1867: South Yarra Presbyterian Church, Victoria

In August 1867 the ‘Hobart Mercury’ newspaper published an article about the travels of Mr James Urie who was a principal partner of the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne.

James was travelling throughout Tasmania with a portfolio of the company’s stained glass designs to garner commissions for secular and ecclesiastical windows. The tabloids published numerous articles of his “Sojourne” throughout the apple isle;

“STAINED WINDOWS – A few days since we stated that Mr.Urie of the firm of Ferguson,Urie, and Lyon, glass stainers, &c, Melbourne, was on a professional visit to Hobart Town. This gentleman is now in Launceston, and we were much gratified yesterday by inspecting a large portfolio of designs for church and other windows which his firm has executed or has in hand…”[1]

The article briefly mentioned a number of windows the company had recently made and I’ve posted many articles about the ones I have found from these clues. A couple of these windows that have eluded me for some time was the following mention of the donors of these windows:

…Judge Pohlman’s wife, and wife of Mr Stoddart both in Melbourne…[2]

Many of the clues included church names and locations which have helped to pin point exactly where some of the windows could be found, but the obscure mention of “Melbourne” in relation to the Polman and Stoddart windows was very little to go on.

In our Colonial times, the number of churches that were being erected throughout Melbourne and suburbs was phenomenal. The vast majority of these old churches are still standing but over the course of a century and a half many were burnt to the ground, demolished, moved and re-built, or in recent times, sold to developers If these Pohlman and Stoddart windows still existed somewhere it was likely to take a long time to locate them whilst concurrently researching the locations of many other Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows. Since finding the historic newspaper article I have visited more than a hundred churches and nothing further has come to light in regards to these particular windows.

The names “Pohlman” and “Stoddart” were significant clues on their own, and in the case of Judge Pohlman it was easy to ascertain that he was Judge Robert Williams Pohlman (1811-1877). But even armed with the knowledge of his faith, being of the Church of England, nothing has been found of his stained glass window.

The name Stoddart presented further challenges, as the newspaper had spelt his name incorrectly on multiple occasions, and so I was looking for the wrong person. The tabloids mentioned that he had been buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery, which seemed like a decent clue, but the cemetery records had nothing for that name. It seems that when I get fixated on a particular direction or clue I miss the obvious things such as misspellings.

By sheer coincidence, a friend recently sent me some photos of the stained glass windows from the South Yarra Presbyterian Church, which, despite me having passed the church numerous times over the years, I had not yet managed to set foot in. Among the photos was a window to the memory of “James Dickson Stodart” (spelt with one letter‘d’).

This was undoubtedly the window that had eluded me for the past few years. Its design and the date of death mentioned for James Dickson Stodart leaves no doubt that it is the original Ferguson & Urie stained glass window from nearly a century and a half ago.

[Photos kindly contributed by Paul Danaher, dated Sept 2015]

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James Dickson Stodart (c1825-1867)

In late 1867 the congregation of the South Yarra Presbyterian Church resolved to erect a stained glass window to the memory of their esteemed Church committee member and liberal supporter, James Dickson Stodart.

The window is of two lights with a small English red rose in the tracery above. The apexes of the cusp headed lancets feature the images of ‘Faith’, holding the cross, and ‘Hope’ with the anchor. Below these are the words “Post Nubes Lux,” meaning “After Darkness Light” or “Out of Darkness Light,” which is the motto of the Scottish Stodart/Stoddart family.

The memorial text across the central region of each window reads:

“ERECTED BY THE CONGREGATION IN AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE OF”
“JAMES STODART ESQ, WHO DIED 12th JUNE 1867, AGED 42 YEARS”

At the base of each window are angels holding a scroll with the words:

“BLESSED ARE THE DEAD” “WHICH DIE IN THE LORD”

James Dixon Stodart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland c.1825 to merchant Alexander Stodart and Elizabeth Gray.

James married Maria Louisa Margaretha Meincke in Scotland c.1848. He departed Liverpool for Australia on the 17th March 1854 aboard the “Golden Era” which arrived in Hobson’s Bay three months later on the 13th June 1854 [3]. His family would arrive later.

He had been sent out from Scotland to wind up the business affairs of the “famous Mr. Boyd” (Benjamin Boyd) and on completion of the task he accepted the position as finance manager for the infrastructure and railway contracting firm of Cornish & Bruce in Melbourne.

He was active in local political affairs and was elected a Councillor of Prahran between 1858-1860 and 1863-1865 and served as Mayor of the municipality in 1864-65 [4].

His relationship with the principals of the Cornish & Bruce Company must have been very close. In 1861 he even named one of his daughters, “Margaret Vans Agnew Bruce Stodart”, after one of the principals of the firm, John Vans Agnew Bruce. Unfortunately Margaret died as an infant on the 3rd August 1863.

Stodart was a liberal supporter and member of the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Punt Road South Yarra. The foundation stone of this church was laid on a rainy day, 14th November 1865 [5] by Captain Tyler, Aide-De-Camp to the Governor, Sir Charles Darling. The Governor was unavoidably absent on the day and so J. D. Stodart presented Captain Tyler with the silver trowel to lay the foundation stone in the presence of Lady and Miss Darling,

After a long battle with tuberculosis, James Dixon Stodart died at his home “Yarra-Bank” at South Yarra on Wednesday 12th June 1867 [6]. His substantial funeral cortege crossed Melbourne’s iconic Princes Bridge at 2pm on Saturday the 15th to deliver him to his final resting place at the Melbourne General Cemetery [7].

There is no gravestone to be found for James Dickson Stodart and so the stained glass window in the South Yarra Presbyterian Church is the only lasting memorial bearing his name. The window represents a significant reminder of a colonist who contributed much to the history of Victoria and it is a remarkably intact example of Ferguson & Urie stained glass workmanship from our Colonial past.

Significant tabloid transcriptions:

The Age, Melbourne, Vic, Thursday 13th June 1867, page 5.

“We regret to have to announce the death of Mr James Stodart, which took place at ten o’clock last night, at his residence, South Yarra. Mr. Stodart was manager for the firm of Cornish and Bruce, and is understood to have contributed not a little to the success of its operations. His uprightness and amiability secured him many friends, and his somewhat sudden death will be a great grief to them.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 14th June 1867, page 8.

“THE Friends of the late JAMES D. STODART, Esq., are invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, Melbourne Cemetery.
            Funeral to move from his residence, Yarra bank, South Yarra, on Saturday, 15th inst, at 1 p.m., passing Prince’s-bridge about 2 o’clock.
            JOHN ROMANIS, undertaker, Gardiner’s Creek road, South Yarra.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 14th June 1867, page 4.

“It is a melancholy duty to record the very sudden death, on Wednesday evening last, at a late hour, of Mr. James Stoddart, who has been for many years past so well known and respected as the financial agent of the firm of Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, railway contractors. Up to a very few days ago Mr. Stoddart had been in the enjoyment of vigorous health. He was in charge, on the part of the firm he represented, of the arbitration now going on between the executors of Messrs. Cornish and Bruce and the Government, as to the balance due to the firm, and he was to have given his evidence before the arbitrators this day. Early in the week, however, he complained of symptoms indicative of internal disease. For a day or two he was confined to his room; but on Wednesday evening, feeling slightly better, he rose from his bed, made a step or two, and dropped down dead. Mr. Stoddart was a native of Edinburgh. Trained to business in a good school, and showing an uncommon capacity for finance, he was selected in 1853 to come out to this colony and wind up the multitudinous affairs of the then famous Mr. Boyd. He accomplished the arduous task successfully, and when Messrs. Cornish and Bruce entered on their gigantic enterprise, Mr. Stoddart was recommended to them by the contracting banks as the ablest man whose services they could retain as their financial agent. His labours in that capacity were most onerous; and he had all but completed successfully what may be called the task of a life, when death overtook him. He was one of the earliest promoters of building societies in the colony, and they owe much to his shrewdness, experience, and sagacity. He was for a season mayor of Prahran, and at the time of his death was a councillor of that borough. He took a very active interest in the affairs of the Scotch Church of the district in which he resided, and to his exertions the congregation are mainly indebted for the beautiful new Scotch Presbyterian Church in South Yarra, in which the Rev. George Mackie officiates as pastor. Many will lament in Mr. Stoddart the sudden and untimely death of an able, warm-hearted, and genial man.”

The Age, Melbourne, Vic, Wednesday 15th November 1865, page 6.

“SOUTH YARRA PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The foundation stone of the above new church was laid yesterday afternoon, on the ground adjacent to the present building. It had been expected that the Governor would be present to perform the ceremony, but his Excellency was prevented from attending by indisposition. Shortly after three o’clock, however, Lady Darling, accompanied by Miss Darling and Captain Tyler, arrived on the ground; but, as it was then raining hard, the company assembled had to adjourn to the church. The proceedings were then commenced by singing and prayer, after which,      
            The Rev. GEORGE MACKIE, pastor of the church remarked that he had much pleasure in stating that they had that day assembled for the purpose of laying the foundation stone of the new building. Rain, which was most propitious for the country, would compel them to perform most of the preliminary part of the proceedings in the old one. He regretted that the absence of his Excellency the Governor, and still more, that he was prevented by disposition from attending. He was, however, happy to be able to say that he was represented by Lady Darling, Miss Darling, and several other members of the family, as well as by Captain Tyler; so that, although he was not himself present, he was with them by deputy. He thought it needless to explain that the members of the church had had great difficulties to overcome. At one time a large debt rested thereon, but through the praiseworthy liberality of their friends, it had now been cleared off. He had no doubt that many, with himself, felt gratified in being spared to witness the laying of the foundation stone of the new building, which would long stand as a memorial of the Christianity and piety which existed amongst the present generation.
            The Rev. Mr McDONALD, of Emerald-hill, then came forward to address the meeting, and during his speech remarked that he had been associated with the congregation of this church since its formation. He then dwelt upon the difficulties that had been overcome, and the advances that had been made in the cause of religion. He was pleased to know that they had missions at home and missions abroad, and that steps were being taken to establish a theological hall. He trusted that all that could be done would be done to bring about a satisfactory state of things, and that they would hereafter see such a revival as would speedily fill the new building as soon as it was erected.
            The Rev. Mr. BROWN, moderator of the presbytery, then delivered a dedicatory prayer; after which the assembly adjourned to the spot where the stone was to be laid.

            On arriving there,
            The Rev. GEORGE MACKIE read the following copy of a memorial record, which had been engrossed on parchment and enclosed in the case which was laid in the cavity of the stone, together with a copy of each of the Melbourne daily papers and Prahran Telegraph, and the various coins of the realm:-
            “Memorial record deposited in the foundation stone of the Presbyterian Church, South Yarra, within the boundary of the corporation of the city of Melbourne, in the colony of Victoria, laid on the fourteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and the twenty-ninth year of the reign of her majesty Queen Victoria, by his Excellency Sir Charles Henry Darling, K.C.B., Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the colony. This congregation was organised on the third day of July, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-four, under the Ministry of the reverend George Divorty, A.M. The committee consisted of T. Dickson, J. Thompson Paterson, T. Finlayson, D. Walker, D. Ross, W. Adamson, J. Cameron, and J. Gair; T. Finlayson, secretary; T. Dickson, treasurer. For some time, as a provisional arrangement, the congregation worshipped in a large tent; afterwards, and until now, in a wooden church imported from Scotland, and erected on the present site at a cost of four thousand five hundred pounds, having accommodation for four hundred persons. On the seventh day of April, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine, the union of the different sections of the Presbyterian church in this colony took place. The Rev. James Clow was elected moderator of the first general assembly. In the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, the Reverend George Divorty was obliged to resign this charge through failing health, and returned to Scotland. In May, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, the Reverend George Mackie was inducted as successor to the Reverend George Divorty. The communion roll at present numbers two hundred and eighty-five, and the church being overcrowded, the congregation resolved to build a more commodious and substantial edifice, of which this is the foundation stone, intended to accommodate eight hundred seat holders. The office bearers of the congregation at this date are as follows:- Minister: The Reverend George Mackie. Trustees: The Rev. George Mackie, David Ross, John Thompson, John Spence Ogilvy. Elders: David Ross, John Spence Ogilvy, John Stevens Miller, George Bell, Charles Anderson. Managers: James Stodart, Robert Mackechney, David J. Moorehead, James Munro, William Stronach, John Reid, James Edwards, Joseph Harris, Francis Bell, Thomas Donaldson, George Espie, John Romanis. Treasurer: John Spence Ogilvy. Secretary: William Stronach. Building committee: The office bearers, J. Brown, junr., W. Coulter, J. McPherson, W. Robb, A. Murray, D. Connacher, J. Drew, W. K. Ross, James Scott, T. J. Connor, A. Anderson, M. Stewart, J. Ferguson. Architect: Lloyd Tayler. Contractor: William Ireland. Moderator of the General Assembly: rev. James Nish, Sandhurst. Moderator of the Presbytery of Melbourne: Rev. Peter Brown, Hawthorn. The motto of the builders is “Jehova Shammah,” and their prayer, that the Lord would make this house the birthplace of many souls. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the one God for ever and ever. Amen.”

            Captain Tyler then came forward and performed the ceremony of laying the foundation stone, a silver trowel having been presented to him by Mr. Stodart.

            The National Anthem was sung by the whole company, and three cheers were then given for Her Majesty the Queen; three for his Excellency the Governor and Lady Darling, and three for the Rev. Mr Mackie, which brought the proceedings to a close.”

Related biographical information:

Biography: James Stodart (1849-1922), Son of James Dickson Stodart.

Footnotes:

[1] The Mercury, Hobart Tasmania, Tuesday13th August 1867, page 5.

[2] Ibid

[3] Public Records Office Victoria, Inwards Unassisted passengers Fiche 68, page 001

[4] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 3 June 1865, page 5.

[5] The Age, Melbourne, Vic, Wednesday 15th November 1865, page 6.

[6] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 14th June 1867, page 5.

[7] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 14th June 1867, page 8.


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4 comments on “1867: South Yarra Presbyterian Church, Victoria

    • Thanks Bronwyn,

      I’ve still got close to forty unfinished papers and other bits’n bobs in the research paper pile.

      The latest things I’m finding is the mention of some of the Altars and chancel decorations that F&U had done. This should keep me occupied for a while.

      Regards,

      Ray

  1. Great research yet again Ray !! – I also love the thoughts of the travelling stained glass salesman in the wilds of Tasmania that long ago.

    • Hi Gavin,

      Thanks for posting the comment.

      I have often thought about what it would have been like travelling throughout Tassie in the late 1800s. That would have been the ultimate adventure I reckon.

      And, we’re still busting to get down there again soon. Hopefully in this century!

      Cheers,
      Ray

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