Commemorate the ‘Father of the Diocese
of Ballarat’ Theodore Carlos Benoni STRETCH
This Year: 8 August 2021
As many of you know in 1854 Archdeacon TCB Stretch (pictured left) laid the Foundation Stone of the church that later become the Ballarat Cathedral. Archdeacon Stretch worked tirelessly to build the Anglican Church in western and south western Victoria. Eventually his work culminated in the enthronement of the first Bishop of Ballarat, The Rt Revd. Samuel Thornton, on 10th August 1875. Every Year on the Sunday nearest the 10th of August I would encourage every church in the Diocese to observe this day as a local commemoration of Archdeacon Stretch as “Father of the Diocese of Ballarat”.
‘Theodore Carlos Benoni STRETCH, unlikely as the name suggests, was a clerk in Holy Orders within the Church of England, without whose inspiration,dedication and zeal, the Diocese of Ballarat, as we know it today, would not exist. Of all the people who helped establish the diocese, he was by far the most important and the logical choice as the first bishop of the diocese. That he was not, is the most intriguing issue of the pioneering years’ (The Golden See by John Spooner)
• T.C.B. Stretch was born in Worcester, England on 11th February 1817
• He and his family first arrived in Geelong in1852 and was Minister, mostly of St Paul’s, Geelong
• 1854 – appointed Archdeacon of Geelong with responsibity for the Ballarat Goldfields.
‘Archdeacon Stretch, of the English Church, bore witness to the peaceable aspect of affairs at Creswick.
The Geelong Advertiser (December 1854) states that the Archdeacon had been on a conciliatory tour in the district and reported that the 25,000 diggers of Creswick Creek were under the physical charge of three policemen. The three policemen were enough, and no clearer evidence seems necessary to show how little disposed the general population there, was to armed resistance to the authorities’ (Withers)
This press report was written only a day before the Eureka uprising on 6th December 1854.
• 1854 – laid the Foundation Stone (which mysteriously disappeared in 1857) of the Ballarat ‘Cathedral’ Church
• Remembered as the ‘principal founder’ of Geelong Grammar School
• Archdeacon of Gippsland at Sale in 1863 and Archdeacon of Geelong again in 1866-69
• Laid the Foundation Stones of Holy Trinity, Sebastopol 1867 and the extensions to St John’s 1869
• Archdeacon of Ballarat and Hamilton 1869-75
‘A superb horseman, Stretch covered his vast archdeaconries. He visited every house and cabin he came to, held meetings and services in stations, schoolrooms ,stores and inns, and collected donations. In 1872-73, he canvassed the colony to raise the endowment for the proposed bishopric of Ballarat. He was well fitted for the position of Bishop, but declined lest he appeared to be working for his own advantage. Instead , in 1875, he installed Samuel Thornton as First Bishop of Ballarat. His churchmanship was broadminded Evangelical.
Laity and readers responded to his positive leadership. His geniality and dry humour belied his military appearance and commended him to a large circle of friends. He delighted in playing whist, but his grandchildren, in his old age, had to stack the family cards to protect him from sleeplessness occasioned by a loss’ (Strempel)
• During a brief and vigorous locumcy at Hamilton, he arranged the building of the present Christ Church.
• From 1876 – 1887 he was mostly in Melbourne and greatly assisted in the establishment of St Paul’s Cathedral.
• Archdeacon of Melbourne and Geelong from 1887 until he retired in 1894.
• He is referred to in ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahony’ (Henry Handel Richardson – 1930) as Archdeacon Long,
probably as a pseudonym for Stretch. Coincidently, his mother was, in fact, Elizabeth Long !
‘He was a big, brawny, handsome man, with a massive nose, a cloven chin, with the most companionable smile in the world …. Mahony admired the splendid vitality of the man, as well as the indestructible optimism that bore him triumphantly through all the hardships of a colonial ministry. No sick bed was too remote for Long, no sinner sunk too low to be helped to his feet. The leprous Chinaman doomed to an unending isolation, the drunken Paddy, the degraded white woman – each came in for a share of his benevolence. He spent the greater part of his life visiting outcasts and outposts, beating up the unbaptised, the unconfirmed and the unwed. But his church did not suffer.
He had always some fresh scheme on hand: either he was getting up a tea-meeting to raise money for an organ or a series of penny-readings towards funds for a chancel or he was training with his choir for a sacred concert……..
In doctrine, he struck a happy mean between low-church practices and ritualism, preaching short, spirited sermons to which, even languid Christians could listen to without tedium’ (Henry Handel Richardson)
• The trio of spectacular stained-glass windows above the altar in the Lady Chapel of the Ballarat Cathedral were donated by one of the daughters of Archdeacon Stretch – Martha Rowe nee Stretch (1848 – 1922)
1800 377 842 [1800 DPS VIC].
A Director of Professional Standards has been appointed to respond to all complaints of abuse by clergy and Church workers.
1800 997 747.
Episcopal Standards complaints may be made against the Bishop of a Diocese. This is different to a Professional Standards complaint.