Catherine & Alberto Dias Soares

Dark side of life 1860

“Mrs Soares has lately given birth to a boy but his palate is split into three and he has no roof to his mouth”. 1 “She has no milk and the child is a most pitiable object”, continued Emily Wilson Hutchison in her letter of March 7, 1860, from her home in Queanbeyan, to her family in England. 2

All suffer

The child Emily wrote about, a baby boy named Alberto, was born on October 5, 1859 and died five months later on March 14, 1860 – this was the second young child, of Reverend Alberto Dias Soares and his wife Catherine Lane, to die. 3

“The baby was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Queanbeyan and a marble tombstone slab with a figure of an angel with raised wings in relief at the top, covered the grave with an inscription:

“Sacred to the, Memory of Albero Soares, Born October 5, 1859, Died March 14, 1860,

Suffer the little children, To come unto Me, and forbid Them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God”. 4

Twenty days later in another letter to her family Mrs Hutchison had added,

“Mrs Soares is at Sydney, and being alone the good man [Reverend Soares] has fretted himself ill.” 5

Ken Charlton

When Ken Charlton, architectural historian, and for 17 years the senior Conservation Officer at the Australian Heritage Commission in Canberra retired in 1966, he set himself the task of researching the life of Canon Alberto Dias Soares 1830-1909 6 and researching the 25 surviving, mostly ecclesiastic, buildings that have been proven to be designed by Reverend Soares, but the detail of Soares son’s ‘pitiable’ death, which shows the darker uncontrollable side of Soares industrious life was not included. 7

Alberto’s background when coupled with his civil engineering training would later give him the necessary skills to become the most prominent architectural designer of churches in the Queanbeyan District at that time. 8

A bonus for Queanbeyan and displayed in a glass case inside Christ Church Queanbeyan, is Reverend Soares’ unique cardboard model of Christ Church c1858, which he designed and made prior to the construction of the stone Christ Church in 1859-1860 – the Spire added later in 1861. 9

Boloco out Dalgety way

Pamels Orr wrote, when she visited St James Church Boloco, which is out past Dalgety (NSW) in 1979,

“There is much warmth and affection in St James Boloco …. It reflects the great intensity of the spirit of its architect Canon Alberto Dias Soares”. 10

Born in London in 1830 to the merchant and Portuguese Consul Manoel Joachim Soares, Knight Commander of the Order of the Cross of Christ, and Camilla, daughter of Judge Thomas Lodington, Alberto Dias Soares’ creative artistic abilities were evident at Stoke Newington Mercantile and London University Schools. 11

Creative artist

Sixteen-year-old Alberto continued to excel at Oporto, Portugal, while staying with his father’s sisters. He recorded in his 1847 journal that he had learnt Lithography and copper engraving as well as mastering the Portuguese language. 12

Alberto’s scientific and engineering studies at Putney College for Civil Engineers in London c1849 also showed his aptitude and interest in religion and religious architecture through his lifelong artistic talented legacy of watercolours and lithographs of the college and surrounds. 13

In 1850 Alberto studied advanced techniques in engraving and the French language in France, until his father contacted him by mail in 1852 about Alberto’s proposed ‘emigration to Australia’. 14

Steam P&O SS Formosa

Alberto Dias Soares travelled to  New South Wales in 1852 with his younger brother Gaulter (sic) on the ship P&O SS Formosa, which was the second and fastest steam passage made from London to Sydney (at that time) – their older brother Manoel was already settled in Sydney. 15

On his journey to Australia Alberto kept a journal of his impressions. He sketched churches, scenery, ships and buildings of interest at Santa Crus, St Helena and Cape Town, 16 where he showed his knowledge of the English architect of Gothic Revival, A.W.N. Pugin when he noted that there was a “charity school built in the Gothic style”. 17

Like many educated emigrants Alberto Soares first employment after arriving in Sydney was as tutor to the family of Mr Bossley for a £40 annual fee, but he also taught two other families in a voluntary capacity showing his charitable religious inclinations. 18

Alberto Town

A man of many talents, Alberto’s proposal to connect Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide by rail had a show of bravado with his proposed halfway town on the Murray River named Alberto Town, after himself, but this vision never eventuated. 19

Alberto Soares was also a wine merchant importer before he studied theology and entered the ministry of the Anglican Church. He served in the New South Wales country towns of Collector and Gunning before coming to the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan for a twenty year incumbency from 1857 to 1877. 20

During his time in the Queanbeyan District Soares left his mark, in a spiritual sense in his position as Reverend Soares; 21 and in an aesthetical sense as honorary architect for the Goulburn Dioceses; 22 and in a practical sense as engineer in designing and paying for the ‘Stepping Stones” so ordinary folk could cross the Queanbeyan River. 23 - 24


Footnotes / Resources

1. Lea-Scarlett. Errol (ed), Emily Anne Hutchison: The Dear Emily Letters 1853-1862, (Letter No 62, March 7, 1860).
2. Ibid
3. Lea-Scarlett, Errol. Rex Cross, Bert Sheedy. Queanbeyan Pioneer Cemeteries (
Queanbeyan City Council, 1986), II, p.171, Anglican Portion, Section 2, Row T, Grave No. 27.
4. Bible: King James version: Mark chapter 10, verse 14.
5. Hutchison, Letter No. 63, March 27, 1860.
6. Ken Charlton, Anglican Historical Society Journal – ‘Southern Spires’ No. 25, April 1998. p. 9.
7. Hutchison. Letter No. 62, March 7, 1860.
8. Ken Charlton, Anglican Historical Society Journal – ‘Southern Spires’ No. 25 April 1998. p. 1.
9. (i) ibid p. 3; (ii) Location: Queanbeyan Christ Church, Rutledge St, Queanbeyan.
10. ibid p. 9.
11. ibid p. 1.
12. ibid p. 1.
13. ibid p. 1, p. 3.
14. ibid p. 1.
15. ibid p1, p. 2.
16. ibid p. 2.
17. ibid p. 8.
18. ibid p. 2.
19. ibid p. 2.
20. ibid p. 3.
21. ibid p. 3.
22. ibid p. 4.
23. The Golden Age, October 17, 1861.
24. Connee-Colleen © “Queanbeyan Outlook (164), Dark side”, The Queanbeyan Age, October 31, 2008, p. 26.

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