1842: Christ Church Anglican, Longford, Tasmania.

Artist/Studio: Designed by William Archer & Executed by William Wailes, England, c.1842.
Location: Longford, Tasmania, Australia.
Building: Christ Church, Longford.
Memorial: N/A
Donor: Charles Reid.
Photos dated: 12th August 2012.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2yCYO-n7

The Stained Glass window in the Anglican Church of Christ Church, at Longford, Tasmania, is the oldest known figurative stained glass window in Tasmania, and arguably the oldest in Australia.

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On the 16th  March 1839[1] Lieutenant Governor Sir John Franklin (1786–1847) laid the foundation stone of Christ Church of England at Longford in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), assisted by Archdeacon Philip Palmer (1799-1853) of Hobart Town.

The church was designed by Launceston architect-builder Robert de Little (1808-1876) and was officially opened on the 6th of October 1844 [2] and  consecrated by Bishop Charles Henry Bromby (1814-1907), on the 27th January 1882. [3]

One of the most beautiful historical artifacts in the church is the liturgical east five light stained glass window, recorded as the first of its kind erected in Tasmania, and arguably Australia. It was donated by a local merchant of Longford, Charles Reid (c.1794–1857)[4] and was crafted as a collaborative effort having been designed by the colonial architect William Archer (1820–1874) and executed by the English stained glass artist William Wailes (1808-1881) at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1842. It was reported to have cost £300.[5]

Before the window was even erected in the church circa 1844, it was found to be damaged when it was unpacked. Three portions of the canopies were broken and one of the “Supporters of Tasmania” (either the Emu or the Kangaroo). A local artisan by the name of ‘Nash who had established himself at Longford as a painter and glazier was reported to have done the repairs so well that;

“…the most critical observer cannot discover which of the canopies have been broken, or which supporter has been made in the colony, the kangaroo or emu…”[6]

In September 1876, it was reported that further damage had occurred to the window as a result of a severe storm. The damaged portion representing St. Matthew was “repaired by Mr. J. Owen, and fixed in place again.”[7]

Circa 1880 the window was reported to have undergone extensive repairs in Melbourne;

“…The West window was dismantled piece by piece to be sent to Melbourne for repairs and plate glass reinforcement…”[8]

This is further corroborated by the Treasurer’s statement of accounts for  Christ Church by Joseph Archer published in September 1881:

“…The well-known large stained glass window has been restored in Melbourne at considerable expense, to provide for which the Hon. W. Dodery and Messrs. J. Archer and C. Arthur increased their original contributions…”[9]

Although the statement of expenses published in the tabloids in 1881 appeared quite comprehensive, there doesn’t appear to be any clue as to which Melbourne firm conducted the repairs to the window. Possibly the most experienced firm in Melbourne at that time would have been the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of Curzon street North Melbourne who started full time commercial stained glass production from late 1861, but by the 1880’s this firm no longer had the monopoly of locally created stained glass and was coming under increased competition from firms such as Rodgers & Co, and Brooks, Robinson & Co and William Montgomery.

In February 1882, architect Harry Conway advertised for tenders in relation to additional glazing for Christ Church. This reference could only be in relation to the tall two light nave windows of Christ Church, which, to this day, appear to have stained glass border designs that are uncannily like that of  the Ferguson & Urie stained company of North Melbourne. In the head of the windows are heraldic designs with typical Ferguson & Urie colouring and borders of alternating reds, blue and purples separated by stylised depictions of the Passion Flower in yellow/gold. The borders of the tall thin lancets below appear to follow the unmistakeable Ferguson & Urie designs with the alternating colours and patterns, but sometimes with the random introduction of a yellow/gold crowns where a simple passion flower design would normally be expected. Other extant Ferguson & Urie windows that include the small ‘crowns’ in the border designs are seen in the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Mission Church and St Andrews Church at Box Hill. The heraldic designs in the head of the windows, as well as examples of the lower borders are shown at the end of the slideshow.

The coincidence between the design’s of the current nave windows, as being like that of Ferguson & Urie stained glass, and the reference to the Melbourne stained glass firm that performed the 1881/1882 repairs of the Wailes/Archer historic window is a curiosity that needs a lot of further detailed research.

 On the 23rd of August 1943 the Launceston Examiner again reported on the Longford Church window that: “Historic Window needs repair…”[10] It was estimated that the required work would cost more than £200 but this was to be postponed until after the war.

In 1967 a complete restoration[11] of the window was conducted, by the Victorian stained glass artist Jean (John) Orval and his sons at Hamilton in Victoria;  When completed Mr Orval guaranteed the window would last at least another century before again needing repairs”.

Orval’s guarantee did not stand the test of time and after only 45 years the window was found to be in an advanced state of deterioration and again required a partial restoration. This work will be conducted by Tasmania’s Heritage Stained Glass conservationist Gavin Merrington of South Hobart some time in 2013.

Description of the window:

This description of the window is transcribed from an original copy of the church booklet “A Short Account of Christ Church – Longford, Erected 1839 – Dedicated 1844” reproduced in c.1948 and c. 1960, both of which state the information was taken from “Notes on Christ Church, Longford, and Longford District,” by Mr. K. R. von Stieglitz (1939-1944).

“The five tall lower lights are all headed by five-foiled arches; the two outer ones on each side form a single pointed arch above, while the mullions of the middle arch are more substantial and run up to support the top window. The central light contains the figure of our Lord in vestments of beautiful shades; He is carrying the Orb and the Cross, the signs of Royalty and Sacrifice. The others have the four Evangelists, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The first two have nothing to identify them, but St. Luke has his Gospel open, beautifully illuminated, the words being easily read with a pair of glasses. They are the first words of the gospel in Latin: “Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem.”
            Above these figures is the usual elaborate canopy work of the period. There are two angels in each holding scrolls, which have no inscription. In the arches above the Evangelists are their symbols, suggested by the fourth chapter of Revelation:- the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle, all with wings. Between them, over our lord, is the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin having scrolls bearing the words spoken by them (also in Latin): “Hail Mary” and “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” Going further up, below the three cross-shaped lights at the top, are four irregular panes which carry the ‘Instruments of the Passion.’ Of these in the left and lower one (at present broken) is the Crown of Thorns; next, the pillar to which our Lord was bound, and the ropes and scourges; next is the Cross with nails, reed (with sponge) and spear, pincers and hammer; and in the last the robe without seam; above it a white curve which closely seen resolves itself into thirty pieces of silver; on either side the money-bag of Judas, and the lantern, and, below, the dice used by the soldiers. Right at the top is the Dove, representing the Holy Spirit descending on the Church of the world.
            At the base of the window are five coats-of-arms. That in the middle is the Royal Arms, surmounted by the Imperial Crown, and supported by what are intended to be the kangaroo and the Emu; but the designer could not have been acquainted with the latter, for it is more like a native hen than an emu, while the kangaroo is a poor pathetic creature. The other shields are evidently fancy constructions, though heraldically correct. The second from the left is surmounted by a mitre and seems to be the Bishop’s; but though the left-hand side correctly represents the Southern Cross, the right-hand is not that of Bishop Nixon”.

About the shield in the bottom right corner of the window:

A shield appears at the bottom right corner of the right light that provides most of the information about the windows historical origins. It includes the name of William Archer as the designer, William Wailes as the maker, and the location and date the window was made. The detail appears in four ribbon scrolls in the lower right shield and is described as follows:

1. “Gulielmus Archer – Des”. “Gulielmus” – the French based Latin version of the name “William”. The letters immediately after are “DES” being the abbreviation for “Designed”.

2. “Gul: Wailes. Exec”. “Gul:” shortened for Gulielmus (William) with the letters “Exec” being the abbreviation for “Executed”.

3. “Newcastle AD”. Newcastle being the location the window was Executed (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and the letters “AD”, the Latin abbreviation for “Anno Domini”, being “The Year of Our Lord”.

4. “MDCCCXLII” in the last portion of the scroll indicates the year 1842 that the window was created. The bottom portion has some missing paint work and a missing piece of glass. The first Roman numeral looks like two letters “NI” but there is missing paint work as is actually one letter representing “M”, The “X” is drawn in an unusual fashion and looks like ¥. The same date in Roman numerals also appears clearly written to the left of the shield to confirm the date correctly as 1842.

Transcriptions of significant articles:

The Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston, TAS, Saturday 28th September 1839, page 1.

“At Longford, the Church, erected some years since, had become much too small for the accommodation of the congregation, whilst at the same time, from some defect in the construction, it was not likely to stand long; the inhabitants, therefore, determined upon having an entirely new and handsome building, the foundation of which is now completed, the first stone having been laid by the Lieutenant Governor, upon the tour already referred to more than once.”

The Courier, Hobart, TAS, Tuesday 20th October 1840, page 3

“At Longford, the Church is rising gradually, but not so rapidly as was at first expected, in consequence of the Committee having come to the determination to adopt, in lieu of brick, a facing of free-stone, which has to be carted for several miles”.

 The Courier, Hobart, TAS, Tuesday 1st October 1844, page 2.

“His Lordship the Bishop of Tasmania will consecrate the new church at Longford on 3rd October. The principal attraction of this edifice is a large painted window, executed in England, and sent out at an expense of two hundred guineas. It is considered a superior work of art, and will doubtless draw many of the curious, for want of a better motive, to visit this place of worship…”

Launceston Examiner, TAS, Wednesday 2nd October 1844, page 4.

“LONGFORD CHURCH.- The new church at Longford will be opened by the bishop of Thursday next”.

Launceston Examiner, TAS, Saturday 12th October 1844, page 3.

“COLONIAL ART.- When the glass of the chancel window of Longford church was unpacked, it was discovered that three of the fine canopies were broken, and one of the supporters of the arms of Tasmania. The glass, however, has been so well repaired, that the most critical observer cannot discover which of the canopies have been broken, or which supporter has been made in the colony, the kangaroo or emu. The artist’s name is Nash, who lately established himself at Longford, as painter and glazier. This window, which is the gift of Charles Reid, Esq., was painted by the famous Wailes, of Newcastle, and cost 300 guineas. It is perpendicular gothic, and considered a work of great merit. Mr. Kidd, of Launceston, constructed the carved oak chairs for Longford church, and they have justly received universal commendation”.

(Additional article on same page)

“LONGFORD CHURCH.- The new church at Longford was opened for Divine service on Sunday, the 6th instant. Not withstanding the floods the church was filled at an early hour. The service commenced by the Rev. R. R. Davies reading the bishop’s license to perform service in that building, to be called and known by the name of “Christ’s Church,” Longford”.

Launceston Examiner, TAS, Saturday 28th February 1874, page 4.

“LONGFORD”

“…the church clock had and extraordinary fit of striking; it began about 25 minutes to six, and kept at it nearly a quarter of an hour. Many of the inhabitants turned out in alarm, thinking a fire was raging in the neighbourhood, others thought it was to announce the arrival of the Executioner and his staff, but it did not happen to be either. It appears Mr Allen, who was leaving by the train, wound it up rather hurriedly, when some of the works must have got a little deranged, hence this extraordinary occurrence.”

 Launceston Examiner, TAS, Saturday 23rd September 1876, page 5.

“The portion of the stained glass window in Christ Church, representing St. Matthew, which was damaged some time ago, by one of the violent gales has been repaired by Mr. J. Owen, and fixed in place again.”

In 1880 further extensive repairs were reported to have been done to the window by an un-specified Melbourne firm:

 “…The West window was dismantled piece by piece to be sent to Melbourne for repairs and plate glass reinforcement. Ornate side windows, beyond repair, were now fitted with cathedral glass…”[12]

Launceston Examiner, Thursday 15th September 1881, page 3.

“CHRIST CHURCH, LONGFORD, REPAIRS FUND…”

“…The well-known large stained glass window has been restored in Melbourne at considerable expense, to provide for which the Hon. W. Dodery and Messrs. J. Archer and C. Arthur increased their original contributions…”
“…In account with the treasurer to 17th August, 1881″.

With receipts omitted, the published account of expenditure in the Examiner of August 1881 does not give an obvious indication as to any payment to a Melbourne company for the stained glass restoration. The Mr John Wright mentioned in the article was the building contractor. The next largest sums mentioned are for a James Howard and architect Harry Conway of Launceston. This particular treasurer’s report may be too early to include any mention of an actual payment for the stained glass repairs and may have appeared in a subsequent report. In early 1882 Conway advertised for tenders for further glazing;

Launceston Examiner, TAS, Friday 17th February 1882, page 1.

“TENDERS will be received until noon on Saturday, 18th inst., for glazing, etc, Christ Church, Longford. Specifications can be seen on application to Rev. A. Wayn, or at the office of the undersigned. The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted.
HARRY CONWAY, Architect, etc., Patterson-street”.

Examiner, Launceston, TAS, Wednesday 30th May 1928, page 5.

“…A great feature of the church was (and is) its west window, which was presented by Mr. Charles Reid, a resident of the district, and cost £300. The block and bell were provided by the Government, and cost, it is recorded, £200. On October 6, 1844, Christ Church was opened for Divine service by the Lord Bishop of Tasmania, and at the same service was admitted to holy orders the first Tasmanian ordained in the colony, Rev. Thomas Reiby. Shortly after the opening, the old brick building was pulled down, as also the first wooden one…”

Examiner, Launceston, TAS, Monday 23rd August 1943, page 4.

“HISTORIC WINDOW NEEDS REPAIR

At a meeting of the vestry of Christ Church, Longford, attention was drawn to the condition of the large coloured window in the church, over a century old, which has been of considerable interest to visitors by reason of its unique character. This now requires re-leading, but the work will have to be deferred until the end of the war. It is estimated that the necessary repairs will cost upwards of £200…”

The Mercury, Hobart, TAS, Wednesday 4th October 1944, page 7.

“Historic Christ Church Celebrates Centenary.”

“THIS month the centenary of the dedication of Christ Church, Longford, is being commemorated by services and social functions. The present church (the third on the site) was begun in 1838, the foundation stone was laid by the Governor (Sir George Arthur) in 1839, and the church was dedicated by Bishop Nixon on Oct 6, 1844…”

“…Important parts of the church are the west window and the two-faced clock. The window was given by Mr Charles Reid, a resident of the township, and designed by Mr William Archer, Cheshunt, Deloraine. It was erected at a cost of £500. Urgently needed repairs to the window are shortly to be carried out, and other windows are receiving attention. The cost will be about £300, and the offerings this month are to be credited to that purpose…”

The Mercury, Hobart, TAS, Saturday 7th October 1944, page 16.

“Early History Of Longford Church.

An exhibition of old papers, letters, and books relating to the early history of Christ Church, Longford, which is being held in the parish hall, includes original documents, some from Bishop Broughton, Governor Arthur, Archdeacon Davies, photographs of early clergy and church workers, and pictures of the present church in its early stages. The design by Mr. William Archer for the west [sic] window is of special interest.”

Examiner, Launceston, TAS, Monday 9th October 1944, page 4.

CHRIST CHURCH, LONGFORD, 100 YEARS OLD.

“The special celebrations to mark the centenary of Christ Church, Longford, were begun yesterday, when at 8 a.m. 75 parishioners attended Holy Communion, after which 70 sat down to a breakfast in the Parish Hall, at which the Vicar-General (Archdeacon H. B. Atkinson) was guest speaker…”                                  

“…The collections for the day totalled over £50, which will be credited to the repair fund already commenced for the historic west window…”

Advocate, Burnie, TAS, Saturday 28th October, 1944, page 5.

“CENTENARY OF CHRIST CHURCH LONGFORD.

 LAUNCESTON, Friday.- An old English custom known as “clypping the churche” will be revived at Longford on Sunday as part of the centenary celebrations of Christ Church. At the conclusion of the morning service in the church the congregation will encircle the building and sing appropriate verses of thanksgiving. The celebration will conclude next week. To date 160 has been received for the window repairs thanksgiving fund.”

Examiner, Launceston, TAS, Thursday 30th November 1944, page 5.

“LONGFORD- At a meeting of the vestry of Christ Church, Longford, the treasurer-warden (Mr. G. W. Hudson) reported that £250 was in hand as a result of the centenary offering for the window repairs fund…”

Orvall Stained Glass web site – accessed 15th Aug 2012;

“In 1967, with the help of his sons, Mr Orval had the intricate task of restoring the treasured 125 year-old large stained glass altar window of Christ Church, Longford (Tas), transporting the window in pieces both to and from Hamilton. When completed Mr Orval guaranteed the window would last at least another century before again needing repairs”.

External References:

A scanned original copy of the c.1958 version of the Christ Church History Booklet (I found this copy at a Battery Point Antique shop in 2012)

 “A Short Account of Christ Church, Longford: erected 1839, dedicated 1844”-Author Unknown.

Christ Church’s own web site provides links to three items written by the author of this article.

http://www.christchurchlongford.com.au/p/church_history

Footnotes:

[1] Launceston Advertiser, TAS, Thursday 14th March 1839, page 4.

[8] Church Booklet “Christ Church Longford” by Susan Grant 2000, page 10.

[11] Painted on the window by Orval studios and also mentioned on the Orval web site.

[12] Church Booklet “Christ Church Longford”, Susan Grant 2000, page 10.


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4 comments on “1842: Christ Church Anglican, Longford, Tasmania.

  1. The Great Window has just been repaired by Gavin Merrington of ‘Original Stained Glass’, Hobart. Bowing of the bottom five panes has been rectified and several broken pieces replaced/repaired. The wooden frame has been repainted externally and ventilation spacers fitted to the external acrylic protective sheeting to prevent overheating in summer. This work has been financed by Trust Funds and by a grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund.

    Dr. Ralph Barnes. Churchwarden. 5-06-2014

  2. Thanks for the update Ralph. I know Gavin and his quality workmanship well and we regularly converse on stained glass and historical matters. You definitely got the best man in Tassie to handle such an important historical artifact!
    I also note that your church web site has copies and links to some of my articles and research on the Longford window.

    I’d be interested to know if anyone knows which Melbourne stained glass company did the 1881 repairs on the window. My guess is that it was the Ferguson & Urie company of North Melbourne as I’m certain that the tall nave windows with heraldic designs in the apex are the work of this company and date from same era as the 1881 repairs. No proof of this though (yet).

    See info about Ferguson & Urie at: http://fergusonandurie.wordpress.com/

    Ray

  3. My name is Joanne Reid am extremely interested in all of this as my family connected with both sides of these churches, my mums side is the Davis family being the church at Ross and Reid’s church in Launceston!

    • Hi Joanne,

      Glad you found something of interest in my site in relation to your family. You’ll also find articles here about churches at Ross and Launceston.

      Ray

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