I like to imagine James Fergusson opening the front door of his house in suburban Malvern in 1872 - his brand new house, and walking in and gazing admiringly up at this wonderful stained glass window that he had commissioned for his new mansion. Every night when James came home it told him that he was a successful businessman, a member of parliament; that like so many men who had arrived with not much in the 1850s, he had made it in goldrush Victoria.
Like so many objects when they come in to the museum’s collection, further detective work is required to get them to tell the whole story. When the museum acquired this window it in fact came out of a 1960s suburban house in Malvern, not out of its original mansion, and it took considerable work to work out that it fact that it had come from a mansion long-demolished. The key to that was the coat of arms that sits in the centre of the window - research shows that that is actually the coat of arms of the Fergusson Scottish clan with the three boars heads and the buckle. From that we are able to piece together that in fact there was a Fergusson - James Fergusson - who had built a mansion in 1872 which he called “Glenferrie” just adjacent to what is now Glenferrie Road.
The window also tells us about the pride of a whole generation of wealthy merchants and politicians and businessmen in Melbourne after 20 years since the discovery of gold and the establishment of the colony of Victoria, they could now look back on their achievements, and all the panels here on the window depict the shipping, the farming, the mining, the agriculture and the industry that had transformed Melbourne in those 20 years.
The window is made by a local stained glass manufacturers - Ferguson and Urie in North Melbourne, but we think they’ve actually incorporated images that have been brought from England, because many of the themes look rather more English than they do Victorian. The people gathering hay look like they are doing it in Hampshire rather than the Western District, and the sheep, down in the bottom corner, look rather more like they’re in the Sussex Downs than they are Gippsland.
But at the pride of place up at the top of the window is the Australian colonial coat of arms, so this was an English and Victorian window at one and the same time.