Two striking stained glass windows at Old St Paul’s commemorate the much-loved young woman Florence Edith Carr, known as Edith, who died in 1889. Her parents were so devastated by her early death at the age of 26 that they purchased the windows to decorate the north wall of Old St Paul’s. The inscription on the window states that it is
Sacred to the memory of Edith, daughter of Charles Pitt and Georgiana Helen Pynsent and wife of A.Stanely Carr.
Farewell, most sweet one, dearest, farewell.
The windows, with their striking blue backgrounds which look so beautiful when the sun shines through them, depict two saints, St Cecilia and St Catherine. The windows were made by a German studio, Franz Mayer and Co. of Munich. The company was founded in 1847 as an ‘Institute for Christian Art’ and is still operating today. The windows must have cost a small fortune. These windows were placed in the church in 1892, only two years after Edith’s death.
Compared to all the other windows in the church they are unusual as they do not depict Biblical stories, but instead saints from a later period. St Cecilia is the patron saint of music. She is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, and is often depicted holding a violin or – as in this case – a small portable organ called a portative, so she could play wherever she went. St Catherine of Alexandria, famous for her death on the wheel, was said to be a noted scholar, and is the patron saint of philosophers, preachers, librarians and others, and is often depicted with the wheel on which she was killed, and a martyr’s palm, as she is on this window. Presumably Edith was interested in music and learning, although perhaps these two saints appealed to her parents as they were young women who died young?
Edith’s window on the north wall of Old St Paul’s
We know that Edith was born in around 1862 in the United Kingdom. Her father, Charles Pitt Pynsent, was originally from England, but who had found success in sheep farming in Victoria, Australia, where he had farmed a very large station with 60,000 sheep. He travelled extensively in the United Kingdom and Europe from 1854, and was there when Edith was born. He and his wife Helen and their family returned to the colonies when they moved to Wellington in 1880 for Charles’ health. They lived in a large house on Hobson Street, just near St Paul’s. As a young woman Edith played the pianoforte for the Harmonic Club between 1881 and 1884 and exhibited art at the Fine Arts Association of Wellington in 1883 .
In 1884, when 22, she married Augustus Edward Stanley Carr, a bank manager for the Bank of Australasia, at a beautiful ceremony at Old St Paul’s. The Evening Post and Wairarapa Times reported that the church was ‘filled to its upmost capacity’. Edith wore a ‘dress and square train of ivory white brocaded and plain satin, trimmed with Brussels lace and wreaths of orange blossom.’ Her gold necklet and diamond locket were a gift from her new husband, often known as Stanley. She entered Old St Paul’s ‘leaning on her father’s arm’, and afterwards they went to the Pynsent’s house on Hobson Street for ‘the usual festivities’. Edith’s wedding was a large one, and she seems to have had many friends. After the wedding, the couple moved down to Invercargill, where Stanley was working.
Tragically, four years later she died at the age of only 26. Unfortunately we have not been able to find any records of why she died. She was buried in the Anglican Cemetery of St John in Invercargill.
Her grave is not in the same condition as her stained glass window. It is in a forgotten part of an old cemetery, where most of the headstones have crumbled from age.
The most obvious thing about this research was that her parents loved her very much. As well as the window, the two years after her death her parents put a memorial in the paper:
In tenderest memory of our darling and loving daughter, Florence Edith Pynsent, wife of A E Stanley Carr Esq, who was taken from this life 28 Aug 1889. Deeply and unceasingly lamented.
Soon after, in February 1892, the window was added into the church.
Edith had a short but loving life, and it is thanks to her parent’s love and dedication that I have had the privilege to get to know her nearly 127 years after she died.
Postscript: Her husband remained as bank manager for the Bank of Australasia in Invercargill for a number of years, and then moved to the same position in Dunedin, until he was farewelled in 1904, when, it was reported, he was to return to the ‘old country’. He does not seem to have got that far, however, as in the same year he married Minnie Macgregor (she was 24, he was 62) in New South Wales, and they had children there soon after. Perhaps they knew each other before they left and went to Australia to marry?
Sources: Evening Post 17 July 1884, Wairarapa Times 17 July 1884, p2; New Zealand Times 26 August 1891; Evening Post 13 February 1892, p2; Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897.