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Lewis Bostock Radford (1869–1937)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

Lewis Bostock Radford (1869-1937), Anglican bishop, was born on 5 June 1869 at Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, eldest son of John Radford, steward of Welbeck Abbey and solicitor, and his second wife Eliza, née Smith. His father's early death obliged Radford to gain his education through scholarships at the local Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and at St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1891; M.A., 1894; B.D., 1908; D.D., 1909), where after a double first in classics he was elected a fellow. On graduation, he became second master at Warrington Grammar School and part-time curate at nearby Trinity Church; he was made deacon on 12 June 1892 and ordained priest on 17 December 1893.

Radford married Maud Isabella James (d.1929) at Mansfield on 19 August 1896. He became rector of Forncett St Peter, a St John's College living in Norwich diocese, on 11 September, transferring to Holt, another college living, on 5 April 1902. Scholarly, with a great love of language and the classics which he shared with his children, he had already published his prize essay as Thomas of London Before his Consecration (1894). In 1908 he also published his theses, Three Teachers of Alexandria and Henry Beaufort, Bishop, Chancellor, Cardinal (1908), and a translation, with commentary, of The Epistle to Diognetus; he also wrote a history of Holt parish.

Appointed warden of St Paul's College within the University of Sydney, he arrived on 7 February 1909. St Paul's had not kept pace with rapid university development. An able administrator and teacher, Radford soon reversed the trend, expanding the enrolment and increasing the accommodation, encouraging corporate student life and forging links with the university.

Finding the predominant Evangelicalism of the Sydney diocese displeasing, he began to be active in wider Church affairs. His 1913 Moorhouse lectures, Ancient Heresies in Modern Dress (1914), related current religious novelties to their ancient origins and showed lively scholarship and a keen sense of modern spiritual developments. These lectures and his generally moderating interest in public issues such as Irish Home Rule, state socialism, inter-Church relations and Anglican attitudes to Roman Catholicism gave Radford a considerable reputation. He was elected fourth bishop of Goulburn on 18 May 1915, consecrated on 24 August and enthroned in St Saviour's Cathedral, Goulburn, on 31 August.

Radford proved an effective diocesan: his synods were noted for informed debate; his clergy staff increased; parish structures were rationalized; religious orders and schools were encouraged. At a time of financial expansion, he was able to rectify much in a diocese with a troubled history. At the same time Radford took a national stance. A staunch Imperialist, he took a firm line on conscription while promoting ameliorative plans for post-war reconstruction. His opinions on industrial relations brought conflict with Labor supporters but they were based on a clear programme of community co-operation. A believer in a strong Church in Australia, he worked for a revised constitution and the adoption of more suitable forms of worship. He promoted the role of women in the Church. Radford's first decade as a bishop was decisive and successful.

His move to Goulburn had been prompted partly by the choice of Canberra as the national capital. It appealed to his sense of Australia as a nation and the Anglican Church as a national institution. He tried to give the ceremonies for founding the city and opening Parliament House a religious significance. From 1921 Radford worked for an Anglican cathedral and centre: architectural plans were obtained and appeals launched, but most churchmen were apathetic and the problem of a Canberra bishopric complicated the issue. He managed, with great difficulty, to set up a boys' and a girls' grammar school in Canberra, but his broader plans ended in failure and financial troubles.

The Canberra venture weakened Radford's health and equanimity. Whereas he had played a useful role in the Lambeth Conference of 1920, he did little at the 1930 conference. While in England on 21 October 1930 he married Enid Mary Haselden White at Bishop Middleham, Durham. He published another scholarly work, on the Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon, in 1931. Two years later, he resigned his see and returned to England. Of medium height and build, Radford enjoyed sketching, painting meticulously detailed watercolours, and fishing.

Despite illness and depression, Radford had to work to make ends meet. He acted as locum tenens at Soho and Eton and was rector of Kemerton in Gloucestershire when he died in London on 2 April 1937, survived by his wife and by three sons and a daughter of his first marriage. As a chaplain to the Forces, he was given a military funeral, at Lambeth parish church, attended by the Australian contingent to the coronation. His ashes were placed in St John's Church, Canberra, awaiting removal to an Anglican cathedral in the capital. Radford College, the third Anglican grammar school in Canberra, and the naming after him of a wing and a tower at St Paul's College are fitting tributes to his work.

Select Bibliography

  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of Goulburn (Syd, 1972)
  • P. Radford, A Scholar in a New Land (Adel, 1979).

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Radford, Lewis Bostock (1869–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 20 May 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]


5 June, 1869
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England


2 April, 1937 (aged 67)
London, Middlesex, England

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