Hidden away in one of Adelaide’s side streets lies the Royal Instituttion, formerly the Adelaide Stock Exchange. Within its walls is something that is often walked passed, missed, or forgotten about. Upon arrival at the Royal Institute, enter through the front entryway, turn to your left, and walk towards the main staircase. Atop the staircase is the oldest and perhaps the most valuable Morris & Co. stained glass work in Adelaide, also the only Morris & Co. stained glass window not within a religious building in Adelaide, which is often referred to as the “City of Churches.”
William Morris famously known for his London-based textile company, Morris & Co., was commissioned for several stained glass windows for the city of Adelaide. Almost all of them were located within churches and commissioned for religious reasoning. His work within the Royal Institute remains as one of his most valuable works to date, somehow surviving two fires during the 20th century, in 1938 and 1982 respectively, the stained glass window still stands in the main stairwell where it was originally commissioned.
The window was commissioned by Sir George. A. Brookman, an early mining mogul of South Australia and Western Australia, to commemorate the Australian Federation, an important moment in Australian history, in which the Australian colonies were joined together as a nation in 1901.
The window features six stained glass panels, with the lower three depicting the British Empire. Life-sized figures represent Australia and India on the left-hand side, Africa and Canada on the right, and Britannia in the center. Based on designs by British painter, Edward Byrne-Jones, a painter, designer and a founding partner of Morris & Co., the three upper panels represent morning, noon and evening. Upon closer inspection you’ll notice the central figure of Britannia is holding a wreath that frames the word ‘FEDERATION’, a nod to when the window was made.
Know Before You Go
Located in Adelaide’s CBD on Exchange Place, between Pirie St and Grenfell St. As Exchange Place is a pedestrian only street, you can find parking on either Pirie or Grenfell Street, or one of Adelaide’s many UParks. The Royal Institute is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., entry is free!