1890: St John’s Wesleyan Church, Nelson, New Zealand

The former St John’s Wesleyan Church at Nelson represents the seventh location in New Zealand found to contain extant historic stained glass windows by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Two single-light stained glass windows were erected in St John’s between 1890 and 1893 are both are very recognisable scriptural designs by the firm that were popular throughout the company’s stained glass production period between 1861-1899.

The first window was erected during the construction of St John’s in 1889/90 and is dedicated to the memory of Mary Webber Cock (nee Chigwidden), who died in 1881.

The scriptural verse in this window comes from Psalms 100-4;

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving”

Beside the window is a brass plaque dedicating the window to the memory of Mary Webber Cock:

“In Loving Memory of Mary Webber
Wife of John H. Cock
Who died 20th August 1881, aged 25 years.”

The second window was erected in March 1893 and is dedicated to the memory of Mary’s husband, John Honeycomb Cock who died in November 1892.

The verse in this window comes from is Psalms 84-1;

“How amiable are thy tabernacles, O. Lord of Hosts.”

The memorial brass plaque near the window reads:

“In Loving Memory of John Honeycomb Cock
Husband of Mary Webber.
Died 7th November 1892, aged 44 years.”

 Photos of the windows at St John’s are courtesy of Eelco Boswijk, Nelson, New Zealand, 2015.

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John Honeycomb Cock was the son of Joseph Cock and Mary Anne Honeycomb and arrived in New Zealand with his father aboard the barque “Violet” from London on the 5th July 1864[1]. His father, a mining Captain, had been sent out to report on the “Dun Mountain” chromite and copper mining property near Nelson[2].

Around the age of sixteen John was employed as a junior clerk at Nelson by the New Zealand coastal shipping company “Nathaniel Edwards & Co”. By his early 20’s his abilities and shrewd business acumen was so highly regarded by the company that he was sent back to England in 1871 to take position as the company’s London manager[3]

At West London, on the 20th May 1875, John married Mary Webber Chigwidden at the Wesleyan Chapel on Denbigh Road at Bayswater[4]. The couple later returned to Nelson where John resumed the General Manager position with Nathaniel Edwards & Co. He also engaged in joint shipping company ventures with his brother Joseph Henry and later was General Manager of the “The Anchor Steam Shipping Company.”[5] John and Mary were also active members of the Wesleyan Church congregation and he held positions as the Wesleyan Circuit Steward and a Trustee of St John’s.

The couple made their home at the Port of Nelson and in June of 1879 Mary placed an advertisement for a general servant to assist her with household duties in anticipation of the arrival of their baby.[6] In October she gave birth to a son named John Scantlebury Cock. Sadly the infant only survived two days and died on the 21st October 1879[7].

Two years later Mary died on the 20th August 1881 at the age of 25[8]. As a mark of respect the Wesleyan Church was draped in black and at the Port of Nelson the flags on ships and shore establishments were all lowered to half-mast[9]. Mary was buried with her infant son John in the Wesleyan section of the Wakapuaka Cemetery at Nelson[10]

The couple never had any surviving children. John never remarried and immersed himself into his shipping business ventures and his appointments within the Wesleyan Church.

The Wesleyans have a long history in Nelson which dates back to the establishment of the settlement in 1841. The foundation stone of their first chapel was laid by a Mr. Tucket in June 1843 on the corner of Bridge Street and Waimea Road[11]. This church would only last about fourteen years.

The foundation stone of the second church was laid on a new site in Hardy Street by Donald Sinclair, Esq., former speaker of the Provincial Council, on the 17th November 1857[12]. By the late 1880’s this second church had also outgrown the congregation and was deemed uneconomical to maintain and so they decided to remove the old building and build a new one on the same site.

The foundation stone of the current church was laid on the 24th September 1889 by the Governor of New Zealand, Lord Onslow. The occasion was deemed such an historic event that the afternoon was observed as a holiday for the people of Nelson. Thousands attended the ceremony and the streets were decorated with bunting and flags along the route that the Governor and Lady Onslow would arrive by. Remarkably, an historic photo of the occasion still exists which shows the immense crowd surrounding the foundation site. Eighty-six year old Mr Foy and Ben Crisp, two of Nelson’s most revered senior Colonists, were given prominent seats near the dais. Both had witnessed the laying of the second church foundation stone in 1857.

Amongst the many customary artifacts that were placed beneath the new foundation stone were some of the items salvaged from the previous time capsule;

“In a cavity of the foundation stone was placed a glass jar containing the following coins, papers, &c:- Half a sovereign, half a crown, a florin, a shilling, a sixpence, a penny, two half-pence; minutes of the New Zealand Wesleyan Conference, 1889; New Zealand Gazette, Sept 19. 1889; Nelson and Richmond Circuit plan of services, and balance sheet of quarter to June 30, 1889; copies of EVENING MAIL of July 18 and September 23; copy of colonist of September 24; parchment statement re foundation stone; and from the old bottle, newspapers, including copies of the Colonist of 32 years ago, and coins…”[13]

The Governor was presented with a handsomely handcrafted wooden casket containing a decorated silver trowel and other tools, all of which were manufactured by craftsmen from Nelson. A silver shield on the casket bore the words:-

“Presented by the Trustees to His Excellency Earl of Onslow, Governor of New Zealand, on laying the foundation stone of St. John’s Church, Nelson, Sept. 1889.” [14]

After difficulties with the first building contract, Fitzwilliams, Doidge, and Stringer took over the construction of the church to the designs of architect ‘Dugelly’ of Napier for a reported £1039. 6s.[15]

John Honeycomb Cock was a liberal financial donor to the church building fund and had also financed the church’s first stained glass window dedicated to the memory of his wife Mary. When the church was opened in March 1890, amongst the descriptions of the fittings and furnishings was the window which was created by the North Melbourne firm of Ferguson & Urie. The New Zealand Colonist tabloid of 16th April 1893 reported:-

“…The side windows, eight in all, are of similar design, but on the east side the fourth window, that naarest [sic] the south end, is a handsome stained glass memorial window of floral design, erected by Mr John Cock in memory of his late wife, and the words “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” form part of the design…” [16]

This single-light window is an unmistakable piece of workmanship by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne and was a popular design produced by the firm from their stained glass production period from 1861 to 1899. Similar examples of this design can be found throughout Victoria and Tasmania in Australia. The window contains Gothic floral and geometric patterns with a central ribbon design containing a piece of bible scripture. The portion of verse in this window comes from Psalms 100-4; “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving”

Beside the window is a brass plaque dedicating the window to the memory of Mary Webber Cock: “In Loving Memory of Mary Webber, Wife of John H. Cock, Who died 20th August 1881, aged 25 years.”

John Honeycomb Cock died of heart disease on the 7th November 1892 aged 44. The tabloid obituaries described him as a kind, generous and self-sacrificing man who “did good by stealth”[17]. He was highly regarded by the Wesleyan’s and the people of Nelson. Amongst the numerous public and private appointments he held were; Wesleyan Circuit Steward and Trustee of St John’s and had he been appointed lay treasurer of the Wesley Home Mission Fund in 1879[18]. He had a long association with Nathaniel Edwards & Co where he started his career as a sixteen year old. He was a Chairman of the Wellington Harbour Board,[19] General Manager of the Anchor Steam Shipping Company[20] and in 1883 had been appointed a Justice of the Peace[21]. For many years he was also in partnership with his brother Joseph Henry as “John H. Cock & Co” which was taken over by his brother in January 1886[22].

In February 1893, the Honorary Secretary of St John’s, Mr William Afleck Bethwaite, received instruction from the Wellington architects, Turnbull & Sons, to have a new stained glass window erected in St John’s to the memory of J. H. Cock, at which time it was stated that he; “…hopes to have the window finished by the anniversary of the church, which will be held next month…”[23]

Just over a month later, on the 25th March 1893, New Zealand’s “Colonist” tabloid reported:-

“MEMORIAL WINDOW.- There has just been erected in St. John’s Wesleyan Church a stained glass window, with inscription, intimating that it has been placed in the Church by many friends to the memory of the late Mr J. H. Cock. The window in question has been placed opposite to one, similar in design, which was erected by the more recently deceased to the memory of his wife who predeceased him.”[24]

The portion of verse in this window comes from is Psalms 84-1;  “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O. Lord of Hosts.” [25]. The memorial brass plaque beneath the window reads:

 “In Loving Memory of John Honeycomb Cock Husband of Mary Webber. Died 7th November 1892, aged 44 years.”

At St John’s anniversary services held on the 26th March 1893 the Reverend F. W. Isitt took the subject of his sermon from the scripture on this window.

St Johns is no longer a consecrated church. In 2011 the church was put up for sale[26] and subsequently purchased by the Boswijk family who have since preserved its Heritage and renovated it to become a highly successful function and performance venue[27].

These two historic stained glass windows in St John’s not only represent excellent examples colonial stained glass by the Ferguson & Urie Company, but as a link to the colonists and history of Nelson.


Thanks to the eagle eye of my Kiwi cousin Janice Ball for identifying and bringing these windows to my attention and for sending some of the great research leads from New Zealand.

Thanks to Eelco Boswijk, owner of St John’s, for contributing the photos.


Foot notes:

[1] Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Vol XXXIII, Issue 71, 7th July 1864, page 2.

[2] Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983. Chromite and the Dun Mountain Copper Mining Company, page 10.

[3] The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Biography Joseph Henry Cock (accessed 20150204)

[4] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume X, Issue 203, 14 August 1875, page 2.

[5] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XV, Issue 63, 13 March 1880, page 4.

[6] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XIV, Issue 150, 25 June 1879, page 1.

[7] New Zealand Cemetery Records, Wakapuaka, Nelson. WKWS07021 Wesleyan Plot 021, Block 7.And NZ BDM 1879/8724.

[8] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XVI, Issue 198, 20 August 1881, page 2.

[9] Colonist, Volume XXV, Issue 2939, Monday 22 August 1881, page 3.

[10] Wakapuaka Cemetery, Mary Webber Cock, record WKWS07021_A, Wesleyan, Block 07, plot 021, interred 22 Aug 1881.

[11] New Zealand Colonist & Port Nicholson Advertiser, Vol 1, Issue 94, 23rd June 1843, page 2.

[12] Colonist, New Zealand, Issue 9, 20th November 1857, page 2.

[13] Nelson Methodist Centenary Souvenir 1842-1942, Rev. M. A. Rugby Pratt, pages 11-12.

[14] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXIII, Issue 212, 25 September 1889, page 2.

[15] Nelson Evening Mail, Vol XXIII, Issue 324, 23rd December 1889, page 2.

[16] Colonist, New Zealand, Volume XXXIII, Issue 5778, 16 April 1890, Page 3.

[17] Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume X111, Issue 4264, 8 November 1892, page 2.

[18] Colonist, Vol XXII, Issue 2502, 25 January 1879, page 3.

[19] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXVI, Issue 255, 7 November 1892, page 2.

[20] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XV, Issue 63, 13 March 1880, page 4.

[21] Colonist, Volume XXVI, Issue 3900, 12 June 1883, page 4.

[22] Colonist, Vol XXVIII, Issue 4377, 17 February 1886, page 3.

[23] Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXVII, Issue 42, 20th February 1893, page 2.

[24] Colonist, Volume XXXVI, Issue 7589, 25 March 1893, Page 3.

[25] Nelson Evening Main, Volume XXVII, Issue 72, 27th March 1893, page 2.

[26] http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/6904501/Historic-church-for-sale (accessed 28 Jan 2015)

[27] http://www.theprow.org.nz/places/st-john-s-methodist-church/ (accessed 28 Jan 2015)


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