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  • The Rev. Oswald Rousell Hewlett, 1884–9; 1896–1904

  • The Rev. Noble Dale Boyes, 1891–6

  • The Rev. Peter Thomas Fortune, 1904–10

  • The Rev. William Charles Wood, 1910–36


The Rev. O.R. Hewlett’s first ministry

In 1884 the Parochial District of Papakura was formed and in April welcomed its first Vicar, the Rev. Oswald Rousell Hewlett. His parish was defined as the settlements at Papakura, Drury, Hunua, Wairoa, Wairoa Road, Papakura Valley (Alfriston), Woodside (Papatoetoe) and Ness Valley.

Mr. Hewlett, though newly ordained from St. John’s College, was well fitted for this scattered parish. His youth had been spent in North Auckland districts where his father had been an itinerant clergyman, and he brought to the task energy and enthusiasm.

In 1882 a general meeting of parishioners had agreed that Papakura should be the site of the vicar’s residence. Thus on 11 August 1884, six acres were bought from Mr. Harrison at £15 per acre and within a year, largely as the result of Mr. Hewlett’s energies, the home was completed. So a report from the parish in November reads:

“It is built in a capital position, a little way out of Papakura village, on the Auckland road. The six acres of land purchased are fenced and laid down in grass. The committee have erected a commodious stable and a good entrance gate to the property. Some ornamental trees and shrubs have also been planted, and the estate bids fair to become one of the prettiest little places in the district.”

The whole venture – purchase of sections, erection of house, stable and gate, etc. cost £504.4.9. Of this, £200 was raised at the time and £300, borrowed from the Diocesan Trust Board, was paid off at the rate of £50 a year.

Raising money was still a major problem for Papakura as people were still very poor. In particular, in the 1890s the flats between Papakura and Alfriston were all a big gum field, and in one particularly dry summer fully 1,000 men, of all nationalities and all stations of life, were camped in the locality. “For a few months things were fairly lively in Papakura; it was quite usual to have three or four constables at the weekend,” Alfred Willis records in his history of Early Papakura. Experienced men could make from £10 to £15 per week, but many barely made a living.

The Vicarage was constantly offering meals, and Willis Brothers constantly supplying food to families whether they could pay or not. However, the parishioners tackled the “Parsonage Building Fund” with great resourcefulness. In November 1884 the Bishop himself gave a lecture to help raise funds. At this time the concerts, lectures and social entertainments, which were to play such a happy part in the life of the church throughout the following fifty-odd years, were initiated.

In 1887 a new church, St. David’s, was opened at Wiri, and in 1889 received its own vicar, the Rev. Middlewood Kirkbride, and so ceased to be part of the parish. However, its lay-reader, Charles Henry Lupton, was to give good service to Papakura over the years. To make up for Wiri’s withdrawal, Weymouth began to take its place in the lists of centres of worship of that year. It is referred to as a “pleasant sea-side watering place”.

Early in 1889 illness began to interrupt Mr. Hewlett’s ministry and a roster of travelling clergymen, especially the Rev. W. Roper, assisted with the services. Finally in June 1890, Mr. Hewlett reluctantly resigned the parish and moved to Drury, and in 1893 was well enough to become assistant minister at Onehunga.

It was during Mr. Hewlett’s first ministry that Mr. W. Hampton Thorp’s name dominates the records. He was the energetic lay-reader at Clevedon for over 25 years and ably represented the parish in Synod for a long period. During this time Messrs. Robert Willis and William Smith gave long service as churchwardens and urged the parish a long way towards the goal of financial self-sufficiency.


The Rev. N.D. Boyes

In October 1890, when the Rev. N.D. Boyes was licensed to Papakura, the parish was in good heart. His ministry was marked by growing congregations, a more satisfactory income and marked improvements to church properties. In 1893, for example, improvements were made to both church and Parsonage; both were re-painted, the church enclosed by a wicket fence with new gates, and only a small amount was left on the Parsonage debt.

A description of the harvest festival in March 1893, reflects the state of the parish:

“The church was tastefully and appropriately decorated for the occasion by several of the ladies of the congregation. A goodly supply of fruit and vegetables were sent in by neighbours interested in church work, and were afterwards distributed among the poor in the district … at 8 o’clock in the morning, [the vicar] administered the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to twenty communicants. At 11 o’clock a.m. a service was held by Mr. Findlay and was well attended; and at evening service the church was crowded. Each of the services were bright and hearty, the congregation joining the choir in heartily singing the festal hymns.”

On Easter Day we are told the vicar preached to a congregation of eighty at evening service and the church “looked exceeding pretty”. However the vicar was not without his “ups and downs”:

“[The vicar] was thrown several yards over his horse’s head on February 18th on his way to conduct Divine service at Weymouth. Cantering in the centre of the main-road, which is good, the horse broke in the surface of the road and fell. The hole was deep, but fortunately neither horse nor rider received much injury.”

It is clear that Mr. Boyes was supported by willing parishioners. This was the age of soirees and concerts, and fund-raising. Annual accounts in all the centres were showing a balance.

Captain M.T. Clayton of Manurewa began in 1895 his long years of service as a lay-reader, riding out regularly to Papakura and Drury from his home in Manurewa. At this time, too, he and Mr. Lupton began their long period of service as Synod representatives for the parochial district.

Mr. Stan Evans for many years acted as unpaid sacristan, punctually opening and lighting the church and ringing the bell. Cleaning the church was done by a roster of reliable women. Miss McKeever helped Miss F. Willis with organ duties. The interior of the church was improved by the donation of a lamp by Mr. Prince and flower vases by Mesdames Hockin and Clarke.

In January 1896, the Rev. N.D. Boyes preached his last sermon in the district before moving to Stratford. “Our people regret the loss of one so zealous, active, and self-denying,” it was reported.


The Rev. O.R. Hewlett’s second ministry

Early in 1896 Mr. Hewlett’s tall hat and horse and buggy were again a common sight around Papakura. This was a period of heartening consolidation for the church; attendances at services grew, the quality of the worship improved, and financially the church appeared to be finding its feet. Mr. Hewlett was particularly encouraged by the new emphasis people were giving to attendance at Holy Communion; over 100 communicants came forward at Easter 1897, and in the year ending May 1899 the total number of acts of Communion was 1,269. This is a remarkable contrast with earlier years when Communion Services were rarely held and not popularly attended.

Mr. Hewlett was keen to raise the musical standards of church worship. New organs were installed at Papakura, Drury and Clevedon during these years. An organ recital was given on the new organ at Papakura on 19 July 1897. The choir was very strong at this time, and the church noted for its hearty singing. Mr. Gerrard of the Presbyterian Church helped to train the choir. Mr. David William Jones’ name also appears at this time, when he helped with the music at the Ardmore Church. This was part of his long association with the church, which covered the period 1893–1921. He also became Vicar’s Warden in 1900 and for many years this local schoolmaster was depended upon in the committee work of the church, in its music and choir work and as a lay-reader. In 1903 Mr. Charles White Cave and Miss Cave brought the choir up to seventeen members, led by Mr. Cary. The Hay family were valuable members who left the district at this time. Mrs. Robert J. Willis was leading soprano for years, and one of her daughters, Mrs. S. Harrowell, was a regular chorister. Mrs. Alf Willis helped Miss F. Willis with the organ on the few occasions she was unable to be present.

The women of the church formed a Working Guild in 1897 which staged the first of the long series of bazaars, or sales of work, which have continued through the years. This raised the overwhelming sum of £70 for much-needed alterations to the Vicarage. Also in 1897, the annual soiree and concert, which Mr. Boyes had built up, attracted between 200 and 300 guests from all the districts in the parish. Those “who richly provided the good things” and presided over the tea were Mesdames Hewlett, Findlay, R.J. Willis and S. Walker and Misses Willis, Middlemas and Walter.

Mr. Hewlett greatly admired his team of lay-readers and did everything he could to equip them for the work. In 1901 he formed a Papakura Lay-Readers’ Association which met regularly for fellowship and for study and discussion. Captains Clayton and Collard and Messrs. Lupton, Thorp, Jones and Findlay were his chief readers, Mr. Findlay also working with “untiring zeal as treasurer of the vestry”. Of the 360 services held in the parish in 1899, 168 were taken by lay-readers. Over 80 men and women were active as members of vestries, wardens, choir members, organists and Sunday School teachers. Perhaps the most outstanding of all the lay workers that Mr. Hewlett inspired during this ministry was the seventeen-year-old Harold Walters. For fifty years he served as a thoroughly reliable and hardworking member of the vestry, and with his wife and family became the mainstay of the church in the Karaka district.

The church building did not go unattended. In May 1899, Christ Church in Papakura was re-roofed for £34. Mr. Treadgold, a local builder, did the job, and shingles were obtained from Nicol and Creighton of Clevedon. A stable was erected and fencing built around the church in the same year. In 1901 a carved chair was given for the sanctuary by Nina Black. In 1902 the vestry room was enlarged and the church and fence re-painted – largely through the efforts of Captain Clayton. The present pulpit was given to commemorate the outstanding work of Mr. William Smith over the years.

In 1903, because of the growth of the congregation, a fund for a new church was inaugurated. But perhaps there was an element of prophecy in this, for in May 1904, fire destroyed almost the entire township – the Globe Hotel, Public Hall, Masonic Hall, chemist’s shop, saddler’s shop and general store, and two private dwellings. Only “strenuous exertions of the neighbours”, we are told, saved Willis Brothers’ store, Miss Willis’ house and the church, all of which were in great danger.

In October 1904 Mr. Hewlett left Papakura, but ten years later the parish welcomed him and his family back when he and Mrs. Hewlett retired to Drury and were able once again to serve the church in the district.


The Rev. P.T. Fortune

From December 1904 to January 1910 the Rev. P. T. Fortune was Vicar of Papakura. Unfortunately there is little record of his work. The most persistent memory of him is his interesting but very lengthy sermons – up to an hour and a half we are told – which did not always attract large congregations! Brookby, Karaka and Te Hihi were added to the centres in which services were held during this time.

Perhaps the balance to the small congregations at sermons was found in the attraction of the church’s evening soirees with music and recitations, which were very popular social events at this time. Elsdon Craig mentions that “between two and three hundred people attended one Anglican soiree at Papakura in 1897”.

One of the major events during his ministry was the building of the parish hall by Mr. Wyn Williams, begun in 1907. It cost £180 (unlined). Mr. D.W. Jones was treasurer at the time, and Mrs. R.J. Willis was particularly active in organising bazaars to raise funds. The hall was completed in 1908, though it remained unlined until about 1915. One of its earliest uses, besides Sunday School and church meetings, was the dancing classes run by the Swears sisters from 1909. These classes financed the erection of a handsome white-paling fence and “squeeze-gate” around the church and down to the old red shed where Captain Clayton rested his horses.

Until 1912 Mr. Cave continued to work with the choir, often writing his own music. In about 1907 he introduced a boys’ choir which helped lead the worship for some years. Both Mr. Jones and Mr. Cave were active lay-readers.


The Rev. W.C. Wood

On 12 February 1910 a new era began in the life of the Papakura Parochial District with the appointment of the Rev. W.C. Wood as Vicar. He was to remain in the position for twenty-six years. From the beginning he established himself as a born leader and a most able and well-read speaker and preacher. For many years he served the community, first as a member, then as Chairman, of the Town Board, and he also represented the district on the Auckland Hospital Board. In the Depression years he made great personal sacrifices for those in need. He had a warm heart and a lively sense of humour; a typical illustration was the “mock Parliaments” he organised for public amusement in the 1920s. Many parishioners recall with deep affection their distinguished-looking, white-haired vicar.

It was no small wonder that he was criticised for failing to visit his flock, for he had an impossibly wide area to cover. In 1910 he was holding services at Papakura, Drury, Clevedon, Ardmore, Alfriston and Weymouth. By 1920, Karaka was added to this list, while at last in 1922 the parish was reduced to a more manageable unit when Alfriston, Ardmore and Clevedon withdrew to form the nucleus of the Clevedon Parochial District. In 1923 services were held at Te Hihi and Takanini, but Weymouth was cut off from the parish. Kingseat Hospital and Waiau Pa also came under Mr. Wood’s supervision at a later date.

To cover this parish, Mr. Wood, in his early days, travelled by horseback or gig. In 1915 we read of his short-lived experiment with a motorcycle – not a successful venture on the rough roads of the day. Later he came to be identified with his Model T Ford – complete with chains on its wheels for the arduous journey to Auckland.

Throughout Mr. Wood’s ministry the Papakura district endured lean times. After the big fire of 1904, the destroyed shops were rebuilt, but in the next thirty years the little township showed few signs of expansion. The central position of the stock sale-yards, across the road from Willis Brothers’ store, typified the small rural town atmosphere of Papakura. In the Great War many young men of the district lost their lives, and through the 1920s and early 1930s few families escaped economic hardship. The parish was constantly in debt. Mr. Wood suffered personally when his eldest son was killed in action, and later during the long illness and death of Mrs. Wood, and the early deaths of two of his daughters. Yet he loyally ministered to his people – even when they were unable to guarantee his full stipend.


Two minor alterations were made to the church in the early years of Mr. Wood’s ministry. During the war the present belfry was added to the church, its big bell replacing the small bell at the porch. Secondly, the introduction of an acetylene plant in 1920 was a vast improvement on the older kerosene lamps. Older choir members recall their amusement as the plant failed during the singing of “Lead Kindly Light”, and their wonder when, during the singing of “Thou Whose Almighty Word”, the lights flashed more brightly at the last line of each verse – “Let there be light”!


The War Memorial Sanctuary

The addition of the War Memorial Sanctuary in 1923 was the most significant structural alteration to the old Selwyn Church over the years. As early as April 1919 an annual meeting of parishioners had adopted the vestry’s recommendation that the war memorial for the Parochial District should take the form of a sanctuary in permanent materials. This was intended to be the first portion of a new stone church. Mr. Holt presented a model of these alterations from which the architect, Mr. G.S. Goldsbro, prepared the working drawings. Such plans were later slightly modified, for example, by the gift of the two dormer windows by Mr. Holt. Tender offers were, however, too high at the time, and it was not till March 1922 that the vestry accepted the tenders of Mr. P. Brewin for the masonry and of Messrs. J.H. and J.G. Walker for supplying stone from near Hunua Gorge.

Bishop Averill laid the foundation stone on 30 September 1922. The inscription reads:

“The Sanctuary was erected as a thank offering to Almighty God, for Peace and Victory, and in memory of the men from this parish who fell in the Great War 1914–19. This stone was laid on 39 Sept 1922 by Alfred Walter Bishop of Auckland.”

Built into the stonework of the chancel’s southern wall is a tablet of Oamaru stone, carved by Mr. Feldon. It presents a long list for so small a district:

Lieut. A.D. Bremner

Pte. R.E. Costar.

Pte. W.C. Kearney

Sgt. J.B. Campbell

Pte. W. Costar

Pte. R.W. Munro

Sgt. A. Muir

Pte. L.G. Clark

Ptr. R. Morton

Sgt. M.L. Waters

Pte. J.R. Clark

Pte. K. Moir

Corp. W.H. Wood

Pte. W. Derbyshire

Pte. J.L. McKinstry

Rfln. T.F. Atkin

Pte. G. Embling

Pte. F.E. McConaughy

Pte. A. Bond

Pte. A. Girdwood

Pte. J. McAnally

Pte. L. Birch

Pte. R. Hasted

Pte. J. Parmentar

Pte. A.L. Bailey

Pte. W. Henderson

Pte. A. Ryan

Pte. A.T. Bates

Pte. J. Henderson

Pte. W.M. Shepherd

Pte. G.H. Burnside

Pte. A.M. Hills

Pte. J.F. Seaton

Pte. W.H. Brown

Pte. A.B. Hunt

Pte. W.H. Wardell

Pte. W. Carpenter

Pte. C.R. James

Pte. H.J. Wall

Pte. C. Campbell

Pte. R. Johnson

Pte. W. Winstone

Pte. T. Campbell

Pte. R.R. Jones

Pte. C.M. Wallis


Messrs. McEntee and Sons gained the contract for the woodwork in the floor and roofing; Mr. Arthur Richardson made the specially designed choir stalls and screens. So on 4 August 1923, the Bishop consecrated the new sanctuary in the presence of a crowded church. Subscriptions, offerings and the Ladies’ Working Guild had raised sufficient money (£578.9.7) to pay for the work before it was finished. Mr. Holt, who was the prime mover of the effort, compiled a commemorative booklet for the occasion.

The new vicarage

A second major building project was the erection of the present Vicarage on land nearer the church. In 1923 it was decided to dispose of the old Vicarage and the six acres on which it stood, and from the proceeds purchase the site in Coles Crescent; any balance remaining was to form a “Parochial Endowment Fund”. Between 1924 and 1928 all but two of the fifteen subdivisions were sold – ten to A.C. Townend, one each to H. May, A.C. Rayner and F.J. Lound. Unfortunately none of these buyers, save H. May, was able to keep up his payments, and the sales were rescinded, though in the 1930s five lots were re-sold. However, the vestry were not to foresee the grave financial difficulties ahead and they purchased the site, which, cleared and ready for building, cost £210.6.6. In January 1927 a tender for the erection of the Vicarage was accepted at £1,512.10.0. It was not until the 1940s that the old Vicarage properties were cleared up and the Diocesan Loan Board and Vicarage Account Overdraft settled. For eighteen months Mr. Wood lived in Clevedon Road, until Archbishop Averill officially opened the Vicarage on 27 April 1927. Like the new sanctuary, its “permanent materials” have proved a lasting investment.

Throughout Mr. Wood’s time the responsibility for maintaining the worship, the finances and the social life of the church repeatedly fell upon the few faithful families. Congregations were seldom large, yet much care was taken over the presentation of services and a happy fellowship was built up. Mention must be made of some of those who gave their services.

The choir, which had flourished under Mr. Hewlett, always played an important part in the worship of the parish church. The gracious Miss F. Willis was organist until the 1920s and the grand old man Mr. Cave led the choir until his death in 1912. In the years before the war a strong boys’ choir was begun; Mr. L. Kernot and later Mrs. Wood helping in their training. Mr. Hardman was organist for a while, and at various times Misses L. Turner, Clare Wood and Rollett assisted. But the organist who gave outstanding service was Mr. Thomas Seaton, who came in the early 1920s from the Methodist Church to become the first paid organist of Christ Church. His fee of ten shillings a week was never raised, though he continued until 1955. Miss Rollett, a leading chorister for many years, was closely associated with the church for thirty-seven years until she moved to Manurewa in 1938. Other stalwarts of the choir through the 1920s and early 1930s were Mrs. Crawford, Miss Clare Wood, Miss L. Mogford, Mrs. Tasker, the Muir and Turner sisters, Mrs. Beams and Miss Julie Williams. Messrs. Fred Margetts, D. Pemberton, Selwyn Wood, Claude Naden and Len Kernot gave strong support too. In the 1930s a junior choir also sang at some services.

Throughout these years the Sunday School was maintained. Miss L. Walter continued as Superintendent until 1927. Misses Harris, Cole and Alice Derbyshire were among her assistants in later years. Jack O’Neil was also a keen superintendent, ably supported by his brother, Ivor, and the Turner, Muir and Kerr girls. Ivy Turner, now Mrs. A. Wood, continued to be an outstanding teacher, superintending the Karaka Sunday School in the late 1950s. The Sunday School concerts and prize-givings were great events, as were the annual picnics – after the race between Alf Walker’s and Johnson’s trucks to Weymouth, Waiau Pa or Eastern Beach.

Though never a large group, the Ladies’ Working Guild played a major part in helping with the constant struggle for finances throughout the 1920s. Few of its members were in a position to give generously, but they were hard workers for the church. Some mention must be made of the most reliable supporters – Mesdames Crawford, Mogford, Tasker, Bernasconi, Jellyman, Muir, Cosgrove, Langford, Hope, Page, W. Clarke and L. Kernot and Misses Rollet and Wood. The Guild finally disbanded at about the time of Miss Wood’s marriage in 1931.

The condition of the parish, however, demanded that some attempt be made by its women to raise funds. So in 1935 the Women’s Parish Association was formed under the leadership of Mrs. W.H. Walters, who for twenty-one years took a lead in this work, and was still active in 1962. This association was open to any women from any part of the parish who would work for the church. They were bound together by a common pledge which they recited before each meeting; the Drury Guild still use it.

“The Church Women’s Aim:

I will endeavour: to support by my prayers and presence the services of the Church so far as in me lies; to help forward the work of this Parish by every means in my power; and to encourage and help my fellow members, and all I come in contact with, to live happy and useful lives.”

Garden parties, “at home” social gatherings, bring and buys, snowball teas, spring and autumn flower shows and “community sings” helped to raise funds; working bees were organised around the church building and grounds. But primarily the association was a social group and interesting talks, demonstrations and competitions attracted a large membership and built up a happy fellowship amongst the women of the parish.

A number of men gave unstintingly of their time and talents in these years. Until 1921 Mr. D. Jones continued his work as lay-reader, warden and synodsman; his neat and thorough account books still survive. Percy Monckton Holt was another keen worker. He was Vicar’s Warden from 1916 to 1923 and acted as auditor of accounts, and he continued to serve church and community until his death in 1928. Messrs. H.H. Muir and G. Kernot were vestrymen and wardens in the 1920s. George continued for twenty years altogether, being People’s Warden for eleven. With his brother, Len, he was always doing the necessary odd-jobs about the church, and energetically organised working bees. Mr. A.L. Turner, who worked with Mr. Holt and was warden for some years, continued as a vestryman for some twenty-six years. Another vestryman, and also synodsman, was Harry Ernest Mogford. He came from Matamata in the 1920s and his family entered enthusiastically into church life and gave generously towards it. Jack O’Neil was a lay-reader for some time. In the 1930s Mr. Frank Kirton and his family were most regular worshippers, and remained so until he left the district in 1949. He was for much of this time both a lay-reader and vestryman.

Dances and socials, concerts, sales of work, card drives and garden parties all contributed to the social side of church life. In the 1920s the Guild’s big annual bazaar lasted for two days and nights, being held in Richardson’s Hall on the site of the present Windsor Theatre. The hardworking women produced as much as £200, a fantastic sum for that time. It was a major social event for the town.

For the young people, the happiest times were had in the tennis club, which began about 1927 amongst church members who used to gather on the Muir’s private courts. Mrs. Muir lent the money to equip the first tennis courts, which remained in constant use until plans for the new church were finalised.

The present font in the old church has an interesting story. A doctor, Charles Swanston, L.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., who was dying of an incurable disease, used to come to the church to receive Communion from Mr. Wood. His family gave the font in his memory, and Mr. Selwyn Wood donated the brass water jug to go with it.

The Mothers’ Union was begun in the parish in the final years of Mr. Wood’s ministry. Mrs. Marx and Mrs. Seaton were keen to start this second women’s group, which has played an important part in parish life ever since.

In 1936 Mr. Wood resigned. The parish lacked the finances to attract a new vicar immediately and for nearly two years the parish was left without a pastor. The parishioners appreciated the services of the Rev. Foulkes, who came out each weekend from Manurewa to maintain regular services and do a little visiting.

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