The ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’ published in the Sydney Herald on 5 July 1841 (see the entries of 17/11/2010, 18/11/2010 and 19/11/2010 for further details) includes (9) Religious, scientific and charitable institutions.
(9) Among religious organisations the first mentioned are the Societies for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Propagating the Gospel. These societies have an Australian Auxiliary, and the Diocesan Committee of this Auxiliary has offices under St. James’s Church. They also have a ‘depository’ there for selling their publications.
There are also depositories in King Street (near Castlereagh Street) for the Bible Society and the Religious Tract Society.
A number of religious organisations are listed which do not have particular offices but meet in locations, whether places of worship or school houses, associated with their respective denominations. These are the Church Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the German Mission to the Aborigines, and the Roman Catholic Institute.
Several organisations are listed which can be classed under the heading of charitable institutions: the Temperance Society, the Total Abstinence Society, the Scottish Society, the Union Benefit Society, and the Floral Society.
Under the heading of scientific organisations comes the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts in Pitt Street (near Park Street).
Also mentioned is a library, the Australian Subscription and Reading Rooms, in Macquarie Place (next to St. James’s Parsonage).
A note on the religious organisations mentioned:
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was a major publisher of religious materials. The organisation was already old by the nineteenth century, having been founded in 1698. It had a significant role in education and missionary work. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was also long established, having been founded in 1701. It sent out missionaries to America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, and had a particular interest in indigenous peoples. Both of these societies began in England. They had their origins within the Church of England but came to have ecumenical connections as well. The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in 1804. It was non-denominational and willing (controversially) to cater for a variety of theologies and to include in Bibles books regarded by many as apocryphal. The Religious Tract Society, founded in 1799, published tracts and books for evangelistic purposes. The Evangelical Revival in England and elsewhere was a significant energising force in the formation and development of these and other societies.
Three of the missionary societies mentioned were founded in London. The first-mentioned in the Directory is the Church Missionary Society, a Protestant organisation founded in 1799. In February 1825 the Sydney Gazette reported the recent formation of an Auxiliary Church Missionary Society for Australasia, in union with the Church Missionary Society in London. The first quarterly meeting of the committee of the Church Missionary Society for Australasia was held at the residence of its Secretary in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, on 8/4/1825. The Wesleyan Missionary Society was founded in 1786 and began work in Australia in 1815. In 1818 the British Methodist Conference formed the General Wesleyan Missionary Society. The London Missionary Society, Evangelical and non-denominational, was founded as the Missionary Society in 1795 and renamed the London Missionary Society in 1818.
The German Mission to the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area (the ‘Zion Hill Mission’) began in 1837 on the initiative of John Dunmore Lang. In the year in which this Directory was published, a sixteen-page statement concerning the mission, written by one of the missionaries and revised by Lang, was published in Sydney by James Reading, whose offices were in ‘King-street, East’.
The Roman Catholic Institute was formed in Sydney in 1840. The Colonist newspaper reported a meeting held on 10/9/1840 ‘for the purpose of forming a Roman Catholic Institute, for the purpose of procuring money to enable them to spread the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, and defend themselves from the attacks of other religious persuasions.’ The Colonist was not a sympathetic observer, nor was the Sydney Herald, which reported the formation, at a ‘numerously attended’ meeting, of a branch of the Roman Catholic Institute of London and also ‘an association for propagating the Roman Catholic Faith.’ The report added: ‘We shall not regret the formation of these societies if they have the effect, which they ought to have, of shewing the Protestants how necessary it is to unite and be strenuous in their exertions, to promote the Protestant religion, and thus neutralize the exertions of the Romanists. If the Protestants are firm to their duty they have so much of the wealth and intelligence of the Colony, and such a large numerical majority that they need be under no fear of the result of any trial of strength.’
The very next column of the Sydney Herald provides an example of the dual role of church and missionary organisations in Sydney in that era. On the day before the Sydney branch of the Catholic Institute was formed, the Bishop of Australia laid the foundation stone of a new Church of England at Ashfield, on land given to the church by Mrs. Underwood, who placed an inscribed brazen plate in the cavity before laying of the stone. The church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, whose feast day it was. The service was taken by Rev. J.K. Walpole, a missionary sent to the colony by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; he had been working in the district for some time. The Bishop gave an address ‘in which he enforced the duty incumbent on all to support the practice of protestantism.’
A snapshot of the activities of missionary organisations in Australia and New Zealand in the 1830s is provided by the Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. 15, London, Knight, 1839, under an entry for ‘Missions’ (pp. 266-277), at p. 276. The article cites as some of its sources the Missionary Map of the World; Wyld, Map of Missions; the Missionary Register; The Missionary Vine; and Rev. C. Williams, Missionary Gazetteer.
There is a ‘List of Protestant missionary societies (1691–1900)’ in Wikipedia. A list of missionary societies with their dates of foundation was published in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/8/1822, p. 3. Church Missionary Society: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 3/2/1825, p. 3; The Australian 7/4/1825, p. 1. German Mission: J.D. Lang, Appeal to the Friends of Missions, on Behalf of the German Mission to the Aborigines of New South Wales, London, 1839; Rev. Christopher Eipper, Statement of the Origin, Conditions, and Prospects of the German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, conducted under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales, Sydney, James Reading, 1841 (revised for the press by John Dunmore Lang, who added a Postscript, p. 16); accessible on the University of Queensland website (pdf). Cf. Catherine Langbridge, Robert Sloan and Regina Ganter, ‘Zion Hill Mission (1838-1848)’, in ‘German Missionaries in Queensland: a web-directory of intercultural encounters’, on the Griffith University website. Roman Catholic Institute: The Colonist 12/9/1840, p. 2; Sydney Herald 14/9/1840, p. 3.