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Langley, Henry Thomas (1877–1968)

by I. V. Hansen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Henry Thomas Langley (1877-1968), Church of England clergyman, was born on 30 March 1877 at the parsonage, Windsor, New South Wales, sixth of twelve children of Henry Archdall Langley (1840-1906), an Irish-born clergyman, and his native-born wife Elizabeth Mary, née Strachan. After studying at Moore Theological College, Henry Archdall was made deacon on 11 June 1865, and ordained priest on 27 May 1866 by Bishop Barker. He served in various Sydney parishes before moving to Melbourne in 1878 where he ministered at St Matthew's, Prahran. Successively archdeacon of Gippsland, and of Melbourne and Geelong, he was elected first bishop of Bendigo in 1902. He died on 5 August 1906 and was succeeded in the bishopric by his elder brother John Douse Langley (1836-1930), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin.

Henry Thomas Langley proceeded from Caulfield Grammar School to Trinity College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1899; M.A., 1904). While at university he helped to found the Student Christian Movement. Made deacon on 10 June 1900, he was ordained priest on 2 June 1901 by Bishop Goe. At St Mark's Church, Rosedale, on 4 September that year Langley married Ethel Maud Du Vé (d.1957). He was curate of parishes in Sydney before returning to Victoria as rector of St James's, Traralgon. During his incumbency (1911-42) at St Mary's, Caulfield, he was appointed a chaplain in the Australian Military Forces in 1916 and a canon of St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, in 1918. He set up (1920) a board to superintend religious education in Anglican communions in Australia and New Zealand. In 1921 he founded Shelford Church of England Girls' School. A council-member of Melbourne Church of England and Caulfield Grammar schools, he had something of his father's drive and interest in education. He was also much involved in the Mission of St James and St John, and in the Church of England Boys' and Men's, the Church Missionary and the Bush Church Aid societies.

In 1942 Langley was elected dean of Melbourne. He associated himself with socialist movements and marched annually in the May Day procession. Conscious of his status as dean, he was inclined to be prickly and difficult in domestic ecclesiastical matters, but he had his father's ecumenical spirit and was a good churchman. After retiring in 1947, he took a leading part in 1950 in negotiating an amendment to the Victorian Education Act (1928), allowing government schools to engage chaplains. In addition, he chaired the Council for Christian Education in Schools. Langley enjoyed gardening, fishing, tennis (when younger) and excursions in the country. Survived by his daughter and three of his four sons, he died on 28 November 1968 at Hawthorn and was cremated.

His sister Minnie Ruth (1878-1973) was born on 24 June 1878 at Windsor and educated at the Clergy Daughters' School (St Catherine's), Waverley, Sydney. She taught (1896-1901) in Melbourne at Miss Isabella McComas's Glamorgan Preparatory School for Boys, Toorak. In 1903 Ruth and her younger sister Nona—both in their twenties—took over the Castlemaine Ladies' College and renamed it St Catherine's Girls' College. Ruth was registered as a secondary schoolteacher on 11 April 1907. She instilled in the girls her own love of botany and English literature. In 1920 she moved the school to Toorak, Melbourne, and entered into partnership with Flora, daughter of William Templeton. The school continued to provide a broad-based education, a homely atmosphere and cultural opportunities.

The fifth Langley daughter, Aphra, served as school-housekeeper for twelve months. When the school bought Beaulieu, the Mars Buckley mansion in Heyington Place, the widowed Aphra provided money and furniture. By the early 1930s the school was well established. Energetic, with a sparkling personality, Ruth Langley was a member of the Young Women's Christian Association's national board, the Melbourne Diocesan Board of Education and the Australian Women's National League. She died of acute pulmonary oedema on 17 December 1933 at Toorak and was buried in Box Hill cemetery.

Her place as principal was immediately assumed by her elder sister Hilda Sarah (1874-1951). Two of her brothers, Henry Thomas and Arthur Theodore (a medical practitioner), became trustees of the school; another brother, Frank Ernest, was also a medical practitioner and captained (1905) the Melbourne Football Club. The Langley connexion with St Catherine's was severed in 1947 when the school was sold and came under the control of a corporation.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Cole, A History of the Diocese of Bendigo, 1902-1976 (Bendigo, Vic, 1991)
  • D. E. and I. V. Hansen (eds), St Catherine's (Melb, 1996)
  • Australasian Post, 9 Mar 1950
  • Langley file (Diocesan Archives, Cathedral Church of St Paul, Melbourne)
  • family papers and scrapbooks (privately held).

Citation details

I. V. Hansen, 'Langley, Henry Thomas (1877–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/langley-henry-thomas-10785/text19127, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 27 June 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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