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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]


The history of the churches in Taranaki is of considerable interest. The Wesleyan denomination was the first to be represented, and the Rev. Charles Creed was the first missionary of that body to take up his residence in the district. He occupied a mission station near Moturoa on the seashore, and the site is now known as the Whiteley township. Mr. Creed officiated, as the minister of the settlement, to Maoris and Europeans alike, until the coming of the first vicar, the Rev. William Bolland. The Rev. H. H. Turton afterwards succeeded Mr. Creed, and after the establishment of the Anglican church the ministers worked together in the greatest unanimity and harmony. A little raupo chapel, erected for divine worship at the corner of Brougham and Powderham Streets, was the first place of worship built for the use of the white people in Taranaki. On the 31st of May, 1842, the first Bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn, accompanied by Mrs Selwyn, landed in Auckland, and on the 28th of October, the Bishop paid his first visit to New Plymouth, to which he walked from Wellington, a distance of 270 miles. On the following Sunday—the 30th of October, 1842—the Bishop officiated in a little wooden building which had been prepared for the purpose, and on Monday, the 31st, sites were selected for churches in New Plymouth. The little wooden building referred to stood facing a lane connecting Brougham and Currie Streets. It had been erected originally by the Plymouth Company as a depot and hospital for the young settlement. It was afterwards removed to the junction of Devon and Brougham Streets, where it stood for many years. The site chosen by the Bishop for the future church is now occupied by the church of St. Mary's—the mother church of Taranaki—and the wisdom of the choice has never been doubted. The first vicar of New Plymouth, the Rev. William Bolland, arrived in the settlement on the 3rd of December, 1843, and was invested by Bishop Selwyn, who walked overland from Auckland, a distance of 550 miles, for the purpose. Services were held in the little raupo building already mentioned, and from that date New Plymouth has never been without a Christian ministry. The raupo building was afterwards blown down by a furious gale, and for some time services were held in the courthouse till the opening of St. Mary's church. At Henui (now part of Fitzroy), a small church was built by Bishop Selwyn, and was opened in March, 1845. This is said to have been the first Anglican church built in Taranaki, and a portion of it still stands as the nave and chancel of the present church at Fitzroy. The first stone of St. Mary's was laid by Captain Henry King, R.N., Chief Magistrate of New Plymouth, on the 25th of March, 1845, and the church was opened on the 29th of December in the following year. At that time the total population page 72 of the settlement of New Plymouth was one thousand and eighty. During the distressing times of the Maori disturbances, the church itself was used as a picket house, and the yard surrounding it as a stockade. The church is now surrounded by a cemetery, where lie the remains of many of the heroes of the war. Within the precinets flags and hatchments are hung as memorials of every regiment that took part in the New Zealand campaign.

The first Wesleyan church in New Plymouth dates from the 13th of March 1856, when the first stone was laid in Liardet Street. The officiating ministers at the ceremony were the Rev. H. H. Turton, the Rev. S. Ironsides, and the Rev. J. Long. The Whiteley Memorial Church of the Methodist Church of Australasia (formerly Wesleyan Methodist) now (1306) occupies a prominent position in the township. In 1858 a minister of the Presbyterian Church—the Rev. J. Thom—was located in New Plymouth. The congregation erected a church in 1866; but it was subsequently destroyed by fire, and was replaced in 1884 by St. Andrew's church, in Devon Street. The Primitive Methodist body had been represented for many years in New Plymouth, prior to the 1st of January, 1862, when the foundation stone of their first church was laid in Queen Street. The building in which the congregation now worships is the only church in New Plymouth that has a spire. The first stone of the Baptist church was laid in Gill Street, on the 11th of March, 1868. The Roman Catholic Church, which has been represented in Taranaki since the early days of the Maori troubles, built a commodious church known as St. Joseph's, about the year 1895, and has also a large convent building on the same block of land. The Salvation Army has a convenient barracks in Brougham Street.