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Colonial Church Histories: New Zealand

Containing the Dioceses of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Waiapu, Wellington, and Melanesia.

By Henry Jacobs

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1887.

Part IV. The Seven Dioceses.



Foundation of Settlement--The First Clergyman--The Maories--Rev. C. L. Reay--Bishop Selwyn's Visits--The Rev. H. F. Butt--Foundation of Bishopric--Bishop Hobhouse--The present Bishop--Alteration of Boundaries--Archdeaconries--Statistics--Bishopdale College--Bishop's School--Cathedral--Orphanage.

Foundation of Settlement.--The settlements on either side of Cook's Straits were founded and formed by the New Zealand Company, and appropriately named Nelson and Wellington.

Nelson, of which the Maori name is Wakatu, was actually founded in 1841. The pioneer party, headed by Captain Arthur Wakefield, R.N., was succeeded by detachments of immigrants, in sailing vessels, for the first four or five years after the foundation. A considerable number were from Devonshire and Cornwall, some Deal boatmen from Kent, some from Nottingham, and not a few from Scotland.

The First Clergyman.--The first clergyman of the Church of England who is recorded as having officiated in Nelson was the Rev. Charles Waring Saxton, M.A., brother-in-law of Joseph Somes, Esq., Chairman of the New Zealand Company, afterwards [443/444] head master of Newport Grammar School from 1846 to 1870, and still living (1887) at Shrewsbury. He came out as a private settler, remained about eighteen months, and returned home. He held services and performed marriages during 1842 and 1843.

The Maories.--The natives, who at that time were numerous in many settlements round Tasman or Blind Bay, were even then brought under some Christian influences from the North Island. The Rev. Octavius Hadfield, now Bishop of Wellington, one of the Church Missionary Society's agents, frequently visited them from Waikanae, Otaki, and Porirua in the North Island. The South Island bears the name of Te Wai Pounamu, or the place of greenstone, the locality, where this beautiful stone is chiefly found, being the township known by that name on the banks of the Teremakau in this Diocese.

Rev. C. L. Reay.--But the first ministrations which were given with regularity were those of the Rev. Charles L. Reay, M.A., who was an agent of the Church Missionary Society, and came out with Bishop Selwyn to Auckland, May 30, 1842, and was sent on to Nelson in the Victoria later in the same year, where he remained for a few years, then subsequently removed to the North, and worked exclusively amongst the natives.

Bishop Selwyn's Visits.--The first Episcopal visit paid to Nelson was by Bishop G. A. Selwyn, the Bishop of New Zealand, from Waimate in 1842; he arrived on Sunday, August 21st, and the account given by him in his diary indicates the deep impression made on him by its beauty, the brightness of the [444/445] scene being never removed from his mind, but forcibly described thus on a subsequent visit, "I defy any man, unless he be superlatively cross, to be long out of temper in the perpetual sunshine of our sky."

Bishop Selwyn visited Nelson again in December, 1843, and on this occasion found the first church erected in the province, in the Waimea Plain, which was succeeded afterwards, in 1867, by the present church of St. Michael's, Waimea West, erected as a memorial to the late Captain Blundell.

The Bishop of New Zealand's ideal of appropriate ministerial commencements in a new settlement was the location of a clergyman in full orders, assisted by a deacon, who should also be in charge of the education of the young as schoolmaster, during the probation of a somewhat lengthened diaconate, such duty to be exchanged for parochial work on ordination to the higher office.

The Rev. H Butt.--This was realised in Nelson, though only for a short time, where Henry Francis Butt, M.R.C.S., after receiving a medical education, had been selected as a missionary by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to act as medical adviser to the staff accompanying Bishop Selwyn on his first coming to New Zealand. He was admitted to the order of deacon on Sept. 24th, 1843, and stationed under the Rev. C. L. Reay, at Nelson, where he also discharged the duties of inspector of schools, and taught in the Bishop's school at Nelson, in a building on the site where the present school now stands.

Service was held, in 1843, in a large tent given to [445/446] the Bishop of New Zealand by Mr. William Cotton, Governor of the Bank of England, whose name is found connected with almost every movement for the good of the Church at home and abroad at that period. The tent, relics of which still remain in the chapel at Bishopdale, was removed to Auckland in 1844, and served as a chapel for St. John's College, Tamaki, till the present stone building was erected. Divine service was held in a room, used by the surveyors of the New Zealand Company, within certain earthworks or fortifications formed on the summit of the present Church Hill, erected at a time of fear, unfounded as it proved, of attack from the Maories, in close proximity to a powder magazine, and approached by a drawbridge. These buildings were removed in 1848, the site having been secured from the Crown by the Bishop of New Zealand by a grant for "a church of the United Church of England and Ireland, and to be used for no other purpose whatever." The first stone of the building was laid by the Rev. H. F. Butt, the incumbent, on June 26th, 1848, and the building, erected from designs furnished by the Rev. F. Thatcher, from Auckland, was opened on Christmas Day, 1851, by Bishop Selwyn, and consecrated March 7th, 1858, also by him.

Foundation of Bishopric.--The New Zealand Company had fulfilled its undertaking to provide for the religious requirements of the colonists by grants from its Land Fund, and set apart a grant of £5,000 for the extension of the Church; this, together with liberal grants from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of [446/447] the Gospel, formed the only endowment possessed by the diocese; and, when the bishopric was founded, the interest of this fund, somewhat augmented, was set apart for the maintenance of the bishopric as a first charge, and after that for the purposes of augmenting stipends, and building churches, schools, and parsonages; but since the reduction of the rate of interest, the capital is too small to attain all the ends proposed.

It was first proposed to found a bishopric at Wellington, of a See consisting of those parts of the North and South Islands bordering on Cook's Straits.

The idea of being associated with Wellington was not acceptable to Church people in Nelson, who would have preferred union with Christchurch, but still more strongly desired the formation of a bishopric to include Nelson and Marlborough.

After long correspondence, the authorities at home consented to the formation of the See of Nelson, and Letters Patent were issued founding the bishopric and defining its boundaries, which were afterwards modified by resolution of the General Synod, so as to embrace in the limits of the See all that portion of the South Island, north of the rivers Hurunui on the east coast, and Teremakau on the west.

Bishop Hobhouse.--On Michaelmas Day, 1858, the Right Rev. Edmund Hobhouse, D.D., Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and vicar of St. Peter's, was consecrated Bishop of Nelson, and arrived in Nelson early in 1859, and held the first Synod of the diocese on Tuesday, August 9th, of that year. The Bishop [447/448] threw himself heartily into his new sphere, with all the deep sense of responsibility which ever characterised him.

Synodical arrangements were then new to Church people, and there was a little tendency to look with suspicion on anything like individual control. Church people themselves had to learn the advantages of a Synod, with its peculiar representation of the episcopal, clerical, and lay orders; and meantime the pressure of work that devolved upon the Bishop told upon his health, which had never been strong, owing to over study at school and college; hence, to the great regret of those to whom he was thoroughly known, he found himself constrained to resign his work in 1864. It was a short episcopate, but left its mark on the diocese, especially in connexion with his liberal donations of a site for the episcopal residence, and provision made for replenishing the ranks of the clergy by providing for their education, &c. What in his time was tentative has now become regular and ordinary, and by the great and wise liberality referred to he laid the foundations of subsequent work, and made it possible for his successor to realise much of what he himself hoped to accomplish. The diocese was then but sparsely inhabited, and its resources little known; travelling, though still rough, is very different from what it was then, and his long journeyings on duty, on foot, from place to place, and the devotion of his cultivated mind to the tasks of his high office, his liberal kindness to those who had the good fortune to share his friendship, or whose trials gave them a claim on his sympathy, will long be gratefully remembered, as they should here be certainly recorded.

His ideal was perhaps in advance of, or at all events higher than, that of the times, and he saw no way conscientiously of departing from it, or surrendering any of what he considered the duties and rights of his position. If these were sometimes asserted, it was with no personal aim, but only from a desire to carry out a high ideal of ministerial duty, and the sacred function with which he had been entrusted.

The Present Bishop.--The steps taken to fill the See thus vacated were as follows. The Diocesan Synod first requested the Venerable Henry Jacobs, then Archdeacon, now Dean of Christchurch, to allow himself to be nominated to it, but he declined to accept the offered position. It was then agreed by the Synod to delegate their nomination to the Church at home, and it requested the Right Rev. the Bishop of London, Dr. Tait, to recommend a clergyman. The Bishop accepted the delegation, and nominated the Rev. Andrew Burn Suter, then incumbent of All Saints, Mile End New Town, who accepted the appointment. In accordance with the Constitution, the delegated nomination was transmitted to the General Synod sitting at Christchurch in 1865, which confirmed the nomination, and requested the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Longley, to proceed to the consecration. His Grace, after receiving a Royal mandate for that purpose, proceeded to give effect to the appointment, and on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24th, 1866, Dr. Suter was consecrated Bishop [449/450] of Nelson, being presented by Bishops Tait and Ellicott, Dean Alford preaching the sermon.

After remaining a few months in England, collecting funds for an archdeaconry endowment, and bringing out additional clergy, the Bishop sailed with a large party of selected emigrants, and landed from the Cissy, at Nelson, on September 26th, 1867, bringing out with him the following clergy:--Venerable Archdeacons Thorpe and Mules, the late Rev. B. W. Harvey, D.D., and W. H. Ewald, M.A., the first two of whom still remain and hold important positions in the colony.

Alteration of Boundaries.--About the year 1863, discoveries of gold in alluvial strata were made at Wakamarina, near Havelock, and also at Collingwood, Golden Bay, and shortly afterwards at Hokitika, and then generally on the west coast. A very large influx of population soon took place on the west coast, and roads were immediately taken in hand to connect the coast with Canterbury and Christchurch.

The communication with Nelson being difficult, at first the wants of the new settlers in spiritual matters were supplied from Christchurch, and in the General Synod of 1868 it was resolved that the boundaries of the dioceses should be adjusted, a larger portion of the west coast being thereby incorporated with Christchurch. Large coal mines have also been opened up, and these mineral discoveries have materially altered the face of the country round Greymouth and Westport, the ports at the mouths of the Grey and Buller Rivers respectively.

Archdeaconries.--The diocese thus presents features of very different aspect in the agricultural, pastoral, and mining districts which compose it, and employ its population in their special industries.

Ecclesiastically, it is divided into three archdeaconries,--Waimea, Wairau, and Mawhera. The first of these three was filled by the Venerable R. B. Paul, M.A., who returned to England in 1859. This archdeaconry was in abeyance for fifteen years, when the present Bishop revived it in 1874, and appointed the Venerable Archdeacon Thorpe to the dignity; on his resignation and departure from the diocese, the archdeaconry was filled by the Venerable C. O. Mules, M.A., in 1880.

A second archdeaconry was formed by the Bishop in 1868 for the province of Marlborough, and he appointed the Venerable H. F. Butt, formerly incumbent of Nelson, who held it till his death in 1886. A third archdeaconry was formed in 1886, that of Mawhera, and included the north of Westland and the Buller and Inangahua counties; the first archdeacon appointed was the Venerable Thomas Billing Maclean, incumbent of Holy Trinity Church, Greymouth.

Statistics.--The number of the clergy in 1866 was 8; in 1876, I 4; in 1886, 24; in 1888, 26; increasing somewhat faster than the population.

The churches of the diocese, of wood, with one exception of stone, were, in 1866, 12; in 1876, 21; in 1886, 34, besides school-rooms used for divine service.

In 1871 there were 10,349 members of the Church of England; in 1874 there were 19,950; in 1881 26,996; and in 1886, 29,036.

Bishopdale College.--The present Bishop, Dr. [451/452] Suter, has, since 1868, carried on, in addition to the regular work of a Bishop, the training of candidates for Holy Orders, and upwards of twenty have passed through Bishopdale College, all of whom have passed the examinations of the Board of Theological Studies, and some of them have graduated at the University of New Zealand,

Bishop's School.--The Bishop's School was founded by Bishop Selwyn, and its masters have been the Ven. Archdeacon Butt, the Ven. Archdeacon Lingard, the late Rev. R. H. Gaskin, the Reverends (Archdeacon) Govett, A. Bowden, S. Poole, Mr. Robt. Lee, and Mr. James H. Harkness. Religious instruction forms part of the daily course, and scholarships are open to the choristers of the cathedral.

Cathedral.--The cathedral was at first erected as a parish church; when that was found inconvenient, it gave place to a new building designed by Mr. Mountfort, of Christchurch, in 1886, and was consecrated by the Bishop of the Diocese in the presence of the Primate and a representative of H. E. the Governor, on February 16, 1887.

Orphanage.--St. Andrew's Orphanage for destitute children, incorporated in 1887, is the latest addition to the diocesan institutions.

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