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John William Charles Wand (1885–1977)

by F. R. Arnott

This article was published:

John William Charles Wand (1885-1977), Anglican archbishop, was born on 25 January 1885 at Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, son of Arthur James Henry Wand, butcher, and his wife Elizabeth Ann Ovelin, née Turner. Although his father was a staunch Calvinist, his mother fostered John in the Church of England. Educated at the King's School, Grantham, and at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he took first-class honours in theology (B.A., 1907; M.A., 1911), he prepared for ordination at Bishop Jacob Hostel, Newcastle upon Tyne, and was made deacon in 1908 and ordained priest in 1909. He served curacies at Benwell and Lancaster, and on 11 October 1911 married Amy Agnes Wiggins (d.1966) at St Leonard's parish church, Watlington, Oxfordshire.

Appointed vicar-choral of Sarum in 1914, on the outbreak of war Wand enlisted as chaplain and reached Gallipoli in July 1915. He was padre to the 2nd Australian Hospital and, after being invalided home with paratyphoid fever, served in France.

Demobilized in March 1919, he was made perpetual curate of St Mark's, Salisbury, where St Clair Donaldson was bishop. In 1925 Wand became fellow and dean of Oriel College, Oxford, and university lecturer in church history. Eight years later Bishop Francis Batty procured his nomination to the see of Brisbane. Wand was consecrated in St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 1 May 1934 and enthroned in St John's, Brisbane, on 5 September.

His arrival in Queensland was almost immediately clouded by the accidental death in Switzerland of his only son Paul. Furthermore, those who had wanted a local dignitary as their new bishop united to oppose Wand. His attempts to eradicate slackness made him appear authoritarian to his clergy. Sturdy in appearance, shy and gracious, Wand was often seen as being aloof and something of an intellectual snob. The decision to move St Francis's Theological College from Nundah to the Bishopsbourne property proved unpopular, although Wand's relations with its students won him their respect and affection. His establishment of a property and finance board to handle the economic problems of the diocese did not meet with general favour.

As a member of the University of Queensland senate, Wand worked to promote biblical studies. During his episcopate he wrote a weekly article for the Courier Mail, translated the New Testament epistles and gave the Moorhouse lectures in Melbourne in 1936; he consecrated the cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Dogura, New Guinea, in 1939 and made a lecture tour of the United States of America in 1940. He argued in support of a new constitution for the Church, but thought that the proposed appellate tribunal should have a majority of bishops, rather than legal laymen, to determine points of doctrine. With his friend Bishop Batty, he supported the early ecumenical movement.

During World War II, when Brisbane resembled a garrison town, Wand and his wife worked for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen's Help Society. His 1942 address to the Royal Society of St George defended the British war effort and was published as a pamphlet, Has Britain Let Us Down? It prompted questions in the Federal parliament and attracted the attention of such British politicians as Brendan (Viscount) Bracken and (Sir) Winston Churchill. Early in 1943 Wand was surprised to be offered the see of Bath and Wells. He left Brisbane in July.

Two years later he was translated to the see of London where post-war difficulties, including the rebuilding of shattered city churches, challenged and revealed his administrative gifts. As bishop, Wand was a privy counsellor; in 1955 he was appointed K.C.V.O.; in 1946-57 he was prelate of the Order of the British Empire. After resigning his see in 1956, he officiated as canon and treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral, London, until 1969 and edited the Church Quarterly Review. A wide-ranging and facile historian, he wrote forty books, among them a History of the Modern Church (1930), History of the Early Church (1937), White of Carpentaria (1949), Anglicanism in History and Today (1961) and an autobiography, The Changeful Page (1965). Survived by a daughter, Wand died on 16 August 1977 at the College of St Barnabas, Lingfield, Surrey, and was cremated. An obituary in the Church Times paid tribute to his scholarship, administrative genius and unsentimental piety.

Select Bibliography

  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1971-80
  • Brisbane Diocesan Newsletter, no 25, Nov 1977
  • K. Rayner, The History of the Church of England in Queensland (Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, 1962)
  • Diocesan Archives, Brisbane
  • London Diocesan Archives, St Paul's Cathedral
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

F. R. Arnott, 'Wand, John William Charles (1885–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 January, 1885
Grantham, Lincolnshire, England


16 August, 1977 (aged 92)
Lingfield, Surrey, England

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