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Henry Plume (1851–1930)

by Stuart Braga

This article was published:

Henry Plume (1851-1930), Anglican clergyman and schoolmaster, was born on 12 August 1851 at Framingham-Pigot, near Norwich, Norfolk, England, elder son of Rev. William Henry Plume and his wife Rebecca Charlotte, née Buck. He was educated at his father's small grammar school and in 1872 entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (B.A., 1876; M.A., 1883). Made deacon on 19 December 1875, he was ordained priest on 21 December 1876 by the bishop of London and served his curacy at St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, in 1875-79. Here he came under the influence of Rev. G. H. Stanton. After Stanton's consecration as bishop of North Queensland, Plume accepted his invitation to accompany him as examining chaplain and on 23 January 1879 at Norwich married Eleanor Marshall (d.1951), daughter of a surgeon.

Plume was vicar of St James' Church, Townsville, from 1879 until his appointment as archdeacon of North Queensland in 1883. He travelled widely throughout the vast diocese, acquiring sites for church buildings and encouraging the lonely and often dispirited outback clergy. Stanton found him 'so prudent, so sound-headed and whole-hearted, so capable of steering a course among the social and ecclesiastical reefs that are more numerous than the coral barriers along our coast'. As vicar-general and as compiler of three small service books adapted to local needs, Plume proved an able lieutenant to his bishop.

Seeking 'fresh fields and pastures new', Plume moved to Sydney in 1888 and was nominated to St Stephen's, Kurrajong, a quiet mountain resort. In 1889 he served for some months as acting warden of St Paul's College within the University of Sydney (and was a fellow in 1903-06). He so enjoyed this experience that on returning to Kurrajong he continued coaching.

In 1891 Plume established Barker College, named in gratitude to 'that good, kind and sympathetic Bishop Barker', who had befriended the Plumes. He ran the school with conspicuous success first at Kurrajong Heights and from 1896 at Hornsby. Starting with eighteen pupils, he was obliged by growing demand to increase his enrolment to forty-five by 1905, though Plume's ideal was a school of twelve. He felt that the school had outgrown its purpose, and sold it to William Charles Carter, who built it into a major private school; it was acquired by the Church of England in 1919 as a diocesan school.

In 1905 Plume returned to England. After serving as assistant chaplain in 1909-10 at St George's, Cannes, France, he settled at Eastbourne where he served until 1930 as honorary curate at St Michael's Church, Ocklynge. He was seen as 'the little, kindly clergyman … forever on the lookout for somebody or something to help'. Survived by his wife, Plume died without issue on 21 October 1930, bequeathing scholarships at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the University of Sydney.

Plume was the product of the Evangelical churchmanship dominant in England in the mid-nineteenth century. He did not associate with the strong Evangelical party in the diocese of Sydney, not wishing to be identified with any group within the Church. His life was dedicated to the fulfilment of a vocation in Church extension and in education, which he found intellectually satisfying and spiritually fulfilling.

Select Bibliography

  • J. O. Feetham and W. V. Rymer (eds), North Queensland Jubilee Book 1878-1928 (Townsville, 1929)
  • S. Braga, Barker College, a History (Syd, 1978)
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 3 Jan 1891, 16 Mar 1895
  • Eastbourne Courier and Eastbourne Gazette, 22 Oct 1930
  • Eastbourne Chronicle, 25 Oct 1930
  • H. Plume, History of Barker College (1920, State Library of New South Wales)
  • K. Rayner, The History of the Church of England in Queensland (Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, 1962)
  • G. H. Stanton, letter to Prebendary Tucker, 6 May 1880 (SPG, F Mss: Letters from Australia, vol 9, Lambeth Palace, London).

Citation details

Stuart Braga, 'Plume, Henry (1851–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 August, 1851
Framingham-Pigot, Norfolk, England


21 October, 1930 (aged 79)

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