Friday, 9 June 2017

Who was William Shackfield Newton 1837-1912?

Rev W. S. Newton performed hundreds of baptisms, marriages and funerals for over a decade, for families belonging to the St. John’s Church of England at Wilberforce, St Thomas’ Church of England, Sackville and on the other side of the Hawkesbury River, in the St. James Church of England at Pitt Town, but who was he?

William Shackfield Newton was born in 1837 Ormskirk Lancashire the son of John Newton, a Methodist minister and his wife Hannah. He attended school at Stourbridge and he appears to have taken an interest in the ministry, as a young man and was admitted to Christ’s College at Cambridge. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1860 and later in 1869 his Master of Arts.(1) 

He was ordained a deacon in 1860 at Llandaff, near Cardiff in the south of Wales, and then priest the following year. He was appointed the curate at Canton, Glamorgan in Wales in 1860 and was there for two years. He was at Cheptow between 1862 and 1865 and the Brierley Hills from 1865 until 1871.  

His wife Catherine Pugh Morris, who he married in 1862, hailed from Montgomery Wales. Their first born was Edward Rowley Morris Newton who was born in 1865 in Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Daughter Eleanor Jones was born in 1867 also in Stourbridge. Joan was born in Concord in 1878. 

William with Catherine, Edward and Eleanor migrated to Australia in 1871. William was appointed to the Macleay River parish until 1873, followed by Gulgong until 1878. He had a change of occupation in the late 1870s and was the Headmaster of the Collegiate School at Croydon from 1878 until 1889 then Principal of St. Philip’s Grammar School, Sydney from 1892 for four years. He returned to the church with a post at St Matthew’s at Botany in the inner city before being appointed Rector in May 1897 to the incumbency at Pitt Town.

St Johns Anglican Church, Wilberforce

At this stage Pitt Town and Wilberforce still came under the same Parish despite being on opposite sides of the Hawkesbury River. It was a bit of a journey via horseback or cart via Windsor but a much quicker journey via the punt across the river.

Shortly after the arrival of the Newton family in Pitt Town, Eleanor Jones Newton married Henry ‘Harry’ Glanville on 12 June 1897 at St James Pitt Town. William presided over his daughter’s marriage.  Henry was a 37 year old farmer from Wogamia, Shoalhaven. 

The local newspapers provide an insight into some of the daily events of the Newton family in the Hawkesbury. 

In September 1897, Rev Newton, was able to obtain a donation of ornamental shrubs from the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The plants were used to “beautify the ground attached” to the old St. James' Schoolhouse. Members of the church including older parishioners and residents were invited to attend. Horticulturalist, Mr Phillips, the laid out the plants and the first tree was planted by senior church-warden James Dunstan. Trees were then planted by wardens, Sunday school teachers plus members of the congregation. Rev Newton and daughter Joan also planted trees. Mr T Hillhouse Taylor, the gentleman assisting Mr Newton in his ministerial duties, also planted a tree. The oldest person to plant a tree was Mrs Sarah Horton, aged 96. The tree planting was followed by refreshments.(2)  

In 1903 Rev Newton attended the special ceremony of laying a corner stone at St. Paul's Church in Riverstone.

Early in January 1904, it was reported in the local newspaper that Rev. W. S. Newton had lost his pony. Apparently it “found its way back to Campbelltown, where it was bred. Mr. John Smallwood brought it back to its owner last week.” (3) 

Also in 1904, Rev Newton was reported as being in a “low state, suffering from pneumonia.” Mr. J. Barnett filled in and took the services At Pitt Town while the rector was unwell. He eventually went to Nowra to recuperate and gradually gained his strength.(4)  

On New Year’s Eve (1904) Mrs. Newton was presented a gift from the local parishioners. Mrs. B. Hall given a “handsome and valuable tea-service” while her husband and daughter were also presented with a matching cup and saucer. The gifts were subscribed for by the local parishioners. For entertainment, a gramophone was lent for the event and Miss Sarah Wilbow sang a song, followed by refreshments and games until midnight, followed by a service.(5) 

The following year, Rev Newton and one his daughters had an accident. A motor cycle spooked their horse, and the harness and vehicle destroyed. Their injuries were much more serious than originally thought and “Mrs. Glanville, from Nowra, a daughter of Mr. Newton” stayed “at the rectory to nurse the patients."(9) The local congregation collected donations which totalled about £10, which went towards a new whip and harness. The new items were presented at a social event at the Church Hall. The remainder of the money £4 went towards repairing the sulky. While the rector was convalescing, Mr Martin acted as the lay preacher.(6)

He was with this parish in the Hawkesbury until 1911 when he became unwell and retired. After leaving Windsor, the Rev. W. S. Newton carried on his spiritual work amongst the prisoners sent from Darlinghurst to the Long Bay Gaol. He was remembered by the “down and out for his great but old-fashioned virtue called kindness.” (7)

Windsor and Richmond Gazette 21 December 1912, p. 4. 

Daughter Eleanor Glanville died in November 1912 aged 40. She had a 13 year old son. The death of Eleanor greatly affected William and within the month, he passed away. Rev William Shackfield Newton passed away at Randwick on 18 December 1912. His funeral was held at St. James Pitt Town and he was buried in the Anglican Cemetery, Pitt Town. Catherine died in 1919 at Randwick and she was buried with her husband at Pitt Town. (8) 
Newton headstone from Pitt Town Cemetery

1. Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students ..., Volume 2 by John Venn
8. (1932, November 25). Windsor and Richmond Gazette, p. 18.