Ch.2 – The Birth Of The Diocese Of Armidale & Grafton

Anglican Church Glen Innes

Bishop Broughton appointed William Tyrrell the Bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle.  He truly cared for his ‘sheep’ visiting the New England area on a number of occasions.  Remembering that the roads were tracks and that the horse was the only available form of transport, it was a remarkable commitment.  His visits in 1848, 1856, 1860 and 1864 have been recorded.  After three weeks in the New England District in 1848 Bishop Tyrrell returned to Newcastle. He had a satisfying feeling believing that he had persuaded: “almost every squatter or settler to have family prayers in the evening, to have a service on Sundays and to read a sermon from a book approved and provided by the Bishop himself.  The squatter or settler was ordered to superintend a Lending Library for all men and shepherds on his station  and to unite with all the other settlers in the vast district for some common purpose.”  The Bishop’s goal was to build a church in Armidale.  This was achieved.  St. Peter’s Church was finally opened in May 1850.  Bishop Tyrrell’s incredibly vast journeys convinced him that:  “the huge Diocese of Newcastle had to be reduced.”

With the Diocese of Brisbane being created in 1859, this was to prove a big relief for Bishop Tyrrell.  In July 1856 representatives of the people of Glen Innes, Tenterfield and the Upper Clarence met to: “ beg Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, not to include them in the new Colony of the North”.

In 1862 Bishop Tyrrell presided at a meeting in Sydney and pleaded for the Diocese to be further reduced.  As a result, the Diocese of Grafton & Armidale was constituted in 1863.  The events ultimately led to the first Bishop of Grafton & Armidale, the Rt Rev. James Francis Turner being appointed to this venerable position after a remarkable sequence of events.  In April 1866, Bishop Tyrrell informed a meeting in Newcastle that more than three years had elapsed since the offer of an appointment in the new Diocese had been made to two clergymen.  One of the clergymen took ten months to decline and the second candidate also declined on the grounds of ill health. The Rev. S.R. Waddelow of Bournemouth, England, accepted, but just before his installation he too withdrew on medical advice, dying a few years later.

After a further six months delay the Archbishop of Canterbury announced the Rev. William Collinson Sawyer of Oxford for the position.  He was consecrated as Bishop in 1867 and arrived in Sydney at the end of that year.  Voyages in those days took up to nine months between England and Australia.  Following his arrival in Sydney, he continued his journey to Grafton by ship, acquired a horse and rode on to Armidale, then to Morpeth where Bishop Tyrrell resided and eventually settled his family at Grafton on the 13th March, 1868.  Tragically, two nights later on the 15th March 1868 the Rev. Collinson Sawyer and one of his sons were drowned on their way to church when their boat overturned on the Clarence River.  The Rev. James Francis Turner was then selected and appointed on 24th February 1869. His initial visit to Armidale on the 8th September 1869 was accompanied by falling snow.