History of the Diocese
The Diocese of Newcastle was founded by Royal Letters Patent in 1847. The boundaries of the new See were thus defined: From the Hawkesbury River in the South, to the 21st Parallel of Latitude on the North, and from the Pacific on the East, to the boundary of South Australia – the 141st degree of Longitude – on the West.
On the 29th June, St Peter’s Day, of that year, the Reverend William Tyrrell was consecrated in Westminster Abbey as the first Bishop and on the 30th January of the following year (Dr Tyrrell’s 41st birthday) he was installed in the Cathedral at Newcastle.
There were then 14 clergy in the Diocese including two whom the Bishop had brought with him.
In 1859 the area of the Diocese was reduced by the formation of the new Bishopric of Brisbane, all of the parent Diocese of Newcastle lying North of the Queensland border was embraced in the new See.
Eight years later the creation of the Diocese of Grafton and Armidale wholly out of the parent Diocese fixed the Northern boundary. A further curtailment was effected when the Diocese of Bathurst was formed.
In 1940 by arrangement with the Diocese of Grafton, the Newcastle Diocesan Boundary was slightly extended on the North so as to embrace the district of Heron’s Creek, which previously was within the Diocese of Grafton but had always been worked from Newcastle.
The boundaries of the Diocese as now existing are thus described: Commencing at a point on the coast where Cathie Lake empties into the ocean; thence by Cathie and Ten Mile Creeks to the top of Broken Bago Range; hence by that range to Mount Comboyne; thence by an imaginary line running westward to the intersection of the counties of Parry and Vernon; thence in a South Westerly direction, following the Liverpool Range to the Goulburn River; thence by the river to a point above the village of Bylong; thence by the mountain range in a Southerly direction to the Colo River at its junction with Putty Creek; thence by the Colo and Hawkesbury Rivers to the coast; thence in a Northerly direction to the point of commencement. Dr Tyrrell’s Episcopate ended with his death in 1879. The 14 Clergy of 1847 had grown to 28. Dr Pearson was the next occupant of the See. He resigned in June, 1889, after 9 year’s labour, leaving a clergy roll of 44.
In November 1890, The Right Reverend George Henry Stanton, D.D. was transferred from North Queensland to the vacant See. He died 15 years later, on 4th December, 1905.
John Francis Stretch, D.D. some time Coadjutor-Bishop of Brisbane, and afterwards Dean of Newcastle, was elected as Dr Stanton’s successor, at a special session of Synod, held in February, 1906. He occupied the See for 13 years, when failing health led him to resign as from June 30, 1919. To the very great regret, however, of all who knew him, he did not live to enjoy his retirement. His death occurred on 19th April, 1919. During his episcopate the clergy roll increased from 45 to 70.
As successor to Dr Stretch, the Right Reverend Reginald Stephen, D.D., at that time Bishop of Tasmania, was elected on the 8th April, 1919. He resigned the See as from 1st March, 1928. During his episcopate a great advance was made in Diocesan institutions. St Alban’s Home for Boys, St Elizabeth’s Home for Girls, St George’s Training Farm, St Hilda’s Hostel for Girls, St Stephen’s House for the early training of candidates for the ministry, and the Broughton School for Boys being established; and the Provincial College of St John was moved from Armidale to Morpeth.
The number of licensed clergymen in the Diocese had reached 95.
The Right Reverend George Merrick Long, C.B.E., LL.D.,D.D., then Bishop of Bathurst, was elected to the See at a special session of Synod on the 6th December, 1927, and was enthroned in Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle on the 1st May, 1928. Death claimed him with tragic suddenness whilst attending the Lambeth Conference in 1930. By reason of his death the Church lost one of its most prominent ecclesiastics, whose wisdom and statesmanship in the great problems of Australia left an indelible record of unselfishness, character and efficiency both within and without the Church.
Following on his demise, a Special Session of Synod for the election of a Bishop was summoned by the Administrator of the Diocese, the Venerable H. A. Woodd, B.A., Archdeacon of Newcastle, which met on the 9th September, 1930: but as the Synod failed to elect a Bishop, the responsibility in accordance with the terms of the relative Ordinance, devolved upon the Bishop Election Board, which on the 14th day of November, 1930, elected unanimously to the vacant See the Right Reverend Francis de Witt Batty,M.A.,Th.Soc., who accepted the position and was duly enthroned in the Cathedral Church of Newcastle on the 3rd day of March, 1931.
Bishop Batty resigned the See as from 30th September, 1958. During his long Episcopate of twenty-eight years, he made a marked contribution to the life of the Diocese and to the Church and community in general.
The two outstanding projects were the establishments of the C.A. Brown Homes for the Aged, and the buying and re-establishing of St. John’s Theological College, Morpeth. His contribution to the wider Church was well recognised, in particular his long leadership of the Constitutional movement, culminating in the acceptance of a Constitution by General Synod in 1955.
The Electoral Synod met in April, 1958 and elected The Right Reverend James Alan George Housden, B.A., Th., D., Bishop of Rockhampton, who was transferred and enthroned on the 21st November, 1958. He held office for fourteen years when declining health led to his resignation as from 31 December, 1972. His occupancy of the See was marked by a deep pastoral concern for clergy and people alike to the great gain of the whole diocese in union and concord.
The Electoral Synod met on 16th October, 25th November and 28th November, 1972 but failed to elect a Bishop. Under the provisions of the election ordinance the election of the Bishop was delegated to Diocesan Council, which on 7th December, 1972 elected The Right Reverend Ian Wotton Allnutt Shevill, M.A., Th.D., General Secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and formerly Bishop of North Queensland. Bishop Shevill was enthroned on the 6th August, 1973.
His episcopate was marked by a reconstitution of the administration under six Portfolios, the strengthening of the finances of the diocese, the enlargement of bonds with the community, the beginning of plans to extend the C.A. Brown Anglican Village and to complete Christ Church Cathedral.
Ill health caused him to resign the See on 30th September, 1977. The Electoral Synod met on 12th November and elected the Right Reverend Alfred Charles Holland, then Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Perth. He was enthroned on 24th February, 1978 in Christ Church Cathedral.
Bishop Holland resigned the See on 6 August, 1992, the twenty second anniversary of his consecration as a bishop. During his episcopate there was the construction of Bishop Tyrrell Lodge at the Morpeth Conference Centre, the creation of new parishes, the development of the Samaritans Foundation and specialist chaplaincies. He was a strong advocate of the ordination of women.
The Electoral Synod was summoned by the Administrator of the Diocese, the Very Revd. G.R. Lawrence, Th.L., and met on 1-3 October, 1992. The Synod failed to elect a Bishop. A further Synod met on 11-12 December, 1992 and elected The Right Reverend Roger Adrian Herft, B.D., B.Th., then Bishop of Waikato, New Zealand. He was enthroned on 6th May, 1993 in Christ Church Cathedral.
Bishop Herft became the Archbishop of Perth in 2005. The Rt Rev Dr Brian Farran was enthroned on 24 June 2005 in Christ Church Cathedral. During his ministry a number of significant initiatives were commenced including collaborative ministry models and the introduction of deacons and priests ordained for self-supporting local ministry. He concluded his ministry on 15 December 2012 and Bishop Peter Stuart became the Administrator of the Diocese on 16 December 2012.
In 2013 two Election Synod’s were held. At the second Synod on the 14 September, The Right Reverend Greg Thompson (Bishop of the Northern Territory) was elected. He was installed on the 2 February 2014 as the 13th Bishop of Newcastle.
The area of the Diocese is given at 41437 square kms, with a population of approximately 988,105 of whom it is estimated some 278,483 identified themselves as Anglican.
Bishops of Newcastle
William Tyrrell,D.D., 1847-1879
Josiah Brown Pearson,LL.D.,D.D., 1880-1889
George Henry Stanton,D.D., 1890-1905
John Francis Stretch,D.D., 1906-1919
Reginald Stephen,D.D., 1919-1928
George Merrick Long,C.B.E., D.D.,LL.D.,V.D., 1928-1930
Francis de Witt Batty,M.A.,Th.Soc., 1931-1958
James Alan George Housden,B.A.,Th.D., 1958-1972
Ian Wotton Allnutt Shevill,A.O.,M.A.,Th.D., 1973-1977
Alfred Charles Holland,B.A.,Dip.Th., 1978-1992
Roger Adrian Herft, B.D., B.TH., 1993-2005
Brian George Farran, B.A., B.Litt, B.Th.L., DMinStuds. 2005-2012 – View some of his writings here.
History of the Diocesan Office
For many years prior to 1912, The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s office was located at Morpeth. The office building is still there in the grounds of St John’s Conference Centre. In 1912, the Bishop moved to Newcastle and of course, so did the office. Between 1912 and 1925 the office was located in various places in the inner city. In 1925, the Diocese built Tyrrell House, at the very east end of Hunter Street and the office was housed there.
In 1981, the office moved to 250 Darby St Newcastle, to the old St. Hilda’s Girls Hostel. This move took place because the Tyrrell House site was redeveloped by the Church. The office’s home was Darby Street until 1999 when staff temporarily moved to Closebourne House at Morpeth. This temporary move was in anticipation of a new office being built at the western end of the Cathedral. However, the new office never eventuated due to costs and planning issues preventing it.
The office moved back to more temporary offices in Hunter Street in 2001 and stayed there until January 2003 when staff moved to the premises at 51 Newcomen Street and were based there until the end of 2009.
The current building, at 134 King Street, is owned by the Diocese and known as Bishop Housden Hall. Level 3 has been designed with modern fittings to be home of the administrative services of the Diocese as well as the bishops and senior clergy office space.