Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.


IF asked why I took in hand a task of such difficulty and delicacy as that of writing a History of the Church in our Dominion, I can really find no more truthful answer than that of the schoolboy, "Please, Sir, I couldn't help it." From boyhood's days in the old country, when a copy of the Life of Marsden fell into my hands, I felt drawn to the subject; the reading of Selwyn's biography strengthened the attraction; the urging of friends in later years combined with my own inclinations; and thus the work was well on its way when the General Synod of 1913 committed it to my hands as a definite duty.

For the last quarter of a century the Church of this Dominion has indeed possessed a history by my honoured teacher, Dean Jacobs. That scholarly volume could hardly be bettered on the constitutional side. In this department the Dean wrote as one who had taken no mean part in the events which he describes. His ecclesiastical learning and his judicial temper rendered him admirably qualified for the task. In working over the same ground I have perhaps been able to point out a few facts which he had missed or ignored, but on the whole I have left this part of the field to him. This is not a constitutional history: it seeks rather to depict the general life of the Church, and the ideals which guided its leading figures.

The Dean's description of the missionary period is also an admirable piece of work, but he had not the advantage of the stores of material which are now available. Through the indefatigable enthusiasm of the late Dr. Hocken the journals of the early missionaries have been brought to this country, and are made available to the student. His comprehensive collection enables us to come into close touch with days which are already far distant from our own. Of course the historian must be guided by the principle, summa sequi jastigia rerun; but he cannot estimate aright the work of the heroic leaders and rulers of the Church unless he can follow the thoughts and careers of the less conspicuous agents--the humble missionary or catechist, the native convert or thinker.

In acknowledging my obligations to the late Dr. Hocken, I would wish to express my gratitude to the authorities of the Dunedin Museum, where his libarary is kept; and also to my friend Archdeacon Woodthorpe, who kindly placed at my service the unpublished volume in which Dr. Hocken's researches into the life of Marsden are contained. For permission to consult the Godley correspondence in the Christchurch Museum I have to thank the Board of Governors of Canterbury College; and for the loan of a rare and valuable pamphlet on the death of the Rev. C. S. Volkner I am greatly indebted to Mr. Alexander Turnbull, of Wellington. Archdeacon Fancourt, of the same city, has afforded me generous help in recovering some of the early history of the diocese he has so long served; while, in Auckland, the Rev. J. King Davis--a descendant of the two missionaries whose names he bears--has enabled me to identify the positions of some long forgotten pas, and has furnished valuable information on other points. Other correspondents, from the Bay of Islands to Otago, have assisted generously with their local knowledge. Outside of New Zealand I have to acknowledge help from Mrs. Hobhouse, of Wells, and the Ven. Archdeacon Hobhouse, of Birmingham, the widow and son of the first Bishop of Nelson.

Many clergy have kindly acceded to my application for photographs of their churches. A fair number of these I have been able to use, and to all the senders I desire to express my thanks. For the view of the ruined church at Tamaki I am indebted to Miss Brookfield, of Auckland, and for the excellent representation of the scene at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi to Mr. A. F. McDonnell, of Dunedin. In the preparation of the MS. for the press I have been greatly assisted by the Rev. H. East, Vicar of Leithfield.

But the greatest help of all remains to be told. To the aged and venerable Bishop Leonard Williams this book owes more than I can estimate. Not only has he furnished me with abundant information from the stores of his own unique and first-hand knowledge, but, on many points, he has engaged in fresh and laborious research. Every chapter has been sent to him as soon as written, and has benefited immensely by his careful and judicial criticism. Without this thorough testing my book would be far more imperfect than it is.

It is due, however, to the bishop, as well as to my readers, to state emphatically that he is in no way responsible for the views expressed in this book. There are, in fact, a few points on which we do not quite agree. The intricacies of high policy or of mingled motive will never appeal in exactly the same way to different minds. My aim throughout has been to arrive at the simple truth, and I have often been driven to abandon long-cherished ideas by its imperative demand.

In the spelling of Maori names Bishop Williams' authority has always been followed except when a place is looked at from the pakeha or colonial point of view. Then it is spelt in the colonial manner. Readers may be glad to be warned against confusing Turanga (Poverty Bay) with Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. Similarly, it may be well to call attention to the wide difference between Tamihana Te Waharoa and Tamihana Te Rauparaha. Both were notable men, but their characters were not alike, and they took opposite sides in the great war.

The scope of this book has not permitted me to trace the history of the Melanesian Mission, nor to deal with the island dependencies of our Dominion. Even within the limits of New Zealand itself the treatment of the later period may perhaps seems inadequate. But the events of the years 1850-1890 have been already covered to some extent in my book, "Bishop Harper and the Canterbury Settlement," while for the latest stage of all I have the pleasure of appending to this preface a valuable letter from the present Primate, whose high office and long experience enable him to speak with unique authority upon the life of the Church of to-day.

H. T. P.
Glenmark Vicarage, Canterbury, N.Z., March, 1914.

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