John Batman (1801 – 1839) pioneer of Melbourne
John Batman famously considered Melbourne as “the place for village”. It was in John Batman’s house where Melbourne’s first church service by an ordained minister, was held.
John Batman’s parents, William and Mary Bat(e)man, had reached Sydney in the Ganges on 2 June 1797. William was a Middlesex cutler and grinder of Yorkshire background, transported for receiving stolen saltpetre; his wife paid her fare and brought with her their children, Maria and Robert. After obtaining his ticket-of-leave, William Batman established a timber-yard at Parramatta. Here his five sons and Maria were brought up, baptized at St John’s in 1810, the year when his sentence expired, and all thenceforward trained as Anglican-Methodists.
John Batman’s exceptional talents brought him from humble beginnings into auspicious prominence. He grasped a chance that many may have seen, but no other seized, and initiated a free colony on a basis consistent with the welfare of its Aboriginals. He conjured prosperity and domestic happiness from most unlikely sources, sought their extension, and aspired beyond them. Cursed by common failings, he yet had a grand intention and perseverance to back it, was brave and considerate, capable of bluff; but fundamentally honest.
Melbourne, “the place for a village,” was founded in 1835 by settlers from Tasmania, headed by John Batman and followed closely by John Pascoe Fawkner. Also Dr. Alexander Thomson, a surgeon and catechist, acting on behalf of the Port Phillip Association, held Church of England service each Sunday in his tent under a great gum tree which stood on the present site of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The first Church service at the Settlement by an ordained minister, however, was held at John Batman’s house or shed by the Reverend Joseph Orton, a Wesleyan minister from Van Diemen’s Land, on the morning of April 24th, 1836. It was a “select but rather motley congregation, for in addition to Mr. Batman’s family and attendants and his few associates, there was a sable group of Sydney natives, attired in white Indian costume, and a village of Port Phillip aborigines of both sexes, robed in opossum skins, who seemed to be more impressed than astonished at the simple but solemn and earnest ceremony.” In the afternoon the Rev. J. Orton conducted a service in the open air. The Book of Common Prayer was used on both occasions.
One of the founders of Melbourne, John Batman, was among the subscribers who paid for the construction of St James Anglican Cathedral. It was opened in 1842 and completed in 1847.
Refer also Rev. J. Orton https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/joseph-orton/
Note also a report on a ‘reputed’ first Melbourne church service at : https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/henry-reed/
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