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Frederick William Goldsmith (1853–1932)

by Wilfrid E. Henn

This article was published:

Frederick William Goldsmith (1853-1932), Anglican bishop, was born on 3 August 1853 in London, eldest son of Frederick William Goldsmith and his wife Dorothy, née Watkins. His father taught at the Merchant Taylors' School where Frederick was educated in 1864-72. He won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford (B.A., 1876; M.A., 1879).

Goldsmith was ordained priest in 1877 in the diocese of Rochester, to a curacy at Old Charlton. On 22 April 1880 he married Edith Emma Frewer; they had no children. Next year they moved to St Philip's, Cheam Common; he was vicar of Halling, Kent, in 1885-87.

In April 1888 Goldsmith came to Western Australia as dean of Perth, where he served under Bishops Henry Parry and Charles Riley till 1904. He also managed the Girls' Orphanage and administered the diocese after Parry's death. There seems to have been friction between him and Bishop Riley. They both had strong characters and guarded their own spheres, and their churchmanship was very different, but Goldsmith served loyally, without resentment.

In 1903 the Perth synod set up the south-western corner of the State as the new diocese of Bunbury and next year, on 17 July, Goldsmith became its first bishop, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lambeth. He also had missionary jurisdiction over the North-West, a huge area which, until 1910, when Bishop Gerard Trower was appointed, he faithfully administered in addition to his own large diocese.

In Bunbury he had to contend with the poverty of the diocese, its rapid and unexpected growth in population and industry and, later, World War I. He travelled incessantly and constantly sought men and money to develop the work: he went three times to England. In twelve and a half years he obtained the site and started a building fund for a suitable cathedral, established the itinerant Bush Brotherhood of St Boniface at Williams, organized new parishes as railways and land opened up, created a sound central administration, and established the new diocese of North-West Australia in 1909.

Worn out by the responsibility and the travelling, Goldsmith resigned in 1917 to take up the living of St John's, Hampstead, London. Bronchitis forced him latterly to winter in southern Europe. On retirement in 1926 he lived in London and Eastbourne. He died at St Leonards on 7 July 1932 and his ashes were buried in the Hampstead parish churchyard. He was survived by his wife, whose nephew, Rev. John Frewer, was bishop of the North-West in 1929-61.

Goldsmith was most remembered for his energy, organizing ability and hard work, but also for his care for people, courage, dominating personality, cultured mind and deep piety. He published Humble Access (1899) and Home Reunion Papers (1902), and played the violin and the organ. 'He developed the Diocese [of Bunbury] tenderly, wisely and well', fostering missionary work, education, and social work. His churchmanship was Tractarian, coupled with a sense of the importance of beauty in worship. Although 'very definite as to his own religious beliefs', he was tolerant. Bunbury continued in the Tractarian tradition that he established.

Select Bibliography

  • C. L. M. Hawtrey, The Availing Struggle (Perth, 1949)
  • F. Alexander (ed), Four Bishops and Their See (Perth, 1957)
  • St George's Cathedral Vestry, Perth, Minute Books, 1880-91, 1891-99
  • Perth Quarterly Magazine, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1895-96
  • Church of England, Diocese of Perth Year Book, 1888-1905, and Diocese of Bunbury, Occasional Papers, Sept 1904–Feb 1917, and Diocese of Bunbury Year Book, 1904-18
  • Times (London), 8 July 1932
  • Goldsmith papers and letters (held by author).

Citation details

Wilfrid E. Henn, 'Goldsmith, Frederick William (1853–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 August, 1853
London, Middlesex, England


7 July, 1932 (aged 78)
St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, England

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