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About Saint Joseph’s Memorial Windows


St Josephs - Glacier Window Decorations


Written by Grant Baker June 2015


1.0 Background:

St Joseph’s Church was the first Catholic Church built in the Porirua Basin and the second church in Wellington (after St Patricks, Makara). The church was designed by Thomas Turnbull, a significant Wellington architect, and built by Blackie and Foster for £200 from timber milled locally by Woodman and Jones. Blackie and Foster completed construction in 1878 and the church was consecrated by Bishop Francis Redwood on Sunday 28 April 1878 as the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The first priest was Father John Joseph Lane, who was appointed parish priest of the Hutt in 1886. Father Lane, later Dean Lane, continued to serve the Hutt Valley and Porirua Basin until his death in the 1920’s.

The church is a simple timber (rimu and matai) Gothic church measuring 18ft by 38ft and contains seating for 100 people. In 1890 the porch and confessional at the west end were built and lining the interior in tongue and groove boards was completed. In 1895 the church was formally reopened and appears to have been called St Joseph’s from this time. The “poor mans stained glass” memorial windows and windows over the altar were installed as part of the upgrade, probably in 1893 and hence the glass is at least 120 years old at the writing of this article. The windows have a transparency of “Evangelists and Saints” with a frieze pattern and a memorial message and then a single sheet of glass on the outside to give weather protection.


2.0 Memorial Windows:

The draft planning documents for the Transmission Gully project in 2012 showed that the main SH58 interchange and construction site including a concreting plant would be close to the church and hence there would be considerable vibration expected through the construction phase which could potentially damage the memorial windows. The draft resource consent suggested that given the fragile nature of the windows they should be removed and put into storage for the duration of the project and reinstalled after completion.

The windows had steadily deteriorated over the years to the extent that many of them where in very poor condition and some had nearly totally disappeared as a result of years of sunlight and the paper cracking and then breaking free. The St Theresa’s Resources committee considered the option of replacing the originals with direct copies and from that time the search was on to find copies of the originals.

There are eleven windows, four down each side and three larger ones over the altar. While the windows are mentioned in articles in the Tablet as early as September 1894 and in our centenary booklet, there was no actual list of who the Evangelists and Saints are and no record of where the pictures for the windows actually came from.

I started the search with meetings with NZ Archives and the Diocesan Archives but with little progress. There was also little information on Martin and Co, Manners Street other than confirmation that they were involved in installation of windows for churches at the time. Discussions with church historians about who the evangelists and saints in the pictures were, also ended up with no conclusions.

One day while visiting the church with the Conservation Architect Ian Bowman we chanced upon one window which appeared to have a strip of words at the bottom of the glass, but they were very hard to read. By taking a photo and then zooming in we could read M’Caw, Stephenson and Orr, Patent Glacier Window Decoration, Linehall Press, Belfast. Our first valuable clue was found.

This enabled a more focussed search through “google” and elsewhere on both the company, M’Caw, Stephenson and Orr and the patent “Glacier window Decoration”.

The company, M’Caw, Stephenson and Orr started operating out of Linehall Press in Belfast from 1876 producing printing and packaging products and were renamed MSO Cleland in 1982. Today they specialise in packaging solutions. It appears that the manufacturer of Patent Glacier window decoration ceased in the early 1900’s. When approached MSO Cleland had no archival material for the windows nor any of the pattern books, so another dead end.

The “Patent Glacier window decoration” gave better results and after a lot of searching I tracked down two pattern books, the first being - A Substitute for Stained Glass. Pattern Book No.1 - Issued by M'Caw, Stevenson & Orr in 1886 held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the second being - A Substitute for Stained Glass. Pattern Book No.6 - Issued by M'Caw, Stevenson & Orr in 1903 held in the University of Melbourne library. Neither pattern book was available for viewing on line so emails were sent to both and this confirmed I was on the right track so it was a case of either getting to New York or Melbourne to see the original pattern book and to confirm that our pictures came from the book.

A visit to the University of Melbourne by Ian Bowman who located the pattern book and managed to take photos of the complete book gave us our first big break as we were able to confirm that all of our memorial window pictures were in the pattern book along with the friezes. For the first time we had a copy of the originals along with a name for each picture of the saints and angels. The next step was to arrange through the Digitisation Unit at the University of Melbourne for a scan of each of the pictures and the friezes to be sent across as a digital file so that our memorial windows could be formatted and reprinted. This also required the small originals to be capable of being expanded to 28” x 14” without pixilation, a challenge in itself.

Further research showed that Buxton's Artistic Stationery Company in Melbourne acquired an agency in about 1884 for the 'Patent Glacier Window Decoration' made by McCaw, Stephenson & Orr of Belfast. The material was claimed to be inexpensive, but distinguishable from stained glass only by an expert.  

In 1888-9 McCaw, Stephenson & Orr obtained a bronze medal for their Glacier window decoration at the Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne and it is suspected that the St Joseph windows probably came about as a result of attendance at the Centennial Exhibition or through Martin and Co in Manners Street, Wellington. It is likely that the transparencies were ordered from the catalogue through Martin and Co, Manners Street, Wellington and made by Buxton’s Artistic Stationery Company in Melbourne. The windows were installed by Charles Carter from Martin & Co, Manners Street, Wellington.

Three of the windows arrived with family names misspelt but were still installed in the church, possibly due to the time it would take to get new ones sent across from Melbourne. These spelling mistakes have been corrected with the new memorial windows.

Discussions had already occurred early on with Chris Wilson from Artrix Glass Studio in Upper Hutt about the potential to refurbish the memorial windows. With new technology improvements it was agreed that the original paper transparencies could be replaced with film. With the arrival of the digital photos from the pattern book and the individual pictures Chris was finally able to start the long task of reformatting new windows identical to the originals from the digital copies. The digital information arrived in December 2014 and finally in April 2015 we had the finished replacement memorial windows ready to be installed in the church.

The windows were finally installed by Bebans Glass of Upper Hutt during the last week of May 2015.

The total cost of the new memorial windows is $11,500 + GST which includes a UV treatment of the external glass to further increase the life of the film. The glazier costs have been kindly paid for by the construction company for Transmission Gully, Leighton HEB Joint Venture.


3.0 Window Description:

Memorial Windows east Wall:
  1. Memorial Message: Pray for the Baskerville Family. The Good Shepherd.
  2. Memorial Message: Pray for the Brady Family (Corrected to Bradey). Angel figures with harps.
  3. Memorial Message: Pray for the O’Connell Family. St Paul.
  4. Memorial Message: Pray for the Vella Marino Family. The Resurrection
The three prints over the Altar:
  1. Memorial Message: Pray for the Murphy Family. The Descent from the Cross
  2. Memorial Message: Pray for Henry Abbott, Jr RIP. St Mary
  3. Memorial Message: Pray for the Stewart Family (Corrected to Stuart). The Ascension

Memorial Windows West Wall:

  1. Memorial Message: Pray for the Mulherne Family (Corrected to Mulhern). St John
  2. Memorial Message: Pray for the Draper Family. St Peter
  3. Memorial Message: Pray for the Hill Family. Angel Figures with Trumpets
  4. Memorial Message: Erected by J D Pinkerton. Saint Andrew



Before and after pictures of the Memorial Windows, albeit with glare issues from light.

St Josephs memorial window 1

St Josephs memorial window 2

St Josephs memorial window 3

St Josephs memorial window 4

St Josephs memorial window 5

St Josephs memorial window 6

St Josephs memorial window 7

St Josephs memorial window 8

St Josephs memorial window 9

St Josephs memorial window 10

St Josephs memorial window 11