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Hodgson, William (1809–1869)

by M. L. Loane

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

William Hodgson (1809-1869), Church of England clergyman, was born on 15 December 1809 in London, the youngest son of Haygarth Hodgson, bookseller. He was educated at Richmond, Surrey, at Richmond Grammar School, Yorkshire, and at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (B.A., 1832; M.A., 1835). He was made deacon on 25 January 1835 and ordained priest on 31 January 1836 by Bishop John Bird Sumner in the Cathedral at Chester. Appointed curate in the large Lancashire parish of Whalley, he became perpetual curate at Brathay, Westmorland, in 1842 with a stipend not more than £100.

The small stipend and the remote situation had compensations for a man of Hodgson's tastes and character. The circle of scholars who lived in the district included John Harden, whose daughter Jane married Rev. Frederick Barker. In 1846 Harden wrote to the Barkers that he was charmed 'with Mr. Hodgson's sermon'. Soon after his enthronement as bishop of Sydney in May 1855 Barker invited Hodgson to become principal of Moore College. It opened on 1 March 1856 with three students under the Rev. William Macquarie Cowper as acting principal and Hodgson arrived in Sydney with his wife Mary Ann and three daughters in September. Plans for the erection of a chapel, library and accommodation for twelve students were approved on 27 November, the buildings around three sides of a triangle to cost about £11,000. The chapel was dedicated on 17 December 1857 and student quarters were completed, but the other buildings were delayed through shortage of funds.

Hodgson soon won repute as one of the best classical scholars in New South Wales and Victoria. He was a most acceptable preacher, a faithful teacher and pastor, a publicist on his Church's behalf and a quiet and self-effacing gentleman. He was a devoted Evangelical and strove to establish a high academic standard for the students under his care. The lack of connexion between the college at Liverpool and the University of Sydney was a handicap beyond his control. He served the college with marked ability and success until he resigned in December 1867. In that time forty-six of his students had been ordained. On 29 January 1868 he was farewelled at a public meeting in Sydney. Bishop Barker spoke of him in terms of high praise: 'I have never been in any degree disappointed in the expectations which I had formed concerning you … I can not but feel deeply your departure'. He recalled that he had known Hodgson in his 'quiet and beautiful parish in the Lake District. I knew you as the faithful pastor and as the efficient tutor of young men. I knew you as the able preacher, and ever listened to your Scriptural and interesting addresses with much edification and profit'.

Hodgson sailed for England on 2 February 1868. His health had been worn out and in October the bishop of Carlisle presented him with the living of Clifton near Penrith in Westmorland at a stipend of £150. In September 1869 Jessie Clay, née Harden, and her daughter visited the Hodgsons: 'Mr. H. took us over his church and shewed me a great deal in his study'. On 2 December he died at Clifton rectory and was buried at Brathay. His wife died in 1892. The great work of Hodgson's quiet unassuming life had been the successful foundation of what is now both the oldest and the largest Anglican Theological College in Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • A Century of Brathay Church, 1836-1936 (Kendal, 1936)
  • M. L. Loane, A Centenary History of Moore Theological College (Syd, 1955)
  • Australian Churchman (Sydney), 25 Jan, 3 Oct 1868, 19 Feb 1870
  • Mrs J. S. Barker diaries (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Jessie Clay diary (privately held)
  • SPG letters D17, D29 (microfilm, State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

M. L. Loane, 'Hodgson, William (1809–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/hodgson-william-3778/text5969, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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