The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
The Very Rev. De Berdt Hovell
The Very Rev. De Berdt Hovell, sometime Dean of the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese of Waiapu, and of Napier Cathedral, was born in 1850, and was the eldest son of Dr. Charles H. J. Hovell, sometime surgeon of the 3rd Waikato Regiment, and Brigade-Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel. Dean Hovell was educated at the King's school, Rochester, under the Rev. Robert Whiston, M.A., and succeeded page 349 in gaining, by competitive examination in 1863, one of the valuable scholarships pertaining to the school. It was originally intended that Mr. Hovell should enter the English Civil Service, but he decided to take Holy Orders, and with that object in view entered, in 1868, St. Boniface College, Warminster, and in 1869, St. Augustine's College, Canterbury. At St. Augustine's Mr. Hovell secured, in 1870, the Whyte-head Greek Testament Prize, one of the blue ribbons of the College. He was also, at the same time, a prominent athlete, being captain of his college cricket eleven and football fifteen. In 1873, together with several other candidates, he was ordained deacon in Bombay Cathedral by Bishop Douglas. After his ordination he was stationed at Kolapore, but was a resident of Bombay during the Parsee-Mahommedan disturbances in the latter city in 1874. He came to New Zealand (whither his father had preceded him) in 1875, having been appointed a member of the staff of the Pro-Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Christ-church. In the following year, he was unanimously nominated to the incumbency of the united parishes of All Saints' (Prebbleton), St. Saviour's (Templeton), and St. Mary's (Halswell), where he remained for a little over two years. In 1878, upon the recommendation of Bishop Harper, then Primate of New Zealand. Mr. Hovell was offered and accepted the incumbency of St. John's, Napier, the old Pro-Cathedral Church of the diocese of Waiapu. On taking charge of the Napier parish, Mr. Hovell found matters in a most discouraging and disorganised condition. The only existing Church of England buildings in the town were an exceedingly ugly wooden church, which stood where the present deanery lawn now stands, and a damp unsuitable house, which had been used as a residence by the previous incumbent. There were only thirty persons registered as communicants for the whole of Napier, and there was not even a building for Sunday school purposes. On the other hand, a debt of £1,300 was in existence. Ten years passed away, and how great a change had been effected was stated by Dr. Stuart, Bishop of the diocese, in an address to his Diocesan Synod, delivered at Napier on Tuesday, the 27th of September, 1887, when he referred in gratifying terms to the outward and material progress of the church in Napier, and the untiring energy and sound judgment of the incumbent of St. John's, which had contributed so greatly to the marked improvement visible on all sides. Napier Cathedral, referred to by Bishop Stuart as Dean Hovell's magnum opus, was consecrated in the presence of a large congregation in December, 1888; and, when the Cathedral Chapter was formed in 1889, and the Bishop announced that he intended to appoint Mr. Hovell to the high office of Dean, the statement was received in the Diocesan Synod with loud cheers. As an example of the Dean's influence with his people, it may be mentioned that on Sunday, the 21st of July, 1895, he asked the Cathedral congregation to forward him, during the following week, a sum of a thousand pounds for the purpose of clearing off a liability which still remained upon the Cathedral. All through the intervening days contributions flowed in, and, on the succeeding Sunday, the Dean carried into the Cathedral upon the brazen alms dish, a sum of £1230 in cheques, notes, gold, silver, and copper, and placed it upon the altar, while the congregation rose in a body, and sang the Doxology. Dean Hovell was a man who served the community in many ways. It was largely through his influence, and that of Father Grogan, that the strike of the Napier Break-water labourers was brought to an end in October, 1896. He had been a prominent Freemason for many years, and was Past Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, Past District Grand Chaplain of the English Constitution, and also a Past Master; and he also held office as chaplain of Lodges Scinde and Victoria in Napier. He was, further, a Past Master of the Society of Loyal United Friends, and a Past Chief Ruler of the Order of Rechabites. For over twenty years he acted as Chaplain of the Napier Garrison, was appointed Chaplain of the Wellington Battalion upon its formation, and, later, Chaplain of the East Coast Battalion. He was a member of the General Synod of the Church of the Province of New Zealand for many years; also a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Waiapu, a diocesan nominator, and an assessor of the Bishop's Court. In 1876, he married Emily, younger daughter of Mr. George Ffitch, sometime of Woodstock station, Canterbury, New Zealand, and formerly of Felsted, in the county of Essex, who was one of the original land purchasers under the Canterbury Association; by her he had four children, one daughter and three sons. Dean Hovell died suddenly at Ormondville, Hawke's Bay, on Monday, the 4th of September, 1905.