Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nathaniel Dawes (1843–1910)

by John Bayton

This article was published:

Nathaniel Dawes (1843-1910), Anglican bishop, was born on 24 July 1843 at Rye, Sussex, England, son of Edwin Nathaniel Dawes, town clerk of Rye and Winchelsea, and his wife Ann, née Noakes. Educated at the parish school of St Mary the Virgin, Rye, and at a proprietary school in Montpelier, Brighton, Dawes studied mechanics probably at the Free Grammar School, Ashford, became an engineer, and, among other commissions, worked on Blackfriars Bridge. He matriculated in 1868 at Oxford, entered St Alban Hall and graduated in 1872 (M.A. 1875). Made deacon in 1871 and ordained on St Andrew's Day 1872, he served his title as curate of St Peter's, Vauxhall, London, in 1871-77 under Rev. George Herbert; there, he gained a lifelong love of poetry and with J. W. Horsley he published Practical Hints for Parochial Missions in 1875. On 11 June 1878 Dawes married Georgina Frances Codd and was inducted vicar of the London slum parish of St Mary's Charterhouse. Persuaded by Bishop William Webber to migrate to Queensland, he was inducted as rector of St Andrew's, South Brisbane, in 1886 and collated as archdeacon of Brisbane.

Dawes was consecrated bishop on 1 May 1889 in St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, by Archbishop Alfred Barry; he was the first Anglican bishop to be consecrated in Australia. Appointed coadjutor bishop of Brisbane, he was first given pastoral oversight of the Darling Downs and later of Rockhampton where he became honorary rector of St Paul's Church. On 12 August 1892 he was elected first bishop of the new diocese of Rockhampton and was enthroned in St Paul's Church which he took for his cathedral.

The diocese, four times the size of England and Wales, had six priests serving in Rockhampton, Gladstone, Mt Morgan, Clermont, Springsure and the far west. Visiting England in 1896 Dawes, with Bishop Westcott and Canon Body of Durham, envisioned a solution to his problem: a community of priests living in a central mission-house under a simple rule to serve the far west. His vision became the 'Bush Brotherhood' when his first recruit, Rev. George Dowglass Halford, arrived at Longreach on 14 September 1897. Dawes attended the Lambeth Conference of 1897 and received an honorary D.D. from Oxford University.

The writings of Dawes on the separate incorporation of his diocese and his charges to synod reveal an incisive mind, a wide and tolerant outlook, good sense and a clear, telling style. In 1903 he declined the vacant see of Brisbane and continued to travel, sometimes more than 5000 miles (8047 km) a year on horseback and buggy on regular visits to every centre of the diocese. Heat and the hazards of bush travel took their toll and he went to England in 1907 for medical treatment. On 27 May 1908, on medical advice, he reluctantly resigned his see and was succeeded by Halford. Dawes died at Malvern, England, on 12 September 1910 of spinal meningitis. He was survived by his wife and their two daughters. Two memorials were raised to him: a fund for training candidates for holy orders, and the stained glass windows in the east end of the sanctuary of St Paul's Cathedral, Rockhampton.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • I. Southall, Parson on the Track (Melb, 1962)
  • Diocese of Rockhampton, Yearbook, 1893-1910.

Citation details

John Bayton, 'Dawes, Nathaniel (1843–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 July, 1843
Rye, Sussex, England


12 September, 1910 (aged 67)
Malvern, Worcestershire, England

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