Historical information

The picture was framed by business, Leighton House, paint and art merchants at 346 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. It was made to order, number 6777. The business was also called The Leighton Gallery of Art and was owned by W & G Dean Pty Ltd. The phone number on the label "MU 8291" indicates that the picture was framed circa the 1960s or earlier, during the time that Melbourne was using 6-0digit alpha-numeric numbers. Below the picture is an excerpt of a hymn "The Head that Once was Crowned with Thorns" by Thomas Kelly: The head that once was crowned with thorns Is crowned with glory now; A royal diadem adorns The mighty Victor's brow. The Cross He bore is life and heath, Though shame and death to Him; His people's hope, his people's wealth, Their everlasting theme. This picture was part of the original furnishings of the St Nicholas' Mission to Seamen's Church at 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, Victoria. The Missions to Seamen The Missions to Seamen is an Anglican (Church of England) charity, which has been serving the seafarers of the world since 1856. It was inspired by the work of Rev. John Ashley who, 20 years earlier, had pioneered a ministry to seafarers in the Bristol Channel in Great Britain. When Ashley retired because of ill health, others determined that the work should continue, and they founded the Missions to Seamen. It adopted as its symbol a Flying Angel, inspired by a verse from Revelation 14 in the Bible. Today there are over 200 ports in the world where the Missions to Seamen has centres and chaplains. A Missions to Seamen’s club offers a warm welcome to sailors of all colours, creeds and races. A sailor can watch television, have a drink and a chat, change money or buy goods from the club shop or worship in the Chapel. In Victoria, the Missions to Seamen still has a clubs in Melbourne, Portland and Geelong. Flagstaff Hill’s St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church is named after its namesake that once operated in Williamstown, Victoria. It began in 1857 when Bishop Perry opened the first Sailors’ Church, known as ‘Bethel’, on an old hulk floating in Hobson’s Bay, Port of Melbourne. In 1860 a Sailors’ Rest began operating from various rented premises at Williamstown, supported by the Ladies Harbour Light Guild, which came into being in 1859. The Guild provided a reading room, writing facilities, a canteen and a large annexe with emergency sleeping quarters attached to the chapel. In 1878 the Sailors’ Church moved into an old Wesleyan chapel in Ann Street. By the end of that year they were able to purchase the building, which they had already refurbished. In 1883 they affiliated with the Victorian Seamen’s Mission. A few years later, in 1906, the building had to be demolished as it was no longer safe. While they were raising funds for a new building, the Sailors’ Rest temporarily moved to a building in front of Customs House in Nelson Place. In 1908 they were able to purchase the Mascotte skating rink on Thompson Street. In August that year they were inaugurated into the Victorian Missions to Seamen. They continued at that venue for a few decades. In 1944 the Mission to Seaman’s Club was officially opened in the former E.S.& A. Bank at 139 Nelson Place, described as a ‘distinctive little building’. Funds had previously been raised for the building and furnishing of the chapel at the rear. The chapel was named St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church and services were held on Wednesdays and Sundays. The church was supported by the newly formed Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary as well as the Harbour Lights Guild and the League of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Friends. The Williamstown Mission to Seamen’s church was operational until 1966. The time had come when the Port of Williamstown was no longer used by large international ships. The premises was then leased to the Commonwealth Government. At around the same time, the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Advisory Board had decided to include a Missions to Seamen Chapel and Recreation Room in its maritime village; Missions to Seamen churches were significant features of ports during the period that the Village represents. The curator of Flagstaff Hill at that time, Mr Ken Marshman, approached the Melbourne Board of Management of Missions to Seamen regarding the Williamstown branch. Consequently, the Board gave its permission for the entire furnishings of the original chapel to be transferred to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. The provision of the transfer was that the donor of the collection would be recognised, that the items would remain as a complete collection, and that the chapel would be called St Nicholas Seamen’s Church and used to conduct Divine services. The donation was approved on 21st May 1979. In the year 2000, the Missions to Seamen became the Mission to Seafarers. The design of Flagstaff Hill’s St Nicholas Church incorporates many features found in local churches of the same era. Warrnambool sandstone, no longer commercially available, was procured from demolished buildings and uniformly cut, to be used as a veneer over the stronger Mt. Gambier stone. Traditional slate rooming tiles were used, sourced from the 1908 local shipwreck of the “Falls of Halladale”. Much of its cargo of green American roofing slates were salvaged by Flagstaff Hill volunteer divers and some were used on this building. Placement of the furnishings has been done as accurately as possible according to photographs of the Williamstown Chapel and with assistance from local clergy. The bell tower includes a bell believed to be from a local shipwreck. The Recreation Room has been furnished and arranged on advice from experienced members of the Missions to Seamen organisation. The furnishings have been acquired locally and several items have been donated by Warrnambool residents. Light fittings in both rooms have been assembled to simulate gas light fittings available in the 19th century. The St Nicholas’ Mission to Seamen Church at Flagstaff Hill was officially opened by His Worship the Mayor, Cr. John Lindsay, on Sunday 11th October 1981. The event included a service of thanksgiving conducted by the Warrnambool Ministers Fraternal. Since then the Chapel has been the historic venue for many weddings. Amongst the donated furnishings is the original missal, which was donated to the church as a memorial to those who lost their lives when the HS Centaur was sunk. (Of the 368 onboard only two crew members survived.) The reed organ came from Canada. The sanctuary lamp was in memory of Edward Roberts, who died in August 1905. The stained glass window above the altar was a gift from the Lighthouse Auxiliary Guild and is called “Christ Guiding the Helmsman”. The stained glass window at the back of the church was a memorial to Dr Connell, who was a well respected member of the Warrnambool community. It was installed in 1928 above the landing of the stairs going up to the second floor of what was then the main building of the Warrnambool Hospital. The plaque with the inscription is now with Warrnambool and District Historical Society. The inscription reads: “A tribute to Egbert John Connell M.B., B.S., who for 30 years rendered devoted and valuable service to this institution. April 4th 1928.” Note: St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, children, pawnbrokers and merchants. He was a bishop from the fourth century whose feast day was on December 6th.

Significance

This picture is significant through its association with the St Nicholas' Mission to Seamen Church in Williamstown, Melbourne, established in 1857. The items in our collection from the Missions to Seamen in Williamstown, Victoria, have historical and social significance. They show that people of the 1800s and 1900s cared about the seafarers’ religious, moral, and social welfare, no matter what the religion, social status or nationality. It 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.

Physical description

Picture, print of "The Cross of Glory", rectangular, framed print on matt. It depicts Jesus Christ on a cross with an angel on each side, at his feet. He is wearing priestly robes and a gold crown on top of thorns on his head. In the background there is a rainbow and clouds. The text below the picture includes "From the picture by T. Noyes Lewis". Lines from a hymn are also printed below the picture. The back of the picture has pencilled numbers in three places plus a printed label with the framer's details.

Inscriptions & markings

"From the picture by T. Noyes Lewis". Backing paper has pencil "6777" in two places. Label has bencil "677-"

References