Historical information

This round, stained glass window, titled "Christ Showing the Helmsman the Way", was installed in the St Nicholas Seamen's Church at 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, Victoria. The window was referred to as the Sanctuary Window and was installed in the chapel above the altar.

This memorial window has significance as a part of Victoria's War Heritage and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database. The window was donated to St Nicholas Seamen’s Church as a memorial to the members of the Merchant Navy whose lives were lost in the Second World War, 1939-1945. The donor was the Williamstown Lightkeepers Auxiliary, an independent ladies association working with the Williamstown Missions to Seamen (the Missions to Seamen organisation was re-named the Mission to Seafarers in the year 2000).

The window was officially dedicated on December 14, 1947 by Geelong's Anglican Bishop, Rt. Rev. J.D. McKie. In the early months of 1948 a bronze plaque was also placed in the chapel above the altar. It recognises the lost souls of the Merchant Navy during World War 2, as well as the donor of the window, the Williamstown Lightkeepers Auxiliary.

The inscription impressed on the rectangular bronze plaque, 20.4 x 10.2cm, is as follows:

The Williamstown St Nicholas Seamen’s Church ceased operation in 1966. In 1979 the Victoria Missions to Seamen donated this round, stained glass window and the memorial plaque to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, along with many other items and furnishings. These items have been used to simulate the Williamstown Mission and Chapel as much as possible.

The round space that formerly displayed the window can still be seen at the back of the old St Nicholas Seamen’s Church, previously the ES&A bank, in Williamstown.

THE MISSIONS TO SEAMEN (Brief History: for more, see our Reg. No. 611, Set of Pews)

The Missions to Seamen, an Anglican charity, has served seafarers of the world since 1856 in Great Britain. It symbol is a Flying Angel, inspired by a Bible verse. Today there are centr4es in over 200 ports world-wide where seamen of all backgrounds are offered a warm welcome and provided with a wide range of facilities.

In Victoria the orgainsation began in Williamstown in 1857. It was as a Sailors’ Church, also known as ‘Bethel’ or the ‘Floating Church’. Its location was an old hulk floating in Hobson’s Bay, Port of Melbourne. It soon became part of the Missions to Seamen, Victoria. In the year 2000 the organisation, now named Mission to Seafarers, still operated locally in Melbourne, Portland, Geelong and Hastings.

The Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild was formed in 1906 to support the Missions to Seamen in Melbourne and other centres such as Williamstown. Two of the most significant ladies of the Guild were founder Ethel Augusta Godfrey and foundation member Alice Sibthorpe Tracy (who established a branch of the Guild in Warrnambool in 1920). The Guild continued its work until the 1960s.

In 1943 a former Williamstown bank was purchased for the Missions to Seaman Club. The chapel was named St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church and was supported by the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild, the Williamstown Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary and the League of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Friends. It ceased operation in 1966.

A Missions to Seamen Chapel and Recreation Room was a significant feature of ports during the late 1800s and into the 1900s. It seemed appropriate for Flagstaff Hill to include such a representation within the new Maritime Village, so the Melbourne Board of Management of Missions to Seamen Victoria gave its permission on 21st May 1979 for the entire furnishings of the Williamstown chapel to be transferred to Flagstaff Hill. The St Nicholas Seamen’s Church was officially opened on October 11, 1981 and closely resembles the Williamstown chapel.


This stained glass window is significant historically for its origin in the St Nicholas Mission to Seamen's Church in Williamstown, established in 1857 to cater for the physical, social, and spiritual needs of seafarers. It was donated to the Mission by the Lightkeepers Auxiliary (Ladies Harbour Lights Guild, which was formed in 1905).

The Missions to Seamen organisation had its origins in Bristol, England when a Seamen's Mission was formed in 1837. The first Australian branch was started in 1856 by the Rev. Kerr Johnston, a Church of England clergyman, and operated from a hulk moored in Hobson’s Bay; later the Mission occupied buildings in Williamstown and Port Melbourne.
The connection of this window the Mission to Seamen and the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild highlights the strong community awareness of the life of people at sea, their dangers and hardships, and their need for physical, financial, spiritual and moral support.

This memorial window has significant as a part of Victoria's War Heritage and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database, Heritage Number 196973.

Physical description

Window, stained glass, circular, with reinforcing bars.
The window represents Christ showing the helmsman the way. It shows a man in blue knitted jumper holding onto a ship's wheel, looking over his right shoulder. Behind him stands a man in a white robe pointing to his right and looking to his left, his left hand gesturing to pause.
The background has various shapes and patterns of blue glass, bordered by two arcs, the outer one is white, the inner one is red.
This beautiful window is in our St Nicholas Seamen's Church Collection and was brought to Warrnambool from the original St Nicholas Seamen’s Church in Williamstown.