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George Horsfall Frodsham (1863–1937)

by John Charles Vockler

This article was published:

George Horsfall Frodsham (1863-1937), bishop, was born on 15 September 1863 at Sale Moor, Altrincham, Chester, England, son of James Frodsham, insurance surveyor, and his wife Jane, née Horsfall. When his father later became a Manchester architect, George was educated at Birkenhead and later at University College, Durham (B.A., 1888; M.A., 1895; D.D., honorary, 1903). During two years with a firm of shipbrokers and underwriters, he studied at St Aidan's theological college, Birkenhead, and became deacon in 1889. Ordained at Ripon in the same year, he served curacies in Leeds and elsewhere in Yorkshire until 1896, then accepted appointment as rector of St Thomas' Church, Toowong, Brisbane. Before sailing, he married Fannie Swinburne at Harrogate on 8 April 1896; they had five children.

At Toowong he was revealed as a dynamic personality with an insatiable appetite for work. He saved the parish from grave financial difficulties and persuaded many to work for the church. His term as rector saw an increase in giving, the beautification of the church and the ceremonial elaboration of its services. Musical recitals became a feature of the parish and he founded the Church of England Cricket Association. Chaplain to the bishop in 1900-02, his editing of the Church Chronicle was lively and he played a major part in diocesan and civic affairs and committees. He served on the committee to promote the establishment of the University of Queensland. He vigorously promoted the cause of religious instruction in state schools and the creation in 1905 of the ecclesiastical province of Queensland, ably supporting Bishop Webber on this issue. During the South African War he was chaplain to the Queensland Defence forces.

Frodsham visited North Queensland in 1901 and next year was unanimously elected bishop of that diocese. The primate, Saumarez Smith, refused confirmation until the financial plight of the diocese was clearly explained to Frodsham. The failure of industries and droughts had produced financial disaster and the diocese needed to be founded afresh. Frodsham did this with vigour and came to be known as 'the Restorer Bishop'. He was consecrated in Sydney on 17 August 1902 and enthroned at Townsville on 3 September.

A cyclone in March 1903 wrecked his cathedral but funds raised on a series of trips to England repaired the damage and endowed the see. In 1909 he founded the North Queensland Auxiliary in England. Devoted to missionary work, he encouraged the work of the community of St Barnabas, founded in 1902, which later became the Bush Brotherhood of St Barnabas, and raised funds in England for it. Though a supporter of British and European migration, he spoke against narrowly racist views and encouraged evangelistic work within the diocese among Aboriginals, Polynesians, Chinese and Japanese. He visited Asia several times to study missionary problems. With his wide-ranging interest in education, Frodsham was one of the prime movers in the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Townsville; he visited England in 1911 to raise funds for the project.

Constant travel and the difficulties of his diocese took their toll. He began to appear more and more autocratic because of his wide vision and his faith in his own judgment. In October 1912 he said that he had tried to be 'a faithful administrator rather than a popular man'. In 1913 he resigned and returned to England. There he became resident canon of Gloucester Cathedral in 1914-20, rector of Halifax in 1920-23 and then canon of Wakefield. He was known as a friend and adviser of the parochial clergy whose needs he faithfully represented in the Church assembly. A governor of various church schools, he was chairman in 1914 of a War Office advisory committee on the employment of women in place of men. He wrote constantly but, apart from theological texts, his one substantial published work A bishop's pleasaunce (London, 1915) was a collection of published journal articles. He died at Halifax on 6 March 1937.

Frodsham had a wide vision for Australia and spoke and wrote against the legal nexus which bound the Anglican Church in Australia to the Church of England. Later bishops of North Queensland claimed that what they were able to achieve depended almost entirely on his work.

Select Bibliography

  • J. O. Feetham and W. V. Rymer (eds), The North Queensland Jubilee Book 1878-1928 (Townsville, 1929)
  • R. Fraser, A Historical Sketch of the Diocese of North Queensland (Townsville, 1958)
  • E. C. Rowland, The Tropics for Christ (Townsville, 1960)
  • H. Gregory, A Church for its Times (Brisb, 1977)
  • Church of England (Sydney), Proceedings of General Synod, 1905, and Diocese of Brisbane, Church Chronicle, 1 Apr 1906
  • Church Times (London), 12 Mar 1937
  • Northern Churchman, 1 Apr 1937
  • K. Rayner, Attitude and Influence of the Churches in Queensland … (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1951) and The History of the Church of England in Queensland (Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, 1962).

Citation details

John Charles Vockler, 'Frodsham, George Horsfall (1863–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 May 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]


15 September, 1863
Altrincham, Cheshire, England


6 March, 1937 (aged 73)
Halifax, Yorkshire, England

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