Dredge, James

He was born in Salisbury on 6 October 1796, the son of a cabinet maker. He became a local preacher in 1807 and started a boys school in Salt Lane in 1821, which in 1827 developed into the Fisherton Academy. He wrote The Biographical Record: or sketches of the lives, experience and happy deaths of the members of the Wesleyan society in the Salisbury Circuit (1833) to raise money towards the building of a new chapel in Mill Road, Fisherton (1832; demolished to make way for the new railway line and replaced by Wilton Road); also A Manual of Prayer (1836).

After being rejected by the WM Missionary Committee, in 1837 he was appointed one of four Assistant Protectors of the Aborigines by the Secretary of State for the Colonies (another being his fellow Methodist E.S. Parker of London) and sailed to New South Wales in 1838, arriving at Port Phillip in January 1839. The antagonism of the settlers and persistent indecision of the colonial government on the Protectorate caused him much frustration, but he worked conscientiously on the Goulburn River, defending the interests of the Aborigines, settling their quarrels and trying to interest them in Christian faith and practice. Both he and his wife fell ill and he relinquished the post in 1840. He opened a china and glass business in Melbourne, which failed the following year. He was engaged as a paid local preacher in the Methodist Church and stationed at Geelong, but despite his assiduous work there his offer for the ministry was again declined. He had demonstrated missionary zeal from his days in the Salisbury Circuit and throughout his work among Aborigines, transported convicts and settlers in New South Wales. But with continuing ill-health in 1845 he was advised to take a voyage back to England, but died at sea on 5 May 1846, one day from home, and was buried in London. His daughter, Mary Ann Truckle, married Edward John Ensor of Milborne Port.

  • Colin A. McCallum, James Dredge, 1796-1846 in Heritage: a Journal of the Methodist Historical Society of Victoria(July 1957)
  • David Ensor, 250 Years of Methodism in Salisbury (2009), pp.8-10

Entry written by: DE
Category: Person
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