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Frederick Holdship Cox (1821–1906)

by W. R. Barrett

This article was published:

Frederick Holdship Cox (1821-1906), Anglican clergyman, was born on 20 April 1821, the son of Rev. Frederick Cox, of Walton, Buckinghamshire, England. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, and won the Bell scholarship at Pembroke College, Cambridge (B.A., 1843; M.A., 1874). He was ordained deacon in 1844 and priest in 1845, and became assistant curate of Iping-cum-Chithurst, Chichester, in 1844.

Cox was one of six ordained men Archdeacon Fitzherbert Adams Marriott secured on his visit to England in 1845 on behalf of Bishop Francis Nixon. With eight other clergy and candidates for holy orders he arrived in Hobart Town in the Aden in February 1846. Appointed chaplain next month, he pioneered the Prosser Plains (Buckland) district. There was no church, schoolroom or parsonage but very soon he had put in hand the building of the lovely church of St John Baptist. The foundation stone was laid in August 1846 and the church was consecrated by Bishop Nixon on 15 January 1849. With its magnificent east window, whose origin and date are uncertain, it was said to be a copy of the parish church of Cookham Dean in Cox's native county; later it became a tourist attraction.

On 13 April 1847 Cox married Sarah Browne, seventh daughter of the late Thomas Cruttenden of Hawkshurst, Kent, at her brother Thomas's home, Woodsden, Prosser Plains. In June 1848 Cox became warden of Christ's College. He moved after a year to St John Baptist parish, Hobart, where through his efforts another beautiful stone church was built; it cost £4300 when opened in 1856, and a parsonage was built in 1864. He strove for peace in the church controversies in the early 1850s and in August 1855 joined Rev. Alfred Stackhouse in pleading with Bishop Nixon to reconsider any testing of candidates for holy orders on the meaning of 'Baptismal Regeneration'.

In 1857-58, Cox was in England where he served as curate to Dr Butler of Wantage. When Bishop Colenso of Natal was excommunicated, and deprived for alleged heresy, the archbishop of Canterbury nominated Cox to the vacant see in May 1867. There was litigation over the Colenso case and Cox withdrew. He left St John's and became incumbent of St David's Cathedral in January 1868 and the first dean in 1872. During his incumbency the foundation stone of the nave of the new cathedral was laid (January 1868) but before it was consecrated in February 1874 he resigned and returned to England. He had played an influential part in the formative years of the diocese, in synod, cathedral chapter and the Bishop's Council of Advice, as well as being the first editor of the diocesan Church News from 1862 to 1873.

Cox was vicar of Tilney All Saints with St Laurence, Norfolk, in 1874-77, rector of Fen Ditton, Cambridge, in 1877-83 and vicar of Elm in 1883-96; he also became rural dean of Wisbech in 1886-96 and honorary canon of Ely in 1898-1906. However, he did not lose his interest in Tasmania. He acted as a commissary in England for the bishop and collected money for the cathedral building fund. In 1888 at the Manchester Church Congress he read the first paper on Christian missions, in which he appealed to the younger clergy to give a few years to ministerial work in the colonies. In 1888-89 he revisited Tasmania, where he preached at the new cathedral. As the bishopric was then vacant, he wrote to the Church News, March 1889, shrewdly predicting a division of the diocese and warning synod of the consequent problems of episcopal election.

He died at Tunbridge Wells in 1906, survived by his wife who died in 1908, aged 98. The obituary in Church News said: 'In character he combined the saintliness of Keble with the fervour of Charles Kingsley. He gave people the impression that he was cold and austere, but he also had a fund of quaint humour'. A brass tablet at St John Baptist, Hobart, is his only Tasmanian memorial.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Cox (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Citation details

W. R. Barrett, 'Cox, Frederick Holdship (1821–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 April, 1821


7 August, 1906 (aged 85)
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England

Cause of Death


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