By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer

Since the mid-nineteenth century, a multitude of the products of stained-glass artistry have graced the interiors of Tasmania’s Catholic churches.

Amongst the many talented creators of this literally colourful heritage was William Montgomery (+1927), born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in 1850.

After initial local studies he gained excellent experience in the craft, firstly with leading English manufacturers Clayton and Bell, and then in Munich, the centre of the Bavarian stained-glass industry.

He migrated to Melbourne in 1887 and set up at 164 Flinders Street, bringing the latest in European style and design and achieving instant success with his many church, public building and domestic commissions.

He quickly established himself with a reputation of producing work superior to that of existing firms.

Most of his windows are to be found in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, all displaying the same good design and draughting, as well as brilliant depth of colour.

By the end of the nineteenth century Montgomery was regarded as Melbourne’s leading stained-glass artist, a position he retained until his death.

One Tasmanian priest who particularly admired Montgomery’s work and commissioned some forty-one windows and five door panels from him was Fr John Graham, pastor at Campbell Town from 1907 to 1922.

He installed twelve stained-glass windows in St Michael’s, Campbell Town; nine windows and five door panels in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Ross; ten windows in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Mangana; and ten in St Joseph’s, Fingal, all of them by Montgomery.

Further works by this artist are to be found across Tasmania, including the Lady Chapel window in St Mary’s Cathedral, Hobart, and some seven in the Church of the Apostles, Launceston.

Amongst these latter are the Adoration of the Magi and the vision of Jesus Christ to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, both of them distinguished by the intensity of their colours.

The Devonport architect Stephen Priest selected Montgomery for all of the stained-glass windows in his Wynyard and Sheffield churches of 1912 and 1922 respectively.

His rose window in Wynyard is here illustrated, with its central light depicting the Sacred Heart, surrounded by eight roundels bearing the Instruments of the Passion.

Again, it demonstrates the brilliance and clarity of Montgomery’s work which so enhanced his reputation amongst his Australian peers. We are indeed fortunate to have so many examples of his artistry.

Tags: Heritage Conservation