1884 St John’s Anglican Church Corowa, NSW.

In 1863 the first wooden Anglican church was built at Corowa and dedicated as St John’s. The land was donated by John Foord. Circa 1859 the area was known as North Wahgunyah and later changed to Corowa to differentiate it from Wahgunyah on the south side of the river in Victoria.

On the 25th of January 1884, a brief article appeared in the Corowa Free Press about a stained glass window being delivered for the new brick building of St John’s.

“…The memorial window for St. John’s Church, presented by the Misses Hume, has been delivered at Corowa, and its erection will be proceeded with shortly..” [1]

A week later the same tabloid reported that the window had been installed in the church but there were errors in the article:

“MEMORIAL WINDOW.- The window presented to St. John’s Church, in memory of Elizabeth and Andrew E. [sic] Hume, has this week been put into its place by Messrs. Armstrong and Johnson – free of cost. It is a very beautiful piece of workmanship, and was executed to the order of the Misses Hume, by Messrs. Ferguson and Wise [sic], of Melbourne.”[2]

Slide show: Images were taken in March 2014:

The window was dedicated to Andrew Hamilton Hume (1828-1859) and his mother Elizabeth (nee O’Neill 1802-1864). Andrew’s father was John Kennedy Hume (1800-1840) who was shot by bushrangers at Gunning, NSW, 20th Jan 1840 [3]

The newspaper incorrectly named the stained glass company as ‘Ferguson & Wise’. There was no stained glass company of that name anywhere in Australia. The window is accurately attributed to the ‘Ferguson & Urie’ stained glass company of North Melbourne. This company started out as a plumbing, slating, and glazing business, in Curzon Street North Melbourne in 1853 by Scottish immigrants, James & David Ferguson, and James Urie. In 1861 they transformed the company towards commercial glazing and stained glass production and for the next thirty-nine years, they made ecclesiastical and secular stained-glass windows.

After confirming with Rev Canon Rex Everet at St John’s in March 2014 that the window still existed, A trip to Corowa was next on my ‘To Do’ list.

A tabloid report in August 1896 gives an account of the Church and mentions stained glass windows by other studios from New South Wales:

“…The older portion of the building was erected about twenty-five years ago by Mrs. Bladen Neill in memory of her husband, Lieutenant-Colonel Neill; the newer parts of the structure dating from some eleven years back. The church is cruciform in shape, and has a highly ornamental interior. The roof is of Murray pine diagonally laid, the massive worked principals supporting the same resting on artistically designed corbels. The stained glass windows, mostly presents from various residents, and costing over £250, largely enhanced the solemn beauty of the interior. The windows on each side of the altar, representing four scenes of the resurrection, are from designs supplied by the vicar, the Rev. William Clark Hose, and admirably executed by Messrs. Asher [sic] and Falconer[4], of Sydney. The three-light east window is in memory of Elizabeth and A. H. Hume, old and esteemed residents of the district. In the transept is a large three-light window in memory of Mr. Ross Ramsay, of Narrow Plains Station. Of the four lesser windows, one was presented by the late Bishop Linton; another by the Rev. W. Swindlehurst, of West Maitland, in memory of his deceased wife; and the remaining two by the Sunday School children…”[5]

The Ferguson & Urie window in the chancel follows the company’s decorative style from their 1870s period of geometric patterns and scrolling ribbons with text from the bible. This window wasn’t made by the company’s first two pioneering stained glass artists. The artist who joined the firm in 1861, John Lamb Lyon, had left Ferguson & Urie in 1873 to form the Lyon & Cottier company in Sydney, and David Relph Drape died in 1882. This leaves two of the company’s earliest apprentice glass painters, Charles William Hardess and Frank Clifford Lording as the likely suspects who had a significant role in the window. There is no figurative work depicting any human form in the window, it has been copied faithfully from variations of their catalogue of designs over the previous twenty years, which Hardess and Lording would have been very familiar with producing.

At the top of the window above the three lancets is a window with the letters “I.H.S”, a monogram symbolizing Jesus Christ. Below this are two windows with the Greek Lettering for “A” and “O” representing Alpha and Omega and meaning the Beginning and the End.

The centre light in the window contains a beautiful gothic decorated crimson cross on a sapphire blue background. The cross and the backgrounds have finely detailed sgraffito work picked out to reveal tiny stars. A ribbon scrolling around the cross has the words “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. The left light contains a crimson pointed ellipse with leaves and fronds with a scrolling ribbon with the words “God is Love”. The right light is the same design but has the words on the ribbon “Love one Another”.

The memorial text at the base of the window states: “IN MEMORY OF ELIZABETH HUME AND A.H. HUME”.

The Hume memorial window in the chancel is the only Ferguson & Urie window in the church. The windows flanking it in the chancel were made by the Sydney firm of Ashwin & Falconer and are a distinctively different style. , but in the nave, there are other windows that would trick you into believing they are also Ferguson & Urie windows. They’re not, and the reason these are similar-looking windows is that they are the work of Lyon & Cottier of Sydney. Lyon, mentioned earlier, was the Ferguson & Urie glass painter at North Melbourne between 1861 and 1873.

Andrew Hamilton Hume died at his station, Hume River, at age 30, on the 27th of July 1859[6]. His mother, Elizabeth (nee O’Neil 1802-1964) died 4th July 1864 at Yarrawonga in Victoria. Andrew and his mother are buried at the Corowa cemetery.

The Ferguson & Urie window was restored in 2015 at a cost of $25,000.

St John’s has an extraordinarily diverse range of stained glass windows by different artists and studios spanning nearly a century and a half. The windows from the late 1800s and early into the 1900s are by Ferguson & Urie, Ashwin & Falconer, and Lyon & Cottier. The modern-styled windows are by artists such as Bowers & Wilkins and Leonie Le Cornu.


Footnotes:

[1] The Corowa Free Press, NSW, Friday 25th January 1884, page 2.

[2] The Corowa Free Press, NSW, Friday 1st February 1884, page 3.

[3] The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Monday 27th January 1840, page 2.

[4] Aswin and Falconer, later Falconer and Ashwin, and F. Ashwin & Co.

[5] Australian Town and Country Journal, NSW, Saturday 8th August 1896, page 27.

[6] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Tuesday 9th August 1859, page 4.


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4 comments on “1884 St John’s Anglican Church Corowa, NSW.

  1. Thanks Ray, It is much appreciated by descendants of the Hardess family, that recognition is given to Charles William Hardess. We have recently been to Buninyong, Vic where windows of the Presbyterian, now Uniting Church were attributed to a Mr Harness, but this was Charles Hardess when he was later working for Yencken, after Ferguson & Urie closed. Unfortunately Yencken was noted as Zenken in their literature as well.
    Jen & Bill Hardess

    • Hi Jen & Bill, thanks for the comment. I too went to Buninyong to investigate the windows incorrectly mentioned as “Zencken” & “Hardness”, knowing full well it must have been your ancestor Charles William Hardess with E. L. Yencken & Co. As soon as I saw those little cameo portraits in the Hastie & Scott memorial windows and the facial depictions of Jesus I knew it was him and it represented the first clue that after Ferguson & Urie closed in 1899 and E. L. Yencken & Co brought up all the stock and equipment, that Hardess had also gone to the firm as their glass painter.

  2. Great to read Ray Thank you very much. I spend a fair bit of time in Yarrawonga (my birth town) so a trip to Corowa is now in order. I really appreciate this info!

    Helen Kelly [Phone number removed]

    • Thanks for the comment Helen. I hope you enjoy your visit to St John’s. It has a great range of fantastic stained glass and is well worth the visit. – Ray

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