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Bromby, Charles Henry (1814–1907)

by Herbert H. Condon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Charles Henry Bromby (1814-1907), Anglican bishop, was born on 11 July 1814 at Hull, Yorkshire, England, the second son of John Healey Bromby, vicar of Holy Trinity, Kingston-upon-Hull, and his wife Jane, née Amis, of Acomb, Northumberland; his brother, John Edward, became headmaster of the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. Charles was educated as a day-boy at Hull Grammar School and as a boarder at Uppingham where he was school captain, dux and exhibitioner in 1833. He then went to St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1837; M.A., 1840; D.D., 1864). Made deacon at 23 by the bishop of Lichfield he served his first curacy at Chesterfield, Derbyshire. In 1839 he was ordained priest by the archbishop of York, became curate at Christ Church, Hull, and on 9 July married Mary Anne, eldest daughter of Dr William Bodley. Her brother, George Frederick (1827-1907), F.S.A., R.A., became a leading ecclesiastical architect.

In 1839 Bromby became headmaster of Stepney Grammar School. Next year he served in his father's church at Hull as a reader and in 1843 moved to St Paul's, Cheltenham, where he was perpetual curate in 1846-60. His main interests there were the poor and education. He founded a boys' orphanage, built a new church school, established the Working Men's Club and was joint founder of Cheltenham College and of the Cheltenham Ladies' College. In 1847 he also became the first principal of St Paul's College, originally the Cheltenham Normal School for teachers in the National schools. In April 1850 he shifted it from Monson Villas to fine new buildings which he planned and supervised himself at St Julia's. As editor of the widely-read periodical Papers for the Schoolmaster he had great influence. Prominent among educational workers in England he wrote pamphlets condemning Robert Lowe's 'Revised Educational Code', but it became law in 1862. He also published many other works on education and religious subjects.

Bromby then sought preferment in the Church and the executive committee of St Paul's College enlisted help from its president, Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh earl of Shaftesbury. After F. R. Nixon resigned as bishop of Tasmania, Bromby was appointed to the vacant see in April 1864. He was consecrated in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 June and in September sailed with his family from Plymouth; on 7 January 1865 he arrived at Hobart Town and was installed as bishop.

In April Bromby opened the Diocesan Synod, through which he was to consolidate church discipline, revivify worship and plead for doctrinal comprehensiveness. Through synod he also increased the use of laymen, encouraged church extension, directed a social ministry and enhanced diocesan finances. Later he used synod as a unifying agency for the divergent interests of southern and northern Tasmania, for clarifying the legal tangle of Tasmania's episcopacy and for emphasizing colonial anti-Erastianism. He successfully dissociated the Tasmanian Church from state control and interference, and his tact resulted in the State Aid Commutation Act of 1868. He also provided the Anglican Church in Tasmania with an adequate legal setting and an effective system of government. In seeking consolidation within his own diocese and with those of the other colonies he saw, probably more clearly than any bishop of his day, the need for an Australian general diocese with legislative rather than advisory powers. Bromby recruited many new clergy for Tasmania and in an extensive building programme gave unreserved support to the new St David's Cathedral in Hobart. The plan was provided by his brother-in-law, G. F. Bodley, and the Duke of Edinburgh laid the foundation stone in January 1868. The first service in the cathedral was on the last Sunday in 1872 and the nave was consecrated by Bishop Short of Adelaide on 5 February 1874. Bromby also provided an official Bishopscourt in Hobart.

Bromby went to England in February 1880 and returned to Hobart in November 1881. Next year he resigned and left Tasmania. He was rector of Shrawardine-cum-Montfort, Shropshire, in 1882-87, coadjutor to the bishop of Lichfield in 1883-91 and to the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1892-1901, and master of St John's Hospital, Lichfield, in 1887-92. He then retired and lived with his son at Clifton where he died on 14 April 1907; he was buried at Banstead on the Surrey Downs.

In 1910 the Tasmanian Synod founded a studentship in Bishop Bromby's memory.

Although accused of vacillation and compromise in matters doctrinal and misinterpreted in his plea for comprehensiveness, Bromby had left the Anglican Church in Tasmania unified and consolidated. His relations with his family were singularly close, though they led him into nepotism, particularly with his eldest son. Henry Bodley (1840-1911) graduated from Cambridge in 1864, was made a deacon at Cuddesdon in 1864, went to Tasmania as chaplain to his father in January 1865 and was ordained priest in St David's Cathedral in June. He was second curate at St David's Cathedral under Rev. R. R. Davies in that year and under Rev. F. H. Cox in 1866-67. In 1868-74 he was incumbent of St John Baptist, Hobart, and became canon of St David's Cathedral. When his father acted as dean of St David's in 1874-76, Henry was incumbent of the cathedral. He was dean and incumbent from 8 December 1876 until 1884 when he followed his father to England. H. B. Bromby was leader of the ritualistic party in the Tasmanian Anglican Church in 1872-84. Another son, Charles Hamilton, was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1876-78 and 1881-82, and attorney-general in 1876-77.

Select Bibliography

  • H. H. Condon, Charles Henry Bromby, Second Bishop of Tasmania (M.A. thesis, University of Tasmania, 1964), and for bibliography.

Citation details

Herbert H. Condon, 'Bromby, Charles Henry (1814–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bromby-charles-henry-3062/text4515, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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