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Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808–1867)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808-1867), by unknown photographer

Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808-1867), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 41864

Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808-1867), Church of England clergyman, was born on 24 June 1808 at Bristol, England, a son of Carter and Sophia Stiles. According to family tradition he was intended for the Indian army. His strong Evangelical upbringing led him to the Church Missionary Society's college at Islington though 'his constitution [was] not considered calculated to withstand the effects of a Tropical Climate'. Stiles had scholarly interests—he hoped at one time that the Bristol Clerical Education Society might sponsor him at Oxford—and served as tutor in several important families, including that of (Sir) James Stephen of the Colonial Office. It may have been Stephen who prompted him to look to Australia, where the authorities had decided to recruit clergy and were having difficulty in securing an Englishman as master of the Female Orphan School. Stiles was appointed to this position in 1832 because of very high testimony to his peculiar fitness 'for the education and superintendance of Youth'. He was ordained deacon on 23 December 1832 and priest on 20 January 1833 by Bishop Blomfield of London. On 11 February he married Jane, the eldest daughter of Charles and Grace Hole, of Kingsbridge.

Stiles sailed in the Warrior and reached Sydney in July. He had been promised the first vacant chaplaincy in addition to the Orphan School mastership; alternatively, he might receive the charge of a parish. Within a month he was sent temporarily to St Matthew's, Windsor, and the appointment was made permanent before the year ended.

As an Evangelical with missionary interests, Stiles became a close friend of Rev. Samuel Marsden, who sent him to Norfolk Island in August 1834 and December 1835 to minister to condemned felons. In November 1836 he sent evidence to the proposed committee on transportation stressing the need for drastic reform of the penal system at Norfolk Island. These were to be Stiles's only excursions outside Windsor. He settled down to the duties of his parish, which included Richmond until 1842, Kurrajong and Clydesdale, and where the Hawkesbury River, the mountains, bad roads and the scattered population made pastoral visitation 'a work of great fatigue'. However, the parish was well-equipped with churches, schools and a rectory, and had wealthy influential parishioners.

After Marsden died Stiles was influenced by Bishop William Grant Broughton and by Tractarian teachings, and preached and wrote against the Methodists, who were numerous in the Hawkesbury area. Stiles's friendship with the Sydney adherents of the Oxford school of theology involved him in the disputes which followed the secession to Rome of Rev. Robert Sconce in 1848. Broughton withdrew an offer to Stiles of Sconce's vacant cure of St Andrew's, and Stiles, alarmed and perplexed by the bitter controversy, refused a second offer. Broughton had secured for him a Lambeth M.A. in 1843, but his later promise of a canonry was not carried out.

The Sconce affair was Stiles's last, though involuntary, venture into public debate. Thereafter he devoted himself to his parish, where he tried to uphold the Tractarian tradition, despite opposition from some members of his congregation. The arrival of the Evangelical Bishop Frederic Barker in 1855 put Stiles's school of churchmanship on the defensive and increased his concentration on local affairs. But Stiles supported Barker in founding the Diocesan Church Society and in seeking synodical government by legislative enactment. He remained on good terms with his bishop, although he could not be in the circle of his advisers.

After 1860 Stiles was in poor health and in June 1866 his regular ministry ceased. On 21 June 1867 a great Hawkesbury flood occurred while Stiles lay dying. He directed that the church be opened to the homeless; the Methodist minister was one of the first to take refuge there. Stiles died on 22 June and his wife on 24 March 1868. There were four sons of the marriage and a daughter, Mary Emma, who married Rev. Charles Garnsey, Stiles's curate and successor at Windsor and later rector of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney.

Henry Stiles held no high office in the church, headed no cause and remained in the one district for the whole of his colonial career. His change from Evangelical missionary and teacher to High Church parish clergyman was typical of his time, but Stiles was unusual in the extent to which he carried it. The settled character of his parish helped in his transition. Bishop Barker considered him 'intellectual and gentlemanly and in conversation most agreeable', and he had a reputation for kindliness and, except where principles of churchmanship were involved, of ready accommodation to the views of others.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 16
  • C. F. Garnsey, A Sermon Preached at St. Matthew's Church, Windsor, on Sunday June 30, 1867 on the Occasion of the Death of the Rev. H.T. Stiles (Windsor, 1867)
  • Select Committee on Clergy Stipends, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1854, 1
  • Henry Stiles papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Stiles, Henry Tarlton (1808–1867)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 15 July 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

Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808-1867), by unknown photographer

Henry Tarlton Stiles (1808-1867), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 41864

Life Summary [details]


24 June, 1808
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England


22 June, 1867 (aged 58)
New South Wales, Australia

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