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Top Stained Glass around Adelaide

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by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published March 19th 2022
Stunning Stained Glass
Behind the facades of some of our churches in Adelaide, as well as other public and non-public buildings, lies some great examples of stained glass, which you could easily miss in your daily wanderings and routines.

Adelaide's stained glass examples are among the most diverse and interesting in Australia. Stained glass first arrived in South Australia on the Buffalo in 1836 to be installed in our first church, Holy Trinity, which still stands on North Terrace in the city today.

There are two types of stained glass - religious and secular.

The religious ones usually depict and portray a biblical story, whereas the secular ones were often designed to mark important national events such as Australian federation in 1901.

Religious communities were mainly responsible for the earliest examples of stained glass windows in Adelaide, and the popularity of this type of glass saw the establishment of a local glass industry during the nineteenth century.

Over time, I have discovered some really jaw-dropping stained glass windows and panels around our city, which are worthy of a mention.

Impressive Stained Glass St John's Church, Halifax Street Adelaide

1. Brookman Building

Brookman Building stands as a sentinel to a bygone era, built between 1900 and 1903, near the corner of North Terrace and Frome Road in the city.

Within its hallowed halls, I discovered some fine examples of stained glass, which from the outside of the building is not evident of its existence.

Once you enter from North Terrace and you mount the sweeping grand staircase, you will discover an explosion of colourful glass, which is even more vivid when the sun shines through the panels.

Located on the northern wall of Brookman Hall, up on the second floor are the Empire windows.

These windows were made by a local firm E F Troy, and Troy was a popular stained glass window artist, who also designed the stained glass within Adelaide Town Hall as well as Government House.

These windows were commissioned around 1902 at a time when there was much patriotism in South Australia. It was stated in 1902 that these windows were representative of the "State's loyalty to the throne and the feeling of Imperial brotherhood".

The main windows in this area of the building depict King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra as well as the Prince and Princess of Wales (later to become King George V and Queen Mary). The royal family is surrounded by wildlife representing Britain's former colonies including an Ostrich (South Africa), a Kangaroo (Australia), a Tiger (India) and a Beaver (Canada).

The window on the western side of the main hall displays the coat of arms for each of the Australian States, whilst the eastern windows show the shields of Scotland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Fiji, and British New Guinea.

Once you leave the main hall on the southern side of the building facing North Terrace, you will find the intriguing Scientific windows, as well as the Bay window.

These windows were made locally by Adelaide firm H L Vosz (later to become Clarkson Ltd). They portray a number of eminent British scientists and engineers, including James Watt (responsible for the Steam Engine), Sir Isaac Newton (Gravity), George Stephenson (Father of the Railways) and Henry Bessemer (Manufacturer of Steel). These are all featured in the upper windows.

The lower windows images are of William Thomson Kelvin (The Kelvin scale of Temperature), Michael Faraday (Electromagnetism), Christopher Wren (Architect) and John Dalton (Atomic Theory).

The Bay window depicts the Coats of Arms referencing the Governor-General of Australia, the Lieutenant Governor, the President of the Council to the former School of Mines and Industry (located in this building at one time) and Sir John Langdon Bonython.

There are also featured Coats of Arms pertaining to South Australia, the City of Adelaide, Wales as well as Cornwall.

The Welsh and Cornish arms are an acknowledgement of the strong and important contributions of these communities to South Australia's Mining industry in earlier times.

It is well worth the effort to venture inside of Brookman Hall and discover these glorious fine examples of stained glass.

Part of Scientific Windows Brookman Building
Part of Scientific Windows Brookman Building

2. Montgomery and Grimbly Windows - SA Museum

I'm sure many of you have explored at some time our wonderful SA Museum, which lies on North Terrace in the city.

In amongst all of the fascinating exhibition spaces, lies some early examples of South Australian stained glass, which are known as the Montgomery and Grimbly windows.

You will find these windows as you mount the main staircase from the ground floor facing north. They were installed way back in 1893, having been made in South Australia as early as 1880 at the Waymouth Street studios of artists, Montgomery & Grimbly.

What was then the "new wing" of the museum, which was officially opened in 1895, these windows were specially commissioned by the SA government at the time to be featured.

The windows themselves were created with nearly 60 different colour tints, blended to make the final product.

As you glance up at the windows, you will notice the centre panel (main window) bears the monogram (S.A.M.), short for SA Museum, which is surrounded by original hand-painted blue glass.

Small decorative medallions known as Rondels have been inserted into the border of the windows creating a gem-like effect in the stained glass.

The entire panels were removed during an upgrade of the North Wing's foyer in 1995-1996, and an opportunity was presented at that time to replace some of the glass as well as re-do the lead work surrounding the glass.

The panels were then re-installed in 1997 with a protective sheeting placed on the exterior wall, so as to protect the windows.

Some of the magnificent stained glass featured in St Peter's Cathedral relating to Edward the Confessor Memorial window was prepared by the same glass firm of Montgomery and Grimbly.

Montgomery & Grimbly Windows SA Museum
Montgomery & Grimbly Windows SA Museum

3. Angel of Faith and River of Life Windows - Art Gallery of South Australia

You won't need to travel too far down the road to view these eye-catching examples of fine Tiffany stained glass - in fact you will find them at the Art Gallery of SA, next door to the SA Museum on North Terrace in the city.

These beautiful panels can be viewed on the lower ground floor of the Art Gallery and are the only Tiffany & Co windows in Australia.

American born Louis Comfort Tiffany was widely recognised as one of the leading figures of decorative arts and the Art Nouveau movement and was credited with revolutionising the stained glass window industry during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Both sets of windows were designed by Tiffany Studios in New York in 1909 and commissioned by Ada Ayers (nee Morphett) as a memorial to her late husband, Henry (Harry) Lockett Ayers as well as 6 of their 8 children, who had passed away early in life.

Harry Ayers was the son of Henry Ayers, of both Ayers House as well as Ayers Rock fame. Henry senior was a one time Premier of South Australia on 7 occasions, one stint only lasting 3 weeks.

The house that once belonged to Harry and Ada still stands on East Terrace in the city today (Dimora).

These windows were originally installed in the old St Paul's Church on Pulteney Street in the city in 1909. The church was decommissioned in the 1980s, and the windows moved several times to locations across the city.

For 15 years, they were located in Pulteney Grammar School's chapel on South Terrace, also in the city.

In 2001, the windows were donated to the Art Gallery, where they stand today for all to admire.

The Angel of Faith window is dedicated to Harry Ayers, which depicts an Angel at the top of the window shown parting the clouds, representing the safe ascension of Harry's soul into Heaven.

This window features Tiffany's famous opalescent glass patented by the company in the 1880s.

The River of Life window is dedicated to the six children of Harry and Ada Ayers who died tragically during childhood, many of them from Tuberculosis.

Three of the children had passed away in the same year, 1881 - the same year that their grandmother, Anne Ayers - wife of Henry Ayers also passed away.

The other children sadly died before the age of 10.

The River of Life window is symbolised by 6 cherubic faces peeking out at the apex of the window. There is other religious iconography also depicted which includes Poppies growing along the riverbank (which represents death and resurrection), the Palm (symbolic of the circle of life), the Palm Fronds (symbolic of spiritual growth) and the River (representing cleansing).

When you look closely at this window, an appearance of tone is evident, which is achieved by multiple plating and you will also notice copper dividing each pane which enhances the composition.

Louis Tiffany was and is still widely regarded as a master of many forms of media including Jewellery, Glass, Painting, Pottery and Mosaics during his life.

Angel of Faith Stained Glass Art Gallery of SA
Angel of Faith Stained Glass Art Gallery of SA

4. Federation Window - Former Adelaide Stock Exchange Building

One of the most striking examples of stained glass in Adelaide can be found within the former Adelaide Stock Exchange Building located tucked in between Pirie Street and Grenfell Street in the city, distinctive by its brick turret.

This building was formerly opened back in 1901 by then SA Premier J G Jenkins, and one of the Stock Exchange's members, Sir George Brookman (of whom Brookman Hall is named) had the stained glass windows especially commissioned.

These windows are a fine example of Morris and Co (design company from London) produced work and are the earliest of Morris's windows around Adelaide. The other distinction is this is the only example of a Morris window not in a church.

The window commemorates an important moment in Australian history - Federation in 1901, hence termed the Federation Window.

The Morris & Co artist who did the stunning work on this window was John Henry Dearle.

In the lower panes are depicted figures representing Britain and her colonies including Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.

In the upper panels, there are figures representing morning, sun and evening.

Adelaide is very fortunate to still have these windows intact as the building survived two fires, one in 1938 and the other in 1982. Amazingly, the stained glass windows survived.

In 2007, the SA Government bought the building and today it houses RIAUS (Royal Institution of Australia), a Science Exchange.

The federation window was donated to the Art Gallery of South Australia, however, they allowed the window to remain within the building, where it stands today.

The sad news is that unfortunately, the building these days is not open to the public, which means no one, apart from the workers within the building, can view this important example of Morris stained glass.

Morris Windows Former Adelaide Stock Exchange Building
Morris Windows Former Adelaide Stock Exchange Building

5. Pilgrim Uniting Church

Pilgrim Uniting Church is located in Flinders Street in the city, formally known as Stow Memorial Congregational Church.

The stained glass within the church is a significant collection dating between 1902 and 2002, divided into 4 categories.

The first relates to glass that is original to the building. The second refers to glass installed from the former Pirie Street Methodist Church, which is now demolished and backed on to Stow's Church.

There is also glass taken from an unknown church in England, and the fourth is classified as modern stained glass.

High up on the walls of the church lie the clerestory windows, which were designed and installed in sets of 3, with each set representing a different biblical story.

All of these date from the early twentieth century and are either from the old Pirie Street Methodist Church or from the unknown British church.

Along the aisles are smaller windows, each displaying words of God as recorded in the Gospel of St John. These are original to the church installed between 1925 and 1926.

There are also 2 rose windows, unusual for a single church. The western rose window is accompanied by 2 smaller stained windows below it. The rose window in the nave features 10 cherubs surrounding a crucifix. These windows date from the 1920s through to the 1950s.

On the eastern side of the church is the Millenium window, created by SA artist, Cedar Prest in 2002. The effect of this window was intended to create the design of rose windows in European churches.

Below this window are smaller lancet windows named so because of their arch shape.

A fascinating church to wander around!

Gospel of St John Stained Glass Pilgrim Uniting Church

6. St Francis Xavier's Cathedral

On Wakefield Street in the city, close to Victoria Square lies St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide's pro-Catholic place of worship.

At the doors to the nave on the right, there are examples of stained glass representing Catholic Popes who have presided over the church since the laying of the foundation stone in the 1850s.

On the left side, the windows represent Bishops and Archbishops who have also presided over the Catholic Church in Adelaide.

The central doors feature Christian iconography, including the Eucharist, the symbol of communion and the crucifix. One of the unique features is Adelaide's coat of arms displayed.

If you move down towards the chapel, you will see 2 saints represented in the stained glass windows of the chapel, one being St Lawrence and the other St Patrick.

These windows also acknowledge the second and third Bishops of Adelaide. Made locally in SA in 1892, they are the oldest windows within the cathedral.

Located behind the altar at the front of the church is the East stained glass window, which is the largest example of stained glass within the city of Adelaide. Traditionally an altar would be usually located at the eastern end of the church so that the rising sun would shine through the main stained glass window.

The East window features 6 biblical scenes from the New Testament and significant events from the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This featured glass was created and purchased from Melbourne firm Brooks & Robinson in 1930.

On the opposite wall of the cathedral lies the Rose window, commonly found in Gothic style churches. The centre of the Rose window features a blazing sun, circled by 4 Seraphims, further surrounded by 8 Angels.

The windows on each of the four sides of the Rose window represent St Mark, St Matthew, St Luke and St John.

Along the bottom of the Rose window is a set of 6 Lancet windows depicting St Patrick, St Thomas Aquinas, St Joseph, St Peter, St Catherine of Siena and St Francis Xavier.

These were designed by London firm, C E Kemp and were donated to the cathedral by prominent SA businessman, Count Thomas O'Loughlin in memory of his wife, Kitty.

From the outside, St Francis Xavier Cathedral dominates the skyline in this part of the city.

Stained Glass St Francis Xavier Cathedral
Stained Glass St Francis Xavier Cathedral

7. Government House

If you haven't experienced the opportunity of entering Government House for a peek, then highly recommend you do so. There will be dates coming up for open days, usually during May and October of each year, where you can explore both the house and garden.

One of the prime examples of stained glass in Adelaide can be found in the Ballroom, tucked into an ornate alcove, lined with impressive timber. These are known as Federation Windows.

They were commissioned by Governor Tennyson in 1901 to mark the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York and Cornwall (later to become King George V and Queen Mary) to Adelaide on their Australian tour with the intention to open Federal Parliament in Melbourne.

The windows were designed and made for the Adelaide firm of E F Troy.

The windows represent the following:

The coat of arms of Lord Tennyson, Governor in South Australia from 1899 to 1902.

T stands for Tennyson.

The coat of arms of the Province of South Australia.

The year "1836" marking the date of the foundation of South Australia.

The Royal coat of arms.

E stands for King Edward VII and A for Queen Alexandra.

The Duke of York's coat of arms.

G stands for George, Duke of York and V for Victoria Mary, Duchess of York.

The City of Adelaide coat of arms.

The year "1849", represents the year when the Commissioners of the City of Adelaide first met.

One of the other great features of the Federation Windows are the Australian themed native birds depicted in the panels above the main windows.

In the area of Government House, which houses the main stairwell, above the landing is depicted another fine example of stained glass commissioned by governor Sir Eric and Lady Neal in 2001 to mark the centenary of Federation.

These windows were made by local SA glass artist Ms Jan Aspinall. The more traditional stained glass has been abandoned with representations of images relating to the South Australian countryside, culture and economy.

The Arts are depicted in images of the Festival Centre, musical notes as well as a Hans Heysen painting of sheep grazing.

A map of metropolitan Adelaide is also on view along with a scene of Glenelg and a map of the Barossa Valley. Key industries are represented including agriculture, mining, aquaculture, viticulture and wine.

In the left lower corner of these windows, an Aboriginal Elder is depicted exchanging desert sand with a white person to symbolise changes reflected in Aboriginal land rights legislation. There are also memorials relating to both the Boer War and the two World Wars, with the vertical posts showing an intertwining of eucalyptus leaves with exotic foliage, including grapevines and an Adelaide rose.

Magnificent examples of stained glass within our Vice Regal residence.

Federation Windows Government House Adelaide
Federation Windows Government House Adelaide

8. Adelaide Town Hall

Behind the public areas of the magnificent Adelaide Town Hall dating from 1866, there are some stunning examples of stained glass contained with the City of Adelaide Council Chambers.

These panels are another produced work by noted South Australian glass artist, E F Troy and are commemorative depicting the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901.

The window also lists the Mayor, Town Clerk, Aldermen, Councillors, City Treasurer, and the City Surveyor relating to 1902.

Other panels surrounding the main image of King Edward VII were commissioned by two separate artists, with the reason being that at the time, the Council could not decide which design they wanted, so in the end, decided to choose both.

Keep an eye out for open days as this is your chance to go behind the public areas and view some eye-catching rooms including the Council Chambers.

Stained Glass Adelaide Town Hall
Stained Glass Adelaide Town Hall

9. St Peter's Cathedral

If you haven't ventured into St Peter's Cathedral up at North Adelaide, then you have sorely missed out. One of Adelaide's notable landmarks with its massive twin spires dominating the landscape, St Peter's was built in varying stages from 1869 right through to the early twentieth century.

The cathedral windows range in age from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 21st century, with many of the jaw-dropping stained glass imported from England.

However, there are two early windows, the Rose Window on the eastern wall and the window of Edward the Confessor, which were produced in Adelaide.

One of the more modern pieces of stained glass relates to the artist, Cedar Prest, the same artist who created the Millenium Window in Pilgrim Uniting Church.

Cedar was commissioned in 1991 to create a new set of clerestory windows, replacing earlier ones that had been declared unsafe. All of her work symbolises musical motifs.

Examples include choristers in traditional robes in the southern windows, whilst in the northern, the windows contain tuxedoed and t-shirted musicians playing a variety of instruments, including a bass drum with the symbols of the Cathedral's patron saint, St Peter (the crossed keys of the kingdom) emblazoned on it.

Above both sets of figures are angels playing instruments mentioned in Psalm 150.

The newest window, the Magdalene window celebrates the resurrection and the work of women in the church, designed and made in Melbourne by David Wright.

Those in the Lady Chapel date from the early twentieth century.

A great place to explore and admire the architecture along with the stained glass. Guided tours are also available. Check the website for further detail.

Edward the Confessor Window St Peters Cathedral
Edward the Confessor Window St Peters Cathedral

If you drill below the surface around Adelaide, you can find these as well as many other fine examples of stained glass to enjoy and behold!
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Why? Take the opportunity to view some of the finest examples of stained glass in Adelaide
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8203 7203
Where: Adelaide, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article and photos Graeme. We used to think that stained glass windows were only in churches. We now know that is not so.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4542) 321 days ago
This is such an ancient craft and clearly some beautiful work on display here
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|6196) 319 days ago
This is an excellent article! Thanks, Graeme. I learned a lot.
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1870) 318 days ago
Good article but you neglected the largest collection of William Morris stained glass windows in one location at All Souls' Anglican Church, St Peters. (Five windows, plus others of renowned Australian craftsmen)
by brenton (score: 1|19) 320 days ago
Saint Margaret of Scotland, Woodville has some amazing windows.
by peeja (score: 0|6) 304 days ago
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