Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ridgway William Newland (1790–1864)

by Alan Rendell

This article was published:

Ridgway William Newland (1790-1864), Congregational minister and pioneer, was born near Odiham, Hampshire, England. At 23 he began theological studies at Old College, Hoxton, and in 1817 he was ordained to the Congregationalist ministry at Hanley, Staffordshire, where he ministered for twenty-two years. Selected by the Colonial Missionary Society to form a settlement in South Australia, he sailed in the Sir Charles Forbes with some thirty colonists, including his second wife, née Keeling, an accomplished classical scholar, who cared for her three young children and five of Newland's first marriage. The party arrived in Adelaide in June 1839 and went on in the Lord Hobart to Encounter Bay, where a large area of land was taken up.

Newland pioneered with great gusto, helping his party to build houses that formed the township of Yelki. Under his initiative the small settlement became self sufficient. From local clay he made jars and milk dishes, and, after advice from Hanley, burnt and crushed whale bones for export to the potteries. Crops flourished better than livestock on the coast; he lost sheep from footrot and cattle did not prosper. He worked with his people, clearing land, ploughing, harvesting, driving bullocks, breaking in horses and milking cows. By 1841 he had six wells and could report to Governor (Sir) George Grey that the Aboriginals were becoming as adept as Europeans in reaping his wheat, barley and oats.

Newland was also the unpaid pastor of the south, riding long distances to preach and minister to scattered settlers. His chapel at Encounter Bay was opened in 1846, and other places of worship were established by him. As a justice of the peace he took the lead in local causes, chaired all the local meetings, swaying public opinion at his will yet wounding no man's self-esteem. He supported his colleague, Rev. Thomas Stow, in opposition to state aid for religion and he gave evidence favouring secular schools to the select committee on education in 1851. More than once, he walked in a day the fifty miles (80 km) to Adelaide carrying a bundle and wading through three rivers. As a district councillor he had much influence in opening a road and bridging the rivers. Returning from one preaching visit to Adelaide and Willunga, his coach capsized and he was fatally injured. He died on 9 March 1864. He was buried in a vault beneath the pulpit of his chapel and later reinterred in the Victor Harbor cemetery.

Although Newland published a sermon on 'Christian Liberality' at Hanley, he usually preached without notes or much preparation. He is remembered best as a fine example of muscular Christianity. His name is preserved at Victor Harbor by the Newland Memorial Church, Newland's Head and the Newland Bridge.

Select Bibliography

  • Observer (Adelaide), 11 Oct 1862, 12 Mar 1864, 30 Mar 1895
  • Register (Adelaide), 26 Mar 1864.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Alan Rendell, 'Newland, Ridgway William (1790–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Ridgway Newland, c1830

Ridgway Newland, c1830

State Library of South Australia, B 13649

Life Summary [details]


Odiham, Hampshire, England


9 March, 1864 (aged ~ 74)
Willunga, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

horse-drawn vehicle accident

Cultural Heritage

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