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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.

The New Plymouth Parish Of The Anglican Church includes the town and some of the surrounding districts, and is bounded by the parishes of Inglewood, Waitara, and Okato. St. Mary's church, which stands on a slope of Marsland Hill, overlooking the town, is of special historic interest, as having been intimately connected with the time of the Maori war. The foundation stone of the building was laid on the 25th of March, 1845, and the church was opened for divine worship on the 29th of December, 1846. The Rev. William Bolland was the first vicar of New Plymouth, and he was succeeded by the Rev. Henry Govett, afterwards Archdeacon Govett, who long used his influence for good in Taranaki. There are churches in connection with the parish of New Plymouth at Fitzroy, Bell Block, Moturoa, Omata, and Barrett Road, and services are held at other places, in
St. Mary's Church. Collis, photo.

St. Mary's Church. Collis, photo.

halls and schoolrooms. The vicar of the parish is assisted by two curates.

The Rev. Frank George Evans, Th.L. Aust. Coll. Theol., Vicar of St. Mary's and Rural Dean of New Plymouth, is a native of Chester, England, and was born in 1857. He was educated at St. John's College, Auckland, and was ordained deacon in 1881, and priest two years later. In 1896 he settled at New Plymouth as coadjutor to Archdeacon Govett, and was appointed vicar in 1898.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, in Devon Street, New Plymouth, is a handsome little building, with accommodation for over 200 persons. There are two class rooms adjoining the church, and also two schoolrooms, one of which has room for sixty, and the other for 100, pupils; and a handsome two-storey manse also occupies a site in Devon Street. The district of which St. Andrew's is the centre, includes practically the whole of the county of Taranaki; and the minister in charge is assisted by a home missionary, who resides at Inglewood.

The Rev. Samuel Smith Osborne, who is in charge of St. Andrew's Presbyterian church at New Plymouth, was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in the year 1850. In 1891 Mr. Osborne took charge of the church at Whangarei, and was subsequently stationed at Hastings. He entered on his duties in New Plymouth in the year 1894.

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Parish has its headquarters in New Plymouth, and covers the country lying between the Mokau river on the north, and the parishes of Stratford and Okato to the south. The principal church is known as St. Joseph's, and occupies a commanding position in the town of New Plymouth. It is of wood and iron, has seats for 600 persons, and has an organ with a choir gallery. The presbytery adjoins the church, and so does the convent known as the Monastery of the Presentation. The block of land occupied by the various buildings has frontages to three streets. Dean McKenna is parish priest, and is assisted by the Rev. Father MacManus, as curate.

The Very Rev. Dean James McKenna, Rector of St. Joseph's, New Plymouth, is a native of the North of Ireland, received his early education at St. Macarten's Seminary, Monaghan, and afterwards studied theology at All Hallow's College, Drumcondra, Dublin. On his ordination in June, 1886, Father McKenna came to New Zealand, was appointed to Hawera, and in 1899 took charge of his present parish. Dean McKenna's page 73 charge extends over a very wide district, where he is well known for his
The Very Rev. Dean McKenna.

The Very Rev. Dean McKenna.

good qualities and readiness to help those in trouble.

The Rev. James Francis Macmanus, Curate of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, was born in County Leitrim, Ireland, in the year 1876. He was educated at St. Mary's Seminary, Moyne, County Longford, and at St. Patrick's College, at Thurles, in County Tipperary. He was ordained in June, 1903, and arrived in New Plymouth in November of that year, as assistant priest to Dean McKenna.

The Methodist Church Of Australasia, formerly known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, has been represented in New Plymouth from the earliest days of settlement. The principal church of the district, named the Whiteley Memorial Church, was erected in the year 1898. It stands on the corner of Liardet Street and Courtenay Street occupies an elevated position, and is a distinctive object in the landscape. The building is of wood and iron, and has seat accommodation for six hundred persons. In the very early days services were held in a raupo church, built in Brougham Street, but in 1843 the congregation took possession of a new stone church in Courtenay Street; afterwards the present site was secured, and the church which was built became known as Whiteley Hall. Services are held in the surrounding districts, especially at King and Upland, Lower Egmont, Carrington, Frankley Road, Bell, Okato, and other settlements.

The Rev. Thomas George Brooke, Superintendent Minister at New Plymouth, was elected President at the conference of 1906, and appointed to the New Plymouth circuit. Mr. Brooke is referred to at greater length on page 186 of the Otago volume of this Cyclopedia.

The New Plymouth Circuit Of The Primitive Methodist Church was founded in the year 1844. The principal church of the circuit is situated in Queen Street, and was opened free of debt in September, 1904. It stands on a section of a quarter of an acre, and is a fine building of wood and iron, on concrete foundations. It has also a handsome spire, and a flight of steps lead up to the entrance doors. The interior of the church is beautifully finished. There is an organ loft, and seats are provided for 400 persons. The New Plymouth circuit also owns two acres of land in Devon Street, where the parsonage and other residences stand. A wooden church was erected in 1905 at Kent road, and has accommodation for 100 persons. The church at Bell Block was put up in the year 1850, and will seat 100 persons, and
Primitive Methodist Church. Collis, photo.

Primitive Methodist Church. Collis, photo.

page 74 another at Omata, erected in the fifties, will seat eighty persons. Both these churches were used by the early settlers as block-houses during the native troubles, and still bear the marks of bullets. Regular services are also held at Inglewood, Egmont Village, Mongorei and Fitzroy.

The Rev. John Nixon, who has had charge of the New Plymouth circuit of the Primitive Methodist Church since the year 1899, was born in 1852 in Ayrshire, Scotland, where he received part of his education. He came with his parents to New Zealand in 1864, attended school in Dunedin, and lived with Mr. Stead in Invercargill. Mr. Nixon subsequently became a probationer in the Primitive Methodist church at Wellington, for three years, and he was then stationed at the Thames for two years. He was afterwards successively at Franklyn Road, Auckland, for two years, Ashburton four years, Dunedin three years, Wellington two years, New Plymouth five years, Auckland one year, the Bluff three years, and Waimate, Canterbury, one year, before entering on his present term in the New Plymouth circuit. Mr. Nixon married a daughter of the late Mr. Henry Hirst, of Mount Roskill, Auckland, in the year 1881, and has one son and four daughters.

Collis, photo.Rev. J. Nixon.

Collis, photo.
Rev. J. Nixon.

The New Plymouth Baptist Church stands in Gill Street, and is a wooden building with accommodation for 200 persons. It was erected in the early days of the settlement, by the Congregationalists and Baptists. In recent years a residence for the minister has been acquired in Gilbert Street. Services in connection with this denomination are held in one out station, and a church site has also been secured at Waitara.

The Rev. William Richard Woolley, Minister of the Baptist Church at New Plymouth, was born in Birmingham, England, and in 1878 he became minister of the Baptist Church at Bideford, in Devonshire. After arriving in New Zealand, Mr. Woolley was for sixteen years stationed at the Thames, and removed to New Plymouth in the year 1902.

The Salvation Army has been represented in New Plymouth since the year 1883. The barracks, at the corner of Brougham Street and Powderham Street, were erected in 1898. They are of wood and iron; the hall will seat 300 persons, and there are three ante-rooms. Services are held regularly, and there is a Sunday school with sixty children in charge of six teachers. There are fifty soldiers in the corps, and the brass band has ten playing members.

Adjutant George Dickens, who has been in charge at New Plymouth, since 1905, was born in Victoria, Australia, and has been an officer in the Army since the year 1886.