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Make your Mark

Name a chair in Eakins Hall — download the brochure below to order yours now!

As the sturdy workhorses of college life – our dining chairs – approach their 90th birthday, we reflect on their origins, and on the life of the benefactor who funded their purchase.

First, some facts about the chairs. The college dining chairs were manufactured in 1927 by local furniture maker Lucine & Co to a design selected by the College Council. At the princely sum of £2-/9 per chair, they replaced what was described at the time as “a miscellaneous collection of Vienna chairs in various stages of dilapidation”.

By direction of the Council, a brass plaque was placed on the Senior Student’s chair. It reads: “The Chairs in this Hall were provided from the bequest of the late John Cross B.A.” John Cross was a modest man who devoted his life to the Methodist church, and to the cause of public education.  Born at Brown Hill, Ballarat, in 1862, he was educated at the Mount Pleasant State School and at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated B.A. in 1886 – too early to enrol at Queen’s College, which opened two years later. After graduation he became a teacher, and later, an Inspector of Schools for the Education Department.  As both a Methodist and an educationalist, it was perhaps inevitable that he should make the acquaintance of Dr E. H. Sugden, first Master of Queen’s College, and as a result of this relationship, to become a benefactor to the College.

It is hoped that, with conservation and ongoing maintenance, these chairs will go on to serve the college for decades to come

Despite his limited means, John Cross donated significant sums to the College during the early 1920s; apparently one of the student rooms in the newly constructed Tweddle Wing was named in honour of his mother.  After his death in 1924, the College was the recipient of further largesse; his will stipulated that, after a number of bequests to relatives, the residuary of his estate – a sum of approximately £4000 – was to go to Queen’s College.  A number of creative suggestions were made by Dr Sugden and the College Council about ways to spend the money, including the construction of a new science laboratory. In the end, it was decided to spend the money on three separate projects: a stained glass memorial window designed by William Montgomery, new entrance gates for the College and new chairs for the dining hall.

Historic photo of college chairs and tables in the original dining room

While the wrought iron gates have since been replaced, and the College arms in bronze which adorned them (also the gift of John Cross) have been repositioned on the gate under the Sugden Tower archway, the other gifts are still very much in evidence, and, in the case of the dining chairs, are still in daily use.  This in itself is a remarkable testimony to their quality. It is hoped that, with conservation and ongoing maintenance, these chairs will go on to serve the college for decades to come.

Those who make a gift of $1500 or more to the Student Facilities Fund have the opportunity to ‘name’ one of the heritage dining hall chairs in Eakins.

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