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Stained Glass

Until the early 1860s, window glass in Melbourne had been clear or plain coloured, and nearly all was imported, but new churches and elaborate buildings created a demand for pictorial windows. The first known makers of stained-glass windows in Australia were Scots James Ferguson and James Urie, who set up a plumbing business in North Melbourne in 1854. When fellow Scot John Lamb Lyon joined the firm around 1862, they began to produce stained- and painted-glass windows. Among their earliest works were a Shakespeare window for the Haymarket Theatre in Bourke Street, a memorial window to Prince Albert in Holy Trinity, Kew, and a set of Apostles for the West Melbourne Presbyterian Church (which was moved to Whitehorse Road, Box Hill, and is now a Uniting Church).

The most successful 19th-century Australian stained-glass window-makers were Ferguson & Urie, whose windows can be found throughout the older suburbs of Melbourne. Their palatial Gothic Revival office building stood at 283 Collins Street from 1875. Ironically, their last major commission, a window depicting labour, was installed in the old Melbourne Stock Exchange in Collins Street in 1893 on the eve of the bank crash. The firm ceased operation in 1899.

London- and German-trained William Montgomery arrived in Melbourne in 1887 and set up at 164 Flinders Street, bringing the latest in European style and design and achieving instant success with his church, public building and domestic designs. He worked equally for Catholic and Protestant denominations, his windows being found in many churches and mansions, including St John's, Heidelberg, St Ignatius', Richmond, Christ Church, St Kilda, Tay Creggan, Hawthorn, and Lowther Hall, Essendon.

Brooks, Robinson & Co. began in 1854 as import agents, dealing in window and table glass and interior-decorating supplies. They later moved into commercial glazing, particularly shopfronts, but did not produce stained-glass windows until the 1880s. Their big opportunity came in the 1890s when they were engaged to install St Paul's Cathedral's great cycle of stained-glass windows, made by Clayton & Bell in London. Their stained-glass studio flourished, and after the closure of Ferguson & Urie attained a dominant position in the trade. Almost all the Australian glass artists of the early 20th century passed through their studio. Their work is represented in the Princess Theatre and St John's, Toorak. However, the stained-glass studio closed after Brooks Robinson was taken over by Email Pty Ltd in 1963.

Among the most important of Melbourne's other stained-glass studios was E.L. Yencken & Co., who had obtained the services of William Frater after he left Brooks Robinson. Alan Sumner (1911-96), who worked at Yencken's before setting up his own studio, was the most prolific of postwar stained-glass artists. Among his largest works are the windows of the Blessed Oliver Plunkett's Church, Pascoe Vale.

Napier Waller (1894-1972) is well known as a mural painter and mosaicist, but his interwar stained-glass work is significant because it embraces art deco and moderne styles. He and his wife, Christian Yandell (1895-1956), worked together as a team rather than in the traditional master-andassistant roles, and they produced important windows for St James' Old Cathedral and St Mark's, Camberwell.

A considerable number of decorative windows were brought to Melbourne from overseas, especially in the late 19th century. The majority of imported stained glass came from Great Britain, but there were also suppliers in Germany, the USA, France and Belgium. John Hardman & Co., whose windows are found mostly in Catholic churches such as St Patrick's Cathedral, St Ignatius', Richmond, Immaculate Conception, Hawthorn, St John's, Clifton Hill and St Monica's, Moonee Ponds, was one of the most important. The great west window of St Patrick's Cathedral (1867) is one of the finest windows produced in the 19th century. Of the German makers, F.X. Zettler & Co., whose windows can be seen in Scots Church, is the most significant.

The success of Ferguson & Urie and William Montgomery made Melbourne the leading centre of stained glass in the Southern Hemisphere. Although the large traditional studios have gone, in their place are a host of smaller studios and individual artists who continue to work in this ancient craft.

Geoffrey Down