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Julia Warren Farr (1824–1914)

by Brian Dickey

This article was published:

Julia Warren Farr (1824-1914), by unknown photographer, c1870

Julia Warren Farr (1824-1914), by unknown photographer, c1870

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 47547

Julia Warren Farr (1824-1914), charity worker, was born on 14 August 1824 at Greensted Hall, Essex, England, one of seven children of Sir Robert Hutchinson Ord, of the Royal Artillery, and his wife Elizabeth, neé Blagrave. Julia, orphaned at 16, and her siblings were cared for at Woolwich by their uncle Harry, father of Sir Harry Ord. She had a genteel education and became competent in singing and the French language. On 5 February 1846 at Woolwich parish church Julia married George Henry Farr, an Anglican clergyman serving in Cornwall. Her Christian Brethren brother and other family members had opposed the marriage.

The Farrs' first child Eleanora was born in Cornwall in 1848. However, consumption was judged to threaten her life, prompting migration to the dry Adelaide climate in 1854, where George became headmaster of the Collegiate School of St Peter. Julia bore six more children, the youngest being Clinton Coleridge Farr. While principally concerned with family affairs, she was active in the school, and at times was in control of the boarding-house. She sang in the school choir and maintained cultural interests dating from her schooldays, notably in French literary classics. Her children depicted her as 'naturally gifted, with a quick, clear brain and a power of terse expression'.

The creation and conduct of Adelaide's orphan home for parentless girls was Julia Farr's major life work. Gathering a group of like-minded men and women, all Anglicans, and with the support of Bishop Augustus Short, she convened meetings in 1860 to establish the institution, which was located until 1907 in Carrington Street, and subsequently at Mitcham. She remained the driving force till shortly before her death. For many years she chaired the organizing committee, solicited donations from among her expanding circle of middle-class friends, supervised the matrons as a regular monthly visitor, and arranged the subsequent placement of the teenage girls—mainly as domestic servants with her acquaintances around Adelaide.

Farr watched over the careers of the approximately 300 girls admitted in 1860-1912, annotating the registers regularly with news of their lives, being especially pleased when they 'married respectably'. The children were not required to pass a religious test, but the Book of Common Prayer and the regular visits of a chaplain governed the daily life of the home, while the bishop was the legal visitor. Farr's Anglicanism and her husband's Anglo-Catholicism ensured such a denominational and indeed sacramental outcome. It eventually meant the subsumption of the Orphan Home, known since 1934 as Farr House, into the welfare services of the synod of the diocese of Adelaide.

In 1878 Mrs Farr's social conscience had been aroused at the fate of people confined in the Destitute Asylum with incurable diseases. Supported by Dr William Gosse, father of W. C. Gosse, she rallied medical and philanthropic friends to establish at Fullarton the non-denominational Home for Incurables (in 1981 named the Julia Farr Centre).

On leaving St Peter's in 1878 Julia was rector's wife at Semaphore, Mitcham and Whitmore Square, Adelaide. George died in 1904. Leaving an estate sworn for probate at £7000, Julia died on 21 April 1914 at North Adelaide and was buried beside her husband in North Road cemetery. Three daughters and a son survived her. Orphan home 'old girls' wrote in tribute: 'It was to her we owed our upbringing, our education, our home, and our spiritual teaching, and many a day will pass before we forget the lessons she loved to teach us, and with her example before us may we strive to be ''Christ's faithful Soldiers and Servants unto our lives' end” '.

Select Bibliography

  • Early Days at St Peter’s College, Adelaide 1854-1878 (Adel, 1936)
  • C. Kerr, The Home for Incurables (Adel, 1979)
  • J. Tregenza, Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide (Adel, 1996)
  • J. Healey (ed), S.A.’s Greats (Adel, 2001)
  • B. Dickey, Giving a Hand: A History of Anglicare South Australia 1860-2001 (Adel, 2003)
  • Orphan Home records (State Library of South Australia and Anglican Archives, Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Brian Dickey, 'Farr, Julia Warren (1824–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Julia Warren Farr (1824-1914), by unknown photographer, c1870

Julia Warren Farr (1824-1914), by unknown photographer, c1870

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 47547

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ord, Julia

14 August, 1824
Greensted Hall, Essex, England


21 April, 1914 (aged 89)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.