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Alfred Wilkinson

Birthdate: (87)
Death: 1896 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Wilkinson and Mary Wilkinson
Husband of Jane Wilkinson and Anne Wilkinson
Father of Georgina Miller; Charles Wilkinson; William Wilkinson; Frederick Wilkinson; Miles Wilkinson and 4 others
Brother of Cripps Wilkinson and Frederick Wilkinson

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Alfred Wilkinson


Wilkinson, Alfred (1809-1896)

Dean, Academic Advancement

Alphacrucis College

Wilkinson, Alfred (20.11.1809, Clapham, Surrey, England; chr. Holy Trinity, Clapham, Surrey, England; d. 6.2.1896, Pokolbin, NSW, Australia), officer in the 33rd Regiment Madras Infantry; Catholic Apostolic minister, 'Angel Evangelist'.

Wilkinson, Alfred (20.11.1809, Clapham, Surrey, England; chr. Holy Trinity, Clapham, Surrey, England; d. 6.2.1896, Pokolbin, NSW, Australia), officer in the 33rd Regiment Madras Infantry; Catholic Apostolic minister, 'Angel Evangelist'.

Born in 1809 in Clapham, Surrey, England, W. was the third son of Charles Wilkinson ('Gentleman') and Mary née Cripps. The Wilkinsons were gentry, leveraging their landed wealth into professional position in the growing metropolis. W.’s father, Charles, appears on the list of the proprietors and life subscribers of the London Institution in May, 1818, and though he disappears from view thereafter, was clearly an active participant in contemporary intellectual life. It is possible that he was a lawyer, having been admitted to the legally-connected Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1788, and he was certainly involved in archaeology – contributing a mummified ibis to a museum collection from one of his trips to Egypt. At some time the family seems to have moved to [Lymington?], Hampshire – perhaps as part of the growth of Portsmouth as the great supply centre for the British military. Charles senior was certainly dead by 1826, perhaps one of the reasons why Alfred chose to join the military and make his way in the world.

As the oldest son, Frederick, was likely to inherit the family seat at Lymington, and second son, Chiels went on to practice law, Wilkinson’s family took advantage of family connections and the expansion of the Empire in the 1820s to find an occupation for their third son. Alfred had had a good education in classics and mathematics at Rev. Dr. Radcliffe’s School (later Fonthill School) in St. Edmund, Salisbury, from which numbers of Alfred’s family and near contemporaries had gone to university and into business, the sciences and the Church (including the famous geologist, Sir Charles Lyell). The Wilkinsons were well connected. An aunt married Robert Carr, future Bishop of Worcester, and an uncle was Marmaduke Wilkinson, Rector of Redgrave, Suffolk. W.’s aunt on his mother’s side, Honoria, married General Henry Lawrence from Richmond (a location nearby the family’s origins in Roehampton), and Alfred’s paternal uncle, Jacob (‘of Bath’), was influential in the East India Company. His cadetship application was witnessed by his uncle, the city merchant Philip Combauld (Bishopsgate, and later Westbury). This latter was important, as the Company’s College at Haileybury was made up of young gentlemen nominated by a Director of the Company or the Board of Control– thus presupposing some form of ‘connection’. Alfred was nominated by the sea captain, merchant and Elder of Trinity House, George Gooch (1761-1832), and his application placed before the Directors by William Thornton Astell (1774–1847) on 29 March 1826. It is highly likely that there were a number of Alfred's extended family already in India prior to his departure - Berdoe Coker Wilkinson, for instance, almost certainly a cousin (perhaps the son of his uncle, Thomas), went out to India in 1819, and Christopher Dixon Wilkinson (made captain in the 28th Native Infantry in 1825) would go on to become a full General. After training at the Company’s ‘military seminary’ at Addiscombe, near Croydon, in 1826 Wilkinson left England for India. The painting of him (held in the State Library of New South Wales) is evocative of the separation that the journey would entail. The face of a serious, sensitive young man in a high, restrictive collar considers the prospect of war and disease in pursuit of advancement, over a winsome dedication to his mother, then living as a widow in Salisbury.

On 8 Jan 1826, W. joined the 33rd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry (renamed from 1885 as the 33rd Madras Infantry) in Bangalore, one of the oldest regiments in the Indian Army. Shortly afterwards, he was gazetted as ‘Lieutenant (without purchase)’ to the 13th Foot. (By 1826, the Madras Army consisted of 52 infantry, 2 pioneer, 8 light cavalry, 1 artillery corps, and two European regiments). The Madrassis took part in campaigns in Bourbon, Mauritius, Sumatra, and the Burma war of 1824-1826, and fought at Chinnapatam near Bangalore in 1827. In 1830, he married Anne King (b. 1812, Tamil Nadu, India), the daughter of an Army officer – she would give him two children: Mary Ann (b. 31 May, 1831, in Bangalore; d. 19 May 1879, Pokolbin, NSW, Australia) and Alfred (nd.). While there is no evidence to the matter, it seems sensible to suggest that Anne’s early death in a cholera epidemic in India, and the evangelical revival current among Indian Army officers, were catalysts in the sudden change of direction in W.’s life. In 1835, W. resigned 33rd NI (effective 12 July 1835). He would ever after be referred to as being 'in the employ of the Hon. East India Company' as a Lieutenant, (see his son Herbert's Wedding Certificate in 1874). He returned to England, and leaving him in possession of a small inheritance (which, in 1861, was £2002 7s 6d consolidated in 3% bank annuities) and so some discretion as to his mode of life. In 1838, he married Jane Isabella Gillman (b. 1811, m. Woodbrooke, Ireland, d. 1881, Greta, NSW) in Cork, Ireland, daughter of Henry Gillman of Woodbrook, J.P., and Sarah née Crooke, of Ahavrin, Co. Cork.

The 1841 census lists W. as living on Peel Heath, Hillingdon, in Middlesex, England, and referring to himself as a 'Minister of the Gospel'. As he was not ordained in the Anglican church, it would seem that he was already attached to one or another of the evangelical revivalist groups which were emerging around this time. His marriage to Jane Gilman (c. 1840) connects him to the Irish gentry, and so one might speculate that there is a connection to the Albury Park and Powerscourt network of ‘prophecy conferences’ which linked evangelical millennialism at the time. W. does not appear to have been required to work (though his later activities might suggest some experience in farming while in England), and in the 1851 Census, was living in Brighton with his growing family (Herbert was born here) and described as a 'Fundholder'. In Brighton, the family were staying at the Lodging House of John and Isabella Bloomfield at no. 2, Preston Street, Brighton. Suitably for a resort town serving the London elite, there was a Catholic Apostolic Church at Calton Hill, Brighton.

In 1852, W. was appointed as one of the 20 Evangelists and the ‘apostolic servant’ in the Catholic Apostolic Church, with care for those in the Cape Colony, Australia and New Zealand, leaving London with Jane and his family on 9 November, and arriving in Melbourne, on 12 February 1853 aboard the Koh-i-noor. Melbourne was thronging with immigrant gold seekers at this time, and W. set up a tent among the temporary encampments in the city in order to hold communion and preach the CA gospel of repentance, the ‘true church’ and the soon return of Christ. He 'waited upon the clergy and ministers of every denomination', doing the same as he entered new colonies. 'The time had arrived when everybody must be warned of the Lord's second advent'. (Argus, 14 Oct 1874, p. 5) W. attempted farming in Tasmania and Victoria with little success through the years 1853-1856. Given later reports that ‘the Irvingite heresy has not been inactive in some of the midland districts’, and a CA church was established in Launceston, the centre of W.s activities may have been in this area. In 1853, he was in attendance at a meeting of the Royal Society of Van Diemen’s Land, in the company of other retired army officers, medical practitioners and colonial gentry. By 1856, voting rolls have him listed as living on Wellington St., St. Kilda, where he preached in hired halls and commenced services. Shipping lists note him moving back and forth between Melbourne and Tasmania, suggesting that he took his role as Evangelist seriously. Memory among at some CA families suggest that numbers of people joined the Church from evangelism on the goldfields, and it may be that W. was the means for this. In 1859, W. was replaced in Melbourne, which – with the arrival of Martin Howy Irving, Thomas Shearman Ralph, among others -- was by this time becoming a thriving hub of Catholic Apostolic activity, and took the family back to England. The family travelled on the Continent, with Frederick and John studying viticulture and winemaking at Fleury (under M. Lanseur) in France and in Germany's Rhineland (Baron Liebig). While they stayed with relatives, and the children went to school, W. returned in 1860 to Melbourne on the Ottawa (arrived 13 June) with Captain Scratchley and a party of Royal Engineers and sappers, who were attending to the extension of the military fortifications in Victoria. While his account is not clear as to whether the connection was intentional or merely the result of happening to share the same ship, the shipping list suggests a connection, something that is believable given the fact that Scratchley and the Engineers were based in Portsmouth, not far from W.’s relatives in Hampshire.

With the release of Crown land in 1861, Frederick bought land in the Pokolbin region, near Cessnock, NSW, on the site he would build Oakdale Vineyard. On 9 September, 1865 Alfred and Jane (and their children Georgina, Charles, William, Frederick, Miles, Herbert and John) left for Australia on the Clipper 'Walter Hood', arriving on 7 December in Sydney. In 1866 Frederick obtained cuttings from the Catholic Apostolic Wyndham family at Branxton, and planted the first wine grapes at Oakdale. He also selected a property (Côte d'Or) for his father and others (Mangerton, Coolalta and Maluna) for his brothers Charles, John and William respectively. Over time, 'the family became dominant in establishing viticulture in the Pokolbin area'. It was apparent that Fred, John and Charles were doing most of the work during this period, as Alfred was absent on missions for much of the time. Given that he was in India 1867-8, and there were reports of his drawing crowds in excess of 1000 people at his meetings from Hobart to Cairns, it is clear that establishing the family close to the Wyndhams, and providing them with income, was part of a plan to support further evangelism in Australia. From 1867-1870, while Frederick and John were waiting for the Pokolbin vineyards to grow to maturity, they hired their European winemaking skills out up the valley, and Frederick spent some time managing Hugh Wyndham's vineyards at Bukkulla Station, in the New England area. William and Herbert would marry into the Wyndham family, John into the Hungerford family, Charles would return to marry a Gillman cousin in Ireland, and Frederick married into the leading evangelical and legal Stephen family. In all, they established a stable Catholic Apostolic network of landed gentry which would have a presence in the Hunter Valley until at least the 1920s.

With the family settled and the Wyndhams operating services out of a chapel built on the Dalwood property, W. continued regional evangelism. In December 1869, and again in April 1872, he arrived in Melbourne from India; in 1874 he visited the Ballarat goldfields, shortly after which a congregation was commenced. His presentation at the Melbourne Athenaeum (chaired by Percy Whitestone, and no doubt organised by Athenaeum member, Martin Howy Irving) created something of a stir when Hussey Burgh Macartney (who had been in Dublin during the controversies over J. N. Darby and Brethren premillennialism) rose to his feet, refuted the biblical arguments and declared the teaching of the revived Apostolate to be that of 'false prophets and deceivers. The speaker was about to proceed further in his remarks, but was prevented by the gas being turned off.' (Argus, 14 Oct 1874, p. 5) In 1876 W. was in Lower Hutt and Timaru, New Zealand, in 1877 and 1882 in Brisbane, in 1883 in Hobart and Sydney. His modus operandi was seemingly the same wherever he went (and indeed seems common to other CA ministers working in Australia at this time, e.g. Percy Whitestone). He would connect with a prominent local figure, arrange a public venue, and place an advertisement in the paper. CA preachers were locked out of denominational buildings through the antagonism shown by evangelicals towards their ritualism, by Catholics towards their pretensions to universalism, and Baptists towards their eschatological and Pentecostal doctrines. They therefore joined the ‘lecture circuit’ and competed for space with a whole host of religious reformers, millenarians, and cranks whose claims about mesmerism, illuminism, spiritualism, British Israelitism and the mysteries of the pyramids formed part of the intellectual entertainment of the age.

Clearly, the CA’s tapped into the general interest in the millennium which was also being fanned by Brethren evangelists at the time, with more success among migrant Irish Protestants. Their elitism, ritualism and insistence on the restoration of present day Apostles, however, meant that the dispensational premillennialism of the Brethren would find deeper roots in Australia, particularly through its influence on key Anglican and Baptist leaders. In 1876, W.

toured New Zealand for two months, and “delivered a testimony to this work of the Lord in 1876 in all the chief towns from Dunedin in the south to Auckland in the north which gave him two months hard work. The Lord hath guided His work as it has pleased Him but He forces no man's will. In this work there is nothing new but the restoration of the original Christian Economy . . . "

The following account, in the Brisbane Courier provides a glimpse of the content of his teaching. His lecture here was organised and chaired by George Clark, a local landowner, press man, and politician of considerable influence.

WARWICK [FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT] November 21. LIEUTENANT ALFRED WILKINSON; an Evangelist, representing the Catholic Apostolic Church, delivered an address in the Town Hall on Friday evening last, his subject being "the instant coming of the Lord and the preparation needful for the same." There was a good attendance, Mr George Clark presiding. The lieutenant -who was formerly an officer in the Indian army - is an aged man, and spoke to his audience seated. He is evidently very earnest. Indeed, earnestness was the chief characteristic of his address. In thanking the audience for their attendance, and inviting queries from doubting ones, the chairman referred to the remarks in my last letter. I incidentally referred to the religious body to which Mr.Clark belongs as a denomination, and to this he took exception. He also denied that they are Irvingites.

Of course, by this time, Alfred was indeed an ‘aged man’ of 73 years, but there is not reason to doubt that his emphasis was more on the eschatological than the pentecostal issues. In this picture, one gains an insight into the man and the attraction that the CA held. Army trained from an early age, the CA provided both definite purpose (to declare "The Judgments of God which are Coming upon the Nations of Christendom as the Christian Dispensation draws to its close, which Close is Near at Hand" and "The Restoration to the Church of the Apostleship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divinely Appointed means for the Helping of the Church in her low, divided and distracted condition, and her preparation for the Second Coming of Our Lord, which is Near at Hand.") and definite order. Alfred was an ‘Angel Evangelist’ whose role was to declare the end of things, and God’s solution to the problem, to establish a setting in which a formal CA order could develop, and then leave the governance of the church to others. 1883 for instance sees him in Sydney with 1883 with CA Archangel R. T. Roskilly, assisting in the ordination of William Henry Lumsdaine to CA priesthood.

He could do nothing outside his role by himself, however, and seems to have been happy in his public persona of established gentility. He appears to have avoided controversy, for example, and appears in Hunter Valley records as a country squire. In 1879 he was gazetted a Justice of the Peace, and seems to have taken his responsibilities seriously, sitting on sessions in the Cessnock Police Court. When someone broke into his Wine Store at Côte d’Or, he posted a reward of ₤5, and threatened prosecution to trespassers, signing his advertisement in the Maitland Mercury ‘ALFRED WILKINSON, J.P.’ When the sitting Liberal member for the Hunter, John Fitzgerald Burns, stood for reelection in 1880, W. wrote in his support even though unable to attend the public rally to which he was invited. His estate also became a centre for his colonial connections, as his appeal for information about Henry Harrison, the son of a Bengal Judge, whether deceased or alive’ in 1882 testifies.’ India and his army experience would remain a central part of his identity throughout his life.

In the end, W. probably lived too long – five sons and 3 daughters predeceased him, and by the time he died in 1896, so had most of the Apostles of the Church to which he had committed his life. On the other hand, he had had a long and fruitful life, and even though a youngest son had established his family in a prominent position in a rising industry in the colonies. Two years after the death of his wife Jane in 1881, he remarried for the third time, to Anne Gall, He died at Côte D’Or on 6 February, 1896, of ‘cystitis and retention of urine’, and was buried Church of England cemetery, Wilderness Road, Rothbury. He was survived by Anne, and four of his many children: Charles (d. 1919, Cessnock), John (d. 1898, Greta), William and Georgina.

M. (1) Anne nee King (India); 2 Chn: Mary Ann (b. 31 May, 1831, Bangalore, d. 1879, Cote D’or, Pokolbin) and Alfred (predeceased); M. (2) Jane nee Gilman, daughter of Henry Gilman of Woodbrook, J.P., and Sarah nee Crooke, of Ahavrin, Co. Cork (b. 1811, m. Woodbrooke, Ireland, d. 1881, Greta?); Chn: Sara, Charles H. P., Frederick, John, Jane, Henry, William Augustus; Miles, Herbert, Georgina M. (3) Anne nee Gall (m. 1884, Woollahra), no issue.


Brisbane Courier

Melbourne Argus.

Asiatic journal and monthly register for British India, vol. 20, Jul-Dec 1825, p. 251; vol. 20, p. 272.

Driscoll, W. P., 'Wilkinson, Audrey Harold (1877 - 1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, online,

Gillman, Alexander W., Searches in the History of the Gillman or Gilman Family, London: Elliott Stock, 1895

India office and Burma office list, 1829

Leinster-Mackay, Donald, The rise of the English prep school, London; Philadelphia: Falmer Press, 1984

  • Maitland Mercury,

Prior, Katherine, ‘Astell , William (1774–1847)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 19 Nov 2005]

Sydney Morning Herald

Wilkinson Papers, State Library of NSW, Alfred Wilkinson, ensign. Aged 16 - miniature portrait, part of the collection, Wilkinson family - further pictorial material, ca. 1825-1864, State Library of NSW, MIN 160.

Worsfold, J., A History of the Charismatic Movements in New Zealand, Auckland: Julian Literature Trust, 1974

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Alfred Wilkinson's Timeline

Age 24
Age 26
Age 33
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Age 39
Age 41
Age 43
Age 46
Age 87