Minister's Profile

Rev. Thomas Quinton Stow 1801 - 1862

On 13 May 1836 the same year that South Australia was proclaimed a colony - the Colonial Missionary Society was formed in London. The purpose of this Society was to send Congregational ministers to the newly formed British Colonies, and one of its first acts was to send the Rev Thomas Quinton Stow to South Australia.

Mr Stow, his wife and four young children, left London on board the `Hartley' on 11 May 1837: the vessel dropped anchor in Holdfast Bay on 20 October 1837. The only minister of religion to precede Mr Stow to the Colony was the Anglican Colonial Chaplain, Rev C B Howard, who arrived with Governor Hindmarsh on 28 December 1836, to begin the work of Holy Trinity Church, North Terrace.

From Marquee to Thatched Chapel

Mr Stow pitched his tent, a large military marquee, provided by the Missionary Society, at a cost of thirty-eight pounds, on a flat on the south side of the River Torrens, where the Adelaide Railway Station is now located. He preached his first sermon there on 5 November 1837. The tent was moved to North Terrace, to a site midway between West Terrace and Morphett Street. There, on 19 December 1837 a church of eleven members was formed.

Soon afterwards a temporary structure of gum wood posts, pine rafters and reed thatch was erected on the same land. The chapel measured forty feet by twenty feet, with a schoolroom at one end. The marquee continued to serve as a dwelling for the Stow family until Mr Stow built a dwelling house of limestone and thatched roof during 1838.

Freeman Street

The North Terrace Chapel was used until October 1840, when the Freeman Street (now Gawler Place ) chapel was opened. It was built on th western side of Gawler Place between Pirie and Flinders Streets, where the Agriculture Building now stands.

The foundation stone was laid on Monday 9 December 1839 by the Rev T Q Stow, who delivered a `peculiarly appropriate' address. He was assisted in the service by the Rev R Drummond (Presbyterian) and the Rev W Longbottom (Wesleyan). At the opening services of the church on Sunday, 1 November 1840 Mr Stow preached in the morning and the Rev J Eggleston (Wesleyan) in the afternoon and the Rev R W Newland of Encounter Bay in the evening.

The building of this chapel was a great undertaking for those times: it was sixty-one feet long in the interior, forty feet wide and twenty-five feet high. It was built on land eighty feet by one hundred and ninety-one feet, which had been given to the church by Mr John Brown in 1838. The total cost of the building was three thousand and sixty-one pounds.

During the 1840's, the financial situation in the Colony was critical. For two years, Mr Stow declined to accept any salary from the congregation, depending wholly on the small amount he received from the Missionary Society. During this decade Mr Stow also purchased land at Klemzig which he named `Felixstow'. This is now the site of the Aldersgate Village Homes for the Aged. He farmed the land at Felixstow and it is reported that a number of members resigned their membership of the church to voice their disapproval, even though the church was unable to support him.

To accommodate the large numbers of children attending Sunday School, a room was built at the back of the Freeman Street Chapel at a cost of one hundred and twenty-five pounds, and opened in 1845. In the face of the economic climate of those days it seems incredible that the total debt on the Freeman Street property was liquidated by 1848.

A Pioneer and Statesman

Because of declining health, Mr Stow resigned his pastorate in September 1856, having served almost nineteen years. As the founder of Congregationalism in this State, he laboured faithfully to establish both the pioneer church and the wider Congregational Union of churches. When the Union was formed in 1850, he was its first chairman and was responsible for the formation of many new churches and the training of several ministers. He was evangelical in his aims and unsectarian in his desires. His energy and earnestness were equalled by his catholicity of spirit and he was held in honoured respect by all the churches.

In the political history of the State, Mr Stow took a conspicuous and leading part. He was appointed to the first board of education in 1846 and served on many other public committees. He was one of the strongest opponents of State aid to religion and was successful in having such assistance in this Colony abolished in 1851.

In February 1862 Mr Stow went to Sydney and had fulfilled a month's pulpit supply at the Pitt Street Congregational Church when he was taken ill. He did not recover sufficiently to make the return to Adelaide. He died on 19 July at the home of Mr John Fairfax, a deacon of the Pitt Street Church, and the owner of the "Sydney Morning Herald". Mr Stow was aged sixty-one years.

His body was brought back to Adelaide and buried in the West Terrace Cemetery on 7 August amid the mourning of the whole city. Both Houses of Parliament closed their sittings and the banks closed for two hours. Many Ministers of the Crown, Legislators and heads of government departments were present, as well as representatives from all the churches, including the Roman Catholic and Hebrew congregations. A costly monument, paid for by public subscription, has been erected over his grave.

B. L. Jones A History of Stow Memorial Church (unpublished)
R Beanland & G. Dunning An Historical and Architectural Guide to PILGRIM CHURCH ADELAIDE, Pilgrim Uniting Church
see also Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition - Read more . . .

T Q Stow first Congregational chapel the Freeman Street Chapel building in later years portrait in the vestry at Pilgrim Church