historical newspaper transcriptions:
“IMPORTANT FROM THE FRONT. SEVERE ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN FORCES UNDER COL. WHITMORE AND EX PRISONERS…
…We deeply regret to add that among the killed were Capt. Carr of Petane and Mr. Davis Canning, two esteemed settlers of this province…”
“…The advance guard, comprising several of the armed constabulary, and led by Captain Carr and Mr. Canning, advanced to the front of the enemy’s lines and were on the eve of carrying the position when the hau-haus poured in a hot fire, which forced them to take cover. The action then commenced hot on both sides; and in another attempt to charge the position, Mr Canning and Captain Carr lost their lives…”
“Our Porangahau correspondent writes: – The need of a church has long been felt and numerous gentlemen having promised subscription to the amount of £365, it is hoped that the good work will speedily be accomplished. It is proposed that the sum of £600 be collected for the above purpose, exclusive of the sum of £125 presented by J. D. Canning, Esq., of Oakbourne, for a stained glass window, in memory of his brother, the late Mr Davis Canning. A series of concerts are to be given for the purpose of raising funds to furnish the sum required. The following gentlemen have already subscribed:- J. Nairn, £100; George hunter, £50; J. D. Ormond, £50; Rev S. Williams, £50; A. St. Hill, £10; J. White, £50; T. Spencer, £5; Trust Fund, £50. Total £365.”
[FROM AN OCCASSIONAL CORRESPONDENT]
WAINUI, September 10.
By favour I was permitted to see the memorial window which has just been put in at the Porangahau Episcopalian Church, now in course of erection. As I understand, it was presented by Mr John D. Canning, of Oakbourne, in memory that gentleman’s late brother, Mr Davis Canning, and as a work of art it does great credit tothe artist, and as much to the selector of the design. It is in the mediaeval style, Gothic, with teinte brilliante of the Rennaissance. The effect, seen when sunlight falls on it, is grand, and the chiaroscuro well defined – in fact the whole would do credit to a large old world cathedral, and is, I believe, not equalled in this colony. It is grand – more cannot be said.
Although the church is by no means finished, yet, as far as the work has gone, it is a great credit to the contractor, Mr Holt, of Napier, and also to his foreman of works, Mr. Wm. Smith, for, though I am no judge of builder’s work, I profess to distinguish between conscientious, well finished, straight forward labor, and work done in a slovenly style – and the former is the case with the church. As far as it is finished the work is solid, and, what is more, the acoustic properties promise to be good. To sum up, the work, when finished, will be, and ought to be, a credit to so small a place as Porangahau.”
“CONSECRATION OF PORANGHAU CHURCH.
On Friday last the new church at Porangahau was consecrated by the Right Rev. the Bishop of Waiapu. The design of the building is striking. It consists of a nave, chancel, tower with spire, and a commodious vestry. It is seated for 100 persons, but there is space for additional seating accommodation when required. One great feature, internally is a large stained-glass east window, containing three lights and tracery. The subjects are the baptism of our Lord, the Crucifixion, and the Resurection. The draperies about the figures are of the richest quality of antique glass the colors being so arranged as to blend harmoniously, while all crude or harsh coloring is avoided. The background is light grisailler work, so subdued as to make the subjects stand out prominently. On the lower panels, and in the tracery are suitable emblems and monograms. The general effect is exceedingly rich and handsome. Beneath it is a brass plate bearing the following inscription:- “This window is erected by the family, in memory of Davis Canning, gent., who fell in action at Ruatikuri, 8th August, 1868 whilst leading the advanced guard,” The window is from the firm of Ferguson and Urie, Melbourne. The services on Friday were three in number, those in the morning and evening being attended by the European settlers, that in the afternoon by the Porangahau natives. The Bishop preached in the morning, and the Rev. De Berdt Hovel in the evening. The Revs’ S. Williams, J. Shearman, and F.E.T. Simcox (the incumbent of the parish) were also present and took part in the ceremonies. The offertories amounted to £31. The church, which is dedicated to St. Michael, was designed by Mr B. W. Mountfort, of Christchurch, the contractor for the work being Mr Robert Holt, and the builder Mr W. Smith, of this town. The building reflects great credit on all concerned in its arection, [sic] and is by far the prettiest ecclesiastical edifice to be seen in the country districts of Hawke’s Bay. The furniture is exceedingly good of its kind, the silver fount [sic]having been given by Mr. J. Nairn, of Pourerere, and the embroidered chancel mat by Mr C. A. M. Hirtzel. The site upon which the church stands was presented by Mrs T. Crosse, of Mangamari.”
“Oakburne,” the residence of Mr. Davis Canning, is one of the prettiest homesteads on the road between Waipukurau and Porangahau. It lies a few miles past Wallingford, and on an eminence which admits of a splendid view of the surrounding country. At the back of the residence is a fine plantation of pine trees, while farther down is a big orchard of six hundred trees, some of which are over forty years old. The name of Canning is inseparably linked with the agricultural and pastoral history of Hawke’s Bay. Mr. John Davis Canning, father of Mr. Davis Canning, was one of the early stock-breeders in the district when there were few such, and it is he who gave a lead in the system of using nothing but the best stock. He was one of the exhibitors at the first agricultural and pastoral show held at Havelock North, and he specialised not only on Short-horn cattle and sheep, but also in horses, pigs, sporting dogs, and fowls. A man of very broad and enlightened views, and with an earnest sympathy, which endeared him to all who had the good fortune of his acquaintance, John Davis Canning is described by contemporaries as one of the finest types of the pioneer settlers who built their homes out in the wilderness. In his early days he was a colleague of the late John Harding, of Mount Vernon, and was employed by that equally strenuous pioneer some time in the fifties. Mr. Canning came to New Zealand in 1851, in the good ship Cornwall, and he took up “Oakburne,” about half a century ago, and held big Native leasehold sections, which aggregated 40,000 acres. He was married in 1868 to a daughter of Mr. McQueen, of Inverness. A bereavement clouded the happy memories of his first years of married life at “Oakburne,” It was in 1867 or 1868 and the Maori troubles were blazing in their insurrectionary outbursts. Davis Canning, who resided at “Oakburne” with his brother, was a young man full of adventure. He was smitten with the fever, and one evening rode away with a captain’s commission, through to Napier and on to Poverty Bay, where he was shot dead with Captain Carr at Ruakaturi. It appears that both he and Captain Carr were the victims of their own rashness, and in these days of militarism and threatened war it is interesting to record in what a simple manner two lives were thrown away.
Mr. John Davis Canning.
It is interesting to record some further particulars of Mr. John Davis Canning. He was born at “Ogbourne,” St Andrew, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, in the year 1822, and was the son of the late M. Davis Canning. The Cannings of “Ogbourne” and of “Oakbourne,” in Hawke’s Bay, are a branch of an old English family of which Lord Canning, a former Viceroy of India, was a member. Mr. John Davis Canning was educated in his native place. He landed first at Lyttelton, and then came up to Hawke’s Bay, where he afterwards selected the present fine property. He introduced the Cotswold variety of sheep, and spent lavish sums of money on good stock. Amongst his horse importations was the draught stallion Dugdale, said to be the finest of his class. In 1883 Mr. Canning went to England to see his wife, who had been invalided there, but the trip resulted in his death. It is satisfactory to record in the face of this severe bereavement that Mrs. Canning regained her health some eight years later, that she returned to New Zealand, and that she now resides in Napier, in very good health.
Mr. Davis Canning.
Mr. Davis Canning, the present owner of “Oakburne,” was borne there, but was educated at the Marlborough Grammar School and at Clifton College, where formerly, by the way, Mr. James Allan, M.P., received some of his first instruction. Mr. Canning went to Clifton College in 1885, and left in 1891. He was an enthusiastic out-door sportsman, and got his cap both for football and cricket, and still takes a keen interest in those pastimes. After leaving England he resided for a time at Hastings, “Oakburne” having been leased, but when the lease expired he returned to his home, and took up the study of farming and agricultural matters with the same keen interest which was evidenced in such a marked degree by his father…”
My thanks to:
My cousins Janice and Cleeve Ball for following up the clues in New Zealand and undertaking the long trip to Porangahau to meet the Canning descendants and photograph the window.
To Davis Canning for the email correspondence and additional clues on the Canning family history in the Hawke’s Bay New Zealand.
To Duncan & Mandy Ball in England for the correspondence and photos from Ogbourne, St Andrew’s, Wiltshire.
 Matatoa: Fathers & Sons, Hilary Pederson, Te Hanganui Partnership 2011.
 NZ BDM record 1920/5550.
 Date of birth 11th July 1829: From Canning family bible. (detail from descendant Davis Canning , via email Janice Ball 26 Feb 2014)