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Stretch, Theodore Carlos Benoni (1817–1899)

by James Grant

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Theodore Carlos Benoni Stretch (1817-1899), Anglican clergyman, was born on 11 February 1817 at Worcester, Worcestershire, England, elder son of John Cliffe Stretch, rector of St Swithin's, and his wife Elizabeth, née Long. Educated at Worcester College, Oxford (B.A., 1841; M.A., 1844), he was made deacon in 1841 and ordained priest next year by Bishop Henry Pepys of Worcester. After curacies in Warwickshire at Wishaw (1841-42) and Harborough Magna (1842-44), he served as vicar of Potterspury, Northamptonshire (1844-51), acting also as Midlands Association Secretary of the Church Missionary Society in 1848-51.

Stretch arrived in Victoria in 1852 and in July was appointed by Bishop Perry to Geelong as minister, first of the suburban and district and then of the town churches and finally in 1855-63 of St Paul's alone. In 1854 he was collated as archdeacon of Geelong with responsibility for the visitation and oversight of the Ballarat goldfields. He is remembered as the principal founder of Geelong Grammar School: at his instigation in 1855 G. O. Vance, his curate at St Paul's, opened the private school that preceded the public school and Stretch acted as chairman of its trustees. He was in England when the school had to close, but on his return in 1862 he helped collect sufficient funds to enable it to reopen under J. B. Wilson.

Stretch transferred to Sale as incumbent and archdeacon in 1863, was then appointed archdeacon of Geelong (but resident in Ballarat) in 1866-69 and archdeacon of Ballarat and Hamilton in 1869-75. A superb horseman, Stretch covered his vast archdeaconries; he visited every house and cabin he came to, held meetings and services in stations, schoolrooms, stores and inns, and collected donations. In 1872-73 he canvassed the colony to raise the endowment for a second Victorian bishopric at Ballarat. He was well fitted to fill the position but from the first declined lest he appear to be working for his own advantage. Instead, in August 1875 he installed Samuel Thornton as first bishop of Ballarat.

Stretch expected to remain in the new diocese but, apart from a brief and vigorous locumcy at Hamilton where he arranged the building of the present church, no suitable work was found for him. He returned to Melbourne in March 1876 and accepted the cure of Holy Trinity, Balaclava, a rising suburb. Two years later he became administrator of James Moorhouse's 'Bishop of Melbourne's Fund', was assistant to the archdeacon of Melbourne in 1877-87, rural dean of Melbourne South in 1877 and canon of Melbourne in 1879. He was responsible for church extension and development in Gippsland and northern Victoria as well as in the metropolitan area. From 1887 until he retired in 1894 he was archdeacon of Melbourne and Geelong.

Although essentially a man of action, Stretch edited the Church of England Record in 1855-60 and maintained a lifelong interest in classical authors, especially Horace. His churchmanship was broadminded Evangelical; laity and readers responded to his positive leadership. His geniality and dry humour belied his military appearance and commended him to a large circle of friends. He delighted in playing whist, but 'his grandchildren in his old age had to stack the family cards to protect him from sleeplessness occasioned by a loss'. He died on 12 April 1899 and was buried in the Geelong eastern cemetery. On 3 February 1842 he had married Martha Butler (d. 2 May 1891). He was survived by two of his five sons and three of his four daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £1560. There is a portrait by G. A. J. Webb in the Chapter House of St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. His nephew, John Francis Stretch (1855-1919), became bishop of Newcastle.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Goodman, The Church in Victoria During the Episcopate of Charles Perry (Melb, 1892)
  • P. L. Brown, Geelong Grammar School (Geelong, 1970)
  • Geelong Grammar School Quarterly, Apr 1899
  • Church of England Messenger (Victoria), 1 May 1899.

Citation details

James Grant, 'Stretch, Theodore Carlos Benoni (1817–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stretch-theodore-carlos-benoni-4655/text7691, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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