1894: St Mary’s Anglican Church, Balmoral, Victoria.

After 1894, finding extant stained-glass windows created by the historic stained-glass firm Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne is rare. A mention of one of their windows at St Mary’s Anglican Church in the tiny township of Balmoral is a significant bonus for my research of the company.

Balmoral is a tiny town 73km northeast of Casterton and 80km South of Horsham in Western Victoria. It was settled in the early 1850s and today its population is under 300.

Caroline Armytage[1], the wife of Charles Henry Armytage laid the foundation stone of St Mary’s Anglican Church at Balmoral on the 27th of September 1894 [2] and the Bishop of Ballarat officially opened it on the 24th of January 1895. An account of the church furnishings and fittings was chronicled in detail but there was only a brief mention of the stained-glass window in the chancel;

“… a chancel in early English style, with handsome triple east window (presented by the Armytage family in memory of the late C. Armytage, Esq., of Fulham), by Ferguson and Urie…” [3]

There was no indication of what the window depicted so that just left me a mystery and enough curiosity to undertake a 260-kilometer trip to see if it still existed and if so, what was in it?

The date of the tabloid article indicates the window was likely made in late 1894. The Ferguson & Urie company closed in late December 1899, so finding extant examples of their stained glass in this period their final decade is rare.

At the time the Balmoral window was made, the original founders of the company had died. James Urie, in 1890 and James Ferguson, in 1894. The company was then in the hands of their sons, James Ferguson Jnr and William Urie. Neither founders nor their sons were stained-glass artists in the company, so at this late stage in the company’s history, identifying which of the firm’s remaining stained-glass artists who may have had a hand in the design and painting of the windows becomes vague.

We visited Balmoral in August 2017 to see the window at St Mary’s. The three-light window is the only stained glass in the church, others are generic lead-light.

From left to right the window depicts St Peter, Christ, and St Andrew. There is no doubt it was a Ferguson & Urie window, but the figurative depictions of St Peter, Christ, and St Andrew were very different.  

The company’s early figurative style is easily recognisable in the period of their first two stained-glass artists with the company, John Lamb Lyon [4] (from 1861 to 1873), and David Relph Drape [5] (from 1863 until his death 1882). Windows made after Drape’s death in 1882 leave some mystery as to who the artists may have been.

Dr. Bronwyn Hughes OAM proposed that the Balmoral window could be the work of stained glass artist Herbert Moesbury Smyrk [6].

Whilst many parts of the window are typical of Ferguson & Urie’s company style, the figurative work in the faces of St Peter, Christ, and St Andrew are quite different. Smyrk’s painting style is very delicate and he was quite prolific at using the traditional silver stain to create varying shades from light yellow to deep gold. Some parts of his figurative images let through a lot of light which wasn’t prevalent in early Ferguson & Urie windows created in the Lyon and Drape era. A further study of my photo collection of stained glass windows in this same period has now revealed more of Smyrk’s style under the guise of Ferguson & Urie, and many other windows created during his time with Ferguson & Urie are now attributed to him. 

Positive evidence of Smyrk’s association with Ferguson & Urie is revealed in February 1896 when a memorial stained-glass window, dedicated to Councillor William Ievers MLA, was erected in St George’s church (now part of Corpus Christie) at Carlton. The window was executed by Ferguson & Urie and Smyrk was named as the designer [7]. The church was gutted by fire in 1924 and none of the original windows survived [8]

An obscure article in May 1896 provides further evidence of Smyrk’s connection to Ferguson & Urie when he writes to the editor of The Herald about the rules of Cricket. He signs off as; “H. Smyrk. 100 Franklin Street, 2nd May”. That address was the Ferguson & Urie Franklin Street Warehouse which they occupied in mid-1891.[9]

The window at St Mary’s, Balmoral has no memorial inscription on it but a nearby brass plaque records that it is dedicated to Charles Henry Armytage:

“In Loving Memory of Charles Henry Armytage, Died 26th April 1876”.

The Armytage family name is probably more well known to Melburnians for their period of ownership of the heritage-listed “Como House” in South Yarra where Charles died in 1876 [10]. It’s likely that his wife Caroline would have been the instigator for the erection of the stained-glass window at St Mary’s at Balmoral. It was also the first church to be built in the district.

Charles’ estate of £120,000 was left to his wife Caroline[11] with other complex divisions and trusts for his children. As was usual of the time, his will included archaic conditions that if Caroline remarried, her future husband could have no control of any of her estate, and nor would Caroline be liable for any future husband’s debts.

Image gallery:

Stained Glass Artists – Herbert Moesbury Smyrk 1861-1947:

Smyrk, seems to have passed through nearly every major Stained glass company in Australia between 1884 and 1947. His prolific association with so many companies makes attribution to his work very difficult.

Smyrk was born in Guildford, Surrey, England. At the age of fourteen was selected from hundreds of art students to be apprenticed to Powell and Shellard[12] as a stained glass artist and designer. [13]

On completion of his apprenticeship circa 1881, Smyrk stowed away on the ship ‘Queen’ at St Catherine’s docks in London which was bound for America. He began designing and painting windows for firms in New York and San Francisco. In 1884 he came out to Australia where he joined Brooks, Robinson & Co., in Melbourne.[14]

By March 1886 he was a partner of the Smyrk & Rogers stained glass company in Melbourne with Charles Rogers. That partnership was dissolved in September 1888 [15] and he returned to London to work with William Morris & Co.[16]

In later years, between many trips back to England, and America, and some years living a nomadic life in Tahiti, he returned to Australia where he designed and painted for Australian firms such as Ferguson & Urie in North Melbourne, E. F. Troy in Adelaide, Barnett Bros in Perth, R. S. Exton in Brisbane, James Sandy & Co in Sydney, and Frank G. O’Brien Ltd., at Waterloo in Sydney.

Herbert Moesbury Smyrk died at Woollahra, Sydney, in 1947 at the age of 85.

A more extensive biography of Herbert Moesbury Smyrk is in progress.


My thanks to Helen Curkpatrick, the human history dynamo from the Wimmera National Trust, Ross & Pam from Longerenong, Denize Raggatt from the Balmoral Historical Society, Bronwyn & David Hughes for joining me on the Hamilton & Balmoral trip, and ABC Radio Horsham.


[1] Caroline Morrell (nee Tuckwell), whom he married in 1856.

[2] Hamilton Spectator, Vic, Saturday 22nd September 1894, page 3.

[3] Hamilton Spectator, Vic, Saturday 26th January 1895, page 3.

[4] Biography: John Lamb Lyon (1835-1916)

[5] Biography: David Relph Drape (1821-1882)

[6] News, Adelaide, SA, Tuesday 3rd November 1925, page 8.

[7] Advocate, Melbourne, Vic, Saturday 15th February 1896, page 16.

[8] St. George’s Church, Carlton, Victoria 1896

[9] The Herald, Melbourne, Vic, Monday 4th May 1896, page 3.

[10] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Thursday 27th April 1876, page 1.

[11] Biography: Charles Henry Armytage (1824-1876)

[12] I believe this to be incorrect. The name of “Shellard & Powell” doesn’t exist.

[13] The Catholic Press, Sydney, NSW, Thursday 28th February 1935, page 24.

[14] News, Adelaide, SA, Tuesday 3rd November 1925, page 8.

[15] The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 21st September 1888, page 5.

[16] Building & Real Estate, Vol 15, No 86. 12th October 1914, page 3.

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