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Wentworth Francis Wentworth-Shields (1867–1944)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published:

Wentworth Francis Wentworth-Shields (1867-1944), Anglican bishop, was born on 2 April 1867 at Lewisham, London, son of Francis Webb Sheilds, a civil engineer with Australian experience, and his wife Adelaide, née Baker. Francis was to sign his name as Wentworth-Sheilds. Educated at St Paul's School and the University of London (B.A., 1890; M.A., 1893), he was made deacon on 18 December 1898 and ordained priest on 24 December 1899 by Bishop Talbot of Rochester. Curate at Plumstead (1898-1900) and St George's Church, Bloomsbury (1900-1903), he married Annie, fourth daughter of Bishop William Boyd Carpenter, on 3 April 1902 in the palace chapel, Ripon, Yorkshire. They sailed for North Queensland in 1903 to join his cousin Bishop Barlow.

Designated to St James's Cathedral, Townsville, Wentworth-Shields found that Barlow had been translated to Goulburn, New South Wales; to the chagrin of the hard-pressed tropical clergy, he followed him south; he helped Barlow to put his disordered diocese on an effective basis. After brief tenures at Cooma, St Saviour's Cathedral and Wagga Wagga, Wentworth-Shields returned to Goulburn and assumed a variety of roles: cathedral precentor, archdeacon of Wagga Wagga, joint-commissary, examining chaplain and warden of the new Bishop's College which trained ordinands. A fine teacher and scholar, he was a good cathedral man, but less happy when dealing with the affairs of a rural archdeaconry. His family connexion with the bishop did not always help matters. In March 1910 he resigned his Goulburn offices and took temporary charge of the fashionable All Saints Church, St Kilda, Melbourne. Late that year he became rector of St James's Church, Sydney.

At St James's, Archbishop Wright had been involved in conflict over liturgical matters. Wentworth-Shields's appointment represented a grudging compromise by the parish. He soon introduced a more moderate ritual, allayed parochial resentment and conciliated the diocesan authorities. A superb preacher, he attracted crowds by the sheer force of his pulpit oratory and the spiritual intensity of his message. He was ideally suited to a city church which could encourage his strengths and cope with his administrative shortcomings. Even his quite monumental absent-mindedness became an idiosyncrasy rather than a disadvantage. Steering his church successfully through the tensions of World War I, he was elected bishop of Armidale in October 1916 and consecrated by Archbishop Wright on 21 December.

Reduced by the separation of the Grafton diocese in 1914, Armidale gained from the spread of closer (and, later, soldier) settlement; the city itself had schools and a theological college. Wentworth-Shields was effective as an intellectual mentor of the diocese and able to play a part in national Church affairs, but failed to give local leadership. Although he grew impatient with the grind of country work, he never lost the charm and sympathy that ensured his personal popularity.

The death of his wife in 1927 made Wentworth-Shields anxious to return home; he had never thought of himself as truly Australian. Having resigned in 1929, next year he took up the wardenship of St Deiniol's Residential Library, Chester; he held this agreeable, scholarly office until 1939, while acting as assistant bishop to the archbishop of Wales. Survived by two sons, Wentworth-Shields died at Chester on 13 September 1944.

Select Bibliography

  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of the Diocese of Goulburn (Syd, 1937)
  • K. J. Cable, St. James' Church, Sydney (Syd, 1982)
  • Southern Churchman (Goulburn), 1 Mar 1945
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Sept 1916, 20 Apr 1927, 18 May 1929
  • Australian Church Record, 5 Oct 1944.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Wentworth-Shields, Wentworth Francis (1867–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 May 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]

Alternative Names
  • Wentworth-Sheilds, Francis
  • Shields, Wentworth Francis

2 April, 1867
London, Middlesex, England


13 September, 1944 (aged 77)
Chester, Cheshire, England

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.