1869: Presbyterian Church, Coimadai, Victoria.

Tracing the locations of Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows has revealed many interesting stories and facts and taken me to places I’ve never even heard of before. Some quaint little churches exist in tiny townships that are within an hour from home and yet I’ve never been to some of these towns and if I had, I probably blinked and missed it on the way through.

The latest obscure clues on my search for Ferguson & Urie stained glass leads to the historic township of ‘Coimadai’, located about 10km north of Bacchus Marsh and 65km west of Melbourne.

Some of these tiny communities only existed as a result of the 19th century gold rush era, or as a result of fertile farming land, mining or production of a commodity that that would eventually dissipate.

The tiny township of Coimadai in western Victoria still exists on today’s maps but little of its ecclesiastical history or original historic buildings still exist. Its greatest claim to fame would have been the quarrying of lime deposits originally discovered by John Hopgood in the 1850’s and after many later owners was floated in the 1880’s as a public company by the Alkemade Bros as the “Alkemade Hydraulic Lime Company.”[1] There was also the historic Coimadai Brick Works which existed up until the 1960’s.

In early 1868, the Presbyterians of Coimadai began open air church services after having the doors to the Common School at Coimadai closed against them.

After nine months of braving all weather conditions a public meeting was held at Willow Bank on Tuesday the 18th August 1868 for the purpose of discussing the possibility of erecting their own church[2].

Although the word ‘public’ conjures up the idea of the entire township turning up for the discussion, there were actually only eight of the Presbyterians at the meeting. Those present were Malcolm Cameron, Alex Hardy, Hutchinson Allen, George Greive, William McKelvie, Peter W. Train, and David D. Bower. The Rev. James Scott was elected to the chair[3].

Less than three months after that meeting the Hon. Sec, David D. Bower, advertised for tenders for the erection of the Coimadai Presbyterian Church[4] and in February 1869 the Presbytery appointed David D. Bower, Peter Train, Malcolm Cameron, Alexander Hardie, and Hutcheson M. Allen as Trustees for the Church property[5].

The tender of Althorne and Taylor was accepted for the erection of a Brick Church at a cost of about £320, half of which would be covered by the state aid to religion. Additional volunteer labour came from other denominations, including the members of the Catholic and Church of England congregations.

On Sunday 20th June 1869 the Church was opened with the Rev. J. Meek of Gisborne conducting the first service and apart from the religious side of the formalities the committee gave some descriptions of the building and fittings which included the leadlight windows with stained glass borders[6].

“…The church is a neat edifice of brick, occupying a prominent position close to Mr. Bower’s residence. Its dimensions are 40ft. x 20ft., with plastered ceiling and walls. At the rear are two small rooms, with fireplaces, which will be found very convenient for the use of the minister and the committee of management. There are three windows on each side filled with the usual lead lights with a stained glass border. There is also a window on each side of the entrance door and a louvre ventilator above. The angles of the building, the door jambs, and the windows, are faced with pretty freestone of the district, and altogether the building has a very neat and finished appearance…”[7]

The committee’s first annual financial statement for the Coimadai Presbyterian Church for 1869-70 indicated that the Ferguson & Urie Stained Glass Company of Melbourne was paid £19 for windows[8]. Based on the description and the cost of the glass, this leads me to believe that the windows were the company’s simple stock windows containing the simple red and blue stained glass borders with yellow or white flower alternating between each colour. These were the exact same design found in many churches and were usually the first windows to be installed and later replaced when parishioners donated memorial windows. Many of these original stock windows still exist in a small number of suburban and country churches to this day.

COIMADAI Indicative examples

 

Unfortunately the Coimadai Presbyterian Church no longer exists. Less than thirty years after the first service was conducted in 1869 the building was sold to the Alkemade Brothers in 1898 and was subsequently demolished to make way for a house.

“Alkemade Bros. seem to be doing well in the lime trade. One of them recently purchased the old Presbyterian church, and is now busy taking it down and I believe it is with the intention of erecting a brick villa. We shall have no other place to hold divine service in excepting the school room, which has been kindly lent by Mr. Borlase, the teacher. Week evening services are now held there by the Rev. F. H. Gibbs, which are well attended by the young people of Coimadai. The next service is to be held on August 25th. No doubt when the warm weather comes the Rev. J. A. Stuart will also assist, as in former days…”[9]

Much of the original historic township area of Coidamai is now nearly completely submerged under the Lake Merrimu Reservoir.

Significant tabloid transcriptions:

Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 22nd August 1868, page 2.

“A public meeting of the residents of Coimadai was held at Willow Bank on the evening of Tuesday, the 18th inst., for the purpose of taking into consideration the desirability of erecting a Church in connection with the Presbyterian cause in Victoria. The Rev. J. Scott, on taking the chair, stated the object of the meeting, and requested those present to express their views in the matter…”

The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 7th November 1868, page 2.

“TENDERS ARE Requested for the erection of the Presbyterian Church, Coimadai, labour only. Bricklayer’s and carpenters work jointly or separately. Plans and specifications may be seen at the office of Mr. James Young, Bacchus Marsh. Tenders, addressed to the undersigned, Post-office, Coimadai, will be received up to 6 p.m. on Thursday, 26th inst., from whom all necessary information may be obtained. The Committee do not bind themselves to accept the lowest of any tender. DAVID D. BOWER, Hon. Sec.”

Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 20th February 1869, page 3.

“The Presbytery appointed the following persons as Trustees for the Church property at Coimadai – Messrs. David D. Bower, Peter Train, Malcolm Cameron, Alexander Hardie, and Hutcheson M. Allen.”

Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 26th June 1869, page 2.

“PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH COIMADAI.

 This place of worship was opened by Divine service being conducted in it on Sunday last by the Rev. J. Meek, of Gisborne, who preached from the text – “And the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy” – Ezra vi. 16. The sermon was highly appreciated by those who had the privilege of hearing it, and these were not few in number as many persons attended from Melton and Bacchus Marsh…”

“…The church is a neat edifice of brick, occupying a prominent position close to Mr. Bower’s residence. Its dimension are 40ft. x 20ft., with plastered ceiling and walls. At the rear are two small rooms, with fireplaces, which will be found very convenient for the use of the minister and the committee of management. There are three windows on each side filled with the usual lead lights with a stained glass border. There is also a window on each side of the entrance door and a louvre ventilator above. The angles of the building, the door jambs, and the windows, are faced with pretty freestone of the district, and altogether the building has a very neat and finished appearance…”

“…The cost of it will be about £320, of which half is contributed by grant-in-aid…”

“…On the evening of the 11th August, 1868, seven adherents of the Presbyterian Church being in the neighbourhood met, and having called you, sir to the chair, a provisional committee was nominated, whose names I may here mention were – Malcolm Cameron, Alex Hardy, Hutchinson Allen, George Greive, William McKelvie, Peter W. Train, and David D. Bower. I should state that in consequence of having the doors of the Common School closed against us for holding public worship, we felt it our immediate duty to set about erecting a house wherein we (as Presbyterians) might worship the God of our fathers. Since that date, about nine months ago, ladies and gentlemen, our respected Chairman has been holding fortnightly Sabbath services in the open air, and, I think with one exception, in the face of all weathers…”

The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 13th August 1870, page 3.

“THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, COIMADAI.”
“…First annual statement of the Coimadai Presbyterian Church for 1869-70…”
“…Ferguson, Urie, & Lyon, for windows, £19…”

The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 6th August 1898, page 3.

“Alkemade Bros. seem to be doing well in the lime trade. One of them recently purchased the old Presbyterian church, and is now busy taking it down and I believe it is with the intention of erecting a brick villa. We shall have no other place to hold divine service in excepting the school room, which has been kindly lent by Mr. Borlase, the teacher. Week evening services are now held there by the Rev. F. H. Gibbs, which are well attended by the young people of Coimadai. The next service is to be held on August 25th. No doubt when the warm weather comes the Rev. J. A. Stuart will also assist, as in former days…”

Additional tabloid articles of interest:

The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 15th April 1905, page 4.

“COIMADAI AND THE ALKEMADE HYDRAULIC GROUND LIME…”

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 18th November 1916, page 3.

[2] Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 22nd August 1868, page 2.

[3] Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 26th June 1869, page 2.

[4] The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 7th November 1868, page 2.

[5] Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 20th February 1869, page 3.

[6] Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 26th June 1869, page 2.

[7] Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 26th June 1869, page 2.

[8] The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 13th August 1870, page 3.

[9] The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 6th August 1898, page 3.

 

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