1873: St Thomas’ Catholic Church, Drysdale, Victoria.

The original St Thomas Catholic Church in Drysdale was built in 1855 to the designs of architect Richard Abraham Dowden (1829-1868).

It was constructed by Simmie & Mclachlan [1] and was officially opened in 1856.

In June 1873, architect Andrew Williams advertised for tenders for the enlargement of St Thomas [2] and by the end of July significant portions of the south end (liturgical east) were removed to make way for a new chancel, transept and vestry [3].

By October of 1873 a new three light window depicting the Crucifixion was erected in the new chancel by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne.

On the 8th of October 1873 a Geelong Advertiser reporter going by the name “G.D.P” wrote:

“…I noticed extensive improvements at the Roman Catholic Church, and was told that a splendid new chancel window was being put in by the celebrated firm of Ferguson, Urie and Lyon, of North Melbourne. I had not time to look at it, but a friend at Drysdale told me it was worth a visit…”[4]

Photos taken 19th June 2014.

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If  “G.D.P” had actually seen the window for himself in 1873 then it would certainly have been well worth the visit as his friend had stated.

The three light window still exists in remarkably good condition to this day despite some significant paint loss and water damage in the top third of the window. It is an unmistakeable and typical 1870’s Gothic design by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne.

The centre light of the window depicts the Crucifixion. The upper region of the window contains the triquetra symbol which is synonymous with the trinity. Beneath this, on the left, is the Pelican in the act of self sacrifice feeding blood from her chest to her young and on the right is the Paschal Lamb or ‘Agnus Dei’ carrying the victory banner.

The left and right lights contain the “Arma Christi” or “Instruments of the Passion” representing the tools and weapons used in Christ’s Crucifixion.

In the left light, at the top, is the scourging or flagellation post and at the bottom are the crown of thorns and the three nails used to affix Christ to the cross.

In the right light, at the top are other tools used to in the Crucifixion, the hammer, pincers, the sponge on the reed, lance, whips and the three dice that the soldiers used to draw lots to see who would gain Christ’s seamless garment. At the bottom of the window is the Holy Chalice.

The centre light contains the figurative scene of Christ being crucified and beneath his feet is the monogram “I.H.S,” being the first three initials for Christ in Greek.

The whole of the arrangement is filled in with a background of Gothic floral designs using the bold primary colours with alternating borders of red and blue separated by a white or yellow flower.

On the 28th of July 2010 the new modern St Thomas Church, in Peninsula Drive, was officially opened by Archbishop Denis Hart.[5]

The original old St Thomas Church in Wyndham Street, Drysdale is now privately owned and forms part of the Drysdale Grove Nursing Home complex.

Significant transcriptions:

Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Wednesday 8th October 1873, page 3.

“FROM GEELONG TO PORTARLINGTON.

On a short journey for health I took my way to one of my old and favourite places of retreat – Portarlington, and send my jottings of men and things as picked up by bits and scraps from conversation and observation. And first I am sure you will be glad to learn that on my whole journey from Geelong through Drysdale the country looked splendid; crops never looked better even in the best seasons of the past; and the roads – some portions are good, very good; some middling, and part execrable – I believe that is the word. Has the Shire Council not funds to metal the plank road – that abomination of travellers. When driving over it on a very dry day you think every bone in your body will be rattled away from the flesh; and the vehicle! it is a trial to coachmakers – springs, bolts, nuts, shafts, and all fixings are tested. Further on, near the Roman Catholic Church there is a jolting quagmire and pits. The metal is good again after this until you get on another spongy piece, and so it is the remainder of the way through this rising township to Portarlington, alternate clay road and stretches of metalling. On nearing Drysdale I was gratified with a sight of that splendid sheet of fresh water, called Lake Lorn, formed by the shire council by throwing up a bank across the outlet and macadamising the top of the bank. Around this inland lake the land has been selected, and the settler’s improvements are progressing rapidly. The margin for about 200 feet around the water has been reserved by Government, and is studded with large eucalypti, rendering the whole not unlike an old park lake of Britain. Drysdale has improved; the cottage building is of a more comfortable and pleasing style than I saw here three years ago. I noticed extensive improvements at the Roman Catholic Church, and was told that a splendid new chancel window was being put in by the celebrated firm of Ferguson, Urie and Lyon, of North Melbourne. I had not time to look at it, but a friend at Drysdale told me it was worth a visit. The shire hall is now civilised looking. The trees and shrubs have grown in a belt, and the old store like appearance has been altered by some additions and pinnacled gables. It is certainly not the wretched thing it was, but it wants renewing – stock, lock, and barrel – to suit the improvements around. The Buck’s Head is improved in appearance, a new orderly-room for the Drysdale Artillery has been erected on a vacant piece of ground, and some new shops have been built. I was greatly pleased with the new English Church, a pretty building with stained glass windows, about a quarter of a mile from the Buck’s Head. This being on the road side, I took a look inside, and was fairly astonished, everything was different to what I had seen in similar places, but suitable. The benches low, with kneeling-board, the book boards under the seats, and the back rails levelled off to rest on during prayer. There is no “wine glass” pulpit but a convenient service stand for the minister; the table is covered with a short fringed cloth; and the front of table, desk front, chancel arch, walls, and window-bays, is hung on painted with texts. The stained window in the chancel has the centre piece, the women at the tomb after the Resurrection, and the words “He is not here, He is risen,” underneath. The nave windows are filled with thick cathedral and colored glass. The whole work is tasty and reflects credit on the congregation. After leaving the church I got on my way to Portarlington again, but as there is a good deal to say about the improvements and appearances here, I will send you the remainder in a day or two, describing the schools, and jetties, &c., and perhaps some rare characters I have met with but who have not yet figured on the boards, till then I hope to sign myself. G.D.P.”

 

Footnotes:

[1] http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/reports/report_place/21576 (accessed 1 June 2014)

[2] Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Thursday 12th June 1873, page 3.

[3] Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Monday 28th July 1873, page 3.

[4] Geelong Advertiser, Vic, Wednesday 8th October 1873, page 3.

[5] Kairos: Volume 21, Issue 15, 2010.

 

 

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