John Wollaston

John Wollaston  (1791 – 1856) minister
In many ways Wollaston left his mark throughout the Colony:  but mostly because he was a hard working and extremely faithful Priest.  Ministering in very difficult and sometimes quite dangerous circumstances, he lovingly got alongside his people in times of crisis and need:  and led them faithfully in prayer and worship.

A local Saint and Hero of the Province of Western Australia, was born on 28th March 1791 London.  He was educated at Charterhouse, where his father, Edward Wollaston, was a Master and his maternal grandfather Headmaster:  then later at Christ’s College, Cambridge.  He took holy orders:  and in May 1819 married Mary Amelia, youngest daughter of Colonel George Gledstones; they had five sons and two daughters.  Finding the income from his cure of West Wickham, Cambridgeshire, insufficient for his growing family, he applied in 1840 for the position of chaplain to the Western Australian Land Co.’s proposed settlement at Australind on Port Leschenault.  The company let it be known in its advance publicity that Wollaston’s services would be available to the settlement, but gave him no appointment, and it was eventually the British government that assured him of an official stipend if he went to Western Australia.

Wollaston arrived at Fremantle in April 1841, at a time of considerable financial stringency.  He bought land at Picton, on the outskirts of Bunbury, and began to build a chapel on his land.  He expected the annual subsidy that Governor John Hutt had introduced in an ordinance to encourage the building of churches:  and the payment of stipends, but he was allowed no government aid until his church was opened for divine service.  The small wooden church with a thatched roof which was later replaced by shingles:  was designed by Wollaston and built by him and his sons.  Consecrated in 1843 and dedicated to St Mark, his Church still stands as the oldest church but one, in Western Australia.

Such enterprise was remarkable in a newly arrived clergyman, no longer young and not by temperament readily adaptable to the change from English village life to a pioneering society.  Moreover, Wollaston’s congregation was declining after the failure of the Australind scheme.  But his continued labours as a parish priest earned him the name of a ‘worthy, laborious, energetic, excellent missionary’.

Wollaston’s opportunity came in 1848:  a new and more sympathetic governor, Charles Fitzgerald, transferred him to the parish of St John’s Albany, and the colony was visited by Bishop Augustus Short and Archdeacon Matthew Hale of the new diocese of Adelaide.  Impressed by Wollaston’s qualities, Bishop Short appointed him Archdeacon of Western Australia early in 1849, an office which he discharged ably and zealously until his death.

During these years Wollaston covered many hundreds of miles on horseback in the course of duties which included five Archidiaconal Visitations throughout the settled areas of the Colony.  Growth in population:  and after 1850, the transportation of convicts increased the church’s responsibilities, especially as the Anglican clergy had to serve many Nonconformists without ministers of the own.  Through his own efficiency and the good relations he developed with the government:  Wollaston successfully met this situation.  During his time the number of Anglican clergy increased from five to ten, and the regularity of services in the Colony’s major Centres improved greatly.  Although an earlier Aboriginal mission in 1835 had failed, Wollaston established another Anglican mission to Western Australian Aboriginals at Albany in 1851.

Wollaston was not personally ambitious and would willingly have resigned in favour of an Archdeacon based in Perth, but his ultimate aim was the establishment of a Bishopric in Western Australia.  Soon after his arrival in the colony he encouraged a movement among settlers to set aside gifts of land for the endowment of a see.  The scheme had little success until it came under his oversight as Archdeacon; 1300 acres (526 ha) had been subscribed by 1856.  Meanwhile in 1854 arrangements were begun for founding a Diocese at Perth with Archdeacon Hale as first bishop.  But before the necessary formalities were completed Wollaston died at Albany on 3 May 1856, soon after returning from his fifth Archidiaconal Tour of the South West.

In many ways Wollaston left his mark throughout the Colony:  but mostly because he was a hard working and extremely faithful Priest.  Ministering in very difficult and sometimes quite dangerous circumstances, he lovingly got alongside his people in times of crisis and need:  and led them faithfully in prayer and worship.

Sources

http://www.bunbury.org.au/about/JohnRamsdon.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wollaston

http://monumentaustralia.org.au/monument_display.php?id=93066&image=0

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