1879: Holy Trinity, East Melbourne, Victoria.

The Clarke’s were wealthy Colonial pastoralists who were well acquainted with the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company’s workmanship.

In the ten year period between 1875 and 1885 William and Joseph Clarke engaged the company a number of times to create ecclesiastical windows, dedicated to family members and friends, as well as secular windows to decorate their magnificent mansions at Sunbury and Toorak.

In 1875-76, Sir William John Clarke commissioned Ferguson & Urie to create the great cycle of secular stained glass windows for his mansion “Rupertswood” at Sunbury, North East of Melbourne. In 1880 he again engaged the company for a three light memorial window to be dedicated to his infant daughter Agnes for the chancel of St Mary’s Anglican Church at Sunbury. Circa 1884, a two light window in the liturgical west wall of the same church was dedicated to his friend, the politician J. G. Francis. His brother, Joseph Clarke, also commissioned Ferguson & Urie to create the windows for his mansion “Mandeville Hall” at Toorak circa 1876.

In 1878 William and Joseph’s mother Elizabeth had died and they engaged Ferguson & Urie in late 1879 to create her memorial window for the new chancel of Holy Trinity Church at East Melbourne.

Unlike all the other historic stained glass windows the Clarke brothers had commissioned Ferguson & Urie to create, this one would only survive a quarter of a century.

Photos taken 5th November 2012. Other historic images are from the State Library of Victoria collections and National Library.

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In 1864 Trinity Church East Melbourne was erected of bluestone on the George Street corner of the present site at 193 Hotham Street.

This site had been originally designated for a Cathedral, but Holy Trinity was erected on it with the intention that it was later to be converted to the Cathedral library or chapter house[1].

Th Church was opened on Sunday 20th November 1864[2] and on the day before Christmas of 1864 the Melbourne tabloids reported:

The Australian News for Home Readers, Vic, Saturday 24th December 1864, p 7.


“This building, which is at present used for the purposes of Divine services by the parishioners of East Melbourne, will ultimately constitute the chapter house and library of the Melbourne Cathedral, being built upon the reserve set apart for that purpose, and so constructed as to harmonise with the whole structure when completed. It was opened a short time ago by the Bishop of Melbourne, as a temporary place of worship, and named Trinity Church. The officiating minister is the Rev. H. N. Wollaston, who has a large and increasing congregation. The building is constructed in a substantial manner, the walls being of bluestone, and the windows of Geelong freestone. The roof is supported by strong open woodwork, embellished with ornamental carving, which gives to the interior of the church a bold and lofty appearance. The dimensions of the building are considerable, its length internally being 88 feet, and its width 38 feet, and it will furnish accommodation for about four hundred persons.” [3]

At this point there was no mention of any decorative stained glass windows erected in the church, but thirteen years later, extensions were being made by the addition of a new chancel. The contractor for these extensions was Thomas Dalley[4] and was erected to the designs of architects Terry & Oakden at a cost of £1200. During these alterations, the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company erected the new chancel window to the memory of “Mrs William John Turner Clarke”, (Elizabeth ‘Eliza’, nee Dowling[5]), the mother of William and Joseph Clarke.

On the 3rd of December 1879 the “Church of England Messenger” made specific mention of the Ferguson & Urie company erecting the window in the chancel:-

“MELBOURNE: TRINITY.- The new chancel which is being added to the eastern end of Trinity Church is now almost completed and is expected to be out of the contractors hands at the close of the present month. It is 32ft. long by 22ft. wide, the walls being of stone, and in keeping with the design of the old building. On the eastern wall there is a five light window, with decorated tracery, executed in Waurn Ponds freestone, the glass for which is to be of a handsomely-coloured character, and will be fitted in by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie. The arch of the chancel is pointed, and of the Gothic order, with corbels of red granite and freestone. At the south side provision has been made for an organ chamber, which, if found necessary, can be erected at any future time. Two porches have also been added at the north and south entrances of the building, each of them being 11ft. square. Messrs. Terry and Oakden were architects, and Mr. T. Dalley the contractor. The whole of the improvements have been effected at a cost of £1200”.[6]

In late September the Argus newspaper reported that William and Joseph Clarke were the donors of the window in memory of their late mother:-

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 26th September 1879, page5

“A large congregation assembled at Trinity Church, East Melbourne, last evening, to witness the opening of the new chancel recently added to the church. The Right Rev. the Bishop of Melbourne preached an eloquent sermon in celebration of the opening, taking for his text Matt, i, 21. The chancel, which is constructed of bluestone, is situated at the eastern end of the building and was erected at a cost of £1,200. The interior measures 30ft. by 22ft., and has been handsomely fitted up with communion table and railing. A large memorial window has been placed in the chancel by Messrs W. J. and Joseph Clarke, in memory of their deceased mother, Mrs. W. J. T. Clarke[7]. The work, which has been carried out under the supervision of Messrs Terry and Oakden architects, is a great improvement to the interior of the church, as well as adding materially to its outward appearance. During the service a sum of £18 was collected, which will be devoted to the chancel fund.”

Twenty six years later, on New Years day in 1905, Holy Trinity was completely gutted by fire, leaving only the shell its four walls.

None of the historic stained glass windows by Ferguson & Urie survived:-

Bendigo Advertiser, Vic, Tuesday 3rd January 1905, page 3.

, 2nd January.

The origin of the fire which occurred at Holy Trinity Church, East Melbourne, yesterday afternoon has not been, and apparently is not likely to be, discovered. Only the four walls of the church are now standing, all the woodwork, which was very old, having been burnt away. The most plausible theory as to the cause of the outbreak is that a match was carelessly dropped on a pile of rubbish under the west gallery. The members of the congregation are almost unanimously of the opinion that the church should be rebuilt, and very probably large contributions will be forthcoming, in addition to the £2000 which will be received from the insurance offices.”

The Holy Trinity congregation wasted no time in the erection of a new church. It was subsequently built on the opposite end of the block where the old church stood. It was opened by the Archbishop of Melbourne on Saturday 28th April 1906 and consecrated the following year in October 1907:-

The Australasian, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 28th April 1906, page 48.

“The Incumbent (Rev. Mr. Newport White) and vestry of Holy Trinity Church, East Melbourne, have issued invitations, to the congregation and their friends, for the opening of the new church, corner of Clarendon and Hotham streets, replacing the building destroyed by fire on New Year’s Day, 1905. The opening ceremony will be performed by the Archbishop of Melbourne to-day (April 28), at a quarter to 3 p.m. After the ceremony, the adjoining school-hall will be opened, for a supplementary sale of gifts and refreshments. On Sunday, 29th inst., there will be special services in the church, and the one which is to begin at half-past 3 p.m. will be conducted by the Ven. Archdeacon Crossley.”

The current Holy Trinity church now contains figurative stained glass windows by Alan Sumner in the nave and Derek Pearse in the liturgical east end. The most recent window to be erected was created by the Geoffrey Wallace stained glass studio at Caulfield and was designed in the Alan Sumner style to complement the other Sumner windows in the nave.

External Links:

Flickr photo stream for Holy Trinity, East Melbourne. This photo collection includes detailed images for all the current windows.


[1] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 19th January 1864, page 7.

[2] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 19th November 1864, page 5.

[3] The Australian News for Home Readers, Vic, Saturday 24th December 1864, p 7.

[4] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 16th June 1879, page 5.

[5] “Elizabeth ‘Eliza’, née Dowling (1800-1878), wife of William John Turner Clarke (1805-1874)

[6] The Church of England Messenger, 3rd September 1879.

[7] “Elizabeth ‘Eliza’, née Dowling (1800-1878), wife of William John Turner Clarke (1805-1874)

Short link to this page: http://wp.me/p28nLD-2Ay

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2 comments on “1879: Holy Trinity, East Melbourne, Victoria.

    • Thanks Neil,
      The hunt for the history goes on! Sometimes the magnificent windows still exist, and sometimes there are disappointments. That’s the way it goes I guess.

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