Robert Cartwright

Robert Cartwright (1771 – 1856) Church of England clergyman
Robert Cartwright’s interests were not solely parochial. He accompanied Macquarie to the ‘New Country’ in October 1820 and preached the first sermon near Lake Bathurst, ‘strongly impressing the justice, good policy, and expediency of civilizing the aborigines … and settling them in townships’.

Robert Cartwright (1771-1856), Church of England clergyman, was born in December 1771, a son of Thomas Cartwright, gentleman, of Wellington, Shropshire, England. His mother was related to the Powis family of Powys Castle and other prominent border families. Cartwright travelled in eastern Europe before taking holy orders in 1794, and marrying Mary Boardman in 1796.

He was curate for fourteen years at Bradford, a vigorous Evangelical centre. There, ‘he and his family resided in a very comfortable manner and [were] much respected by the principal Inhabitants’. In 1802 Cartwright matriculated at Oxford and enrolled at St Edmund Hall but did not proceed to a degree.

In 1808 when Samuel Marsden visited Bradford and represented the need for chaplains in New South Wales, Cartwright with some reluctance consented to go out. He was commissioned on 5 January 1809, sailed with his wife and six children in the convict transport Anne in August, and arrived in Sydney with Marsden on 27 February 1810.

Cartwright, on a salary of £240, was appointed to the Hawkesbury; on 2 December Governor Macquarie, laying out townships in the region, ‘attended Divine Service … at the temporary church at the Green Hills, where the Revd. Mr Robert Cartwright, the Chaplain of this district, gave us a most excellent discourse and read prayers extremely well indeed’. The new town of Windsor then became the centre of Cartwright’s extensive chaplaincy.

He was an energetic and popular minister. He avoided public controversy, held aloof from official disputes and only with reluctance accepted a magistracy; but he had to give an opinion on J. H. Bent’s imprisoning of William Broughton and on Sunday musters, and agreed with Macquarie on both occasions. Unfortunately he found his work hampered by inadequate church and parsonage facilities and began to get into financial difficulties. In 1818, owing to the shortage of clergy, Macquarie had refused him permission to go to England after his wife had had to return, but in 1819, before the new church of St Matthew at Windsor was completed, he was transferred to Liverpool ‘at his own particular and earnest request.’

His interests were not solely parochial. He accompanied Macquarie to the ‘New Country’ in October 1820 and preached the first sermon near Lake Bathurst, ‘strongly impressing the justice, good policy, and expediency of civilizing the aborigines … and settling them in townships’.

Already, Cartwright had shown his concern for the Aboriginals’ welfare when he had advocated their settlement in a special township, with allotments for the adults, and workshops and schools for the children. This elaborate plan, even in a poetic version, gained only a polite reception from the government, but he had enunciated some important principles of Aboriginal welfare policy.

He hoped to become the settlement’s chaplain and requested that his place at Liverpool be taken by his eldest son James, who was then at Cambridge but later became minister of the Jewish Episcopal Church, Bethnal Green. Meanwhile Cartwright’s financial embarrassment continued and in January 1821 he sought relief from Bathurst, who in September 1824 raised his salary to £300 and ordered that he be repaid for some past expenses. In 1825 Cartwright was induced to add to his duties the mastership of the Male Orphan School. In his four years of office he greatly improved the school and won the commendation of Archdeacon Scott.

Late in 1836 Cartwright left Liverpool to become incumbent of St James’s, Sydney. His health and experience did not fit him well for a church which was the bishop’s temporary cathedral and the place of worship for many important people, and his tenure was undistinguished.

All Saints Anglican church Collector

He had intended to return to England at the end of it, but in March 1838 secured instead a licence for the southern districts generally. Here he began a remarkable ministry in an extended and sparsely-populated area, carrying out a task for which his evangelistic talents admirably equipped him. At first his chief centre was Yass, but later he lived at Arkstone Forest near Burrowa, and then at Collector where he built a church on his own land.

Here he made his headquarters; the area developed into the parishes of Queanbeyan, Yass, Canberra, Tumut and Albury in his lifetime and a number of others soon afterwards. In 1855, when Bishop Barker confirmed one of Cartwright’s flock who had once been a noted bushranger, Mrs Barker found Cartwright ‘a venerable, apostolic man aged eighty-six … He has stood up for Evangelical truth amid many adverse elements … The only sign of age he shows is being very deaf, but he is as shrewd and clear in mind as ever he was’.

His first wife, by whom he had eleven children, had died in 1835 and was buried at Liverpool. He died on 14 December 1856 at Goulburn, and was buried near his former church at Liverpool, survived by his second wife, Isabella Waddell of Collector.

Cartwright won the good opinion of his contemporaries throughout his long and active life. He retained a simple Evangelical faith, with a strong humanitarian and missionary sense. Since he avoided secular commitments and ecclesiastical controversies, he played little part in public affairs. To him there seemed more important work to be done.

Complete article and further information – Australian Dictionary of Biography :

Letter from Reverend Robert Cartwright to Governor Macquarie
Proposals of Reverend Robert Cartwright to Ameliorate Condition of Natives
[Dated 18/1/1820 – excerpt below]

I confess I should be proud of the honour of being appointed the first Chaplain to such establishment…. I am persuaded the Native Institution has suffered materially since Mr. Shelly’s death for want of a proper Superintendent, who could feel a real interest in its welfare.

I now beg leave to make a few remarks to the tenth rule of the institutions, and observe the most frugal and beneficial mode of locating lands for the use of the adult natives is to apportion small allotments in a town to such as are inclined to settle, when I am persuaded everything at first must be done for them. On this plan, a few of every tribe may be induced to sit down together in small adjoining allotments or in one general square appropriated for the use of that particular tribe, and whenever any of the families belong to such tribe are inclined to settle, it would be proper to assist in separating a small portion of such land for their particular use.

Refer also
The Rev. Robert Cartwright was appointed as the first Rector (Senior Minister) of St. Luke’s Liverpool. Robert Cartwright was a member of the Evangelical Union in England and arrived in Australia in 1810. He first appointment in the colony of New South Wales was Green Hills, now Windsor. Due to financial challenges at Green Hills, he asked to be transferred to Liverpool. When Robert Cartwright arrived in Liverpool in 1819 the church still lacked plaster on the walls and furnishings. Robert Cartwright deemed the schoolhouse inadequate and so on St. Luke’s Day, 18th October 1819 the church gathered at St. Luke’s Liverpool. The church has gathered here ever since.

Robert Cartwright was the Anglican minister at Windsor, Liverpool and St James, and later in southern NSW, who was also a magistrate and master of the Male Orphan School.
The Male Orphan School Orphanage

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2 thoughts on “Robert Cartwright”

  1. TO: Rev. Paul Woodhart
    I am a descent of Rev. R. Cartwright and I would be interested in the photos you have as my grandchildren are compiling information for school projects on their ancestors.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Judith L. Vincent

  2. There is a memorial to Robert Cartwright at All Saints’ Church, Collector.
    We built it from stones from his house site in 1989. He was the first the first Rector of the Gunning Parish…I was the 42nd. ! I have photos for any who would like to contact me.The Rev’d Paul Woodhart.

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