By Allan Sterling

Copyright - All rights reserved

Introduction: For a small parish church St. Thomas’s boasts an impressive collection of stained glass windows. The church was originally fitted with diamond lead light windows throughout. The installation of the stained glass occurred between 1945 and 1989 with the majority of activity occurring in a 10-year period between 1945 and 1955.

All windows with the exception of numbers 4,5 and 8 are from the Melbourne firm of Brooks, Robinson & Co. The first of their windows was the series installed in the sanctuary in 1945; others were added at intervals until 1958. The sanctuary windows were among the earliest to be produced by Brooks, Robinson after World War II. This firm (and most others) produced no stained glass during the war, as it was not considered an essential industry.

From their beginnings in the 1880s Brooks, Robinson & Co. employed English-trained stained glass artists, several of whom are represented at St. Thomas'- J.W. Brown, George Dancey and William Kerr-Morgan. For more information on these men see Brooks, Robinson notes or other sources as cited below.

It is worth noting that original coloured sketches (usually 1: 10 scale) and cartoons (full- sized drawings usually showing glass divisions, colour selections and painting details) were used and re-used by the firm over many years. The earlier cartoons were considered extremely valuable and jealously guarded by the draughtsmen and cutliners, particularly the cartoons prepared by George Dancey who did his last work for them in 1922. However his cartoons were still in use in the 1960s, not long before Brooks, Robinson closed down in 1966- 7.

The dates given in these notes are taken from two Brooks, Robinson order (job) books that survived the destruction of the glass studios and remain in a private collection. The entries in the order books cite a job number, client and subject, as well as the date the order was placed (as distinct from date of completion or installation). Sometimes there are notes about the source of the design (previous cartoon or image, print etc.) which can be helpful in making comparative analyses between different windows by the firm. One original invoice was located by a parishioner (window 1).

Other windows in the church were the work of Reg Loats (numbers 4&5) and Alan Sumner (number 8).

The subject of the window is as cited in the Brooks, Robinson order books. The windows measured 48 x 19 inches (orders were always measured to an accuracy of 1/8 inch at the time of ordering).

The following is a guide to each of the windows (refer to the floor plan for the position of these windows)

 

1. Presentation in the Temple (Single-light window)

Brooks, Robinson & Co. 1957-58

Inscription: None

Dedication: In memory of Charles James Hegarty

Artistic details: The cartoon for the window was taken from the original by George Dancey.

History: The order was placed by Mrs. Thompson (formerly Mrs. Charles Hegarty). The window was installed early in 1958 and the invoice dated 30/4/1958 gives the installed price as 147.00. Using the Library of South Australia currency conversion this equates to roughly $2,800 in 1998 dollars which would seem to be reasonable based on prices in 1998 for church stained glass.

 

 

 

2. Light of the World and St. Andrew (Two-light window)

Brooks, Robinson & Co. 1947

Dedication: To the Glory of God, in the memory of John Percy Chirnside died 6/1/1944.

Artistic details: The firm had several cartoon versions of the Light of the World, the most popular of them based on the William Holman Hunt painting of the same name, closely followed by this version by George Dancey. A cartoon used at Melton was re-used for this window at St. Thomas'. St. Andrew has the stylistic characteristics of William Kerr-Morgan. Kerr- Morgan joined the firm in 1923, probably as replacement for Dancey who died in December the previous year.

History: Dedicated 11th Jan 1948 at a 3pm service delivered by visiting priest Father J. Tyssen in the presence of the vicar Father Kenneth Roberts and former vicar Father J. Townsend. Mrs. Ethel Chirnside and her two sons John and Andrew were in attendance to a full congregation of approx. 165 persons. The order was placed by Mrs. Percy (i.e. Ethel) Chirnside.

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3. Mary Meeting Christ on Easter Morning (Two-light window)

Brooks, Robinson & Co. 1950

Dedication: To the Glory of God, in memory of Ethel Mary Charlton died 7/12/1942, only daughter of John Percy and Ethel Mary Chirnside.

Artistic details: Stylistically the work appears to be that of William Kerr-Morgan.

History: This window was dedicated on 7th October 1951 at a 3pm service delivered by the former vicar Fr. James Townsend. The order was placed by Mrs. Chirnside.

 

 

 

 

4. The Baptism Window (Single-light window)

Reg Loats 1989

Dedication: This is my beloved son, in memory of Harold, Hilda and Robert Hotsman

Artistic details: This window depicts the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. John, who lived in the wild hill country, is depicted as per the scriptures wearing a camel skin and belt. The dove that descended from the heavens after Jesus was baptized is depicted. The words "This is my beloved son" are the words of God as the heavens parted and the dove descended. The star at the top represents Heaven.

When one ascends the ramp John’s eyes appear to light up. This is due to an overhanging eave, which shades the sun at a certain angle (when one is at the bottom of the ramp). This gives amazing life to this artwork.

 

 

5. The Holy Spirit (Two-light window) - image below

Reg Loats 1989

Dedication: In memory of Ethel Myers in Loving memory of Mathew Myers

Artistic details: These are the most abstract windows in the church. The request from the church at the time was that the Baptism window was to be quite traditional but in this case the design brief was that these windows were to be abstract and brightly coloured with the theme of the Holy Spirit. These and the Baptism windows were commissioned at the same time.

Some interesting glass techniques can be observed in this window. For example the image of the earth is blue/white laminated glass with sections of the blue sandblasted away to reveal the white in the shape of the clouds. The mystery planet in the lower right corner is molded glass – laminates with different coloured glass and pigments molded between the layers.

The artist’s interpretation is as follows:

These windows are designed to create a feeling of the HOLY SPIRIT transcending our concept of Earth and expanding throughout the Universe.

 

REPRESENTATION:

Dove and flames – The Holy Spirit

White near the Flames – Purity (Purification by fire and water)

Star – Birth of Christ

Cross – Crucifixion

Red jewels – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (forming a triangle)

Interlocking circles – Trinity

Straight lines – Lines between the stars and planets.

Earth – Seen as part of the greater Universe

Earth’s Atmosphere – Limitations of mankind

Clear strips- Mankind’s paths to other worlds and the presence of the Holy Spirit when Man eventually reaches the Stars

Planet- The unknown mankind’s eternal goal

Elements- The four basic elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water are all represented in these windows.

This window featured on the back cover of the 2001 Gesher annual journal of the Council of Christians and Jews (Vic.)

Born on 11th February 1923 in Williamstown, Reg Loats came to Werribee at the age of 4 years, where he still resides. Reg served in the RAAF during World War II in New Guinea and Borneo and was for many years Werribee’s resident barber. Always keen on sketching and drawing, Reg’s interest in stained glass windows developed as a hobby in retirement. His training commenced with a lead lighting course at the Trades Hall and then a 2-week training course in stained glass with noted visiting German stained glass artist Ludwig Schaffrath. Further training at took place at Sydney College of the Arts, Monash University and under noted Australian glass artist David Wright. Reg developed great expertise, not only in the traditional techniques of stained glass windows, but also contemporary techniques of sand blasting, composites and moulded glass (techniques used in the Holy Spirit window). Reg’s largest commission can be found at the Wyndham Civic Centre. The inner set of front doors being commissioned to commemorate Werribee’s declaration as a city. Other works are to be found at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Little River and the large multi paneled window at Joseph Allison Funerals in Greaves St. Werribee. Reg has also completed over 300 commissions for private homes in Werribee and Williamstown. He is a former committee member, membership chairman and treasurer of the Australian Association of Glass Artists. Reg’s career concluded with private tuition from his studio in Werribee. In that role he specialized in training lead light artists in the traditional skills of glass painting for stained glass work in Churches.

 

6. St. George (Single-light window)

Brooks, Robinson & Co. 1951

Dedication: In the Glory of God presented by Mr & Mrs W A King and family in loving memory of George Frances King lost at sea whilst prisoner of war 12 Sept 1944. Greater love hath no man than this.

Artistic details: A cartoon of St. Michael, previously used at Hay, N.S.W .was adapted for this window by removing the saint's wings. The dragon was taken from George Dancey's St. George cartoon. The warrior saints, St. George and St. Michael, which embodied Christian faith and the patriotic British cause, were very popular subjects for church memorials. This was particularly the case after the Great War, although still popular after World War II.

History: This window was dedicated on Remembrance Sunday 9th November 1952.

The order was placed by Mrs. King.

 

 

7. The Sanctuary Windows. (Seven lights)

Brooks Robinson & Co. 1945

a. Charity and The Good Shepherd (Two-light window)

Inscribed: Charity, The Good Shepherd

Artistic details: George Dancey's cartoons were again used for these two lights. The Good Shepherd was the most popular of their subjects throughout
the 20th century, but more particularly so after World War II.

 

 

 

 

 

b. Faith, Christ, Hope (Three-Iight Window)

Inscribed: Faith (left) Hope (right)

Dedication: These windows are dedicated to the Greater Glory of God and to perpetuate the loving memory of Ruby, Bruce and Evelyn Hansford presented by their sister G. M. Carter, 1945

Artistic details: Faith was taken from a cartoon by J. W. Brown, drawn originally in the 1890s, and re-worked for a Mentone church before its use at Werribee: likewise, Hope was previously used in Tasmania. A new cartoon, clearly the work of William Kerr-Morgan, was produced for the central figure of Christ, offering the cup - an appropriate choice for the light above the holy table.

 

c. St. Thomas (Two-light Window):

Inscribed: Thomas answered, my Lord and my God.

Artistic details: This window shows St Thomas looking at the wounds of Jesus. It has all the hallmarks of a William Kerr-Morgan cartoon.

 

History: These windows were dedicated at the 11am service on the 11th November 1945 (Armistice Day) to a full congregation. All windows were ordered by the Rev. Townsend and donated by Mrs. G. Carter.

 

 

 

 

8. The Nativity: (Two-light Window):

Alan Sumner 1955

Dedication: In loving memory of David William Thompson 8/8/1868 – 1/6/1954 and his wife Harriet Annie Thompson 28/8/1872 – 28/5/1954 erected by members of their family.

Artistic details: The acclaimed Alan Summer was a leading stained glass artist. He began his trade in the stained glass industry with E.L. Yencken and Company. Alan Sumner joined E.L. Yencken & Co. as assistant to the head of the stained glass department, artist William ' Jock' Frater in 1925 and remained with the firm until he joined the army during World War II. Here his artistic skills were employed effectively in the camouflage and mapping section. As Yencken's were unable to produce stained glass during these years, Frater retired in 1940 and when the work resumed Sumner was asked to fill their diminishing orders. After 1940 he did Yencken’s orders on a commission basis from his own studio in Collingwood. These early works followed the Yencken 'house' style and it was only after a trip overseas in the early 1950s that the influence of Modernism gradually entered his stained glass designs. Most noticeable is his interest in El Greco's work that was manifested in his elongated and expressive figures. He joined the Victorian Artists’ Society and he blended concepts of modernist painting with the traditions of stained glass. His work appears more contemporary in style, but is always recognizable. He signed his work, rejecting the traditional concept of artist anonymity found with most studio productions, caused by the fact that many artisans who work on each window in a commercial glass studio.

Post- War Melbourne brought Modernism to church architecture in the burgeoning outer Melbourne suburbs and Alan Sumner was well placed to respond with stained glass that suited both the style and economic restraints of the times.

History: These windows were dedicated on Sunday 19th June 1955.

 

9. Crown of Life: (Two-light Window):

Brooks, Robinson & Co. 1949

Inscribed: Be Thou Faithful unto Death and I will give thee a crown of life

Dedication: To the Glory of God in memory of those who served and fell in the World War 1939- 45.

Artistic details: Another cartoon by William Kerr-Morgan. The glass is not as heavily painted as some of Kerr-Morgan's other windows and the softer treatment suggests the hand of a different glass-painter. It may be one of a number of men who joined the firm in the post-War period from Britain and Europe. Among them was Derek Pearse who trained at Faith House, London as a designer of church furnishing including stained glass and metal work: the 'Englishness' of the painting suggests that it is possibly among his earlier jobs.

History: These windows were dedicated at the 11am service on the 8th January 1950 to a congregation of 137. Ordered by Rev. K. Roberts.

 

 

10. Follow Me: (Two-light Window):

Brooks Robinson & Co. 1950

Inscribed For all the Saints follow me, for the Glory of God

Dedication: presented by the congregation in memory of the faithful servants of God who have worshiped in this church erected 1950.

Artistic details: Another design by William Kerr-Morgan. Note the different painting treatment between this window and Crown of Life.

History: Ordered by Rev. K. Roberts for the 50th Jubilee of the new red brick church. These windows were dedicated at a special 3pm service on the 22nd October 1950 to a full (overflowing) congregation. The service commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for the new Church by Capt. John Percy Chirnside, MP on 24th October 1900. His wife Mrs. Ethel Chirnside was in attendance. The Dedication was conducted by Bishop Donald Baker, with faculty read by Fr. J. Townsend. Approximately 200 people attended a 5pm tea afterwards.

 

Conclusion: I encourage you to visit St. Thomas to see the true beauty of these windows first hand. The church is open Monday to Friday 10am-12 noon, Sundays 8-11am and at other times by appointment. It is located at 117 Synnot St. Werribee, Victoria, Phone: (03) 9742 4555

Acknowledgments: My thanks to Bronwyn Hughes for her great support and encouragement with this project. Thanks also to Ron Bubeck for access to the church records and assistance with the floor plan, Amanda Keeble and Marion Sterling for the web page concept and design. Without the support of these persons the production this work would not have been possible.

References:

Down, G.M MA by thesis, 'Nineteenth-Century Stained Glass in Melbourne', The University of Melbourne, Department of Fine Arts, 1975.
Hegarty, V Personal comments, 2005
Hughes, B. MA (prelim.) thesis, ‘Alan Sumner and Joseph Stansfield: A Comparative Study of Twentieth Century Stained Glass',
Hughes, B. MA by thesis, 'Twentieth Century Stained Glass in Melbourne', The University of Melbourne, Department of Fine Arts, 1997.
Hughes, B. Lights of Our Past: Australian Stained Glass, CD.ROM, RMIT Publishing, Melbourne, 1999.
Loats, R. Personal comments, 2005- 06
Sherry, B. Australia's Historic Stained Glass, Murray Child, Sydney, 1991.
Zimmer, J. Stained Glass in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1984.
  Parish Records, St. Thomas Anglican Church, Werribee.

 

 

 

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