Charles Abraham (bishop of Wellington)

Charles John Abraham (1814 – 4 February 1903) was the first Anglican Bishop of Wellington. He married Caroline Palmer who became a noted artist.[1]

Engraving of a portrait of Charles Abraham


Born in 1814,[2] the son of the late Royal Navy captain Abraham, of Farnborough, Hampshire, he was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge and was later a Fellow.[3] He was admitted to the degree of BA in 1837, MA (Cantab) in 1840, BD in 1849, and received the degree of DD in 1859.[4] He was made deacon on 11 March 1838, and ordained priest 26 May 1839, both times at Lincoln.[5] He was Assistant Master at Eton until 1850, when he went out to New Zealand to become Master of the English department of St John's College, Auckland.[4]

In 1853 he was appointed Archdeacon of Waitemata by George Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand.[6] Selwyn had for two or three years been offering to members of the Church of England a Church Constitution, under which they were to govern themselves; and during the two years which followed, while absent in England, he left Abraham to set out its principles. In 1857 a convention of churchmen was held in Auckland, which resulted in the framing of the Constitution now in force. In the following year Abraham, who had also been acting as chaplain to the bishop, was appointed first Anglican Bishop of Wellington:[7] he was confirmed (legally taking the See) on 4 September 1858 and consecrated a bishop on 29 September by John Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury; William Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford; and John Lonsdale, Bishop of Lichfield, at Lambeth Palace chapel. He arrived back in New Zealand 30 March 1859 and was installed at St Paul's Pro-Cathedral on 3 April.[5] When the New Zealand Wars broke out by reason of the purchase by the Government of the Waitara block, Abraham presented a protest to the Governor, claiming for the Maori as British subjects the right to be heard in the Supreme Court.[4]

On 20 October 1868 he returned to England with Selwyn, and assisted him in the Diocese of Lichfield; he resigned his See effective 1 June 1870 and was licensed as assistant bishop (described as a coadjutor bishop) to Selwyn as Bishop of Lichfield.[5] This office he held until Selwyn's death in 1878. From 1872 to 1876 he was Prebendary of Bubbenhall in Lichfield Cathedral, and in 1875-6 was rector of Tatenhill, Staffordshire. From 1876 he was Canon and Precentor at the cathedral.[4]

He married in 1850 Caroline Harriet, daughter of Charles Palmer, 2nd Baronet, of Wanlip Hall, Leicestershire, a talented artist[1] and cousin of the wife of George Selwyn. She died in 1877. Abraham is the author of "Festival and Lenten Lectures in St. George's Chapel, Windsor," 1848-9 (Parker), and other works.[4] He died on 4 February 1903.[8] His son[9] and grandson[10] were also bishops.


  1. ^ a b Caroline Harriet Palmer, NZ encyclopedia, retrieved 28 June 2014
  2. ^ “Who was Who” 1897-1990 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3457-X
  3. ^ "Abraham, Charles John (ABRN833CJ)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mennell, Philip (1892). "Abraham, Charles John" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  5. ^ a b c Blain, Michael. Blain Biographical Direectory of Anglican clergy in the South Pacific — ordained before 1932 (2019) p. 4 (Accessed at Project Canterbury, 25 June 2019)
  6. ^ 'ECCLESIASTICAL INTELLIGENCE' The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, April 18, 1853; pg. 6; Issue 24749
  7. ^ From the London Gazette, Tuesday, Oct. 5. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Oct 06, 1858; pg. 4; Issue 23117
  8. ^ Bishop Abraham Memorial The Times Tuesday, Mar 31, 1903; pg. 15; Issue 37042; col B.
  9. ^ Family tree
  10. ^ Obituary-The Bishop Of Newfoundland ( P. S. Abraham) The Times Saturday, Dec 24, 1955; pg. 9; Issue 53412; col A
Church of England titles
New title Bishop of Wellington
Succeeded by
Octavius Hadfield