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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 VII. The Autonomous Dioceses

ONCE more it is necessary to return to the early days in order to take up the thread of Tasmanian history. Like Sydney, and, later, Brisbane, Hobart was originally a penal settlement. In 1803 Governor King, of New South Wales, sent a small party of convicts and soldiers to Risdon, on the estuary of the Derwent, in order to occupy the country. In the same year a batch of convicts who had been destined for Port Philip failed to find the Yarra, and were compelled by want to remove to Hobart. They were accompanied by the Rev. B. Knopwood as chaplain. A similar settlement was planted the next year at York, near Launceston, in the northern extremity of the island. Four years later Hobart and Launceston were connected by a track which, by 1818, was converted into a [143/144] good road. The first church consisted of a large tent, which was soon replaced by a small wooden building composed of slabs. On this being blown down, the foundation-stone of a permanent church was laid, which, in 1817, was dedicated to S. David by Mr. Marsden, in compliment to the Governor, Sir David Collins. Launceston also, a few years later, was provided with a church, served by the Rev. John Youl, a former missionary in Tahiti.

The moral and social condition of Hobart resembled that of Sydney, but, if anything, was worse. Drunkenness and immorality were rife, and, as in the mother colony, rum became a medium of exchange. Convicts made their escape from time to time, and, in company with others assigned as servants to settlers, took to the "bush," and supported themselves by hunting. The situation became so serious that a large number of the prisoners were removed to Port Arthur, in Tasman's Peninsular, for better security, and a determined effort was made to put down the "bush-ranging," as it was called--for these men killed the blacks, and the blacks in turn killed the settlers. Governor Arthur took drastic measures, and by hanging one hundred and three [144/145] bush-rangers restored law and order, and directed that the blacks should vanish from the settled districts. A great drive of massed colonists took place from one end of the island to the other, with the result that two blacks were killed and a few more captured. Meanwhile, to their eternal honour, two unarmed volunteers persuaded the rest--some two hundred in number--to yield. They were taken to Flinder's Island, in Bass Straits, where the last survivor of this unhappy race died in 1876. Mr. Knopwood, who failed to command general respect, was succeeded in the chaplaincy by Dr. Bedford. Aided by Governor Arthur, the new chaplain initiated a series of reforms which produced an improvement in social conditions. The deluge of spirits was stemmed by the imposition of a high excise duty, and the arrival of additional clergy caused the influence of the Church to be felt. In the meantime the development of the country was proceeding at a rapid rate. In 1829 Tasmania possessed vast herds of cattle and sheep, and so much corn that the little island became the granary of Australia.

A visit paid by Bishop Broughton (then Archdeacon) showed him that the Church in the [145/146] island-colony urgently needed greater organization, and as a preparatory step to the creation of a diocese, he sent the Rev. William Hutchins as Archdeacon. During the governorship of Sir John Franklin, who greatly interested himself in the question of provided secondary education, Christ's College was founded by the assistance of Dr. Arnold, Dean Stanley, and others, at New Norfolk, a beautiful spot about twenty-five miles from Hobart. Launceston, also, had its grammar school, and these, together with the grammar school at Hobart founded in memory of Archdeacon Hutchins, provided a sound education on the principles of the Church of England. The settlers in Tasmania, however, received little consideration from the Imperial Government, and, whilst an exodus of many of the most enterprising to the fertile lands of Port Philip was taking place, the Imperial Government, having terminated the system of transportation in New South Wales, gradually removed the unassigned convicts to Tasmania and Norfolk Island, and between 1840 and 1845 Tasmania was swamped with these men. The grant of self-government in 1842, and the growth of the free population, enabled the colony to protest against this system, [146/147] and ten years later it was brought to an end. The gold discoveries in Victoria drained Tasmania of much of this undesirable element, but the felon leaven made the work of the Church exceedingly difficult. With the grant of responsible government came also ecclesiastical separation from Australia, and to the new diocese the Rev. F. R. Nixon was appointed. As compared with other Australian dioceses his jurisdiction was small, though both from the broken nature of the country and the other causes mentioned, the labours of a Bishop were by no means easy. He retained the see until 1864, when, owing to advancing years, he resigned, after seeing the foundations of diocesan life well and truly laid. To the vacancy the Rev. C. H. Bromby, Principal of Cheltenham Training College, was appointed. Shortly after his accession the colony, following the example of the Governments on the mainland, determined to discontinue State aid to religion, but without adequate compensation for existing interests. A storm of protest followed, for the influence of the Anglican Church was strong. The Royal Assent was reserved, and ultimately, on the measure being referred back to the local Legislature, a second Act was passed, [147/148] which, in deference to vested interests, provided a sum of £70,000 for their discharge. This sum was wisely set apart as a diocesan endowment, and has enabled the Diocese of Tasmania to carry out a central system for the payment of clerical stipends.

On Bishop Bromby's retirement in 1883, his place was filled by the appointment of the Rev. D. F. Sandford, whose short episcopate lasted six years, and is unmarked by any special event. He, in turn, was succeeded in 1889 by the Rev. H. H. Montgomery, Vicar of S. Mark's, Kennington, whose episcopate was characterized by a contagious enthusiasm and wide outlook upon Church affairs, in which connection he left a distinct impress upon the Anglican Church in Australia. The demands of his own diocese were of such a nature as to leave him free to undertake work outside its boundaries, and in these circumstances he was enabled to render valuable aid to the missionary cause. In 1892 he made a tour occupying several months through the islands of Melanesia, in order to supply episcopal ministrations to that diocese during the period of vacancy caused by the disablement and forced resignation of Bishop John Selwyn. [148/149] This service was followed in 1894 by the organization of a Self-Denial Fund throughout the Dioceses of Australia, in order to provide further funds for the missions supported by the Church and in 1900 it was crowned by the successful jubilee of the Australian Board of Missions, the arrangements for which, entailing a vast amount of labour, were entrusted to his hands. These evidences of organizing power and enthusiastic interest in missionary work led to his being recalled to England in 1901 to undertake the responsible position of Secretary to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, in which post his labours are well known. In the following year the Rev. J. E. Mercer, Rector of S. James's, Gorton, Manchester, was appointed to the see, the population of which is increasing owing to the development of the mining industry on the west coast.


Unlike New South Wales, West Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, the Colony of South Australia was fortunately spared the contamination of a convict origin. The first colonists meant to purify themselves from criminal and pauper [149/150] associates, to do without State money, and be self-supporting. A London company raised the initial funds for this scheme, and, in 1834, South Australian Commissioners were incorporated by Act of Parliament for the purpose of settling unoccupied lands in this province, the limits of which were roughly defined. In 1836 the first party of colonists arrived under the direction of Colonel Light, who selected the only site for a great Australian city which is not a seaport. Here, in the neighbourhood of the future capital, Adelaide, on fertile plains about seven miles from the coast, the party settled, accompanied by the Rev. C. B. Howard, sent out and provided for by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Mr. Howard brought with him funds for the erection of a small wooden church, and thus from the first the early colonists were supplied with spiritual ministrations. In 1840 a second clergyman, the Rev. J. Farrell, afterwards first Dean of Adelaide, was sent out by the Society; but these two clergy only worked together for a short time, for in 1843 Mr. Howard died. Further additions, however, were shortly made, but the need of episcopal help was keenly felt. "It is lamentable," writes one of the clergy, [150/151] "to think that the churches remain unconsecrated and the young people unconfirmed." But the time was close at hand when episcopal supervision would be provided. Through the munificent gifts of Miss Burdett-Coutts to the Colonial Bishoprics Fund, the necessary endowment was obtained, and in 1847 the Rev. Augustus Short, Vicar of Ravensthorpe, Northants, was appointed to the see. The diocese thus formed embraced not only the district of South Australia, but included also that of West Australia, with the Swan River settlement. The whole area was thus of enormous extent, but at the time was sparsely settled, and the population numbered about 4,600. Five clergymen were working in Adelaide and its neighbourhood, whilst six others, partly supported by Government, acted as chaplains in West Australia. The early years of Bishop Short's episcopate were chiefly occupied in long visitation tours for the purpose of Confirmation and the consecration of churches, which included two visits to Perth and its neighbourhood, where he placed Archdeacon Hale in charge.

The Colony of South Australia had been founded on the principle of self-help, and although [151/152] the Government had given small grants to religious bodies, the system of State aid was strenuously opposed from the first. When the constitutions of the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria were framed, provision was made for the support of the different religious bodies from the public revenue; but in South Australia the vote for the maintenance of Christian worship, made three years before, was discontinued in 1851. The Church was thus thrown at a very early period upon her own resources, though in West Australia the Government grant was continued. This action came at an unfortunate time, for the colony was enduring a period of financial stress, and prices had risen on all sides owing to the demands occasioned by the discovery of gold in Victoria. Nevertheless determined efforts were made to supply the necessary funds from local resources. Already Mr. Leigh had given some land in Adelaide towards the endowment of the see, and this property, on the endowment being provided from England, was made available for general Church purposes: Mr. Allen came forward with a donation of £1,000 towards the erection of a cathedral, and a Church Pastoral Aid Fund was established, to [152/153] which the laity generously contributed: also S. Peter's Collegiate School was built at a cost of C6,000, mainly derived from local gifts. Liberal though this help was, the Church remained crippled through want of funds, but one good result accrued. Churchmen began to recognize the necessity for a diocesan constitution in which the laity could have a voice in the management of Church affairs. A conference of Bishop, clergy, and laity decided to memorialize the Crown and ask permission to frame a constitution for the Church. These steps were taken just at the time that Bishop Perry was pressing the same question upon the Crown lawyers in England, and thither Bishop Short also went in order to submit a draft constitution for the opinion of counsel, and to learn whether the sanction of the Crown was necessary to its legality. Finding that, in the opinion of the best lawyers, it was competent for a diocese to organize itself on the principle of consensual compact, he immediately returned to Adelaide, and in 1855 the proposed constitution was accepted by the diocese at a further conference. The first session of the newly-formed synod met in the following year. Sound as was the advice which the Bishop [153/154] received as to the legality of procedure on the basis of consensual compact, it is worth noting that in practically working the system he recognized its defects; and after a dispute with one of his clergy whom he had suspended in 1862, he endeavoured to introduce a Bill into the Legislative Assembly in order to obtain statutory powers for synod on the lines of the Victorian Church Act. The Legislature, however, declined to interfere, and the diocese was obliged to continue its complicated machinery of administration.

Following upon the constitution of synod, other matters of organization were taken in hand. In 1856 the Diocese of Perth was created, by which subdivision the Bishop was relieved of the oversight of the whole colony of West Australia, and his territorial jurisdiction reduced by one half. With his pastoral cares diminished in this way the Bishop next turned his attention to the question of providing endowment. The Leigh property, managed by the attorneys of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, proved of great value in this respect, and at a later period produced for general Church purposes an annual income of £3,500. The Pastoral Aid Society, [154/155] also enriched by the bequest of a liberal layman, nursed young parishes until they became self-supporting. But these funds were worked on the principle of grants-in-aid, whereas the Bishop aimed at a system of central endowment for all parishes. In this he was partially successful, and through his efforts a synodal endowment fund with a capital amounting to-day to nearly £20,000 was built up. Assisted by a generous laity, the Bishop, whose ability and foresight in the matter were remarkable, thus provided the Adelaide Church with a strong financial basis which has been of the greatest assistance to the next generation of Churchmen.

Reference has already been made to the founding of S. Peter's College, in 1849, intended to provide a first-class grammar school education for the sons of squatters and professional men. But it was also the Bishop's hope to see erected in connection with every church a schoolroom in which primary education with definite religious instruction should be given to the youth of the colony with the aid of Government grants. Steps were taken to initiate a diocesan scheme of education upon these lines, but, as population increased, it became evident that the system of assisted [155/156] education was inadequate to the growing requirements. Accordingly, in 1875, proposals were introduced into the Legislature that the State should assume the whole responsibility of education, which should be free, secular, and compulsory. A similar struggle ensued to those noticed elsewhere, and in the end the forces of secularism triumphed. The Bishop, whose opinions upon the necessity for definite religious teaching were well known, endeavoured to compromise by advocating simple Bible teaching, but he was unsuccessful. His interest in all educational matters led to his being appointed Chancellor of the newly-formed Adelaide University. To crown his labours in this connection, before leaving the diocese he had the satisfaction of seeing the College of S. Barnabas founded for the purpose of training candidates for the ministry.

In 1882 the Bishop, who was in his eightieth year, felt it necessary to resign. During his long episcopate of thirty-five years he had seen the Church in South Australia grow slowly, stone by stone, from its foundations, and throughout the building of the fabric his had been the directing hand. He came to a community strongly Nonconformist in tone, and jealous of anything which [156/157] seemed to prejudice the principle of religious equality, and from the first he had to organize his diocese without State assistance--an advantage enjoyed by the other old-established dioceses. He retired from office having won the respect of Churchmen and non-Churchmen alike--and his regret at parting was tempered by the knowledge that both in spiritual and financial matters the foundations had been carefully and securely laid.

To find a successor to one who had raised the See of Adelaide to such importance was no easy task. At length the Rev. G. W. Kennion, Vicar of All Saints', Bradford, was chosen, and consecrated second Bishop of Adelaide towards the close of 1882. His twelve years episcopate was marked by steady growth in every department of diocesan work, notably by his successful efforts in establishing a "Home Mission Fund," through which no less than forty additional churches, besides schoolrooms, were erected in different parts of the colony. A mission to the settlers upon the banks of the Murray was also established, the mission priest being conveyed from place to place by a small steamer named after the Bishop's old school, "Etona." The immense [157/158] jurisdiction, to which the whole of the Northern Territory had been attached at the Primate's request, was beyond the powers of one man to supervise, and there was some talk of a Coadjutor Bishop to oversee the growing districts of Palmerston and Port Darwin in the far north, together with the vast stretch of country traversed by the trans-continental telegraph. But in the meantime Adelaide had been visited, like other Australian capitals, by a period of commercial depression, which lasted until the development of the silver mines at Broken Hill, and the gold discoveries in West Australia, restored prosperity; and the project of additional episcopal assistance was for the time being abandoned. Notwithstanding financial stress, the Bishop succeeded in raising a sum of £ 16,000 towards the completion of the Cathedral Church of S. Peter, the chancel and one bay of the nave of which had been built by his predecessor. Generally, it may be said, the sound Churchmanship and wise policy of the diocese inaugurated by Bishop Short were ably maintained under the administration of his successor, who, in 1894, was translated to the English See of Bath and Wells.

[159] The traditions of the South Australian diocese for sound learning and wise leadership were continued in the appointment as Bishop of the Rev. J. R. Harmer, Dean of Christ's College, Cambridge, and one of the literary executors of the great Bishop Lightfoot. He came to what was now a fully organized diocese, and though the Anglican Church could number as adherents only between a third and a fourth of the population, her solidarity and the devotion of her clergy were beginning to produce an appreciable effect upon the community. The adoption by synod of the communicant qualification for its members, is an instance of the growth of a true Church spirit, and in this, as in other respects, Adelaide has set a noble example to the other dioceses of Australia. The maintenance of twenty-one Church primary schools, in the face of a State system of free education, is another instance of the vigour of Church life, and of the sacrifices which Churchmen are willing to make in the cause of definite religious teaching; whilst the remarkable increase in the number of communicants in proportion to Church membership affords remarkable evidence of the devoted work of Bishop and clergy.

[160] Apart from these indications of Church development two events marked Bishop Harmer's short episcopate. In the first place the diocese was relieved of its nominal connection with the Northern Territory by the creation of the See of Carpentaria in 1900--a far more satisfactory solution of its oversight than that offered by the appointment of a Coadjutor Bishop. In the second place, mainly through the munificent gifts of two colonists, Mr. Barr Smith and Mrs. A. Simms, the building of the cathedral was completed by the erection of two western towers with spires, and of an apse with vestries in the basement. Adelaide thus possesses a small but fine mother church, as a centre for diocesan activities, and suitable for those great acts of public worship which from time to time mark the life of a colonial capital.

Bishop Harmer, in 1905, was recalled to England by translation to the ancient See of Rochester, being the third Australian Bishop to be thus summoned to important duties in the Mother Church--and synod, true to its English connection, delegated its power of appointment. The Rev. A. N. Thomas, Vicar of Guiseborough, and chaplain to the Archbishop of York, was [160/161] chosen and consecrated in the following year. With the growth of provincial organization a serious problem presents itself to the diocese. It lies between the Province of Victoria on the one hand, and, on the other, West Australia, which is likely to become a separate ecclesiastical province in the near future. There is little prospect for years to come of South Australia being subdivided into three dioceses, though the Northern Territory may ultimately revert to its original connection with the mother see. In the meantime the Diocese of Adelaide will have to decide whether it will forgo the advantages of provincial organization and preserve its autonomy, or connect itself with Victoria or West Australia, when a province in the latter State is formed.


The territory of West Australia was originally occupied for much the same reasons as Tasmania. Albany was founded as a penal settlement in 1825, and fear of French annexation led to the establishment of the Swan River settlement in 1829. In the following year Albany was purged of its convicts, and the two places became West Australia. Like the founders of Adelaide, the [161/162] pioneers of the Swan River were theorists who wished to transplant a piece of old England to new soil with benefit to themselves. At first the benefits appeared visionary. The chief promoter, T. Peel, sank £50,000, and landed 300 indented labourers, but he had neither the right land or labour, and ruin stared the community in the face. The population dwindled from 4,000 to 1,500, and for supplies relied upon Tasmania. After 1832 it grew again inch by inch, with the discovery of better pasturage; but for a long time it remained poor--a Cinderella among the Australian colonies.

Reference has already been made to the fact that Bishop Short found six chaplains labouring in this portion of his diocese, which was ultimately separated from Adelaide in 1856, under the title of Perth. The new diocese was of enormous extent, but the population was confined almost entirely to the south-west, and numbered little more than 40,000. On its formation, Archdeacon Hale, who had accompanied Bishop Short on his first voyage to Adelaide, and had shown great interest in work among the aborigines, was appointed first Bishop of the see. Vast as the area of the diocese was, the settled districts [162/163] were not difficult of access, and the Bishop's furthest points of travel were Sharks Bay to the north, and the Gascoyne River. As a Crown Colony, the Government made grants in aid of religion: consequently, until West Australia was granted self-goverment, the Church of England enjoyed the position for the time being of an Established and State-supported Church. The interest which the Bishop showed in the welfare of the aborigines in South Australia, he carried with him into the new diocese, and to his initiative is due the inception of work which is carried on to-day. In other respects the diocese maintained the even tenor of its way, growing slowly with the gradual increase of population, but without any exceptional experience. Synodical action was not established until 1872, and other branches of diocesan organization came into being in the same leisurely fashion.

On Bishop Hale's acceptance of translation to Brisbane in 1875, at the request of the Australian Bishops, the Right Rev. H. H. Parry, for eight years Coadjutor Bishop of Barbados, was translated from the West Indies. Separated from the eastern colonies by the Great Australian Bight with its eleven hundred miles of sea, neither the [163/164]
colony nor the diocese made rapid progress. The home authorities opposed projects which entailed expense, and commercial development was hindered. Representative government, which had been foreshadowed in 1870, was eventually granted in 1890, and Government loans soon provided the capital needed to finance the enterprise of the colonists. The quiet which had reigned over Church affairs was rudely disturbed by the withdrawal of State aid, and to add to his difficulties, Bishop Parry suddenly found himself confronted with the rush of new population which accompanies the discovery of gold in large quantities. Within a few months the whole position of Western Australia was changed. The seaports were thronged, and bush tracts congested with crowds of men making their way to the diggings on the fields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Towns sprang up within a few weeks, and Perth became a centre of feverish excitement which recalled the old days of Ballarat and Bendigo. In the midst of the early stages of this turmoil, Bishop Parry died, and in some respects his death was opportune. Advanced in years, and accustomed to the quiet round of work, first in the West Indies, and then at Perth, he could [164/165] hardly possess the strength and determination necessary to cope with the demands which this sudden phase in colonial life presented.

A young and vigorous successor was chosen in the person of the Rev. C. O. L. Riley, Vicar of S. Paul's, Preston. He reached the diocese in the circumstances just described, except that the stream of incomers was being daily increased by the reports as to the extraordinary richness of the fields. In 1893, before the tide had set in, the population was estimated at 66,000, four years later it had reached the total of 166,000. The strain on the Church was intense. Before this epoch there were only twenty-three clergy in the diocese, which number was not wholly inadequate; but in a few months the whole situation had been changed, and the Bishop's energies were sorely taxed in finding additional clergy from England and the eastern colonies. Gradually the supply rose to over forty in 1897, and a few years later to sixty-two. A diocese dependent upon the mining industry has problems of its own. The wealth extracted from the earth, whilst it gives an impetus to trade locally, is almost entirely owned by non-resident shareholders, so that, though the wealth of the State seems enormous, the [165/166] immediate benefit to local Church finance is small. With the assistance of generous grants from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Colonial and Continental Church Society, and English contributions, the diocese gradually made headway. The goldfields were constituted a separate archdeaconry, permanent churches built, and resident clergymen in the new centres supplied. To supplement the additions to the staff, chiefly obtained from England, a local theological college was established, and in order to better the financial position of the clergy a bonus system of stipend was introduced, whereby all stipends are paid through a central office. This system is a vast improvement upon that of direct payment which obtains in all the other Australian dioceses except Newcastle and Tasmania.


The enormous extent of the diocese--1,280 miles from north to south by 865 from east to west--in the early days did not present so formidable a problem as the figures imply, owing to the smallness of population, but the development of the goldfields made it clear that steps [166/167] should at once be taken to subdivide the diocese. Accordingly a carefully-considered scheme for subdivision into three dioceses was submitted to, and approved by, synod, whereby two new dioceses should be created, one with its centre at Bunbury, in the south, the other in the northwest to embrace a large portion of the sparsely-settled territory chiefly occupied by the aborigines, Malays, and Chinese, engaged in the pearl shell fisheries. The formation of Bunbury was undertaken first, and was completed in 1904, when the Very Rev. F. Goldsmith, Dean of Perth, was appointed first Bishop. Pending the formation of the proposed diocese in the north-west, he was given jurisdiction over the whole of that part of West Australia which is not included within the proposed reduced area of the Diocese of Perth.

The completion of the scheme of subdivision by the creation of a north-western see, is not likely to be long delayed, and when this has been accomplished, the dioceses of West Australia will be in a position to federate themselves into an ecclesiastical province, with the Bishop of Perth as Metropolitan. Although the constituent dioceses are only three in number, [167/168] their practical separation from the rest of Australia by so many miles of sea renders the organization of a self-contained province an inevitable necessity ; and, with the exception of Adelaide and Tasmania, the different dioceses of Australia will thus be grouped together under provincial organization according to the primitive order of the Church.

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