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George Harvard Cranswick (1882–1954)

by Albert B. McPherson

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George Harvard Cranswick (1882-1954), Anglican bishop, was born on 26 November 1882 at Ecclesall Bierlow, Yorkshire, England, son of Edward Glanville Cranswick, Church of England clergyman, and his wife Edith, née Harvard. Geoffrey Franceys Cranswick was his younger brother. The family sailed to Australia in 1883 where Edward took up an appointment in the diocese of Sydney. George was educated at The King's School, Parramatta, and at St Paul's College, University of Sydney (B.A., 1904).

While at university, Cranswick was president of the Sydney branch of the Christian Union. In 1904 he led a delegation to a student conference at Ormond College, University of Melbourne, at which he was deeply influenced by the visiting American evangelist John R. Mott. Cranswick was assistant-master (1904-05) at Geelong College, Victoria, and housemaster (1905-06) at The Armidale School, New South Wales, before he left for England to study theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Made deacon in 1907 and ordained priest on 20 December 1908 for the diocese of Chichester, he served his curacy at St Margaret's parish, Brighton.

In 1910 Cranswick was appointed vice-principal and professor of English at Noble Hall (College) at Masulipatam, India, and in 1911 became headmaster of Bezwada (Ghandi) High School, Kijayawada. On furlough that year, he preached at St Paul's Church, Chatswood, Sydney, where he met and on 29 April married Olive Carr Hordern. Next year he was appointed chaplain to Bishop Azariah of Dornakal, India. Cranswick suffered some censure from his compatriots for being willing to serve under a 'coloured' leader and in a subservient role.

In 1914, when his wife was ill with malaria, Cranswick returned with his family to Sydney. Attributing her survival to prayer, he began his involvement in the ministry of healing. After short appointments at Chatswood (1914), and at Bendigo, Victoria (1915), he was elected second bishop of Gippsland in 1917. Consecrated in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, on 1 November by Archbishop H. L. Clarke, on 15 November Cranswick was enthroned in St Paul's Cathedral, Sale. He came to a diocese of great expanse, poor public transport, sparse population, scarce manpower and practically no finance.

At the 1920 Lambeth Conference, London, Cranswick was a member of the commission on women in the Church. Back at Sale, he brought thirteen men from England to serve as licensed lay readers in remote parts of his diocese. He also brought out five women: one was a deaconess; the others were 'ordained' as deaconesses according to the ordinal; they were later accorded seats with the house of clergy in the diocesan synod. In 1923 Cranswick established a deaconess house and next year founded St Anne's Primary School, Sale (from 1934 St Anne's Church of England Girls' Grammar School). In addition, he opened hostels for girls from outlying districts.

Thirty-two new churches were established under Cranswick's guidance, nine were restored and seventeen other buildings erected. He published four books, including one based on his Moorhouse lectures of 1923, and was president (1926-36) of the Church of England Men's Society in Australia. Retiring as bishop in 1942, he went to Sydney and served as chairman of the Australian Board of Missions until 1949. He had chaired the first meeting (1946) of the World Council of Churches (Australian section) and in 1950-54 was commissioner for its Australian council. A strong advocate after 1945 of the Australia-China and the Australian-Russian societies, he resigned from the latter in 1948 with Rev. W. G. Coughlan in protest at communist control. His association with these societies brought him under suspicion in certain political circles, as did his friendship with Dr H. V. Evatt and Eddie Ward.

A moderate Evangelical and a Freemason, Cranswick was tolerant of other viewpoints within the Church. He was concerned that his clergy should be well educated, grounded in their faith, and able to defend it and interpret it—however they practised it. Although he was charged with being autocratic in disciplining his clergy, his strictures against their marrying were based on the inadequacy of the stipend to support a wife and children. His commitment to racial equality remained with him: in the last year of his life he chaired a W.C.C. committee which was set up to help Asian students. Survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters, he died on 25 October 1954 at Stratford, Victoria, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. E. Clark, Church of Our Fathers (Melb, 1947)
  • Church of England Messenger, Nov 1954
  • Australian Intercollegian, Dec 1954
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Dec 1941, 16 Dec 1946, 24 Aug 1948
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1954
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1954
  • Herald (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1954
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1954
  • private information.

Citation details

Albert B. McPherson, 'Cranswick, George Harvard (1882–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 November, 1882
Ecclesall Bierlow, Yorkshire, England


25 October, 1954 (aged 71)
Stratford, Victoria, Australia

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