Created by Melbourne stained glass manufacturer Brooks Robinson and Company by the Reverend R. Clarke in 1952, the John McAllister Vincent memorial stained glass window is a fine late example of Art Deco design, still being used commonly in Australia in the post-war period. Installed into the western wall of the nave of Christ Church Brunswick, it is one of the few post-war windows to be found in the church.
Depicted in regal robes, wearing a crown and holding and orb, Jesus rises towards Heaven. The golden Kingdom of Heaven awaits Jesus at the top of the panel, light beams streaming down from the Holy Spirit, in the form of a white dove, to embrace him and welcome him home. Below him, the people of the world cast their eyes to him or bow their heads an pray. These people may include Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus and Saint Thomas, however none of them have halos. The robes of Jesus and those below, and all the faces in the window have the simplified, angular style that is typically associated with Art Deco period.
A dedication at the bottom reads: "In loving memory of John McAllister Vincent Organist Killed in action Crete 24th May 1941 Aged 24." Corporal John McAllister Vincent, was a member of the Christ Church congregation. He was born in Brunswick on the 4th of September in 1916. He was obviously musically inclined as not only was he the Christ Church organist, he was also a pianist to the Meistersingers Male Choir. This may well explain the reason for the script noted in the banner at the top of the window "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" which is the most common English title of a piece of music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, commonly played at weddings and funerals. No doubt John had played the piece on the church organ many times over, or perhaps it was his favourite piece of music. Prior to enlisting in the 2nd World War, John was on the staff of the Registrar’s Office at the University of Melbourne, which was only a short tram ride away down Sydney Road. He served with Australian Army Medical Corps 2/1 Field Ambulance attached to the 2/2 Field Regiment that took part on the defence of Crete. Following the landing of more than 9,500 German troops on the island on 20 May 1941, Corporal John McAllister Vincent was initially reported missing, however it was found that he was killed in action on 24 May 1941 during the unsuccessful defence of Crete.
Christ Church, built almost on the corner of Glenlyon Road and Brunswick Street in Brunswick, is a picturesque slice of Italy in inner city Melbourne. With its elegant proportions, warm yellow stuccoed facade and stylish Romanesque campanile, the church would not look out of place sitting atop a rise in Tuscany, or being the centre of an old walled town. This idea is further enhanced when the single bell rings from the campanile, calling worshipers to prayer.
Christ Church has been constructed in a cruciform plan with a detached campanile. Although not originally intended as such, at its completion, the church became an Amazing example of "Villa Rustica" architecture in Australia. Like other churches around the inner city during the boom and bust eras of the mid Nineteenth Century as Melbourne became an established city, the building was built in stages between 1857 and 1875 as money became available to extend and better what was already in existence. Christ Church was dedicated in 1857 when the nave, designed by architects Purchas and Swyer, was completed. The transepts, chancel and vestry were completed between 1863 and 1864 to the designs created by the architects’ firm Smith and Watts. The Romanesque style campanile was also designed by Smith and Watts and it completed between 1870 and 1871. A 3rd architect, Frederick Wyatt, was employed to design the apse which was completed in 1875.
Built in Italianate style with overture characteristics of classical Italian country house designs, Christ Church is one of the few examples of what has been coined "Villa Rustica" architecture in Victoria.
Slipping through the front door at the bottom of the campanile, the rich smell of incense from mass envelops visitors. As soon as the double doors which lead into the church proper close behind you, the church provides a quiet refuge from the busy intersection of Glenlyon Road and Brunswick Street outside, and it is quite easy to forget that cars and trams pass by just a few metres away. Walking up the aisle of the nave of Christ Church, light pours over the original wooden pews with their hand embroidered cushions through sets of luminescent stained glass windows by Melbourne manufacturers, Ferguson and Urie, Mathieson and Gibson and Brooks Robinson and Company. A set of fourteen windows from the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century by Ferguson and Urie depicting different saints are especially beautiful, filled with painted glass panes which are as vivid currently as when they were created more than one hundred years ago. The floors are still the original dark, richly polished boards that generations of worshipers have walked over since they were 1st laid. The east transept houses the Lady Chapel, whilst the west transept is consumed by the magnificent 1972 Roger H. Pogson organ built of cedar with tin piping. This replaced the original 1889 Alfred Fuller organ. Beautifully executed carved rood figures watch over the chancel from high, perhaps admiring the marble altar.
Albert Purchas, born in 1825 in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales, was a prominent Nineteenth Century architect who achieved great success for himself in Melbourne. Born to parents Robert Whittlesey Purchas and Marianne Guyon, he migrated to Australia in 1851 to establish himself in the then quickly expanding city of Melbourne, where he set up a tiny architect’s firm in Little Collins Street. He also offered surveying services. His 1st major building was constructing the mansion "Berkeley Hall" in St Kilda on Princes Street in 1854. The house still exists today. Two years after migrating, Albert designed the layout of the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton. It was the 1st "garden cemetery" in Victoria, and his curvilinear design is still in existence, unaltered, today. In 1854, Albert married Eliza Anne Sawyer (1825 – 1869) in St Kilda. The couple had ten children over their marriage, including a son, Robert, who followed in his father’s footsteps as an architect. Albert’s brother-in-law, Charles Sawyer joined him in the partnership of Purchas and Sawyer, which existed from 1856 until 1862 in Queens Street. The firm produced more than 140 houses, churches, offices and cemetery buildings including: the nave and transepts of Christ Church St Kilda between 1854 and 1857, "Glenara Homestead"in Bulla in 1857, the Melbourne Savings Bank on the corner of Flinders Lane and Market Street (currently demolished) between 1857 and 1858, the Geelong branch of the Bank of Australasia in Malop Street between 1859 and 1860, and Beck’s Imperial Hotel in Castlemaine in 1861. When the firm broke up, Albert returned to Little Collins Street, and the best known building he designed during this period was St. George’s Presbyterian Church in East St Kilda between 1877 and 1880. The church’s tall polychomatic brick bell tower is still a local landmark, even in the times of high rise architecture and development, and St, George’s itself is said to be one of his most striking church designs. Socially, Albert was vice president of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects for many years, before becoming president in 1887. He was also an inventor and philanthropist. Albert died in 1909 at his home in Kew, a wealthy widower and much loved father.
Brooks, Robinson and Company 1st opened their doors on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne in 1854 as importers of window and table glass and also specialised in interior decorating supplies. Once established the company moved into glazing and were commonly contracted to do shopfronts around inner Melbourne. In the 1880s they commenced producing stained glass on a tiny scale. Their 1st big opportunity occurred in the 1890s when they were engaged to install Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral’s stained-glass windows. Their notoriety grew and as a result their stained glass studio flourished, particularly after the closure of their main competitor, Ferguson and Urie. They dominated the stained glass market in Melbourne in the early 20th Century, and many Australian glass artists of worked in their studio. Their work may be found in the Princess Theatre on Melbourne’s Spring Street, in St John’s Church in Toorak, and throughout churches in Melbourne. Brooks, Robinson and Company was taken over by Email Pty Ltd in 1963, and as a result they closed their stained glass studio.