Roger Brooke in St Matthew's Church at New Norfolk

Saving the St Matthew’s church windows

THE stained glass windows at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in New Norfolk are regarded as some of the best in Australia, but time is taking its toll on them. The church’s west window (facing High St) was restored in the 1990s but the window at the opposite end of the church is at extreme risk due to its age.

Made in Germany 120 years ago, the east window was donated by the Shoobridge family in memory of seven-year-old Nancy Hope Shoobridge who died at sea in 1898. Unveiled by the bishop of Tasmania in 1901, the window includes a likeness of Miss Shoobridge among the holy figures in the nativity scene featured.

The church and its windows are a major attraction in New Norfolk and in pre-COVID-19 times it was a key feature on the tourist route, including stops by organised coach tours.

An assessment by specialist stained-glass artist and heritage restorer Gavin Merrington found rusted steelwork, weak joints and brittle putty. Most worrying, the separate quatrefoil panel at the top window – featuring a dove – was found to be severely bowed.

Facing an estimate of $80,000 to restore the entire east window, the church has focused its limited budget on the urgent works needed to preserve the quatrefoil, which was made by William Montgomery, of Melbourne. “Montgomery is generally regarded as the best Australian stained-glass painter of this period,” Mr Merrington said in his report for the church.

Restoration of the dove and the two upper panels of the main window has been completed at a cost of about $25,000 and they were reinstalled last month. This leaves the task of raising about $55,000 for the rest of the window.

The St Matthew’s Singers will give a performance of Mozart’s Requiem as soon as COVID-19 physical distancing is lifted, with all proceeds going to the window restoration. Donations to the window appeal are tax-deductible via the National Trust’s Community Heritage Program. Contact parish secretary Roger Brooke on 0431 605 013 for information about how to contribute.

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