Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Reddall (1780–1838)

by V. W. E. Goodin

This article was published:

Thomas Reddall (1780-1838), clergyman and educationist, was the son of Luke Reddall, of Aldridge, Staffordshire, England. He was educated for three years at Alban Hall, Oxford, in preparation for a colonial chaplaincy, was ordained on 19 December 1819, and next day appointed assistant chaplain to New South Wales. He did not leave immediately; from July 1819 he had attended the Central National School, London, to become proficient in the Madras system of instruction, and continued there till May 1820. As no schoolmaster was available to introduce the system into the colony, as had been determined as a matter of policy, Earl Bathurst appointed Reddall schoolmaster as well as chaplain with the salary of both, it being understood that he would resign 'when the System is Sufficiently established'.

Reddall arrived in Sydney with his wife, Isabella, and seven children on 14 September 1820. Two other daughters were born in the colony. Reddall immediately made a marked impression. His preaching was very highly praised. The change to the Madras system at the Male Orphan School was done so efficiently that it drew encomiums from both Governor Macquarie and Commissioner John Thomas Bigge. His criticism of the building being erected near St James's Church as unsuitable for a school led to its being changed into a law court, and a new building, the Georgian School, in Castlereagh Street, was begun. At the end of 1820 Castle Meehan at Macquarie Fields was rented for him at the high figure of £180 a year. He opened a private school there and two of his first pupils were the son of Lachlan Macquarie and the son of Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell, of Van Diemen's Land. In May 1821 he began duty as clergyman for the districts of Airds, Appin and Minto, and he was made a magistrate in August. In 1822 he became incumbent of the new Church of St Peter at Campbelltown. In January 1824 the Male and Female Orphan Schools and the Native Institution were brought under the joint administration of a committee of three, of whom Reddall was one. On 18 August 1824, on account of 'the languishing state of education', Reddall was appointed to the imposing position of director-general of all the government public schools, and the extra salary he received was greater than that of a chaplain. First Macquarie and then Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, sometimes in excess of their powers, were lavish in assisting him with land, cattle and finance. When Archdeacon Thomas Scott arrived in June 1825 as King's Visitor to the schools, Reddall was supernumerary but remained director-general until 6 February 1826. Next month all government schools passed under the control of the Church and School Corporation and Reddall's connexion with them ceased.

Reddall was commissioned to introduce the Madras system into the public schools of New South Wales, and he drew a salary as schoolmaster and director-general as well as his salary as chaplain for over five years. At the end of that period, however, the only schools using the system were the two in Sydney, the two orphan schools, and his own parish school at Campbelltown, and even these were not wholly the result of Reddall's efforts. It had taken only a brief period to complete a similar change in Van Diemen's Land. What promised to be a brilliant career ended in sterility. He was all too eager to rush into rural pursuits. He was using his glebe before there was a church. His private boys' school, begun so favourably, soon changed into a girls' school conducted by his wife and daughters. Instead of a parsonage he built his own home, Glen Alpine, two miles (3.2 km) outside Campbelltown, and essayed a social status somewhat beyond his means. He overreached himself in his rural activities and ran into financial difficulties. A man of taste and refinement with a bright and active mind, an excellent conversationalist, cultured and capable, with a pleasing personality, he misused his talents. He died on 30 November 1838.

His eldest son John married Martha, the sister of William Charles Wentworth. His second son Thomas was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (B.A., 1838; M.A., 1841) and in 1859 became incumbent of his father's parish.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Macquarie, Journals of His Tours in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, 1810-1822 (Syd, 1956)
  • manuscript catalogue under T. Reddall (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

V. W. E. Goodin, 'Reddall, Thomas (1780–1838)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 April 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

Life Summary [details]




30 November, 1838 (aged ~ 58)

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