Rev Frederick Charles Platts
by Lex Johnson
In 1861 the Reverend F C Platts was appointed to Holy Trinity Church in Sandridge.
The congregation was to have some interesting years!
Frederick Charles Platts was born in India in 1823 where his father was an officer in the East India Company army. He was educated in England and then received his MA from Aberdeen University. For a time he worked in India at the Martiniere College in Delhi before returning to England to work as the Classics Master at Bedford Grammar school.
It seems that by late 1849, Platts was in South Australia with the South Australian newspaper reporting the arrival of Rev F Platt [sic] on the barque Himalaya from London. Then on 5 March 1850 the same newspaper reported that he had been admitted to the Order of a Deacon of the English Church by the Lord Bishop of Adelaide at St George’s Church, Macgill where he was due to take up the position of minister.
In a forewarning of his clerical style the Adelaide Times reported in January 1851 under the ominous headline “The Church in Danger” that Platts “… it seems, is an avowed Puseyite, and, consequently, a great stickler for clerical authority. This has, unhappily, brought him into frequent collision with one or more of the Churchwardens …”. The article also referred to a worse situation at the Church of England at Walkerville where the Churchwardens had locked the Bishop and clergyman he had sent to preach, out of the church. Perhaps not coincidently, by June 1852, Rev Platts was at St Andrew’s Church, Walkerville. He resigned in 1854 on health grounds planning to go to Tasmania. However, he became involved in the establishment of a church at Glen Osmond in the shadows of the Adelaide Hills. He probably should have gone to Tasmania!
In June 1856, Rev Platts was in the Supreme Court suing Mr J R Bull for slander. Bull had accused Platts of “having fraudulently obtained the conveyance of a piece of land at Glen Osmond; of being a person of intemperate habits; of being a rogue, scamp, and vagabond; of having made Mr Osmond Gilles drunk, and of having forged his name to a certain deed; and, also of having been drunk in church”. The jury awarded Platts damages of £100 on the first and fifth counts.
Platts and Bull were back in the Supreme Court just over a year later. This time Platts sued Bull for verbal defamation. Platts had boarded the omnibus to Glen Osmond to find that Bull was the only other passenger sitting inside. Bull, reading the newspaper aloud, said. “A fine batch of lies you have published in that paper, Sir. You liar, you d_____d liar, you father of liars, you prince of devils, you d_____d infernal crawling black slug.” Bull further accused Platts of stealing a bible and prayerbook from Walkerville that belonged to Mrs Bull calling him “a b____y thief, a b____y rogue, an infernal thief, and a swindler”. He further accused Platts of stealing £7 gathered for the poor from the Sunday School children. In this case the jury again found in favour of Platts and awarded him damages.
The ongoing issues surrounding Platts’ time at Walkerville and the establishment of the church at Glen Osmond continued during 1858 with Platt suing Dr Short, Lord Bishop of Adelaide and others in June for recovery of an amount of stipend owed; Mr Samuel Stocks for libel in October with a second trial in November; and Mr Osmond Gilles for libel also in November. The case against Stocks was still in court during December of that year.
Platts was also still pursuing the matter of alleged libel against Gilles in March 1859. This time the jury found in favour of Gilles. Not long after, in May, Platts was granted a second-class certificate by the Insolvency Court.
It is unclear what happened next however in April 1860, Platts was engaged to hold services for three months at Barker’s Creek and Campbell’s Creek near Castlemaine in rural Victoria. It seems he remained in the Castlemaine area spending a short time in 1861 at Fryer’s Creek before replacing Rev C Searle at Holy Trinity, Sandridge.
Anglican Churches often had difficulties finding money to support their vicars and it is believed that Rev Platts did not receive a full stipend for some years. In 1867, this resulted in the church gas bill being overdue and disconnection was imminent. Tensions arose between the vestry and Platts. A local teacher, George Williamson, made himself liable for the debt but was soon insolvent with liabilities of over £200 against £6 5s in assets. Platts opined that his debt was not the primary cause of the man’s insolvency.
Platts (with some support from the Church trustees) elbowed in on the collection of donations from the shipping that arrived in Port Phillip Bay. He led the captains to believe that the money would go to the Seamen’s Mission ( a non-denominational church for sailors) but it was suggested by the Secretary of the Mission that the funds were being diverted elsewhere. Platts sued for defamation but was unable to show that the funds were spent for seamen’s benefit and he lost his case.
Shortly after, this a letter (transcribed below) began an extraordinary exchange of accusations and denials that were all published in local newspapers.
Melbourne Sat May 16 1868
To Rev F C Platts, MA, Incumbent of Trinity Church, Sandridge
We the undersigned, members of the Church of England, residing at Sandridge, feeling deeply grieved at the deplorable state of Trinity Church, and seeing no prospect of improvement, deem it our duty respectfully to suggest the desirability of your removing to some other sphere of labour, for we are of the opinion that the personal differences existing between yourself & former supporters of the Church prevent any union amongst its members and seriously cripple its resources.
David Thomas – Curtin – Elworthy – Plummer – Swallows – Morley – Mulford – Trodd – Banner – Barlow – Dando – Clay – Garside – Carnaby – Mason – Arnold – Slater – Cook – Sharples – Bentley – Tarver – Stevens – Kentish – Ripkey – Earnshaw – & 73 others!
Far from being chastened, Platts said that some of the names were from Presbyterian and other Dissenting establishments and “were unknown to me” and he had been reliably informed that many of the names were obtained by visiting local taverns. He had “no recollection of any differences within the church over past five years, not even with those who take exception to my church tone and gone elsewhere”.
Arguments continued in the press over congregation numbers and the financial position of the church.
Finally on 2 June 1868, the editor to The Argus placed a footnote “that this correspondence must now cease”.
In a further lawsuit in 1872 Mr Wright, a Trustee of the church, had been obliged by the Bishop to investigate Platts’ role in relation to ongoing payments to a teacher who had left under a cloud of impropriety. He found the charges not sustained but nonetheless Platts took him to court for damages to his reputation. Platts was defeated on all counts and was required to pay Mr Wright’s costs.
Platts wrote to the Bishop to express unfeigned regret for adopting a course which has caused Mr Wright much pecuniary injury and expressing his regret for the scandal which was brought upon the church in this colony.
This payment of costs did not occur and this caused Wright great embarrassment and necessitated the mortgage of some property.
Finally in 1880 the congregation collected monies to “bribe” Platts to resign. A sum of £605 was collected (a not insubstantial sum) and in a final unedifying situation Platts and the Sheriff’s officer (who was trying to collect £250 to settle the debt to Wright) were wrestling on the floor to get possession of the cash (Platts had refused to accept a cheque from the bank). Platts was obliged to leave the Parish by 6 o’clock that evening.
Platts of course complained to the Bishop that his resignation was obtained by chicanery. But the Bishop accepted the resignation without delay. It is surprising that after the letter of 1868 that Platts’ departure took so long. He was clearly a man who thrived on a fight.
In 1880 Platts was moved to Holy Trinity Church in Port Chalmers, New Zealand where he remained until his death in 1900. The eulogy suggested that he was well liked and respected. However…..
In November 1882 in a letter to the editor of the Port Chalmers Evening Star it was suggested that Platts and the people “do not seem to hit it off, for some reason or other.” In a deja vu situation it was said that the common sense view is to terminate the relationship and remove Platts. The Evening Star reported that sixty-three members of the congregation had signed the request to the Bishop for Platts removal. There was even a threat to “starve Mr Platts out.”
In December the same year it was claimed that a major part of several local congregations have left their church, and either attend another denomination or just stay home. One woman, aware that she was dying, preferred to die without a visit from the minister rather than invite him to her home.
Rev Platts again weathered these storms of protest but it seems that the Sandridge congregation was not alone in their assessment of him.
1849 ‘SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. ARRIVED.’, South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 – 1851), 20 November, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71625104
1850 ‘LOCAL NEWS.’, South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 – 1851), 5 March, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71625785
1851 ‘THE CHURCH IN DANGER.’, Adelaide Times (SA : 1848 – 1858), 18 January, p. 1. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207066467
1852 ‘Advertising’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 30 June, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38462283
1854 ‘CORRECT TIME.’, Adelaide Times (SA : 1848 – 1858), 12 September, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207017774
1854 ‘GLEN OSMOND CHURCH.’, Adelaide Times (SA : 1848 – 1858), 4 November, p. 2. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207019156
1856 ‘LAW AND POLICE COURTS.’, Adelaide Times (SA : 1848 – 1858), 30 June, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207093264
1857 ‘LAW AND CRIMINAL COURTS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 19 September, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49212853
1858 ‘LAW AND CRIMINAL COURTS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 23 June, p. 2. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49775539
1858 ‘MONDAY, OCTOBER 4.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867), 9 October, p. 5. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88819099
1858 ‘LAW AND CRIMINAL COURTS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 17 November, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49780705
1858 ‘LAW AND CRIMINAL COURTS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 18 November, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49782705
1858 ‘SUPREME COURT—CIVIL SITTINGS.’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), 20 November, p. 4. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article785629
1858 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), 23 December, p. 3. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article786850
1859 ‘MONDAY, MARCH 21.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867), 26 March, p. 6. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96490635
1859 ‘TUESDAY, MAY 3.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867), 7 May, p. 5. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96489476
1860 ‘CAMPBELL’S CREEK.’, Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 4 April, p. 2. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199600873
1861 ‘FRYERSTOWN POLICE COURT.’, Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 25 December, p. 2. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197094835
1862 ‘CORRESPONDENCE.’, Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 31 January, p. 5. , viewed 27 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197097950
1867 ‘LAW REPORT.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 6 March, p. 7. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5787723
1867 ‘FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 1867.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 8 March, p. 5. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5787970
1867 ‘SATURDAY, MARCH 9, 1867.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 March, p. 5. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5788025
1868 ‘LAW REPORT – PLATTS V M’CALLUM.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 6 March, p. 6. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5810379
1868 ‘PLATTS V. M’CALLUM.’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 12 March, p. 3. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244956914
1868 ‘THE REV. MR. PLATTS, OF SANDRIDGE.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 18 May, p. 7. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5816575
1868 ‘THE REV. MR. PLATTS, OF SANDRIDGE.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 25 May, p. 7. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5817210
1868 ‘THE REV. F. C. PLATTS, OF SANDRIDGE.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 2 June, p. 5. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5817962
1872 ‘LIBEL CASE, PLATTS V WRIGHT.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 March, p. 3. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197448451
1880 ‘FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 1880.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 January, p. 5. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5970029
1880 ‘THE PARSON AND THE SHERIFF’S OFFICER.’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 13 January, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244746081
1880 ‘THE REV. F C. PLATTS’S CASE.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 23 January, p. 3. , viewed 24 Jun 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202145399
1882 ‘HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, PORT CHALMERS’, Evening Star, Issue 6132, 6 November, p. 4., viewed 24 Jun 2022, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18821106.2.22
1882 ‘FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1882.’, Evening Star, Issue 6136, 10 November, p. 2., viewed 24 Jun 2022, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18821110.2.8
1882 ‘THE ANGLICAN CHURCH AT PORT CHALMERS’, Evening Star, Issue 6151, 28 November, p. 4., viewed 24 Jun 2022, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD1882118.104.22.168
1882 ‘The ANGLICAN CHURCH’, Evening Star, Issue 6161, 9 December, p. 2., viewed 24 Jun 2022. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD1882122.214.171.124.3
1900 ‘FUNERAL OF THE LATE REV F C PLATTS’, Otago Witness, Issue 2413, 7 June 1900, p. 17., viewed 24 Jun 2022, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW19000607.2.58