If counted from the moment its benefactor conceived of its existence, which was quite possibly in the late 1820s, Moore College could claim to be the oldest tertiary institution in Australia. The theological training college for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, from its earliest days the college has been sending its graduates as Christian ministers throughout Australia as well as beyond Australian shores. The grass-roots influence of these men and women on ordinary people and communities is as positive as it is incalculable.
Thomas Moore's bequest
Although the present-day college has been in Newtown since 1891, Moore College began its life in Liverpool, New South Wales, in 1856, when Reverend William Macquarie Cowper was appointed Acting Principal over a student body of three. They met in the house of the benefactor who gave the college its name, Thomas Moore. After arriving as ship's carpenter on the Britannia in 1792, Moore served as Master Boat Builder of the colony from 1796 to 1809 before becoming the pioneer of the Liverpool district. Through building, property, farming, business and banking, Moore acquired great wealth.
When he died on Christmas Eve 1840, it became clear that his reputation for piety and charity during his lifetime would also follow him after his death. His estate was left to various purposes, largely in support of the work of the Church of England in Australia. Gifts from his estate eventually went towards church buildings, poorer clergy, clergy widows and the poor, throughout New South Wales. But he also bequeathed his Liverpool house, supported by the income from various properties, to be the centre for 'the training of young men of the Protestant persuasion in the principles of the united church of England and Ireland', and Moore College was born.
The birth of Moore College
It was 15 years before the college was opened, under Cowper. Despite labouring under a pressing need for clergy in this new land, the Bishop of Australia, William Grant Broughton, felt unable to open Moore's college. On Moore's death, the property left to finance the college was leased long-term at what was, in the Bishop's opinion, a pittance. For his clergy he turned to the English universities, encouraged the foundation of St Augustine's College for the colonies at Canterbury, and founded a college under his own watchful eye – first operating in St James's church, King Street, and then at Lyndhurst, in Glebe, before eventually having to close down some time in 1849.
By the time Bishop Barker arrived in May 1855, circumstances had changed sufficiently to enable him to immediately make plans for Moore's bequest. On 1 March the following year, the college opened at Liverpool – just after the opening of the University of Sydney. With Sydney's evangelical laity giving the college and Barker more support than they ever had given St James's or Broughton, it soon began to prosper. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had moved to Newtown to be near Sydney University, and had provided 199 graduates to be ordained as Anglican ministers.
The growth of the college
In 2006, as the college celebrated its sesquicentenary, it was continuing to prosper under its twelfth principal, Dr John Woodhouse, with over 360 full-time students and about 3,000 more in its world-wide external studies courses. Since those first three students in Liverpool, the college has graduated over 3,000, who have since worked in Sydney, other parts of Australia, and all corners of the world. These graduates have earned the college a reputation for rigorous training in biblical and theological studies, and for providing the kind of pastoral oversight that encourages grass-roots strength, and steady growth in the churches.
The strengths of the early days were consolidated across the twentieth century, especially under the principalship of TC Hammond and his successors, staunch in their evangelical Protestantism. In the 1960s the combination of Principal D Broughton Knox, with strengths in systematic theology, and Vice Principal Donald Robinson, with strengths in biblical theology and New Testament, left a legacy with which the present day college seeks to move into the next stage of its service to the people of Sydney, Australia and the world.
Peter G Bolt, 'Training Colonial Clergy after Moore's Will and Before Moore's College', in Thomas Moore of Liverpool: One of our Oldest Colonists. Essays and Addresses to Celebrate 150 Years of Moore College, Bolt Publishing Services, Camperdown NSW, 2007, pp 249–293
Marcia Cameron, An Enigmatic Life: David Broughton Knox, Father of Contemporary Sydney Anglicanism, Acorn, Brunswick East, Vic, 2006
Warren Nelson, TC Hammond, Irish Christian: His Life and Legacy in Ireland and Australia, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1994
Marcus L Loane, A Centenary History of Moore Theological College, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1955
Mark D Thompson, 'Donald William Bradley Robinson', in Peter G Bolt and Mark D Thompson (eds), Donald Robinson: Selected Works, Australian Church Record and Moore College, Camperdown NSW, 2008, pp 3–7