Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick Robert Newton (1841–1926)

by Louise T. Daley

This article was published:

Frederick Robert Newton (1841-1926), schoolmaster and Anglican minister, was born at Nailsea, Somerset, England, eldest son of Robert Newton, timber merchant and contractor, and his wife Elizabeth, née Cox. He completed his education at Neuwied, Germany, and was confirmed at Coblenz in 1857. In the Great Britain he arrived at Sydney in 1858 to look for land for his parents who intended to migrate, but his mother died that year and he was appointed assistant master at Calder House School, Newtown, by J. F. Castle. In 1870 he taught mathematics at The New School (Eaglesfield) under W. J. Stephens, but left in December to open a Church of England Grammar School at Grafton with the rector, Rev. Josiah Spencer, in 1871. Newton visited the German church there as a lay reader and addressed the congregation in their native tongue. He also visited the Richmond River where his brother Walter Stephen had settled at Brockley, Wollongbar, in 1869. In 1875 he opened a private school for boys on his brother's property for a year.

Realizing the need for ministers in the vast parish of Casino which extended to the Queensland border, Newton devoted himself to parish work under Rev. W. H. Dunning and his successor. He assumed responsibility for the entire area in their absence. Made deacon in 1876 and ordained by Bishop Turner at Armidale in 1877, he became the first incumbent of the new parish of the Lower Richmond and Tweed with headquarters at Lismore. Often working without remuneration, he was constantly in the saddle visiting the scattered congregations. When Rev. Henry Porter took over the parish of Casino and the Upper Richmond in 1878 Newton made his first trip to the Tweed over the dangerous Nightcap route. In that year he also started a boys' school at Lismore with Robert Laverty. In 1880 when appointed rector at Wollombi in the Newcastle Diocese he brought Porter and Laverty with him and the school was continued until 1882. He returned to the Richmond in 1884 to conclude the financial arrangements of the churches he had partly endowed and then accepted a curacy at All Saints' Church, Parramatta.

In 1885-93 Newton was curate at Liverpool, Woolloongabba in Brisbane, Beaudesert, Beenleigh, and finally Gayndah. He continued his charitable work begun in 1876 by adopting Henry Newton (Wilkinson) as his own son at Grafton. Taking charge of the welfare and education of the three Dhalke boys, he found them employment with R. M. Collins, a former pupil at Calder House School. Newton represented the Queensland government at the dedication of the memorial church for Albert Dhalke who had been murdered by cattle duffers. At the end of 1893 Henry Newton (B.A., Sydney, 1889; M.A., Oxford, 1893) returned from England where he had been ordained to work with his foster-father in the huge parish of Esk in Queensland. After relieving in the diocese of Brisbane Frederick Newton briefly returned to the Richmond to take charge of the parish of Coraki.

Newton become vicar at Nimbin, his last parish before retiring to live with his brother at Wollongbar. Unmarried and aged 84 he died there on 23 April 1926 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery. He had shunned all churchly honours and given help whenever it was needed. A firm opponent of sectarianism, he had exerted a wide influence in the frontier districts where he worked. His adopted son became bishop of Carpentaria in 1915 and of New Guinea in 1922; in 1938 he published a pamphlet, The Life Story of the Rev. Frederick Robert Newton.

Select Bibliography

  • R. L. Moxon, Short History of the Work of the Anglican Church in the North Coast Districts of New South Wales (Grafton, 1904)
  • A. F. Elkin, The Diocese of Newcastle (Syd, 1955)
  • V. J. V. Robinson, History of the Anglican Church on the Richmond River (Richmond River Historical Society, Lismore).

Citation details

Louise T. Daley, 'Newton, Frederick Robert (1841–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Nailsea, Somerset, England


23 April, 1926 (aged ~ 85)
Wollongbar, New South Wales, Australia

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