The present church windows replaced plainer lead lights in the 1870’s and 1880’s. It is believed they were, in common with many churches in the Sydney area at that time, manufactured by Lyon and Cottier. Whilst no drawings exist, the glass, style and the limited number of companies doing such work at the time of installation all point to this being true.
Who were Lyon and Cottier? The term ‘Art furniture was coined by the English designer and art critic Charles Locke Eastlake (in 1868) and came to signify the response of commercial furniture manufacturers to the reforms of mid Victorian designers and critics. The firm of Cottier and Company, founded in London in 1869 by Daniel Cottier, offered clients art furniture as part of complete interior schemes that also included stained glass. He established branches in New York City and Sydney in 1873. Cottier himself visited Australia at least three times, although the Sydney branch was effectively run by his partner John Lamb Lyon, who lived from 1835-1916.
With the exception of the large eastern window and one side window all the windows are in memory of a particular person or family.
The eastern or ascension window shows Christ returning to Heaven, after his resurrection with eleven of his disciples witnessing the event. It was erected by parishioners in 1884. The church accounts of Easter 1884 refer to church improvements. A contract price of £191 /13 shillings is mentioned which we assume was for this ascension window. Under this heading we find Miss Gurney, Miss Douglass, Mrs Uzzell, (the minister’s wife), Mrs Baker, Mr Guille (the St Peter’s School headmaster) and Mrs Boyd having collected money. Donations were from Mrs Haigh, Talbot, Smith, Chalder, Breillat, Harber, Metcalfe, Bull, Reilly, Reverend W.F.B.Uzzell and H.R. Way, with Mr. Barden promising £10:00. We know that architect, Mr Edmund Blacket, in 1876, took measurements of the East window, and considered it to be twelve feet six by six feet and said ‘that with figures it would cost two guineas a foot, but in good patterns would be less than £100’.
The side window is dedicated to children baptised in the church in 1884. According to the register there were 145 children baptised in the church in 1884. Twenty nine of their fathers were brickmakers, with labourer appearing as the second most popular occupation. There were still limeburners on the Cooks River, as for ‘quality’ that was left to Harmsworth Way, solicitor and son of Richard Way. By the end of 1886, thirteen of those children were lying in St Peters Graveyard.
A very modest window of geometric design has as its dedication ‘Rev. Stanley Howard. Erected by Parishioners. 1883’. Being tubercular and coming to Australia in 1872 for the sake of his health, as many of the middle classes did, he was curate at St Peters for three and a half years and for a brief period at St John’s Darlinghurst. He returned to England in 1878, arriving back in Australia in 1879, having married and completed his degree at Cambridge. He became first rector of St Simon’s and St Judes Bowral, where he died in 1883, at the age of thirty three. He is buried in the graveyard adjacent to that church. He left a wife, one son and two daughters. It is fitting that this window should be so plain, for in one letter, while at St Peters, he shows how opposed he is to ‘picture windows’. This may reflect his evangelical beliefs more than anything else and may be the reason for similarly plain windows throughout the church.
There is something magnificent about the Good Shepherd window in loving memory of William Cook. It was erected in 1883 by his widow. William Cook was an hotel proprietor, aged 57. He died on 19th of August 1882 and is buried in St Peter’s graveyard. The Pulteney Hotel was built by Mr Rose and kept by William Cook. After Cook’s death his son continued with the hotel. In 1890 it was described as ‘recently rebuil’ and now the most imposing structure in the municipality of St Peters’. His widow Mary Ann, or to be more correct his ‘relict’, was living at ‘Gloucester House’ Tempe when she died in 1888. Both she and her husband were natives of Gloucestershire in England. Her daughter, and William Cook’s step daughter, has one claim to fame being the last internment in St Peters graveyard, Sarah Ann Sargent died on the April 8th 1896, aged forty three.
It seems fitting that the Metcalfe window should show a child with Jesus, then a child with a representation of an angel. This window is dedicated to the memory of Ethel Mary Metcalfe, who died in London on 10th of February 1877, aged nine. Ethel Mary was the daughter of Michael Metcalfe, merchant and customs agent. He appears in the Victorian book ‘Men of Mark’ as a man of note within the Colony of New South Wales and is described thus – ‘Michael Metcalfe, like many of those men who have worked their way upward is a native of Yorkshire’. We know much about Michael Metcalfe and yet there is a mystery with regard to the circumstances of his nine year old daughter’s death in London. Two more Metcalfe children’s deaths are commemorated by the church lectern, George, who died aged four years and eleven months in 1854, and Walter who also died in infancy the same year. Living at Darlinghurst and Darling Point at the time of their respective deaths, Michael and Agnes Metcalfe still found their last resting place in the graveyard at St Peters. Opposite was Petersleigh, their home when they lived in the parish.
Flowers are displayed in the window to the memory of ‘Amelia Reilly, Erected by R. Reilly and family’. Richard Reilly, husband of Amelia, arrived in Australia as a boy, with his father Anthony O’Reilly. His father Anthony can best be described as a middle class fraudster. He had replicated certain stamps or dies used to authenticate payment of taxes. However his son Richard, subsequently styling himself Richard Oswald Reilly, had a successful ironmongery business and built a house called ‘Tivoli’, along the Cooks River Road, now the Princes Highway, the estate went from George Street to Railway Road. Stanley Howard, curate at St Peters stated:
‘One would certainly not suspect when visiting there that the money all comes from a wholesale retail iron trade in George St, Sydney, yet such is the case’.
Amelia died in 1873 and was buried in the Reilly vault. Richard Reilly married again in 1875. Mary Hannah Tindale, his second wife, was almost a quarter of a century younger than him. She proved a blessing. The Howard letters note,
‘Poor Mr Reilly has lost all his property and a family of ten are on his hands, more or less. This blow came upon him unexpectedly just after he brought home his newly married wife. The family had looked forward to this marriage as a great calamity, but now they are most thankful, as Mrs Reilly is a very great help and comfort’.
Another modest window of geometric design was erected by ‘George Talbot in 1883’. Captain George Talbot, a wool merchant, had a fifteen acre estate called Bellevue. It was described as being one of the most beautiful estates in the district. It was purchased in 1909 by the Salvation Army who used it as a prison gate home. The house was demolished in 1962. George Talbot died in 1889. His family were noted for their work in the parish of St Peters. Stanley Howard, in his letters writes on 21st June 1873, ‘visited some people of the name of Talbot, who live in a nice house about half a mile on the road to Cooks River, quite a pretty place a good garden with a lovely view. We only see Miss Talbot’. Susannah Talbot laid the foundation stone of St Marks Church, Tempe, and in whose memory the front fence stood. St Marks and this window are the only memorials to Talbot family in the St Peters area. George was the only member of the family to be buried in the graveyard in 1889. A sexton’s burial book has an entry stating that the body of George Talbot was removed to Rookwood. Sentiment would suggest he was moved after Elizabeth his wife died in 1897, she was not interred with her husband, the graveyard at St Peters having closed in 1896.
The Way window – Constance was the twelve year old daughter of solicitor Richard Henry Way, and died at the residence of her brother on 12th July 1875.
Robert Haviland died, aged 6 weeks old on 2nd July, 1883, at Lymerston, the residence of his parents, Harmsworth and Sophia Way. Harmsworth was Richard Way’s son. Richard Way’s residence, Lymerston, which he built it in the mid 1840’s, still stands in Hillcrest St, Tempe. Richard Way, the former warden and solicitor for St Peters church was to follow his grandchild Robert to the grave only twenty nine days later, he died at Homebush. His wife Anna Maria, described as relict of Richard Way solicitor followed him in 1887, four children and three grandchildren had already pre-deceased him. As for Mary Ann Cole Johnson, this ‘gentlewoman’ died at Hilton, Homebush, residence of her sister Mrs Way, on the 22nd of February 1884, aged 67 years. Mary Ann Cole Johnson was the sister of Robert Ebenezer Johnson who was a member of the first Legislative Council which met in 1856, after responsible government was granted. He lived at the Grange, Newtown. Her sister, Anna Maria Johnson married Richard Way in 1842. Mary Ann was not an idle spinster, for many years she is listed in the Sands Directory as having a preparatory school for young gentlemen at 65 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.
There is much in the church to remind us of the Reverend Augustine Howie Bull and his wife Dora Eliza. Rev. Bull was rector of St Peters from 1860-63. A Yorkshireman, who married a niece of Bishop Barker, his incumbency was cut short by her death in 1862, when only 36 years old. He returned to England with what some have said was his only surviving daughter, Annie Sophia then aged five. Dora Eliza Bull is buried at St Peters. There is a window in memory of ‘A.H. Bull and Dora Eliza Bull. 1884’. One half of the window depicts the apostle Paul in Athens. The other half shows Peter in Joppa, raising Tabitha, or Dorcas, from the dead. Also in memory of the Rev. Bull are the reader’s desk and the magnificent pulpit, both pieces designed by the eminent colonial architect Edmund Blacket.
‘Levi Barden, erected by his wife. 1884’ is on the smaller window above the side door of the church. Levi was born in 1803 at Icklesham, Sussex, and married Mary Davis of Winchelsea, Sussex. They migrated to Australia on the ship ‘Earl of Durham’. Both Mary and Levi could read and write, their religion was Episcopalian. Levi is described as a carpenter and sawyer. They brought with them eight sons. Levi and Mary settled in the Cooks River district in 1849 and kept an hotel on the Cooks River Road called the Bold Forester, until Levi’s death. Their son Spencer owned an hotel near the dam at Cooks River called The Cottage of Content (formerly known as The Fortunes of War). Another son Alfred is celebrated in the 19th century publication ‘Men of Mark’ with the opening line, ‘Again and again we find that great fortunes are made by self made men. The first experience Mr. Barden gained was in the employment of a butcher at Cooks River’. There are twenty one Bardens buried in the graveyard but only four headstones are still standing.
A simple window with four medallion shapes is a memorial to ‘Thomas Chaplin Breillat, 1st October 1873’. It is complimented by another window in memory of his wife Mary. The Stanley Howard letters point to the Breillat family as being one of the few wealthy families, in his time at St Peters, who were willing to give of something more than their money in charity activity at the church. Thomas Breillat, born of yeoman stock in 1804 at Sudbury, Suffolk, England, married Mary Creed in London.
They arrived in Sydney in 1834. His interests were in shipping and trading. In 1842 he became managing director of the Sydney Flour Company and remained so until 1873. He was a founding member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Founding director of the Australian Joint Stock Bank and one of the founders of the Union Club. His success in banking won him repute as a merchant of unimpeachable integrity. A regular worshiper at St Peters, he represented the parish at Synod from 1866-73. The upper medallions are the letters, alpha and omega, the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet and are fittingly best remembered from the final chapter in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. The lower ones are the Greek letters, iota, eta and sigma, which in Greek are the first three letters of Jesus’ name and chi and roe, which in themselves make the Greek sound for Christ This is an ancient symbol found in first century catacombs. The Mary Breillat window has a crown motif at the top. Two flower medallions have the crown theme continued at the ends of the stylised crosses.
The window dedicated to Mary Ann Lavender, Ann Chalder and her son Tom Aspinwall is another of simple geometric design. Ann Chalder, nee Townson, a former farm servant from Lancashire, married Thomas Chalder at St Phillip’s, Church Hill, on the 3rd December 1846. Thomas was baptised at Marrick, North Yorkshire on the 22nd March 1813, the son of a land or mining agent. It’s believed Thomas went to Manchester, and after spending 12 years there employed in drapery establishments, he became an assisted migrant and arrived in Sydney on board the Nabob on February 21st 1842. Following his marriage he established a drapery business near the corner of George and King Streets, Sydney. He and his wife lived at Heathcote House, St Peters, on the Princes Highway, just south of Canal Road, now the site of the Southern Cross Hotel. Chalder however should be remembered for his purchase of an estate of 60 acres which he called after his birthplace Marrick. When it was auctioned in 1855 the name Marrick became the name of the emerging community, Marrickville. Ann and her son Tom Aspinwall are buried at St Peters. Thomas, who died some 19 years after his wife in 1894, is also buried in the graveyard. Mary Lavender was baptised at St Martins in the Fields, Westminster London on the 9th October 1810 and is described as having ‘died on the 8th of April 1876 at the residence of Thomas Chalder ‘Heathcote’ St Peters, 66 years of age. Daughter of the late Stephen Lavender, Superintendent of Police Manchester’. Apart from that, who was she? Perhaps a relative, perhaps a family friend of the Chalders. Stanley Howard records in his letters, that he visited Miss Lavender on Sunday 26th March 1876, he paid ‘a short visit to a dying woman near at hand, (a Miss Lavender)’. However on the Monday he records,
‘Miss Lavender refused to see me today. She wants no religious folk. She seemed rather pleased before’.
Who paid for the stained glass window dedicated to her?
The unique window in memory of Clara Amelia Smith features Australian wild flowers, the Waratah, Sturt’s Desert Pea, Native Rose, Sarsaparilla, Yellow Pea, Native Fuschia and Flannel Flower. Clara Amelia Smith was the third daughter of William Kempton Smith, grazier, whose properties, Darbalara and Minga were at the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Tumut Rivers. He also owned another property in this vicinity called Bongongo, where many of his children were born. Clara Amelia was 19 years of age when she died in 1881 and was buried at St Peters. Her father, William Kempton Smith, aged 66, joined her in the graveyard in 1888, but not in the same plot. Their home, whilst in Sydney, was Claraville in Silver Street, which even today still has the air of being a gentleman’s residence.
The ‘Abel Harber and family’ window is another with four medallion shapes. Abel, Emmanuel and Elias Harber were prominent in brickmaking and local politics at St Peters in the late 19th century. The brothers Abel and Emmanuel, with Abel’s son Elias, were all aldermen on St Peters Council. Emmanuel serving on the first council in 1871. Elias was Mayor from 1892-93.
Abel and Emmanuel commenced brickmaking in 1865, with Abel’s yard being in Unwin’s Bridge Road. His semi plastic bricks were impressed with A.H. on one side and Marrickville on the other. Of the Harber graves at St Peters, only one is of an adult, Susannah (nee Stubbings) who died of child bed fever in 1875, and was wife of Emmanuel Harber. Her child Eva Miriam, who survived her by three months is buried with her. The other Harber children buried at St Peters are all grand children of Abel and Jane Harber. The one great memorial to Abel Harber is Heathcote Hall in the Sydney suburb of Heathcote, which he built between 1883 and 1887 for a cost of £7000, an outstanding example of a late 19th century Italianate mansion. The hall still stands today, though a little the worse for wear. The pictures in the medallions display a tradition that has developed as showing St Matthew as an angel, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull and John as an eagle.
The people memorialised in the windows, for the most part, contributed significantly to the history of the St Peters area .
Blacket Papers, State Library, NSW
Burial Register, St Peters Church, Cooks River
‘Grave Reflections’- Laurel Horton
Information supplied by individual families
‘Marrickville, Rural Outpost to inner city’ by Cashman & Meader
‘Stanley, a young man’s colonial experience’ edited by Laurel Horton
‘St Peters Church, Cooks River 1838 – 1988’, Horton & Halls
Sydney Morning Herald, 1839 – 1896