John Ramsden Wollaston

On 23 February 1984, the Province of Western Australia promulgated The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston, the first Archdeacon as a pioneer of our faith and worship and a local saint and hero of the Anglican Church of Australia. On 18 September each year, the Province of Western Australia remembers The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston and keeps the anniversary of the opening of St Mark’s in Picton (the church built by Wollaston and his sons.)

Almighty and everlasting God,
we thank you for your servant John Ramsden Wollaston,
whom you called to bring the gospel
to the people of Western Australia:
raise up in this and every land
evangelists and heralds of your loving reign,
so that the whole world may know
the unsearchable riches of our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Born in London on 28 March 1791, Wollaston was educated at the Charterhouse school where his father, The Reverend Edward Wollaston, was a Master and his grandfather, The Reverend William Ramsden, was Headmaster and at Christ’s College, Cambridge where he took his BA in 1812 and his MA in 1815.  He was made Deacon in 1814 and ordained Priest in 1815. In May 1819, he married Mary Amelia Gledstanes and they had a family of five sons and two daughters.

In 1840, in response to advertisements by the Western Australian Land Company offering land for settlement at Australind on Port Leschenault, Western Australia, Wollaston decided to take up land there. He did this believing he would be appointed a colonial chaplain but the appointment did not eventuate and he decided to come out independently, although eventually the British Government assured him an official stipend if he went to Western Australia.

Wollaston arrived at Fremantle in April 1841 and took the initiative in reviving the organisation of the Colony’s Church of England. In February 1842 he convened a conference of the colony’s five clergy in Perth, where the church’s problems were assessed and a statement drawn up urging Bishop Broughton to visit Western Australia and set matters in order. The sequel was discouraging; Broughton could not come and Wollaston could not implement his suggestion that clergy conferences should become annual. In May 1842, Wollaston and his sons, set about building St Mark’s in Picton, which was opened on 18 September 1842.

In 1848, Wollaston was transferred to the Parish of St John’s, Albany. Here he found the parish church, started in 1835, partially completed with only the walls and part of the tower complete; there was no roof. With characteristic determination and ignoring the parishioners’ assertions that the parish could not afford it, he completed the nave in a few months just in time for the visit of Bishop Augustus Short and Archdeacon Hale of the new diocese of Adelaide. Short decided that enough of the structure was complete and on 25 October 1848 he consecrated the church.

Short, impressed by Wollaston’s qualities, appointed him Archdeacon of Western Australia early in 1849. For the next seven years Wollaston covered many hundreds of miles on horseback throughout the settled areas of the colony in over-powering heat or pouring rain to supervise his archdeaconry. On 3 May 1856 Wollaston died.

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography – Online Edition