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William Hutchins (1792–1841)

by E. M. Dollery

This article was published:

William Hutchins (1792-1841), archdeacon, was born on 18 March 1792, at Ansley, Warwickshire, England, the second son of its vicar, Rev. Joseph Hutchins. He was educated at Atherstone Grammar School and at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics (B.A., 1818; M.A., 1821). A fellow student was William Grant Broughton. After ordination he held the curacy of Wirksworth, and later transferred to Kirk and to Ireton, Derbyshire. He gave up parish work when he was elected a fellow of Pembroke College.

In March 1836 Van Diemen's Land was created an archdeaconry and the position of archdeacon was offered to Hutchins by Broughton, now bishop of Australia. He accompanied Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin in the Fairlie arriving in Hobart Town in January 1837. The Church of England was in disrepute through the private quarrels among clergy of poor calibre, and the colonists hailed Hutchins as a plain and gentlemanly man, without cant or affectation. He was sworn in on 12 January as a member of the Executive Council. With energy and courage he attempted to set the church on a sound footing, and in his four-year administration seventeen churches were established. In addition to his other duties, he acted as rector of the newly consecrated St George's, Battery Point, in 1839-40. In the Executive Council he appealed for more clergy for penal stations, and districts where church building subscriptions had been raised.

Intent on maintaining the supremacy of the Church of England he strongly opposed the attack by Presbyterian protagonists on the Anglican establishment; the controversy raged in pamphlet and press, sections of which were in his adversaries' hands. Hutchins protested that by extending financial assistance to other denominations, the Church of England, although recognized since the colony's foundation as established by law, would be degraded and deprived of her privileges. On the arrival of Rev. John Lillie in 1837, he published a powerful pamphlet against Presbyterian claims for equal state endowments. In defence James Thomson lashed at Hutchins's attempt to establish the 'Dominant Priesthood System in Van Diemen's Land'. Antagonism also raged over Presbyterian resentment of Anglican control of government education. Hutchins's refusal to allow Lillie to preach in the government schoolhouse at Sorell brought vindictive attacks on his intolerance, character, qualifications and membership of the Executive Council. Franklin attempted to reconcile all interests in a scheme for non-secular schools controlled by a board of education; Lillie approved it, but Hutchins dissociated himself from it completely, advancing in yet another pamphlet strong arguments for religious education. Yet his chief claim to fame rests in his contribution to colonial education. He was joint organizer of a public meeting in Launceston in May 1838 to encourage the establishment of a Church of England school there and his initial enthusiasm contributed to the foundation of the Launceston Church Grammar School in 1846. Although no party to the scheme for government schools, he was Franklin's 'friend and counsellor' in attempts to create the Anglican-controlled Christ's College, bestowing the blessing on its ill-fated foundation stone at New Norfolk. He died suddenly on 4 June 1841.

His tomb in old St David's cemetery is one of the few important ones preserved there. Immediately after the funeral a public meeting was convened, Sir John Pedder presiding, at which it was decided to found a grammar school in Hobart in his memory. Lieutenant-Governor Franklin consented to become the patron of the movement, and headed the first subscription list. The school, to be known as the Archdeacon Hutchins School, was eventually established on 3 August 1846, under the auspices of the Church of England. In a long and laudatory obituary the Hobart Town Courier stated 'He carried about him the panoply of truth and honour. In principle he was a high church-man. He arrived here with a difficult task to perform in the due control and discipline of his Church; but he exercised his office with temperance and firmness. He had much undue prejudice to contend against; he had also much to reconcile and keep in order in his own Church. His high character, however, combined with his amiable manners, aided him in reducing the Church of England to a proper system'.

Hutchins had married on 24 September 1840 Rachel, the second daughter of Rev. Jeremiah Owen of Carmarthen, Wales, and sister of Mrs Phillip Palmer. His wife returned to England and died on 11 February 1868 at Bath, Somerset. There were no children.

Select Bibliography

  • B. W. Rait, Official History of the Hutchins School (Hob, 1935)
  • R. Border, Church and State in Australia 1788-1872 (Lond, 1962)
  • Tasmanian, 13 Jan 1837
  • Hobart Town Courier, 15 Sept 1840, 4, 11 June 1841
  • Mercury (Hobart), 23 Apr 1868
  • GO 33/38/534, 33/40/1676.

Citation details

E. M. Dollery, 'Hutchins, William (1792–1841)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 March, 1792
Ansley, Warwickshire, England


4 June, 1841 (aged 49)
Tasmania, Australia

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