Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

Conditions of use


Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Octavius Hadfield


page break


Disputes over land were still causing angry words and feelings, and in June of 1843 the Wairau Massacre occurred. The Nelson settlers, led by Captain Wakefield, had bought a tract of land in the Wairau Valley. This had been Ngatitoa land, owned by Rauparaha and Rangihaeata and their people. They insisted they had not sold the land. Some years before a Captain Blenkinsopp had married a cousin of Rauparaha's, and he and his wife lived at Wairau for a while. He had drawn up a document exchanging the land for a big gun, which document Rauparaha had signed, although he later asserted he had not realised he was signing away his land. Eventually the captain sailed to Sydney and soon after was drowned at sea, but the document somehow came into the hands of the settlers. They insisted they had fairly bought the land, and in spite of Rauparaha's warnings began surveying.

Finding their protests unavailing Rauparaha and Rangihaeata sailed for the Wairau with a party of men and women, some Christian and some not. They intended to stop the surveying and to settle on the land until the Commissioner of Lands came to discuss the problem with them. A surveying hut had been erected, which the Maoris burned down after first removing the contents. Then they settled down to wait.

Unfortunately, a party of settlers and police, led by Wakefield and armed with handcuffs and a warrant for the arrest of Rauparaha, arrived from Nelson before the Commissioner. There ensued a difficult interview between the two parties which turned into fighting through the probably accidental, either through nervousness or clumsiness, discharge of a fire-arm, and ended tragically in the death of twenty-one Europeans and four Maoris. Many of the Europeans who surrendered, including the leaders, were put to death by the enraged Rangihaeata whose wife had been killed. Those who could escape fled from the massacre, some down river to their waiting ship where they sailed for Wellington, others through swamp and hill and bush until they eventually reached Nelson and broke the news to a shocked settlement. Rauparaha's page 45 party, taking the handcuffs with them, packed their belongings and crossed the Straits back to Kapiti.

Feelings ran very high indeed. The two chiefs wanted to attack Wellington, and attempted to stir up the populace of the coast. Octavius Hadfield was largely credited with the abandonment of this plan, although he gave credit to Wiremu Kingi and his following of men at Waikanae who threatened they would not let the attackers through. After Hadfield's death a newspaper printed an account of this by his eldest son, Henry Hadfield, from his recollection of what he had heard at subsequent times from his parents and others concerned. Entitled "After Wairau - How Wellington was saved - An authentic Story" it stated—"After the Wairau massacre, Te Rauparaha, urged on by his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, wished to attack Wellington. My father talked to them, and tried to persuade them not to do anything so rash, and used every means in his power to pacify them. . . .

My father did stop the Maoris, and went on to Wellington to inform the authorities of what was going on. As he returned he met the Maoris, who had been persuaded by Te Rangihaeata to move on Wellington. My father again stopped them.

Wiremu Kingi, who was afterwards forced into the Waitara war, was residing at Waikanae at the time, being the chief of the Ngatiawa tribe. This man was a most loyal Maori, and told Te Rauparaha that if he tried to attack Wellington he must first walk over his back. After my father had stopped Te Rauparaha's party twice, they sent some men past Waikanae during the night to see if Wiremu Kingi meant what he said. In the morning it was seen by their footprints that a party had gone past, and Wiremu Kingi immediately sent off armed men to arrest them. This was done, and the prisoners taken out in canoes and handed over to a man-of-war in the Straits. . . . There was no quarrel between Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, as they were both of one mind at that particular time, and would undoubtedly have sacked Wellington but for my father and Wiremu Kingi."

It was not until eight months later that Governor Fitzroy landed at Waikanae beach from the North Star to hold a meeting with Te Rauparaha and his people, and to pass his judgment. During those months there was continued uneasiness and division of opinion. The Governor's verdict was to do little to change the latter.

page 46

George Clarke, who had the title of Protector of the Maoris, wrote in "Early Life in New Zealand" of this time after the massacre. "Things were getting dangerous now for all of us. The Maoris were exasperated at what they considered our treachery, and our own people were thirsting for revenge. Happily, there was a gentleman living at Waikanae who had great influence with the Maoris allied to Rauparaha, and was equally respected by both races, the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, now the revered Bishop of Wellington. At the risk of his own life and after a severe struggle with the chiefs, who were almost mad at the sight of the handcuffs which Rauparaha brought with him, Mr. Hadfield managed to stop the old man's projects of immediately marching upon Wellington. I got away from Wellington as soon and as quietly as I could, and had an interview with the angry chief, pledging all that I could to assure him that the Government would not attack him without first hearing his side of the question, and begging him to try and keep the Maoris quiet until the case was investigated."

Three months later a meeting was held at Waikanae. Clarke continued—"Rauparaha then said that he was doing his best to allay irritation, but the Maoris were kept disturbed by threatening rumours of what the Wellington people, or the Government, were going to do."

By this time Rauparaha was using his influence to keep the peace, but at the start he was as thirsting for blood as his nephew, Rangihaeata. William Swainson wrote of the affair—"The people of the district had for some time been living under the ministration of one of the most devoted and influential missionaries in New Zealand, and it is hardly too much to affirm that Wellington owed its safety at that moment to a single individual, the Rev. Octavius Hadfield."

Hadfield's own reports during this time indicate that in his opinion, and having sifted all the evidence, the Maoris should not be punished unduly. Writing to the Church Missionary Society on December 22, 1843, he stated—"Of this I am fully convinced, and others are beginning to see it with me—that our laws cannot be forced immediately upon the Maori people. The attempt might have been made, but the favourable opportunity for doing so having been allowed to pass, it is now too late. There must be a code of exceptional laws introduced among the Maoris to last for a defined period and, in this case, they must be instructed by persons appointed page 47 for that purpose. This country is much in want of a person with a powerful and comprehensive mind capable of at once grasping the whole subject and devising some plan for the welfare of the Maori population. Otherwise, inconceivable confusion will arise, baffle attempts to maintain order, and lead finally to the destruction of the Maoris."

The meeting with the Governor took place on February 12, 1844. "His Excellency and suite were received on shore by the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, Messrs. Symonds and Clarke, and a large body of Maoris, who, to the number of 400 and upwards, soon assembled in a large open enclosure within the pa," runs the report printed in the Southern Cross. The Governor addressed the assembly, saying that he had studied the English version of the Wairau fight, and after his first anger had passed away he had realised that the English had been very much to blame. But the killing of the English prisoners had made his "heart very dark." Now he called on the Maoris to relate their story so that he could compare the two and reflect before giving his verdict.

Te Rauparaha was the only spokesman for the Maoris. He related his story, which was fully printed in the report. Then, after half an hour's silence, the Governor gave his decision, in which he apportioned the blame much as he had at the start. In die middle of his speech the words "I will not avenge their (the settlers) death" told everybody what they had been waiting to hear.

The decision was what Octavius Hadfield had been hoping for and working for, and it almost certainly saved further bloodshed, but the settlers were furious and felt that English law had been completely ignored, and the Maoris, accustomed to utu for all things, realised they had been let off lightly. Jerningham Wakefield, whose uncle had been killed in the massacre, penned his only disappointment in Hadfield just after the event when, meeting him on his way to Waikanae, he "made me turn away from him much hurt, when he told me that these poor men had only acted in self-defence against people who did very wrong; and that it would be not only unjust and illegal, but most imprudent, to attempt to take them or try them for their deed."

* * *

The church at Waikanae, on which the present Rangiatea is modelled, was finished late in 1843. Writing to his mother on page 48 September 1, 1843, Hadfield reported—"The people at Waikanae have built a very beautiful church, which is now almost complete and which is much admired. They have been engaged nearly two years at it, and have worked well and altogether gratuitously." In 1840 there had been a chapel of some sort in use there, for writing home in October of that year Hadfield stated that it held about 500, "but many go half an hour beforehand to gain admittance and many who cannot get in remain outside." They used gun barrels for church bells.

Selwyn recorded that the new church was being built early in 1843, and in August of that year Richard Taylor discussed it in his journal. "The church which the Maoris are building will be a noble edifice when completed. It much reminds me of the Moorish style, the inside being beautifully woven in patterns of black and white tukutuku and every four feet are large upright boards painted red. The building is supported by three immense posts nearly two feet in diameter. The roof is similarly ornamented, the boards being painted in patterns. It must be 70 feet long and 40 wide. . . . The labour is immense, the boards being adzed. The centre board is hewn out of one log. The sight of this so cheered old Rauparaha that he is determined to have a much finer one in his pa." The much finer one is Rangiatea.

Taylor continued that after a service in the church "the principal chiefs called to pay their respects, and among the rest was the redoubtable Te Rauparaha. . . . He appears fully 60 years old. Mr. Hadfield describes him as having a remarkable clear head and wisdom more than common. I thought him a mild and gentlemanly Maori, if I may use the expression, though he was enveloped in a dirty blanket."

In his article on Te Rauparaha in "Maoris of By-Gone Days", Hadfield described the part this chief played in the building of the church. "When it was resolved to build a good church at Waikanae, as totara for some parts of the building could not be obtained there he agreed that it should be procured from a forest preserve of his at Otaki. He went there with me and selected some of the finest trees. He encouraged his people in their work. As it was impossible to complete our work there that day we determined to pass the night in the forest, and we prepared to sleep there comfortably by the side of a large fire which he had kindled. He said he did not sleep much and would take care to keep the fire well supplied with fuel.

page 49

He sat talking for a long time, and seemed greatly pleased that we had felled one good tree suitable for the ridge-piece of the church of his former enemies, the Ngatiawa. As I sat by the fire with this old man—the rest of the working party had gone to a distance that we might be quiet—I could not but reflect on the inscrutable nature of man. There was, it was evident, a humane side of the character even of a man who had the reputation of being the most desperate and unscrupulous of his race. He never deceived me, and always placed implicit confidence in the truth of all I said."

This episode in the bush was some eighteen months before the Wairau massacre. It presents rather a fascinating picture—the young Englishman and the old Maori chief, so very, very different. One wishes Octavius Hadfield could have recorded the entire conversation of that night by the fire in the bush behind Otaki.

The church at Waikanae was used for several years, but after the majority of the Ngatiawa tribe moved back to Taranaki in 1848, and while Octavius Hadfield was ill in Wellington, it gradually fell into disrepair, eventually to vanish altogether until in 1961 the foundations were discovered by men constructing a road in a new subdivision at the north end of Paraparaumu Beach.

* * *

In January 1844, Hadfield was made Rural Dean of the district of Wellington and Taranaki. On January 2, Bishop Selwyn confirmed 143 Maoris at Rangiuru, the pa near the mouth of the Otaki river. Hadfield had a new house built at Waikanae as his first whare had begun to disintegerate. Taylor described it in 1844 as "a pretty little place built entirely of totara, our most durable wood." He also referred to the original Otaki home—"In Mr. Hadfield's yard is one of the best contrived hen houses I have ever seen: it was made by his Maoris so that no rat can possible get in." At the turn of the century, in his retirement, Hadfield was still looking after hens in his garden.

According to an article in the N.Z. Church Chronicle, February 1847, the first trees for Rangiatea were cut in 1844 at Ohau. Hadfield "went with a party of Maoris to fell the trees. The Maoris, who were excited about their work, at once began to fell, and two beautiful trees were broken to splinters in falling. This created great distress, and cast a gloom on the work. Mr. Hadfield then suggested that as they had sacrificed two trees they should allow him to page 50 superintend the felling of the next, to which they agreed. He then had a bed made of branches for the trees to fall on, and they cut the tree for the ridge pole, which fell on the bed prepared for it in perfect condition. This pleased the Maoris very much, and they proceeded with the work till all the trees required for the building were cut.

They were then taken to Otaki and laid on the ground where the church was afterwards built. Each tree had to be drawn by the Maoris (there being no bullocks in those days) from the bush to the beach, and along the beach to Otaki, a distance of eight miles.

Soon after this, in 1845, Mr. Hadfield was seized with severe illness and was in Wellington for four years on what was supposed to be his deathbed. Nothing more was done about the church until 1848, when the Rev. S. Williams was appointed to the charge of the district by Bishop Selwyn."