By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer

During Bishop Willson’s 1853–55 visit to Europe he recorded in his diary on 5 September 1854, ‘Left Nottingham for Birmingham & dined with the Bishop [William Bernard Ullathorne]. Visited Mr. Hardman’s Show rooms and Mesdames Powell & Brown Vestment establishment.’ Two days later he noted, ‘Went to Birmingham with Mgr. Weedall [the Rector of Oscott College] in his carriage. Gave orders at Mr. Hardman’s and Miss Browns.’

This Pugin-designed red chasuble almost certainly formed part of the latter order. Its use in Tasmania can be traced back to the Campbell Town mission, whose first regular pastor, Tasmanian-born Fr John Fitzgerald, took up the position in 1855 as his initial priestly appointment. Willson had attended Fitzgerald’s ordination in Rome on 10 June 1854, then Fitz—as he was affectionately known to his bishop—accompanied him on his travels back to England and subsequent return voyage to Hobart Town.

The chasuble, along with its stole and chalice veil, but missing the maniple and burse, is the red set provided by Willson to Fr Fitzgerald as part of a complete set for Campbell Town comprising green, violet, white, red and black vestments. Red, the liturgical colour used the least, has survived—the others would have worn out and been disposed of. Originally, the chasuble orphreys would have been of red silk velvet, of the same colour as the embroidery ground, and trimmed with the same braid as survives to the collar edge. (Orphreys are ornamental or embroidered bands on chasubles.)

Over time, wear to the pillar orphrey on the chasuble resulted in replacement of the red velvet with red satin to the front and back of the vestment. The ground fabric design is particularly attractive, its central motif recalling the elegant formalised designs in Pugin’s highly influential 1849 book Floriated Ornament,and its overall pattern having the same stencil-like quality.

Tags: Heritage Conservation