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William (1827-1925) and Hannah (1829-1909) Druce

William Druce (1827-1925) Sydney City Missionary  & Temperance Advocate 


Hannah Druce (1829-1909) Sydney Night Refuge & Reformatory Manager

William Crickmer Druce (7 Oct 1827-3 May 1925) was born at Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, England and died at Lakemba, NSW, Australia. He was the third son of Thomas Charles Druce and Elizabeth Crickmer[1] and married in Sydney in April, 1854[2]. His wife, Hannah Church (1829 – 2 Oct 1909) was born in Deal, Kent[3] and together they had three daughters.  Fanny Elizabeth (20 Apr 1855 – 10 Jan 1924) was born in Sydney and married Thomas Pankhurst in 1877. Roseanna Jane (1858-23 Jul 1936) was born in Yackandandah Victoria and married George Daniel Clark in 1875,[4] while Diana Harriet (24 Feb 1861 – 20 Oct 1905) was born in Yackandandah, Victoria, and married James Hirst in 1879.

Hannah arrived in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) in December 1852 on the William Kennedy and her occupation was listed as a general servant who could also read and write and was of the Church of England. William had been apprenticed to a master mariner at Great Yarmouth, England, but he and his bother George came to the colony of NSW sometime prior to 1854 and by 1861 William was a miner on the Yackandandah goldfields in Victoria. By 1865 he had returned to the sea being the master, for a short while, of the Orient[5], a schooner carrying coastal cargoes, a quartermaster on the Rakaia, sailing between New Zealand and Sydney in 1867, a member of the crew of the mission ship the John Williams when it was wrecked in 1867[6] and a seaman on the John Wesley, plying between Sydney and the South Sea Islands in 1868. [7]

William had an interest in the Christian faith, mission work, temperance and the welfare of seamen and he became a missionary with the Sydney City Mission (SCM) in 1871, a position he held until 1879. The SCM employed him to work specifically with seamen which he did with considerable zeal and effect as recorded by the Rev Thomas Gainford[8] of the Bethel Union, with whom he worked:

he frequently meets with his brother sailors, and I can bear testimony that in many cases such meetings have not been in vain. I have heard of the good results, from personal interview and by letter that his zealous labours have been blessed to the conversion of sinners, the building up of the Christian, ministering relief to the needy and comfort to the sufferer, and, therefore, a great help in the Saviour’s work in this locality.[9]

When Druce retired from the SCM due to ill health the committee of the mission recorded their ‘desire to put on record their high sense of Mr Druce’s work and character, drawing especial attention to the influence for good which he gained over the sailors frequenting the port.’[10]

Through the Presidency of the Royal Naval Band of Hope and Total Abstinence Society,[10]and more significantly through the NSW Alliance for the Suppression of Intemperance (NSWASI), Druce combined his work among seamen with his strong support of the temperance movement. One aspect of his support of the NSWAI was assisting in preparing ‘Sunday Morning Breakfast’ at the Temperance Hall for the poor and homeless. The nature of this ministry and the dedication of Druce is shown by a newspaper account of the work:

Brother W. Druce has now for many years prepared the tea and coffee, reaching the Hall for that purpose every Sunday morning at four o’clock, so as to have all in readiness for breakfast at seven o’clock, at which hour punctually the breakfasts are served to nearly one hundred persons every Sunday morning, after which the Word of God is read, its encouraging promises to returning penitents pointed out, and its solemn warnings against continuing in sin plainly declared. The evils of intemperance are especially dwelt upon, and a cordial invitation to sign the pledge is given, which is generally responded to by some present, and very interesting instances of beneficial results have been made known.[12]

Druce continued in this work from at least 1871 until 1877. He was also a member of the temperance organisation known as the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT) of which he was, for the period 1876-1877, the Grand Worthy Chief Templar. Hannah also appears to have been a member,[13] as were at least two of his sons-in-law Thomas Pankhurst[14] and George Daniel Clark.[15] William was particularly involved in the temperance movement’s work with ‘floating lodges’ which were those lodges formed on board ships from among the sailors. He was secretary of the Pearl of Peace IOGT which was a lodge of sailors on board the HMS Pearl. On one occasion, he happily reported about the impact of his ministry that ‘on H.M. schooner Alacrity no grog is served, the whole of the crew and officers; aboard her being teetotallers, having signed the pledge within the last seven months’.[16]

He supported the work of the Mariners Church and the Bethel Union among mariners and speaking as the SCM’s Missionary he said that

so much good had been done by the Union … When he was at sea himself he found no one to welcome him in a foreign port, and no one knew how lonely it was to feel that there was no one to hold out a kind or helping hand to the sailor in a strange land. He was sure that there was no place where sailors had so many kind friends as in Sydney. If there were any sailors there that night he hoped they would join the Union. It was the accursed drink that kept them away, and no one knew of a British sailors misconducting himself unless the drink was in them. He urged them all to join the Good Templars lodge in connection with the Church.[17]

The other significant work in which the Druces were involved was that of The Sydney Night Refuge and Reformatory in Francis Street, Sydney, which they joined in 1871. They received no remuneration for their work, but lived within the facility at which were provided meals and a bed for the night for the poor, destitute and homeless of the city. Its role was captured by the Rev Thomas Gainford when he said that ‘within the Refuge the poor wanderer would find shelter, sympathy, and Christian instruction, as well as night’s lodging and a meal’.[18] William and Hannah were often both mentioned in connection with the Refuge, but it is Hannah who seems to have really been its manager and she was variously called the manager or the matron of the refuge. It would seem that she probably largely ran the refuge by herself, and this is especially so after William became unwell and resigned as a city missionary in 1879.[19]  The pivotal role of Hannah is seen in 1876 when at the Annual Meeting of the Night Refuge

the chairman, on behalf of a number of friends, handed to Mr Druce a presentation for Mrs Druce, as a recognition of her very constant and disinterested labours for  the comfort of the many destitute persons visiting the Refuge.[20]

William’s role seems to have been to deal with the public reporting to the annual meeting  (Hannah was absent from the meeting mentioned above) and to carry out a spiritual ministry as ‘Mr Druce ever held himself prepared to give such religious instruction in his personal intercourse with the inmates as circumstances might seem to call for and justify’.[21] It was said of Hannah that

the very eminent suitability of Mrs Druce to the charge she has so cheerfully undertaken, which involves constant attention and daily contract with abject poverty and dejection – by no means agreeable to sensitive feeling, but which only those who love to diffuse comfort and happiness amongst their desolate fellow-creatures can properly fulfil.[22]

The work of organising the preparation of meals and accommodation for those seeking shelter and help must have been enormous and that Hannah continued to do this for so long is a tribute to her commitment and dedication. She continued this work unassisted by William until 1883 when she was no longer able to continue the work on her own.[23]

The appreciation of the work of the Druces and something of the enormity of the task is seen in the thanks that were expressed at the 1878 annual meeting of the Refuge:

Our warmest thanks and acknowledgments are due to Mr and Mrs Druce for the steadfast, uniform, and efficient manner in which they have, for the last seven years, fulfilled the very difficult task so cheerfully and gratuitously undertaken by them. Their Christian sympathy towards those who have told the tale of their distress has not grown cold, but rather waxed warmer as the demand upon it increased. During the past year more persons have been lodged and fed than in any previous one; and when it is remembered that 9038 night’s lodgings have been afforded, and 7276 breakfasts given, the ceaseless character of the labour and anxiety devolving on Mr and Mrs Druce may be in some measure understood. It is comparatively easy for persons to give a trifle and get rid of their unfortunate fellow-creatures who need assistance, or to give one or more pounds to provide relief; but only a few seem able, in a cheery and loving manner, to mingle freely their heart’s warmest emotions with a downcast brother’s abject state, and to enter in a loving manner into his trials and seek Christianly to win him back from the very borders of despair.[24]

After the retirement of William from the SCM in 1879, and that of Hannah from the Refuge in 1883, nothing further is heard about the activities of the Druces. At some stage it appears that they may have gone to live with their daughter Rosannah and her husband George Daniel Clark. Hannah died in 1909 and William in 1925 at the age of 98.

© Dr Paul F Cooper, Christ College, Sydney 2013

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. William Druce (1827-1925) Sydney City Missionary  & Temperance Advocate  and Hannah Druce (1829-1909) Sydney Night Refuge & Reformatory Manager. Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, August 26, 2014. Available at

[1] William never involved himself in the family speculation that his father TC Druce, an upholsterer in the Baker Street Bazar London, was really the fifth Duke of Portland. This sensational court case was widely reported in the colonial press. Bendigo Advertiser, February 7, 1899.

[2] Victorian Birth Certificate for Dianna Harriet Druce, 1861 Yackandandah District.

[3]Immigrants List “Wilson Kennedy 27 December 1852.

[4] Rosannah Jane Clark, Death Certificate, NSW 23 July 1936.

[5] Empire, November 18, 1865.

[6] Passenger List TAWERA 18 June 1867.


[8] Niel Gunson, ‘Gainford, Thomas (1823–1884)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed February  6, 2013. Druce also supported the international efforts to assist sailors propagated by JT Arundel’s work with the Christian Sailor’s Union. The Friend, 29, 4, April 1, 1872 [Accessed February 8, 2013].

[9] SMH, December 16, 1871

[10] SMH, May 13, 1879.

[11] SMH, August 31, 1876.

[12] The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, May 4, 1876.

[13] SMH, March 11, 1876.

[14] SMH, July 27, 1877.

[15] J. D. Bollen, ‘Clark, George Daniel (1848–1933)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 6 February 2013.

[16] Empire, February 2, 1875.

[17] SMH, January 18, 1877.

[18] SMH, July 3, 1872.

[19] SMH, May 13, 1879.

[20] Australian Town and Country Journal, July 8, 1876.

[21] SMH, July 3, 1872.

[22] Empire, July 3, 1872.

[23] SMH, September 22, 1883.

[24] SMH, July 2, 1878.

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