Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Burrowes, John (1795–1879)

by N. S. Lynravn

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

John Burrowes (1795-1879), ecclesiastic and scholar, was born in Dublin, son of James Burrowes and his wife Eliza, née Deane. He was ordained deacon by the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1834 and priest in 1835 by the bishop of Carlisle. In 1840 he was travelling secretary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jewish community in London. With aid from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge he migrated with his family and arrived in the Bombay at Hobart Town on 28 June 1841. He was immediately appointed first government chaplain at Pontville and rector of Brighton. He preached in a stable until St Mark's Church at Pontville, one of the finest buildings of James Blackburn, was completed; it had been described by the Hobart Town Courier in 1840 as 'by far the handsomest design of any building in the island'. In 1843 Burrowes was appointed a surrogate for the diocese by Bishop Francis Nixon, but most of his time was spent in developing and extending his already large parish and in providing education for boys, particularly in science, classics and English literature.

As a Low Churchman Burrowes was constantly at variance with his Puseyite bishop, whose views were so inflexible that he roused the hostility of Government House, the Tasmanian legislature and authorities in London. He was also opposed to the views of his Low Church colleagues. At a meeting of the clergy in 1853 Burrowes, already finding his government stipend too low, was the one dissentient from a petition seeking to discontinue payment by the state. In 1855 he crossed swords with the bishop again, first by championing the cause of laywomen and second by his condemnation of the bishop's proposed Sustentation Fund which was designed to bring an end to state aid and influence. The plan was modified and introduced with support from the laity but its success was curtailed by the continued opposition of the Low Churchmen. Only after a synod was created in 1858 did major policy issues gradually give way to matters of less significance.

As far as his conscience allowed Burrowes kept aloof from church politics. He had been crippled in 1846 when a coach overturned and crushed him, and at a time when the church was in a critical state of turmoil, especially in the 1850s, he acted with wisdom and dignity. He administered the Brighton parish for thirty-five years and his only blemish was displayed at the end when the chief secretary had to enforce his retirement and acceptance of a pension. He retired in 1875, aged 80, his sermon 'Farewell to Brighton', probably his last, being published. Possibly his personal misfortunes, which included the loss of his wife and three children within the space of three months, blinded him to his own deterioration. He died on 3 August 1879 at his home in Pontville, survived by only two of his large family; a son, William Odell, married Georgina, granddaughter of Henry James Emmett, and George Hull.

Select Bibliography

  • B. W. Rait, Historic St. Marks 1841-1941 (Hob, 1941)
  • N. Batt and M. Roe, ‘Conflict Within the Church of England in Tasmania 1850-1858’, Journal of Religious History, vol 4, no 1, June 1966, pp 39-62
  • private information.

Citation details

N. S. Lynravn, 'Burrowes, John (1795–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 August 2019.

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

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Life Summary [details]


Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


3 August 1879
Pontville, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence