BARNETT, Ernest John (1861-1955)

Keith Cole

BARNETT, ERNEST J[ohn] (b. c.1861, d. Tas May 1955). Missionary and mission administrator.

After a distinguished course at Melbourne University (BA 1886, MA 1887), Barnett was deaconed in 1885 and priested in 1886 in the Church of England. Following curacies at Holy Trinity, Kew and St Mary's, Melbourne, he was appointed the first headmaster of Caulfield Grammar School in 1888. In 1896 he was appointed the first stipendiary Secretary of the Church Missionary Association, leading him to become very interested in the work of the Chinese Mission in that city. In order to equip himself more adequately for this work, he spent several years in Hong Kong studying Cantonese. He resumed his work in Melbourne, but his time in Hong Kong had so impressed the bp there that in 1902 he was invited to become the warden of the projected new Boys' College in the Colony. Barnett accepted the challenge and was instrumental in building up St Stephen's College, Hong Kong, which became one of the leading hoys' schools in Asia.

In 1909 Barnett was appointed Secretary of the CMS South China Mission, and the following year succeeded W W Banister as archdeacon of Hong Kong.

Archdeacon Barnett was an outstanding educationalist and administrator. Apart from his service to the Mission, he played a prominent part in establishing the University of Hong Kong, the CMS Hostel, St John's Hall, the only residential hostel ready for use when the university opened in 1914. A scholar and a gentleman, he held the respect and affection of the Chinese as well as that of the Europeans. His resignation on health grounds in 1925 was received with regret.

Returning to England he became rector of Beer Hackett in the diocese of Salisbury, and in 1937, at the age of 76, was appointed Rural Dean of Sherborne. His interest in the overseas work of the church never flagged, and he was a key worker for CMS in the diocese until 1951, when, at the age of 90, he decided to return to Australia. He settled in Tasmania, continuing an active life until his death, having been ordained 70 years.

Keith Cole, A History of the Church Missionary Society of Australia (1971); Keith Cole, Sharing in Mission: the centenary history of the Victorian Branch of the CMS, 1892-1992 (1992)


Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004