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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Handfield, Henry Hewett Paulet (1828–1900)

by B. R. Marshall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Henry Hewett Paulet Handfield (1828-1900), by Batchelder & O'Neill

Henry Hewett Paulet Handfield (1828-1900), by Batchelder & O'Neill

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29401

Henry Hewett Paulet Handfield (1828-1900), Anglican clergyman, was born on 12 December 1828, the fifth son of Edward Handfield, naval commander, of Hermitage House, near Dublin, and his wife Louisa, née Cokely. He was educated at Uppingham School and the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool. After his parents died he became the ward of Bishop Perry and in 1848 arrived at Melbourne with him in the Stag. He became an assistant at the Melbourne Diocesan Grammar School under Richard Budd and was made deacon by Perry on 21 December 1851. He was licensed as assistant curate to Archdeacon Thomas Hart Davies at St Peter's, Eastern Hill, ordained priest in 1852 and succeeded to the charge of the parish in December 1854.

While locum tenens of the parish before appointment as its incumbent, Handfield reorganized the school associated with it and added a bluestone chancel, two transepts and a gallery to the original church. In 1855-56 he was in England with Perry. In 1857 the bishop published a general circular to his clergy forbidding the practice of intoning and chanting portions of divine service. Privately, at the prompting of indignant clergy and laity, he rebuked Handfield for liturgical extravagances at St Peter's and expressed concern at some of Handfield's theological opinions. However, by September 1865 Handfield had moved the organ from the gallery and sported in full view a robed and chanting choir. His peculiar relationship to Perry seemed to shield him from disciplinary consequences of their various disagreements over this and other matters.

With equal perseverance for community welfare, he played a leading role in the opening and direction of a day school and centre for worship in the Richmond area in 1857, and founded St Peter's Evening School in 1858. His zeal for education included the new university. His notorious choir sang at the laying of the foundation stone of Trinity College in 1870 and he served on its council in 1871-1900. He was also a founding member of the theological faculty and a lecturer in 1879-1900. He had helped to form the Melbourne and Collingwood City Mission in 1856 and managed his parochial finances so well that by 1868 half the church collections were given away to good causes. In 1876 he was appointed chaplain of the Victorian Volunteer Force.

Handfield stood high in the opinion of the Church assembly which elected him both to the board responsible for the appointment of Bishop James Moorhouse in 1876 and to the chapter of the new cathedral in 1879. Moorhouse made him rural dean of the city of Melbourne. As the leading promoter of Moorhouse's vision of a 'Mission to the Streets and Lanes', Handfield circulated the public appeal in 1885 and encouraged Sister Esther to move into the Little Lonsdale Street Mission House in 1888, thus playing a part in founding the Community of the Holy Name. He was the first chaplain of the mission and the first warden of the Sisters. On 10 November 1853 Handfield had married Mary Leigh, eldest daughter of William Upton Tripp of Collingwood; they had no children. He died on 8 August 1900 at St Peter's vicarage.

Select Bibliography

  • Esther, Mother Foundress of the Community of the Holy Name (Melb, nd)
  • Holy Trinity Church, East Melbourne, ‘The Story of the Century’, 1864-1964 (Melb, 1964)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Aug 1900
  • Leader (Melbourne), 18 Aug 1900
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 18 Aug 1900
  • manuscript records (St Peter's, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, and Community of the Holy Name, Cheltenham, Melbourne).

Citation details

B. R. Marshall, 'Handfield, Henry Hewett Paulet (1828–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Henry Hewett Paulet Handfield (1828-1900), by Batchelder & O'Neill

Henry Hewett Paulet Handfield (1828-1900), by Batchelder & O'Neill

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29401