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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Marsden, Samuel Edward (1832–1912)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), by unknown photographer

Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 28139

Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), Anglican bishop, was born on 1 February 1832 and baptized at St John's Church, Parramatta, on 9 March, son of Thomas Marsden, merchant, and his wife Jane Catherine, fourth daughter of Rev. Samuel Marsden. Samuel left The King's School, Parramatta, went to England with his mother and was educated at Gloucestershire and at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1855; M.A., 1858; D.D., 1870). In December 1855 he had been made deacon and next year ordained priest by the bishop of Hereford. After serving as curate at St Peter's, Hereford, in 1855-58 and Lilleshall, Shropshire, in 1861, he was perpetual curate at Bengeworth, Worcestershire. He was dominated by his mother and the legend of his grandfather whose biography he wrote about 1857 but never published.

Recommended by Bishop Barker, Marsden accepted the new see of Bathurst in New South Wales and on 29 June 1869 was consecrated in Westminster Abbey. In January 1870 at Cheltenham he married Beatrice McLaren. Installed at Bathurst on 5 May he found that his diocese reached the South Australian and Queensland borders but contained only 13 parishes, 15 clergy and no railways. He relied on Barker's counsel in forming a Church Society and in May 1873 a synod. In 1876-77 he visited England in a vain attempt to attract men and money but in his absence his influence was undermined by Rev. Thomas Smith. Marsden was criticized for failing to recruit clergy, for ordaining ill-educated men, for administering his diocese by himself and his clerical registrar, and for disregarding a fractious and infrequent synod.

In September 1879 Smith's closure of the Bathurst denominational school brought to a head the dissension between parishioners led by James Rutherford and the bishop and many of his clergy. Rev. John Thomas Marriott was created dean of All Saints Cathedral by synod and Marsden assented in May 1882. Marriott later claimed that as dean he had precedence over Marsden's choice of a vicar-general and aired the issue in many letters to church leaders in England and Australia. The diocese was stigmatized as 'a by-word for division and trouble' and the bishop as a 'gossip and too much given to flattery'. Marsden offered to resign and left for England in November 1884. On 10 May 1885 his mother died in Bathurst and he returned briefly to relinquish the see.

Generous with his private means, Marsden built his own Bishopscourt. He had formed 19 new parishes and introduced 67 clergymen. He toured extensively despite a skin complaint. Without pretence to scholarship, his Evangelicalism dominated the diocese. 'One of the kindest and most conscientious of men', he was an irresolute administrator yet adamant when opposed.

Marsden assisted in the dioceses of Canterbury, Winchester and Norwich, and settled at Dyrham Lodge, Clifton Park, Bristol. Assistant bishop of Gloucester and Bristol in 1892-97 and Bristol in 1898, he was created honorary canon of Gloucester in 1900 and Bristol in 1905. In 1906 he gave £1000 toward the bishopric of Sheffield. Predeceased by his wife in 1909, he died of diabetes at his home on 15 October 1912. His estate of £16,065 was divided among his two sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • G. S. Oakes, Jubilee of the Diocese of Bathurst, 1870-1920 (Bathurst, 1920)
  • F. B. Boyce, Fourscore Years and Seven (Syd, 1934)
  • G. S. Oakes, ‘Bush memories’, JRAHS, 7 (1921)
  • Bathurst Times, 12 Feb 1890, 22 Oct 1912
  • R. M. Teale, The Anglican Diocese of Bathurst, 1870-1911 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1968)
  • S. E. Marsden papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Marsden, Samuel Edward (1832–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), by unknown photographer

Samuel Edward Marsden (1832-1912), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 28139