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MORETON, JULIAN, Church of England clergyman and author; b. 29 Aug. 1825 in Chelsea (London), England; m. with children; d. 16 Dec. 1900 in London, England.

Nothing is known of Julian Moreton’s early life other than that he was a barrister’s clerk who was attracted to the Tractarian movement and decided to become an Anglican priest. Presumably because this career was impossible in England for one of such a low social status, about 1847 he applied to become a missionary. That year Bishop Edward Feild* of Newfoundland declared his intention, “in default of clergymen and fully educated persons,” of engaging some young men who were “in nothing deficient but in that learned education our universities only can supply.” He therefore gladly accepted Moreton in 1848 on the recommendation of William Scott of Hoxton (London), a prominent Anglo-Catholic clergyman.

After private tuition Moreton arrived in Newfoundland to spend a year at the recently expanded Theological Institute in St John’s. He was ordained deacon in 1849 and priest a year later. As missionary in Greenspond on Bonavista Bay from 1849 to 1860 he was in charge of five churches on different islands and up to eighteen settlements that could only be reached by water. In order to make an adequate living he had to augment the small amount provided by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel with collections from the people of his mission, a procedure Feild described as “irksome and laborious.”

Moreton soon ran into financial difficulties and by 1855 was trying to resign. He complained of the “covetousness” of his people, said that they were better off than he was yet begged from him, and lamented that he had to exist on denials and false promises. But by 1858 he had made such progress that he was willing, if asked, to give up the support of the SPG and rely wholly on what he could collect. Feild was impressed. The following year in the society’s report the bishop wrote of the mission to Newfoundland that “nowhere, probably are such services rendered at the cost of greater toil and self devotion,” and he told how Moreton visited Deadmans Bay 30 miles away from his home, walking for 16 along the shore, living on bread and butter with salted fish, and expecting only two good meals in nine days. However, this life proved too hard for Moreton, who suffered a complete breakdown in his health. He therefore moved in 1860 to Bishop’s Cove and then the following year to Romford, England, where he lived until he secured a chaplaincy on the island of Labuan (Malaysia) in 1862.

While in England Moreton gave several lectures, which were published in 1863 under the title Life and work in Newfoundland; reminiscences of thirteen years spent there (London). The book gives a detailed account of his life as a missionary as well as valuable descriptions of society in Newfoundland outports. Missionaries there could expect none of the social deference paid to clergymen in England, as they were thought to be on the island only because of the salary offered. The people of Greenspond had built a church and afterwards voted as to whether it should be Methodist or Anglican. Moreton was constantly on the move. He describes visiting settlements during the winter, when the fishermen lived in tilts in the woods, and he often slept on logs near the fire. He raised money to build a new church on Pinchards Island and to pay lay readers in the mission. Often he wrote letters for the illiterate, who made up the great majority of his parishioners: he records that “of 334 persons married in seven years previous to September, 1856, only 49 could write their names.” Apart from the merchants’ agents, the collector of customs, the doctor, and the schoolmaster, the inhabitants of the Greenspond area were fishermen. Most were of English origin, settlers or descendants of settlers from Hampshire and Dorset. In his book Moreton faithfully recorded many words and phrases peculiar to Newfoundland.

Even in Labuan Moreton thought of Newfoundland, writing to the Colonial Church Chronicle to bemoan the plight of its missionaries, who could not look forward to a job in England. He regretted that, as in his own case, “a man without income whose youth is past cannot get a curacy,” and he recognized that “young men reared in offices and counting houses provide most missionaries not graduates because of lack of prospects after they leave the missions.” Moreton indeed paid a penalty for his social background. He had to spend six years in Penang (Pinang), where he had gone from Labuan in 1868, before securing a mere curacy in London. Only in 1878 did he become a vicar, of a new parish in Saltash.

Moreton retired in 1890, but he continued to give addresses and write pamphlets from a strongly Anglo-Catholic point of view. He made frequent references to conditions in Newfoundland and to his hero Edward Feild. On the subject of unmarried couples living together he wrote in 1891, “I remember the extreme carefulness of Bishop Feild in this particular. He would not even suggest the performance of the marriage rite, for persons whom he found living together in places remote from church and priest, lest any should imagine that unions so informally contracted were invalid and could be severed.” Moreton was an idealist inspired by Tractarianism, who, coming under the influence of Feild, spread the movement in Newfoundland and subsequently increased knowledge of Newfoundland in England.

Frederick Jones

In addition to Life and work in Newfoundland, Julian Moreton is the author of A letter to the RevHBailey, in reply to recent strictures upon missionary societies and the missionaries (Oxford, 1864); Ritual in worship: now and hereafter (London, 1888) and Some thoughts on marriage (London, 1891), both available in the pamphlet collection of the Univ. of Oxford, Faculty of Theology Library; and What is the characteristic grace of confirmation? A treatise on the operation of the Holy Ghost in confirmation, with a scheme of instruction (London, 1890).

RHL, USPG Arch., C/CAN/Nfl., 7; D.9A; D.9B; D.27/Nfl. Colonial Church Chronicle (London), 1863, 1865. Mission Field (London), 1 (1856)–6 (1861). Monthly Record of Church Missions (London), 1 (1852)–4 (1855). SPG Report (London), 1848–61. Guardian (London), 19 Dec. 1900. The clergy list . . . (London), 1845–67. Crockford’s clerical directory . . . (London), 1858–1900.

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Cite This Article

Frederick Jones, “MORETON, JULIAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/moreton_julian_12E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/moreton_julian_12E.html
Author of Article:   Frederick Jones
Title of Article:   MORETON, JULIAN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   September 28, 2023