Launceston and Low Head in Tasmania are only 56 kilometers from each other but in the 1860’s they might have been an entire world apart.
The ongoing quest to find the rare and historic stained glass windows crafted by the colonial ‘Ferguson & Urie’ company of North Melbourne sometimes create more questions than answers. After more than a century and a half the clues that lead to their existence are still being discovered.
Tenders for the construction of St Paul’s Anglican Church at Launceston were advertised in early October 1860 and on ‘All Saints Day,’ 1st November 1860 the foundation stone for a wooden church, to the designs of architect Peter Mills, was laid in Cleveland Street Launceston by Archdeacon Thomas Reiby .
It would be another twenty years before any stained glass windows were installed in St Paul’s although there was mention of an early chancel window previously being described as an: “ugly painted window” and “…which so often became an eye-sore when the paint began to peel off…” It’s highly likely that this ‘eye-sore’ of a window may have been a simple window film transfer known under various patent names such as ‘Vitrimanie,’ ‘Diaphanie,’ and ‘Chrystograph’.
In 1881 a member of the congregation who was only described as “A parishioner, in humble circumstances” had offered to pay for a new stained glass window for the chancel of St Paul’s. The Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of North Melbourne was commissioned to create the three light figurative stained glass window which was supposed to have been erected in the chancel and unveiled on Christmas day in 1881. Unfortunately the company responded that they couldn’t complete the window in time for the Christmas day ceremony and requested an extension, citing that they “wished to do the work well”.
By April 1882 the window had arrived from Melbourne and was erected in the chancel as intended. The window depicted Christ as three of the seven “I Am” sayings from the Gospel of John, being;
“I am The Resurrection and the Life” (John 11-25);
“I am The Good Shepherd” (John 10-11) and;
“I am The Light of the World” (John 8-12).
Photos taken by Gavin Merrington of “Original Stained Glass“, South Hobart, dated 19th August 2014
The left light depicted Christ as the “Resurrection & the Life” with St Mark depicted above as the winged lion and at the base, St John as the Eagle.
In the centre light was Christ as “The good Shepherd” and above, the interwoven Greek symbols for Alpha and Omega and the letters ‘I.H.S’. Below Christ was the Agnus Dei or Paschal Lamb carrying the victory banner.
The right light depicted Christ as “The Light of the World” with St Mathew above as the Winged Man and below Christ is St Luke as the Winged Bull or Ox.
A further two single light windows by Ferguson & Urie, depicting St Peter and St Paul, were awaiting arrival for circa June 1882 and these were intended to be placed either side of the chancel window.
The next major stained glass window to be installed in St Paul’s was in 1886, although this window, depicting the Crucifixion, was obtained from the studio of E. R. Suffling of London. It arrived in late June 1886 aboard the “ss. Gulf of Mexico” and was erected in the liturgical west wall of the church. The base of the centre light of this window contains the company name “E. R. Suffling & Co. Edgware Rd, London, England.”
St Paul’s church would serve the parishioners for the next 115 years but in the early 1970’s the development of the Launceston General Hospital was underway and St Paul’s was right in the path of the proposed plans. The church was eventually demolished c.1975 with some caveats specified regarding the recycling of the materials and artifacts from the church;
“…The demolition was agreed upon only if the hospital recycled the building as much as possible. Much of the fabric and contents of the St Paul’s church went to Low Head and were used in the construction of St Paul’s Chapel by the Sea…”
During my early inquiries about the historic windows in the chapel at Low Head I was graciously sent a copy of a book about the history of Ainslie House which contains photos of the east three light window by Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne and the west three light window by E. R. Suffling of London. There were no photos or evidence of the existence of the windows depicting St Peter and St Paul.
Thanks to Gavin Merrington of “Original Stained Glass” at South Hobart, it has now been confirmed, as of 19th August 2014, that all the historic windows are extant in St Paul’s Chapel at the Ainslie House aged care facility, Low Head, along with many other early 20th century stained glass from other artists and studios.
Ainslie House is a private Aged Care facility located at Low Head: 196-244 Low Head Road Low Head, Tasmania, Australia.
“CHRISTMAS DAY ….”
“… As usual the church of St. Paul’s was decorated very chastely and effectively, and perhaps suffered no loss by comparison with more extensive Christmas decorations in previous years…”
“… At the close of the sermon in the morning, the incumbent alluded to one feature of Christmas greeting which he regretted the absence of, and which he hoped would be there that day, viz, a stained glass window for the chancel, which was to replace the painted one, which so often became an eye-sore when the paint began to peel off. A parishioner, in humble circumstances, had liberally offered to pay the cost of the new window, but through press of business Messrs Ferguson and Uril [sic], of Melbourne, had not been able to complete it in time for Christmas; and as they wished to do the work well, they asked a little extension of time. Probably a few weeks more will see this addition in its place, and it will not be the less welcomed through not making its first appearance at the Christmas festival.”
“During Holy Week, owing to alterations, which were being made in connection with putting up the stained glass window in the Chancel of St. Paul’s Church, the daily service was held in the adjoining School-room….”
“… Before commencing the sermon in the evening, he alluded with feelings of thankfulness to the hearty and earnest services of Good Friday, and expressed his gratitude that the ugly painted window in the Chancel had given place to the handsome one, which those who were present in the morning had the privilege of witnessing the full effect of…”
“….and with pleasure announced that two additional stained glass windows had been liberally presented to the church, to be placed at the end of each aisle, right and left of the chancel. One window would represent St. Paul, whose name of the church and parish bear, and the other St. Peter, his brother apostle, and these windows would probably be finished in about three months. The chancel window, the noble and generous gift of a working man in the parish, consists of three lights; the central one containing a representation of Christ as the “Good Shepherd”, underneath this figure is the lamb with banner and cross, and above it the I.H.S., and alpha and omega in very rich colours. To the right is Christ as the “Light of the world;” above, the symbol of St. Mark, and below, that of St. John. To the left is Christ as the “Resurrection and the life,” with the symbol of St. Matthew above, and St. Luke below. Taken altogether the window is very pleasing and effective, and was supplied by Messrs Ferguson and Urie, of Melbourne, who will also provide the two additional windows….”
“ST. PAUL’S CHURCH. THE JUBILEE YEAR. AN INTERESTING RETROSPECT.
The present month has been a notable one in connection with St. Paul’s Church, which has reached its jubilee, and the event will be celebrated by a special function towards the end of the year. A few particulars regarding the history of the church should prove interesting.
The parish of St. Paul’s is bounded by the parishes of St. John’s and those of Perth and St. Leonards. In the year 1842 the population of Launceston had increased to such an extent as to render it necessary to relieve St. John’s of certain amount of work and responsibility, and therefore the northern portion of the town, with Brisbane-street as the dividing line, was formed into a separate cure, and Holy Trinity Church was erected. In 1851 the population still being on the increase, and stretching southward, it was found necessary to still further relieve St. John’s, and so another parish was formed, taking in all that portion of the town south of Balfour-street, and to be known as the parish of St. Paul’s. The mission district of Newnham, or Allenvale, situated about three miles from Launceston, on the George Town-road, was added to this parish. Here in the same year, 1851, a small church was erected and opened for divine service on April 27, by the Ven. Archdeacon Davies. This building is still in existence, and is used as a state school.
Mr. George Banks-Smith (afterwards canon and rector of St. George’s, Hobart) was first placed in charge of this parish as catechist. The first building used for divine service in St. Paul’s parish was the Frankland-street school; a building which was erected in the year 1847 and a school established there under the supervision of the chaplain of St. John’s. It was a strange looking old weatherboard structure of the bush hut style of architecture, and was perched up on a clay bank fronting the Frankland-street, and about midway between Charles and Wellington streets on the north side. The ‘Tasmanian Church Chronicle’ for November, 1854, contained the following account of the opening of the parish:- “On Sunday, October, 13, the opening of the new parish of St. Paul’s, Launceston (a sub division of St. John’s) took place. The sermon in the morning was preached by the Rev. P. V. M. Filleul, warden of Christ College, and in the afternoon by the lord Bishop of the Diocese. The building commonly known as the Frankland-street school room, has been temporarily fitted up for the performance of Divine worship, and on the occasion in question was well filled, the collection amounting to £25. The parish comprises a thickly populated part of Launceston, principally inhabited by the working classes, who have now the means of religious worship brought home to their doors with the benefits of a resident clergyman.”
The Rev. G. B. Smith worked hard in his new parish, and was ably assisted by the late Mr. Wm. Henty, Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, and many others who formed the congregation in those days; and amongst those who took a great interest and did much to keep the congregation together at Newnham, were the late Messrs. Smith and Hutchinson, who, although residing in Launceston, walked backwards and forwards to the little mission church every Sunday, regardless of the weather. The Rev. G. B. Smith resigned the incumbency of St. Paul’s in 1859, and accepted the charge of St. George’s, Hobart. The parishioners then petitioned the Bishop to appoint the Rev. E. P. Adams (late Canon Adams), he being well known to them, having taken charge of the parish for a few months during the absence of the Rev. G. B. Smith in Sydney, but the Bishop required Mr. Adams’s services for the then newly formed parish of Mersey, and offered the incumbency of St. Paul’s to the Rev. Augustus Barkway, which he accepted.
It was not to be supposed that a congregation, especially a town one, would long put up with such a miserable building as that which served the purpose of a church in Frankland-street. Accordingly in 1860 a site was purchased, and on All Saint’s Day, November 1, the corner-stone of the present church, St. Paul’s, was laid by Archdeacon Reiby, assisted by the Rev’s. A. Barkway and John Chambers. In the short space of six months the building was completed, and opened for divine service on May 12, 1861, by Bishop Nixon. The building is of wood, in Gothic style of architecture, the dimensions being – Nave, 50ft x 32ft height 40ft; the chancel being 16ft x 13ft. The whole of the seats are composed of low benches, which have a remarkably neat appearance under the lofty nave. The church contains a very handsome font, a decorated Gothic altar rail and prayer desk, besides well carved lectern, made and presented by one of the parishioners.
After the opening of the church in 1861 the old Frankland-street building was still used as a Sunday school, but in 1863 a substantial stone and brick building was erected for the purpose on land adjoining the church. This land was generously given by three of the parishioners. The cost of the school building was £420. In the year 1867 money was raised and an organ procured at a cost of £150. On account of the increasing population it was found necessary in 1871 to enlarge the church, and this was done by the addition of another aisle.
At Easter, 1882, a handsome altar cloth and two windows, one to commemorate St. Paul and the other St. Peter, were presented to the church by two of the parishioners. The beautiful chancel window was the noble and generous voluntary gift of a working class man. It consists of three lights, the central one containing a representation of Christ as the ‘Good Shepherd,’ underneath the figure is the Lamb with banner and cross, and above this I.H.S, and Alpha and Omega in very rich colours. To the right is Christ as the ‘Light of the World,’ above the symbol of St. Mark, and below that of St. John. To the left is Christ as the ‘Resurrection and the Life,’ with symbol of St. Matthew above, and that of St. Luke below. A handsome memorial stained glass window was erected in the west end in 1886; this was the gift of a very old family of parishioners, and another gave a carved cedar altar table, the old one being presented to the church at Frankford, in the Tamar parish.
In the year 1887, owing, unfortunately, to various causes, the congregation at the little mission church at Newnham having diminished, services, with the consent of the Bishop, were discontinued. The congregation of St. Paul’s have always looked well after their church, and entered heartily into ay scheme which would tend to increase and beautify it. The church has many benefactors. In addition to those already mentioned, the Cleveland family placed a beautiful painted window at the south end, and a marble cross was given by them also for the accommodation of a surpliced choir, and another gave a suitable brass altar desk. A handsome silver alms-dish and a silver altar table were also gifts to the church. The new chancel mentioned above was opened by the Bishop on September 19, 1888, and altogether the church, from a church man’s point of view, is the best appointed building in Launceston.
The Rev. Augustus Barkway has had charge of the parish for the last 45 years, and the many good qualities he possesses have endeared him to his congregation. The poor and afflicted have always been his special charge, and to them his kindly face is ever welcome.”
Tasmanian Govt, LINC, Record NG472, (accessed 24 Mar 2012)
“The Anglican Parish of St Paul’s was officially created and opened on 15 October 1854. Prior to this it was part of the Parish of St John’s, Launceston. It comprised the church of St Paul’s in Cleveland Street. On 5 October 1975 the final service was conducted in the church prior to its demolition to make way for redevelopment of the Launceston General Hospital on the church site. The demolition was agreed upon only if the hospital recycled the building as much as possible. Much of the fabric and contents of the St Paul’s church went to Low Head and were used in the construction of St Paul’s Chapel by the Sea, an interdenominational church which by c. 2000 was incorporated into the Ainslie House Aged Care Complex at Low Head. The chapel built at the redevelopment of the Launceston General Hospital was named St Paul’s chapel”.
The Organs Historical Trust of Australia, Christ Church Low Head, (accessed 24 Mar 2012)
“This substantial brick church was opened around 1980. It contains many fittings from St Paul’s Anglican Church, Launceston including the stained glass, memorial tablets and organ. St Paul’s was a large timber church to the south of the city centre close to the Launceston General Hospital”.
 Tasmanian Govt, LINC, Record NG472, (accessed 24 Mar 2012)
 Windows made by Ferguson & Urie, Melbourne.