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Early Wellington

The Episcopal Church, 1841

The Episcopal Church, 1841.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield had written from England to his sister Catherine (Mrs. Chas. Torlesse) in 1841: “We had a long and very satisfactory interview with the Bishop yesterday. The object of the Bishop's meeting with our committee was to come to some practical determination as to what was to be done for the Church of England, and benefit of the natives in the company's settlements, and it was resolved accordingly, subject to the approval of our court to-day. First, that the company would advance, on the security of the Native Reserves at Wellington, £5000 for the purpose of immediately establishing schools for natives, where the children may live away from their parents. Secondly, that the Bishop and the company agree to subscribe for endowment of the Church of England at Wellington, Whanganui, New Plymouth and Nelson. The Bishop undertook for the great societies, and we for the company. So there is a race page 387 between the Church and the company as to which shall first collect the larger sum, and the more either shall collect, the more precisely must the other furnish. The company has already contributed, in land and money, £2000 towards the endowment of the New Zealand bishopric.”

The New Zealand Journal, London, 27th November, 1841, refers to a public meeting in the Town Hall, Windsor, England, on the 17th November, at which the Mayor, Mr. John Bannister, presented a service of communion (plate of six pieces) to Bishop Selwyn on the eve of his departure for New Zealand.

A number of ecclesiastical appointments were gazetted prior to Bishop Selwyn's arrival. The Rev. Henry Williams was appointed commissary to the Bishop, and surrogate for the granting of marriage licenses for the Bay of Islands. The Rev. William Williams, Archdeacon of East Cape and examining chaplain to the Bishop, and the Rev. J. F. Churton was appointed to Auckland.

Bishop Selwyn arrived in the Government brig on the 12th August, 1842. He was greeted with a salute of guns as the brig entered Port Nicholson harbour. He landed at Te Aro, and was met by a deputation chosen by the inhabitants at a meeting held prior to his arrival. An address of welcome was presented to him. He stayed at Wellington for six days, and made arrangements for leaving the Rev. Robert Cole, who had accompanied him from England, vicar in charge of the parish. The Rev. Mr. Cole became deservedly popular with his parishioners and the natives of Port Nicholson.

A large sum of money had been collected in England and the Colony towards the erection of an Episcopalian Church at Wellington. The company subscribed freely towards the object, and the Bishop was asked to fix a site, and to direct the commencement of the building.

Reference has been made, in an article on the Sydney Street Cemetery, to the Bishop's difficulty in obtaining a suitable site for the Church of England.

Jerningham Wakefield, in his “Adventure in N.Z.” p. 530, mentions that when he lett Wellington for England in February, 1844, the Scotch Presbyterians had built a neat substantial and roomy wooden chapel on the reserve assigned to them on Lambton Quay (site of the Commercial Bank of Australia), and that the Wesleyans had possessed a small wooden building. These had been built some months. The latter had laid the foundation of a large brick chapel (this was the edifice that was shaken down in the earthquake of 1848). But the Episcopalian Church site had not been finally decided upon. Brees' illustration of the English Church, shown on another page, depicts the edifice near the western corner of the Government Reserve (Parliamentary grounds, opposite the Museum). This building, slightly altered, was later pulled down, and most of the timber (the roof, windows and porch) were used in building the present chapel in the Bolton Street Cemetery, which the early settlers have had restored recently.