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Stackhouse, Alfred (1811–1876)

by P. R. Hart

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Alfred Stackhouse (1811-1876), Church of England clergyman, was born on 24 July 1811 at Camberwell Grove, London, the son of John Stackhouse (1776-1849), of Surrey, and his wife Frances Mary (1780-1849), the elder daughter of Thomas Rashleigh of Blackheath. After preliminary schooling he went to Lincoln College, Oxford (B.A., 1834; M.A, 1837). He was made deacon in June 1835 and after ordination to the priesthood in March 1838 was appointed a chaplain to the East India Co. in the presidency of Bombay. After various short appointments in India he was given two years leave in March 1840 to recover his health in Van Diemen's Land. As Rev. Robert Davies was in England Stackhouse took his place at Longford and Perth. When Davies returned in July 1841 Perth petitioned Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin to make Perth and Breadalbane a separate parish with Stackhouse as incumbent. Franklin was so slow in deciding that Stackhouse left for India in February 1842, but when Franklin's approval did reach him he resigned his post and returned to Van Diemen's Land.

He resumed work at Perth in January 1843 and soon spread his activities to Franklin village. Sermons preached in these parishes he published later. An inveterate pamphleteer in support of his convictions, he published in Launceston, A Message from God (1853) and Darkness Made Light or the Story of 'Old Sam' the Christian Jew (1859); in strong support of the temperance movement he produced Religious Objections to Teetotal Societies, Considered in Connexion with Christian Duty (1846). The awakening of interest in eschatology in the 1840s greatly influenced his thinking. In Eight Lectures on the Signs of the Times (1849) and other pamphlets he piled up evidence, ranging from recent earthquakes and wars to the growth of Chartism, to show the imminence of the second coming of Christ.

By his sincerity Stackhouse retained Bishop Francis Nixon's respect, though he was a leader in the Low Church attack on Nixon after the first meeting of the Australian bishops in 1850. His differences with the bishop were expressed in The Gorham Heresy and the Non-Natural Explanation of the Articles of the Church of England (1851), and The Divine Right of Private Judgment in Matters of Religion (1852). Stackhouse had a lively interest in missions and acted as secretary for several societies. He took part in the movement to establish a Tasmanian synod but shocked it by opposing state aid to churches. In politics he was a strong opponent of transportation.

When Longford fell vacant in 1860 Stackhouse was offered the parish and he remained there until ill health forced his resignation. Not long before his death on 25 May 1876 he had published an Address to Young Persons Who are of Age to be Confirmed, a work considered highly by the metropolitan of Sydney who bought 500 copies. His most successful pamphlet, Family Prayers (Launceston, 1845), ran to a third edition.

On 17 May 1843 he had married Ellen (1824-1898), the second daughter of Thomas Archer of Woolmers, Longford. Their children were Frances Mary (1851-1933), Rev. Alfred Rashleigh (1854-1896), Melville Archer (1856-1901), Ernest Valentine (1859-1916) and Cecil Arthur (b.1863).

An obituary described him as a 'sincerely pious, honest, large-hearted Christian who could have been a counterpart of Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield had he been placed in some secluded part of England and not had his loving nature disturbed by coming into contact with British and British-Indian politicians, camps, wars and rumours of wars during his residence in India'.

Select Bibliography

  • Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 29 May 1876
  • Church News (Hobart), Sept 1898
  • correspondence file under Alfred Stackhouse (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

P. R. Hart, 'Stackhouse, Alfred (1811–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stackhouse-alfred-2689/text3761, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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