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By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer.

In 1875 a new Governor of Tasmania and his wife took up residence in the splendid Vice-Regal residence adjacent to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart. The Governor, Frederick Weld, was descended from one of England’s old Catholic families that had held on to the faith during more than three centuries of persecution and legal restriction. His wife, Philomena, was the eldest daughter of Ambrose March Phillips, a Leicestershire squire who was one of the closest friends of Augustus Welby Pugin, England’s greatest early-Victorian architect and designer. Pugin had a close association with Tasmania, having designed churches, vestments, altar vessels, stained glass, tombstones and so on for our first Bishop William Willson.

Philomena Weld had been immersed as a child in her father’s world, in which the figure of Pugin loomed large. She had worshipped in the family chapel at Grace Dieu Manor, Leicestershire, with its many Pugin furnishings, and had often visited the Pugin-designed buildings erected in the vicinity by her generous parent, including St Winefride’s Church, Shepshed, and Mound St Bernard’s Cistercian Monastery in Charnwood Forest. It is not surprising that she should have retained a great love of the works of this great and highly influential designer. Thus, when a new church by the Hobart architect Henry Hunter, and dedicated in honour of St Aloysius, was about to be opened in Kingston in 1876, she ordered a tabernacle door for it from the Birmingham firm of John Hardman & Co. which had manufactured all of Pugin’s metalwork designs. The elegant brass door was engraved with crosses and floriated ornament, and was decorated with red, green and blue enamel. Although designed in 1864 by John Hardman Powell, who had taken over as chief designer for Hardmans after Pugin’s death in 1852, the door was still very much in the Pugin idiom. In 1880 it was transferred to another new Hunter church, Sacred Heart, New Town, where it has been used in recent years as the door of the Holy Oils cupboard.