Rev. George Middleton, Mary Hull & Sarah Rose
[Glebe] & [Glenrose]
The Reverend George Augustus Middleton was the sole resident pastor in the lower Hunter Valley from mid 1821 to mid 1827 and during that time he forged a close relationship with the Paterson district.
Born in London in 1791, Middleton attended Cambridge University but failed to graduate. On 17 March 1817, at the age of 25, he married Mary Hull. In 1818 Mary died after giving birth to a son named George. George snr was ordained as a priest for the colonies in 1819, sailed on the Prince Regent and arrived in Sydney in January 1820 with George jnr aged two.
Shortly after arrival he began work as Assistant Chaplain at Parramatta, standing in for the Reverend Samuel Marsden. In 1821 he was appointed to the convict settlement at Newcastle which was under the military control of commandant Major James Morisset.
Middleton was soon rankled by Morisset's disregard for the Sabbath and his concubinage, to the extent that relations between the two men broke down completely. Middleton probably welcomed the opportunity to escape the tensions of Newcastle by travelling up-river to his glebe at Patersons Plains.
Middleton's glebe land at Patersons Plains (shaded in blue). The main campus buildings of Tocal College stand today in the north west corner of his glebe.
Glebes, which consisted of land allocated to the clergy, were an important feature of English rural life at this time, and were equally important for the suppport of clergy in the colony of New South Wales up until 1827. In mid 1821 Middleton selected 400 acres of glebe land on the river at Patersons Plains up-stream from the government settlement at Old Banks and immediately north of John Swan's block (see map).
By the end of 1822 Middleton had cleared 14 acres of his glebe and planted 9 acres of wheat. On it he was running 3 horses, 54 horned cattle and 52 pigs.
Middleton also became a landowner in his own right. By 1828 he had been granted 2,000 acres of Crown land at Patersons Plains adjoining James Webber's land (later called 'Tocal'). Middleton named his land 'Glenrose', and at the time of the 1828 census he had cleared 130 acres, of which 32 acres were cultivated. He was running 6 horses, 337 cattle and 285 sheep.
Middleton was an independent character who reluctantly ceded to authority, and this trait brought him into conflict not only with Morisset but also with Governor Darling and the Archdeacon. These spats led to his censure by the Evangelical movement of the church through savage attacks on him in the Sydney Gazette in 1826. 'More than anything, he is remembered for his absenteeism, an unjust charge which has long overshadowed his contribution to the development of the church in the Hunter Valley.'
George Middleton re-married in February 1824, his second bride being Sarah Rose, then aged 15 (born 29 January 1809 according to a descendant). Sarah had arrived in New South Wales as a free person on the Heroine in 1821. They were wed at St. Luke's Liverpool (NSW) and Sarah subsequently bore him 15 children, two of whom died as infants.
In 1826 Middleton was invited to surrender his glebe at Patersons Plains to the Church and School Corporation in return for compensation. He accepted and his glebe was vested in the corporation in 1827. Middleton resigned from the ministry in 1827 and moved to his land grant 'Glenrose' at Paterson. From there he provided an unofficial and itinerant ministry to those in pastoral need.
By mid 1831 drought forced Middleton to move to Sydney, where he lived for a time with his family at Waterview, one of the first houses in Balmain. Sometime in the 1830s the family rented a house at Phoenix Park near Morpeth. In 1837, with the approval of Bishop Broughton, Middleton returned to active ministry in the parish of Butterwick (across the river from his old glebe at Patersons Plains) and remained there until his death in 1848 at the age of 55. Sarah died in 1863 aged 53 years. They are buried together in Morpeth cemetery.
Notes and references
1. Roach, Brian. "George Augustus Middleton - A Prodigal Priest?". M.A. thesis, University of Newcastle, 2003.
4. Sainty MR and KA Johnston (eds). Census of New South Wales 1828. Library of Australian History, 2008 (revised edition on CD). Note: the 1828 census indicates Middleton had 2,400 acres of land. Because he surrendered his glebe in 1827 the census should have indicated 2,000 acres at Glenrose. The reason for the discrepancy is unclear. An early map of the (civil) Parish of Houghton shows Glenrose as 2,000 acres.
7. Middleton's witness statement in Rex v Mills, Chapman and Chapman, 1834.
- Rev. George Middleton in Aust. Dict. Biography.
- Rev. George and Sarah Middleton's headstone inscription and photo.
- Elkin, AP. The Diocese of Newcastle. Australasian Medical Publishing Company, 1955.
- An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains up to the end of 1821.