Perry, Charles (1807-1891) (DNB00)

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PERRY, CHARLES (1807–1891), first bishop of Melbourne, the youngest son of John Perry, a shipowner, of Moor Hall, Essex, was born on 17 Feb. 1807, and was educated first at private schools at Clapham and Hackney, then for four years at Harrow, where he played in the eleven against Eton on two occasions; then at a private tutor's, and finally at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he entered in 1824. He was senior wrangler in 1828, and first Smith's prizeman, as well as seventh classic. He entered at Lincoln's Inn 12 Nov. 1830, and for one year studied law; subsequently, taking holy orders, he went to reside in college, graduated M.A. in 1831, became a fellow of Trinity and proceeded D.D. in 1837, and was tutor from that time to 1841. In 1841 he resigned his fellowship on his marriage, and bought the advowson of the living of Barnwell. Dividing the parish into two districts, he placed them in the hands of trustees, erected a new church with the help of his friends, and became the first vicar of one of the new districts, which he christened St. Paul's, in 1842.

In 1847, when the then wild pastoral colony of Victoria was constituted a diocese independent of New South Wales, Perry was chosen to be its bishop. The post was not to his worldly advantage. About 800l. a year was the most he drew at the best of times, and he was a poor man till near the close of his life. He was consecrated, with three other colonial bishops (one being Gray, first bishop of Capetown), at Westminster Abbey on 29 June 1847. He went out with his wife and three other clergymen in the Stag, a vessel of 700 tons, and after a voyage of 108 days reached Melbourne on Sunday, 23 Jan. 1848. When Perry arrived in the colony there was only one finished church there, Christ Church at Geelong; two others were in course of construction at Melbourne. He found three clergy of the Church of England already there, and three he brought with him. In his first public address he expressed his desire to live on friendly terms with all denominations of Christians, but he declined to visit Father Geoghan on the ground of conscientious distrust of the Romish church. He made constant journeys through the unsettled country, often thirty or forty miles at a stretch; he bravely faced the anxieties caused by the gold rush and its attendant demoralisation. For the first five years of his colonial life he resided at Jolimont. The palace of Bishop's Court was built in 1853.

Perry's influence was perhaps most notably shown in the passing of the Church Assembly Act, which constituted a body of lay representatives to aid in the government of the church (1854). Doubts as to its constitutional validity were raised at home, and in 1855 the bishop went home to argue the case for the bill. His pleading was successful, and the act became the precedent for similar legislation in other colonies. After his return, on 3 April 1856, he conferred on all congregations the right to appoint their own pastor alternately with himself, and instituted a system of training lay readers for the ministry.

Perry's first visit to Sydney seems to have been in 1859. In 1863–4 he made a second visit to England, during which he was select preacher at Cambridge, and assisted at the consecration of Ellicott, bishop of Gloucester. On 29 June 1872 the twenty-fifth anniversary of his consecration was celebrated with enthusiasm at Melbourne. On 26 Feb. 1874, on the erection of the diocese into a metropolitan see, he left the colony amid universal regret; and when he had arranged for the endowment of the new see of Ballarat in May 1876, he finally resigned.

Perry's years of retirement were devoted to furthering the interests of the church at home, particularly the work of the Church Missionary Society and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He attended and addressed every church congress from 1874 till 1888. He took a leading part in promoting the foundation of the theological colleges, Wycliffe Hall at Oxford and Ridley Hall at Cambridge, and actively aided in the management of the latter. In 1878 he was appointed prelate of the order of St. Michael and St. George and canon of Llandaff. He was in residence each year at Llandaff till 1889, when a stroke of paralysis caused his resignation. Thenceforward he resided at 32 Avenue Road, Regent's Park, London, and died there on 1 Dec. 1891. He was buried at Harlow in Essex. A memorial service was held on the same day at Melbourne, when his old comrade, Dean Macartney, himself ninety-three years of age, who had come out with him in 1848, preached the sermon.

Bishop Perry was a stout evangelical churchman, equally opposed to ritualistic and rationalistic tendencies. He published ‘Foundation Truths’ and other sermons.

Perry married, on 14 Oct. 1841, Frances, daughter of Samuel Cooper, who survived him. He celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his wedding shortly before his death. His portrait, by Weigall, is at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. A memorial has been erected in St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. The service of plate which was presented to him on leaving Melbourne was bequeathed to the master's lodge at Trinity College, Cambridge.

[Melbourne Argus, 4, 6, and 7 Dec. 1891; Summary of Macartney's funeral sermon in latter issue; Goodman's Church in Victoria during the Episcopate of Bishop Perry, London, 1892, which contains some autobiographical notes by Perry.]

C. A. H.