The First Bishop of Grafton and Armidale’s Short Reign
Although the Diocese of Grafton and Armidale was constituted in 1863, the first Bishop, William Collinson Sawyer, was not appointed until 1867. After his consecration in Canterbury Cathedral in February 1867 he and his family sailed from England in the following September, arriving in Sydney in December. They were met by Bishop Tyrrell of Newcastle. They stayed with him at Bishopscourt, Morpeth, until Bishop Sawyer travelled to Grafton by steamer where he stayed for a few weeks meeting clergy and church members. He then rode to Armidale, the other end of the Diocese, meeting Septimus Hungerford’s parishioners, and subsequently rode back to Morpeth to be reunited with his family.
In early 1868 the family travelled to Grafton to live in the residence provided for them. Their time together was, however, cut short. On 15 March 1868, the Bishop, his young son, Hewley, and a servant were drowned in the Clarence River as they returned from evensong at Ulmarra. Their small sailing boat capsized in rough weather.
During his brief episcopacy, the Bishop won the respect and admiration of his flock in all parts of the Diocese where he had ministered.