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WIX, EDWARD, Church of England clergyman, missionary, and author; b. 1 Feb. 1802 in Faulkbourne, Essex, England, eldest son of the Reverend Samuel Wix and E. Walford; m. in 1828 a Miss Browne of Lowestoft, England, and they had two daughters and one son; d. 24 Nov. 1866 at Swanmore, Isle of Wight, England.

Edward Wix was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School in London and Trinity College, Oxford. He graduated ba in 1824. In 1825 he was ordained and licensed as curate to his father, a well-known, controversial writer on behalf of the high church party, president of Sion College, London, and rector of Inworth, Essex. The following year he moved to Halifax as a missionary in the diocese of Nova Scotia whose bishop, John Inglis*, was a friend of his father. After an attack of typhus in 1828 he went to England where he quickly recovered. He took his ma at Oxford and married before returning to Nova Scotia. Almost at once he was transferred to Newfoundland, where he served first at Bonavista and then, on succeeding George Coster* as archdeacon in 1830, in St John’s. There he began eight years of organizing, preaching, travelling, and fundraising.

In 1830 he visited settlements in Trinity Bay and near St John’s. In 1835 he spent six months on a missionary tour of the eastern, southern, and western coasts, during which he kept a journal, published in London in 1836 as Six months of a Newfoundland missionary’s journal. Aimed at possible supporters of the mission to Newfoundland, it contained many interesting comments on contemporary life. He was critical of the Roman Catholics of St John’s, “who are excited to frequent breaches of the peace by the most seditious Romish priesthood” and contrasted their behaviour with that of the friendly Roman Catholics of Placentia. He lamented the state of communications, asserting that it cost 25s. to convey a letter from Trinity to St John’s. He was shocked by the material, moral, and spiritual destitution which he encountered. On the Isle of Valen he found females dirty and almost naked, and performed baptisms in private houses because the mothers lacked clothes for churchgoing. One man in Fortune Bay had not seen a clergyman for 56 years. Always he had to compete with “grog ships.” In the Bay of Islands he found profligacy, drunken orgies, and incest, and stated that “profanity is the dialect.” His journal’s appeal for help to save Newfoundland from sinking into heathendom did much to convince the Church of England that a bishop was needed.

Wix was active in St John’s as a member of the committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, distributing prayer books, Bibles, and tracts, and as an agent of a newly formed branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society, established in 1835. He helped organize a temperance society which met almost every month between 1833 and 1838 and published the Newfoundland Temperance Journal. He was appointed to the Board of Education for St John’s in 1836, and a commissioner of roads and bridges shortly before his departure. He was also the first vice-president of the Church Society of the archdeaconry of Newfoundland, which he helped to organize in March 1837. Most of his effort, however, was put into raising money. He felt that one church was insufficient for the rapidly rising population of St John’s, and during a trip to England late in 1833 obtained the necessary funds from church collections. With the aid of a grant of land from the British government, St Thomas’ Church was built, and opened in 1836 as a 700-seat chapel of ease to the parish church, St John the Baptist. Services in St Thomas’ were held three times on Sunday, and in the evening on Fridays and all saints’ days. It was clearly intended to be a preaching house. The high church Ecclesiologist commented scathingly in 1848 that “the intention was certainly better than the effect” but mentioned that the marble altar and font Wix had obtained from Italy were “the only attempts at ritual solemnity – nay, decency – which the whole island, till a very recent period, possessed.”

In October 1838 Wix left Newfoundland secretly and hurriedly, in a manner which, according to the Reverend Thomas Finch Hobday Bridge*, “both surprised and appalled the members of the Church.” He left in poor health and in debt to the amount of £1,300, and after having been seen in the company of a prostitute. For the next five years he rested in England until in 1843 he took a curacy at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, Middlesex. He moved in 1847 to All Saints, Poplar, Middlesex, but had to resign after three years because of ill health. He spent the next 14 years nursing his health in Madeira, Italy, the Riviera, Algiers, and Malta, while occasionally contributing to the Gentleman’s Magazine and the Church Review. He returned to England in 1864 and settled in 1866 in his son’s parish at Swanmore, Isle of Wight.

A man of considerable ability, Wix did much to publicize the Newfoundland mission in England both through his book and by frequent letters in the reports of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the SPCK. By his missionary work, his organizing, and his church building, he prepared the way for the first Church of England bishop of Newfoundland, Aubrey George Spencer*.

Frederick Jones

Edward Wix was the author of An address delivered at an examination of the StJohn’s Church Sunday schools, June 15, 1832 (St John’s, 1832); Divine visitations: a sermon (St John’s, 1832); The guilt of a denial of God’s providence; a sermon on Zephaniah I.12 (St John’s, 1832); A retrospect of the operations of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in North America; a sermon preached Sunday, March 31, MDCCCXXXIII, at StJohn’s Church, Newfoundland (St John’s, 1833); A sermon (St John’s, 1831); and Six months of a Newfoundland missionary’s journal, from February to August, 1835 (London, 1836). PRO, CO 194/140, K. B. Hamilton to Newcastle, 31 Oct. 1853. USPG, C/CAN/Nfl 5, f.268, T. F. H. Bridge to Campbell, 26 Oct. 1838. Soc. for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Annual report (London), 1830–39. Soc. for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, Report (London), 1830–39. Times and General Commercial Gazette (St John’s), 30 Jan. 1867. Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886 . . . , ed. Joseph Foster (4v., Oxford and London, [1888]). DNB. H. W. LeMessurier, The Church of Saint Thomas and its rectors, 1836–1928 (St John’s, [1928]). “Colonial church architecture,” Ecclesiologist (London), VIII (1847–48), 274–79.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Frederick Jones, “WIX, EDWARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 22, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wix_edward_9E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wix_edward_9E.html
Author of Article: Frederick Jones
Title of Article: WIX, EDWARD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1976
Year of revision: 1976
Access Date: July 22, 2014