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Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By the Rev. A. E. David, M.A.

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1908.

Chapter V. The Province of Victoria

THE settlement of Port Philip, as it was then called, coincided with the foundation of the Bishopric of Australia, and resulted from the enterprise of two Tasmanian colonists--Batman and Fawkner--who in 1835, learning of the fertile districts on the opposite shores of Bass Straits, proceeded thither, and obtained from the local blacks what purported to be a conveyance of six hundred thousand acres in return for a nominal payment of knives, hatchets, blankets, etc. The Government immediately disallowed the transaction; but dispossession was no easy matter, for Batman, backed by wealthy capitalists, had already transferred flocks and herds to the neighbourhood of Geelong; and Fawkner, similarly supported, had taken possession of the banks of the Yarra, where a small township was rapidly being built. Clearly it was a matter for compromise, and the company represented by these two settlers received a grant [92/93] of land valued at £7,000 in consideration of the trouble and expense to which they had been put. In the following year Captain Lonsdale was appointed police magistrate, and, as the population which was rapidly advancing at this time numbered about four hundred, sites for towns were marked out, and Fawkner's settlement on the Yarra received the name of Melbourne after the great minister of the day. The first religious service was held in the house of Mr. Batman by the Rev. Joseph Orton, a Wesleyan from Tasmania; and it is interesting to note that the afternoon service on the same day was attended by about fifty blacks, who watched the proceedings with great interest.


During the following year the Rev. T. B. Naylor, a Tasmanian priest, visited the new settlement and baptized the first white child born in Melbourne; also the Church of England received a grant of land from the Crown, consisting of five acres on either side of Little Collins Street, on which a small wooden church was subsequently erected. In 1838 Bishop Broughton visited the little community for the first time, and, much [93/94] impressed by its prospects, he wrote, "Although hitherto but little known, it held forth expectations of future importance, worthy of the most attentive regard"--a forecast more than justified by the future growth of the metropolis of Victoria. Through his representations the Rev. J. C. Grylls was sent from England in the same year as permanent chaplain.

Meanwhile a commencement of Church ministrations had been made elsewhere. As early as 1834 the Messrs. Henty, who had taken up land at Portland in the extreme south-west of the colony, held services for their employés in a barn, which later on was replaced by a brick church; and at Geelong, for some time the rival of Melbourne, efforts were being made to provide a church, the foundation-stone of which was laid by Bishop Broughton on a second visit to the district in 1843. The time was one of feverish land speculation and consequent commercial depression, so that little could be done to promote church building. In 1846, however, the Government made a grant of £1,000 to meet local contributions of a like sum, and this, supplemented by a gift of £500 from funds in the hands of Bishop Broughton, enabled Melbourne Churchmen to complete the building which for a long time was known as S. James's Cathedral. A church dedicated to S. Peter was also started in this year on Eastern Hill. The burden of this new work, so far distant from Sydney, pressed heavily upon the Bishop, who now found himself responsible also for the supervision of Church ministrations in the growing settlement of Adelaide. For one man to oversee so vast an area, in the different parts of which his presence was constantly being required, was, humanly speaking, impossible. The surrender of £I,000 from his own income facilitated the work of diocesan subdivision, and, as already stated, the year 1847 saw three new bishoprics founded in Australia, of which one was the See of Melbourne, roughly coterminous with the subsequent Colony of Victoria.

Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, the first Bishop of Melbourne, Dr. Charles Perry, had taken the highest honours at Cambridge as senior wrangler. and a first classman in the Classical Tripos. He brought, therefore, to the organization of his new diocese gifts of an unusual order, which had been supplemented by a twelve months' legal training. Arriving at Melbourne in 1848, he found the ministry of the Church represented by three Government chaplains--the Revs. [95/96] A. C. Thompson, E. Collins, and J. G. Wilson, to whom were now added three from his own party, besides three candidates for Holy Orders. Of this band of early pioneers the most notable in after days was the Rev. K. B. Macartney, who, first as Archdeacon of Geelong, and afterwards as Dean of Melbourne, took a large part in the work of organizing the diocese, and lived in active discharge of his duties to an advanced old age.

The Bishop, on landing, was by no means encouraged by the condition of Church affairs. The Government chaplains were overweighted by the magnitude of the work which they had undertaken, and seemed to have lost heart; the churches were poorly attended, and the schools were far from satisfactory, so that, notwithstanding a very general desire on the part of the laity to co-operate, Church life was languishing.

The Bishop at once set himself to strengthen the centres, and when these had been partially provided for, he turned his attention to the country districts. These journeys have been vividly described by the lively pen of Mrs. Perry, whose letters record visits to Gippsland, Port Fairy, Portland, and the more inland districts. The experience thus gained by the Bishop in doing the [96/97] work of an itinerating clergyman convinced him of the settlers' anxiety for the ministrations of religion, and of the need of clergy working from centres with a fifteen miles' radius. Additional arrivals from England, and the ordination of local candidates for Holy Orders, enabled him to occupy some of the vacant ground; and although progress was slow owing to lack of both workers and funds, the foundations of the future diocese were being wisely laid, and a more hopeful spirit animated the Church. In order to provide an episcopal residence, the Government made a grant of two acres of land at a short distance from S. James's Cathedral, and £2,000 for the erection of a house. This sum the Bishop would gladly have appropriated for the purpose of Church extension, but it could not be diverted to such an object. Funds, however, were being gradually raised for outside work through the agency of a diocesan society, similar in character to the Church Society of the Diocese of Sydney, which had proved so valuable in evoking help from local resources. The Melbourne institution showed itself no whit behind that of the mother diocese, and its annual festival was henceforth to be a marked feature in the life of the Melbourne Church.

[98] In the midst of this work the Bishop, who had already made the acquaintance of his Metropolitan at Albury, on the borders of his diocese, was summoned to the important conference of Bishops at Sydney, the circumstances of which have been detailed. "The Gorham controversy" at the time was producing a good deal of unsettlement, and the Bishops took advantage of the conference to make a clear pronouncement upon the vexed question of baptismal regeneration. To this declaration Bishop Perry, who held strong views upon the subject, took exception, and in the following year, when the minutes of the proceedings were submitted to the clergy of Melbourne and the other dioceses for their opinion upon the matters discussed, he issued a pamphlet recapitulating his views upon the question, in which, whilst expressing his cordial agreement with all the Articles of the Church of England in their plain and full meaning, and in their literal and grammatical sense, he stated that "the Church, in her Office for the Baptism of infants, and in that for the Baptism of adults, uses the language of faith and hope; and is not to be understood as declaring positively a fact, which it cannot certainly know, viz., that every baptized infant, or every [98/99] baptized adult, is regenerate." To put a gloss upon the words of the Prayer Book, and to speak of them as "the language of faith and hope," is difficult to reconcile with adherence to "their literal and grammatical sense "; but the matter was allowed to drop, and the Church in Australia was spared the disaster of a prolonged theological controversy in her early days.

The year 1851 marked a distinct epoch not only in the history of Port Philip, but also in that of the diocese. Up to this time the district had been ruled by a superintendent, who held office under the Governor of New South Wales, and it possessed the privilege of sending six representatives to the Legislature, which sat in Sydney. In the early days of the settlement this arrangement, though inconvenient, had been tolerated, but now that the population had increased to eighty thousand, and Melbourne had become a flourishing commercial centre, great dissatisfaction was felt. Six representatives could exercise little influence in an assembly of thirty-six, and colonists could not afford to neglect their own business by attendance at Sydney, which involved long periods of absence from home. Consequently a largely signed petition was sent to the Imperial [99/100] Parliament, praying for separation. The petition was granted and a Constitution Act passed in 1851, by which the new colony was granted autonomy, and received, in honour of the event, the Queen's name--Victoria.

Almost simultaneously with the change in civil status, steps were taken by the Church to provide a more complete form of diocesan organization, and a conference of the clergy and representative laity met the Bishop to consider matters regarded as of vital importance to the Church. These embraced (I) the provision of a permanent endowment for the diocese; (2) Church patronage; (3) the establishment of synodical action; (4) the laws regulating the temporal affairs of the Church in the colony. The session lasted ten days, and effectually prepared the way for the future self-government of the Church.

But before any further action could be taken in this direction a great change occurred in the commercial and industrial aspect of Victoria. This was due to the discovery in the same year of rich gold deposits at Ballarat, Bendigo, and other places. Within eighteen months of separation the population of the colony increased by seventy thousand, and the output of gold during the first [100/101] year reached the astounding figure of four million six hundred thousand ounces, an enormous production, which was altogether unprecedented even in California. Melbourne, from a comparatively small town, expanded suddenly into a big city. Its streets swarmed with strange figures, whilst its public houses were thronged with rough men who rioted in folly and extravagance. Sea-captains feared to enter Port Philip, since the desertion of their crews was certain, for the wildest tales of sudden wealth were not improbable, and all who could made their way to the diggings, abandoning their ordinary business pursuits.

In the midst of this excitement the difficulties which faced the Bishop and his small band of clergy were appalling. The population had practically doubled itself in the course of a few months, and from all parts of the island-continent, especially Tasmania, a steady stream of the most undesirable persons had been pouring in, with which lawless element the police were too few and too inexperienced to cope. Naturally anxious for the future, the Bishop took comfort in the fact that this influx had not occurred before Victoria had attained self-government and when Church organization was less effective. None the less, the strain was intense, [101/102] and though eleven new clergy were shortly added to the staff, death, sickness, and other causes removed nine, so that the actual addition to their strength was only two.

The gloomy prospect, as far as finance was concerned, was partly relieved in 1852 by the passage through the Legislature of an Act "more effectually to promote the erection of buildings for public worship, and to provide for the maintenance of ministers of religion in the colony." By this Act a sum of £30,000, afterwards increased to £50,000, was to be annually set apart for religious purposes, and distributed to the different denominations on a per capita basis. The Bishop objected to the principle of the Act on the ground that it recognized all denominations as equally teaching religious truth, but nevertheless made use of the grant, as did the Roman Catholics and other religious bodies, except the Congregationalists and the United Presbyterians; and it was the strenuous opposition of these lastnamed bodies which, in the end, secured the abolition of the system. In the meantime the spiritual wants of the goldfields were urgent. The Bishop personally visited the different mining townships, and arranged temporarily for the [102/103] provision of services. Until matters were more settled, and the formation of permanent centres of population assured, he could do little more. When it became apparent that in certain localities, namely, Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Hamilton, and Sandhurst, the canvas town would be replaced by permanent buildings, and that the continuance of the mining industry was certain, clergymen were gradually appointed to these towns, and churches built. In 1854 Archdeacon Stretch, who had succeeded Dean Macartney at Geelong, visited the field, and found at Ballarat the resident clergyman, the Rev. J. R. Thackeray, living in a house lined with mattresses and other bullet-proof materials for the protection of his family. A few days before, the unfortunate collision between the miners and the Government troops, known as "the Eureka stockade," had occurred, resulting in considerable loss of life, and the parsonage lay perilously near the line of fire.

From the date of his entrance upon his episcopal duties, Bishop Perry had been profoundly impressed by the practical difficulty of exercising jurisdiction under his Letters Patent, and of the necessity of framing a constitution for the diocese, [103/104] which should provide for the due regulation of patronage and the administration of ecclesiastical discipline on a wider basis than that of his own personal authority. In regard to patronage, he desired to give each parish a direct voice in the appointment of its clergyman, whilst in respect of ecclesiastical discipline he wished to associate with himself a responsible body of clergy and laity in whatever action it might be thought judicious to adopt. It was thought, however, that if such machinery were to be set up, it would be necessary to call in the aid of the Colonial Legislature. Accordingly in 185o, two Bills, with a view to popularizing the authority in the Church of England, were introduced into the Sydney Legislature; but owing to an unexpected opposition on the part of the Melbourne press and people, who petitioned against them, they were withdrawn. In the meantime the important conference met at Sydney, and, fortified by the resolutions of the assembled Bishops, Bishop Perry summoned a conference of the clergy and representative laity of his diocese to consider what steps should be taken for the self-government of the Church.

The conference expressed itself in favour of [104/105] synodical action, and in 1854 a similar gathering was held in order to consider a draft Bill prepared by Mr. W. F. Stawell. After having been carried by a decisive majority, the Bill was submitted to the Legislature, and though it encountered some opposition, on the ground that the whole movement was an attempt to make the Church of England the dominant religious body, was ultimately passed. The measure needed the assent of the Crown, and since certain constitutional objections might be raised, the Bishop proceeded to England with a view to their removal. After nine months' wearisome delay he was successful in overcoming the opposition of the law officers of the Crown, and on his return to Melbourne learnt that the Royal consent had been given. The measure was the first Church Act passed by any Colonial Government, and served as a useful precedent for future legislation. To the foresight, legal grasp and determination of the Bishop its successful accomplishment must be mainly attributed. Furnished with statutory powers the first Assembly, or synod, of the diocese met in 1856, and proceeded to formulate provisions for the government of the Church in the diocese. In the determination [105/16] of these matters the Bishop and Assembly were greatly assisted by the legal knowledge of Sir William Stawell and Mr. A Beckett, the result being that the Diocese of Melbourne framed for itself a constitution and administrative machinery of the highest value, the only important extension of which has been the creation in 1885, by Act of the Legislature, of a body corporate for the purpose of holding property on behalf of the diocese.

Just as the constitution thus owed its origin to Bishop Perry's initiative, so, too, the chief educational establishments of the diocese were founded during his episcopate. The Church in Victoria, as in the other colonies, found it impossible to cope with the demands for primary education. As already stated, at the time of the Bishop's arrival, the provision of schools was scanty and inefficient, and in order to remedy matters the Government first introduced a dual system, and finally undertook the whole responsibility of education. It is a matter for regret, however, that the Church had not sufficient influence to prevent the entire secularization of primary education throughout the colony. The question will be dealt with in a separate chapter. In secondary [106/107] education, on the other hand, more successful efforts were made by the Church, and the Grammar Schools at Melbourne and Geelong, after a precarious existence in early years, eventually became firmly established, and from this time onward have provided an excellent education on Church of England principles. The erection of these schools would scarcely have been possible at that early period without Government assistance, which in the case of the Church of England amounted to nearly £21,000, but their subsequent success is largely due to the generosity of Churchmen and to the excellent choice of head masters, of whom Dr. Bromby and Mr. J. B. Wilson were conspicuous examples. Hitherto the diocese had relied upon Moore College for the training of candidates for Holy Orders; but, on the foundation of a University for Melbourne, opportunity was afforded for making local provision by the Government reserving sites for the erection of colleges, to be under the control of different religious bodies. These reserves lay idle for years, and on the Government threatening to resume them, the Bishop, ably seconded by Professor Wilson of the University, stirred up interest on the subject, and Trinity [107/108] College was erected in 1870; since which date the institution has supplied a large number of men, some of them with distinguished degrees, to the sacred ministry of the Church.

The end of this long episcopate was now drawing to a close. With advancing years the Bishop was more and more feeling the strain of work, intensified by the withdrawal of the grant annually contributed by the State. He had asked for a coadjutor with the right of succession, but the diocese had deemed the policy unwise. Efforts also to subdivide the diocese, by the creation of either Sandhurst or Ballarat into a separate see, had for a long time proved fruitless. Eventually, through the exertions of Archdeacon Stretch, all preliminaries had been arranged for the formation of a new diocese with Ballarat as its centre, an endowment provided and the boundaries declared. In 1874 the Bishop proceeded to England entrusted with the responsibility of selecting, in conjunction with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and Sir William Stawell, the first Bishop of the new see. In the following year he resigned, after an episcopate of twenty-eight years, and settled down to the quiet duties of a Canon of Llandaff. No [108/109] period of repose was better earned. He had seen Victoria develop from a district of New South Wales into a self-governing colony, and Melbourne into one of the largest and finest cities in the world. The population, owing to the mineral wealth of the colony, had grown with such rapidity that it was found impossible to supply adequate spiritual ministrations. None the less, strenuous efforts had been made, and the staff of clergy had been increased from three to one hundred and thirty. Churches similarly had been supplied, and the diocese provided with a constitution which, tested by the passage of years, has required singularly little amendment, and has proved the soundness of the policy of those responsible for its origin. Fair and just, though holding narrow views on certain questions, Bishop Perry showed himself a wise and able ruler, and no circumstance gives better evidence of his influence than his ability to evoke the aid of distinguished laymen, judges, senators, and others, who bore so large a share in shaping the early destinies of the Church in Victoria.

The departure of the Bishop in 1874 was followed by a three years' interregnum, during which the management of diocesan affairs was [109/110] entrusted to the Dean. By an Act of the Church Assembly, the appointment of a successor was delegated to England, and in 1876 the Rev. James Moorhouse, Vicar of S. James's, Paddington, was selected. He commenced an episcopate extending over nine years in the early part of 1877, during which he exercised an extraordinary influence in Victoria, not only among Churchmen, but among all classes of the community. A man of vigorous character and broad intellectual sympathies, he was pre-eminently a citizen Bishop; and there was hardly a problem, from that of water conservation to the building of a cathedral, upon which he had not something effective to say. Well read in philosophy, and a clear thinker, his lectures were models of lucid statement, and, whatever the subject, attracted large audiences; whilst his theological teaching tended to broaden the narrow attitude which prevailed upon religious questions. In this latter connection his influence was more particularly felt, and his voice was constantly heard urging the importance of securing an educated clergy for the service of the Church. As a result of his leadership, Trinity College, affiliated to the University, was enlarged, and students preparing for Holy Orders were brought [110/111] into touch with the freer atmosphere and wider culture such as a University education affords.

One lasting memorial of the episcopate of Bishop Moorhouse is the Melbourne Cathedral. Steps towards its erection had been taken by his predecessor, and provision for a chapter made; but the work was delayed owing to a widespread divergence of opinion on the question of the future site. The Bishop threw all his influence upon the side of selecting a site in the heart of the city, where the new building might serve, as S. Paul's Cathedral in the English Metropolis serves, as a centre of religious life in the midst of a business area, and be equally accessible by rail from the various suburbs. His arguments prevailed, and the battle of sites terminated in the selection of that of S. Paul's, in Flinders Street. A large church in a central position, with a dignified worship, and served by the ablest clergy of the diocese, so the Bishop hoped, would make some impression upon the materialism of Melbourne's thought and life. He remained long enough in the diocese to see a fine building erected in conjunction with large diocesan offices, but these were not completed until after his departure.

[112] The system of secular education in the State schools, established before his arrival, naturally drew from him continuous protest; but, as Australian experience has proved, when once established, a secular system is very difficult to dethrone. He advocated simple Bible instruction to be given by the teacher, subject to a conscience clause, and was in favour of the State making grants to Roman Catholic schools in payment for secular results; but public opinion preferred the single system, and Roman Catholic influence was too strong to allow of any alteration of the Act without apparent benefit to that Church.

The spiritual destitution of the country districts, no less than secularized education, he felt to be a menace to the well-being of the State, since it was estimated that at least two-thirds of the country people attended no place of worship. This deplorable neglect was as much due to lack of opportunity as to indifference. The one, indeed, was largely the cause of the other. The remedy lay in the provision of more men, and more money. In regard to the first he proposed to found a permanent diaconate, but the proposal was not received favourably by the Church Assembly. In connection with the second he [112/113] was successful in starting "The Bishop of Melbourne's Fund," which as a home missionary agency has continued to do excellent work.

The translation of Bishop Moorhouse to Manchester, was an irreparable loss to the Australian Church, whatever the gain may have been to the English diocese. During his episcopate the diocese had been making rapid progress, not so much in the direction of fresh organizations, for the diocesan equipment had been largely provided before his work began, but in the whole tone of Church life, and the public attitude towards the Church of England. By this time a new generation of Australians had grown up, unacquainted with English traditions, but strenuous and versatile in commercial pursuits. It was of the utmost importance, therefore, in order to win their allegiance, that in the sphere of thought and action the Church should prove her claim to leadership. It is not too much to say that during the episcopate of Bishop Moorhouse this position was being attained, and that the removal of so vigorous a personality was a misfortune, the extent of which it is difficult to gauge.

Once more the Diocese of Melbourne determined to delegate the appointment of its Bishop to [113/114] England, and again an interregnum occurred lasting thirteen months. Eventually the Rev. Field Flowers Goe was selected in 1887, to preside over what had now become one of the most important dioceses of the Anglican communion. The appointment was not altogether a happy one. The diocese missed the vigorous leadership of the Bishop of Manchester, and a tendency to narrow the comprehension of Anglican teaching became observable. A man of gentle and attractive temperament, Bishop Goe showed a disposition to place his episcopal authority in commission, and to be led by the more active of his clergy. Two events marked this episcopate, which terminated in 1901 by the Bishop's resignation. In the first place the fine cathedral was completed and consecrated in 1891. Secondly, although not actually within Bishop Goe's tenure of office, the arrangements for the further subdivision of the diocese were consummated. Various proposals from time to time had been put forward for this purpose, embracing the constitution of Sandhurst and Sale into separate sees. Ultimately a well-considered and thorough scheme for subdivision was approved by the Church Assembly, and three separate sees were formed early in 1902. These [114/115] consisted of Bendigo, which forms the northern part of the State of Victoria, comprising an area of 15o miles in length by too miles in width, and containing besides Bendigo, the important towns of Castlemaine, Kyneton, and Echuca--Wangaratta, which covers the north-eastern portion of the state, with an area of 16,000 square miles, mostly mountainous, and sparsely settled--Gippsland, containing the whole of the south-eastern portion of the state which had always been remote from Melbourne, and for a long time had been designated as the site of a new see. To these new dioceses in the same year Australian clergymen were appointed, viz., Archdeacon Langley, of Melbourne, to Bendigo; Archdeacon Armstrong, of Gippsland, to Wangaratta; and the Rev. A. W. Pain, Incumbent of S. John's, Darlinghurst, Sydney, to Gippsland. In 1906 the Bishop of Bendigo died, and was succeeded by his brother the Ven. J. D. Langley, Archdeacon of Cumberland, New South Wales, in the following year.

By this great measure of diocesan extension the jurisdiction of the See of Melbourne was practically limited to the city itself, with a radius of about forty miles. To this reduced charge Dr. Lowther Clark, Vicar of Dewsbury, was [115/116] appointed by election of the Bishopric Committee in 1902. The existence of five dioceses within the State of Victoria, now rendered possible the creation of an ecclesiastical province, and on the new Bishop's arrival, steps were taken for its formation. Some delay was occasioned owing to the reluctance of Ballarat to consent to the proposed scheme; but the difficulties were smoothed over after conference, and the province formally constituted prior to the meeting of General Synod in 1905. In October of the same year, the Churches of the Anglican communion were formally notified by the Primate that the Bishop of Melbourne, as Metropolitan of the Province of Victoria, had been accorded the title of Archbishop.


Reference has already been made to the way in which Ballarat suddenly rose to importance through the discovery of gold in 1851, and to the efforts of Archdeacon Stretch, which, in 1875, were crowned with success by the creation of the see, and the appointment of its first Bishop, the Rev. Samuel Thornton, Rector of S. George's, Birmingham. The diocese thus constituted covers [116/117] the western portion of the State of Victoria, and is about half the size of England and Wales. The work of diocesan organization, rendered comparatively easy by the provision of the Church Act, and by the experience of the mother-diocese, was at once undertaken; and the impetus given to Church life in the western districts by the presence of the Bishop, became immediately evident. Apart from the mining centres the population was mainly engaged in the pastoral industries, and as the sheep stations were chiefly in the hands of Presbyterian owners, the work of Church extension in the poorer and new settled districts could proceed but slowly. The problem of clerical supply was partially met by using candidates for Holy Orders as lay readers, working in large parishes under the clergy, and superintended as to their studies and general efficiency by the Archdeacon. This system has proved by no means ideal, and of recent years has been supplemented by the establishment of a theological college at Ballarat. For the rest, the diocese presents so many features similar to those that have been described elsewhere that it is unnecessary to enter into details. When Bishop Thornton resigned in 1900, after twenty-five years' labour, [117/118] he left a strong and united diocese, fairly staffed and equipped, the growth of which he had watched and guided from infancy. To his successor, well known to the diocese as Archdeacon and Dean, and translated from the See of Grafton and Armidale, he bequeathed the task of completing the cathedral, the building of which had been temporarily abandoned owing to lack of funds; and substantial progress has been made in what has been found to be a costly undertaking. Within a few years of his translation, Bishop Green was offered the See of Brisbane with its metropolitan possibilities; but, urged to that decision by his diocese, he declined, and Ballarat is happy in retaining one who has rendered in these different offices faithful and loyal service to the Church in Victoria.

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