THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN THE PAPAKURA DISTRICT
The SOUTH ROAD IS ESTABLISHED
Meanwhile, in 1866 the Rev. Richard Augustus Hall, M.A., was appointed Vicar of Howick – which included the oversight of Clevedon, Ardmore, Alfriston, Papakura and Drury. An Irishman and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, Mr. Hall is remembered as a man of scholarship. He published several controversial works, including an essay on Swedenborgianism, but no records survive from this period.
For most of his cure, which lasted until his return to Ireland in 1882, the vicar was assisted in these, his more outlying districts, by a series of visiting clergymen.
From 1 March 1869 till about June 1872 the Rev. Joseph Bates was licensed as itinerant minister of the Papakura district. A very scholarly man, he combined this task with headmastership of the local school. His residence was a little cottage near the Presbyterian church, though there is some suggestion that in 1870 his district was extended to include Waiuku and Wairoa and that he moved to the cottage at Drury.
At this time such itinerant clergy were controlled by the “Home Mission”, and the organising secretary of this body, the Rev. Ezra Robert Otway assisted with monthly services at Papakura and Drury throughout 1871. On 23 February 1872 he was licensed as itinerant minister in the area, but his Vicarage and church were St. Bride’s, Mauku, and he concentrated on that area.
On 27 May 1873 the Rev. William Taylor was appointed visiting minister of the Papakura, Drury and Ramarama districts. When he was appointed Vicar of Mauku–Waiuku in 1876 the districts again became the Rev. R.A. Hall’s responsibility. But in the “Church Gazette” of May 1877 we read:
“Great South Road. The Reverend R.O’C Biggs has been appointed by the Bishop to the charge of the districts through which the Great South Road runs from about four miles south of Drury to Mercer. Mr. Biggs will also, for the present, hold services on 2 Sundays of each month at Drury and Papakura as assistant minister to the Reverend R. A. Hall who is in charge of those two settlements.”
Mr. Biggs’ appointment was short-lived, however, for in November he was moved to Hamilton. We know that throughout 1880 Mr. Hall held a service in Christ Church, Papakura, each second Sunday in the month, while a student from St. John’s College, Mr. Hubert MacLean, came out on the other Sundays. This was no doubt the pattern until Mr. Hall returned to Ireland on 23 March 1882.
During the 1870s the area had gradually grown away from its earlier identification with the parish of Howick. In Diocesan reports its centres were listed separately as “South Road District”. So, although throughout 1882 to 1883 the district remained under the general supervision of the Rev. T. Farley, Vicar of Howick, arrangements were being finalised to establish it as a separate parochial district.
Our records of these “in-between” years are few. We know that Bishop Cowie placed great emphasis on the Sunday School movement, forming a Diocesan Union in 1872. And in the 1870s we have reports of growing Sunday Schools at Papakura and Drury. The names of Mr. O’Callaghan, Mr. and Mrs. Baylis and Miss Willis are linked with the Sunday School in Papakura; thirty-seven scholars were on its roll in 1875. Mrs. Bluck supervised one of seventeen scholars at Drury.
The services after the departure of Mr. Hall were ably maintained throughout 1883 by Mr. R. Goddine Boler who journeyed out from Woodside (Papatoetoe) for each service. He moved to Auckland in that year and was later ordained.
No record of these years could omit a mention of the Willis family, whose homestead was near the church. The men-folk, especially Mr. Robert Willis senior and Mr. R.J. Willis, his son, played a major part in the administration of the church for many years. The women folk did the flowers and kept the church in order. Miss Fanny Willis began in the 1870s her remarkable record of devotion and reliability as church organist for over forty years. Her sister, Miss Charlotte Willis, tended the church grounds and gardens over the same long period. Willis Brothers owned the general store where the Farmers now stands – a grocery, bakery and butchery combined. Their generosity, especially to the many poor settlers in the 1860s and 1870s, was well known. “Always deliver bread to everyone,” Mrs. Willis used to say to her boys.
An equally outstanding record of church work began at this time when in 1875 Miss Lizzie Walter took up her work as Sunday School teacher. She continued until 1927 – a remarkable dedication of fifty-two years.
It was the poverty of this area in the era before refrigerated shipping that kept it from becoming a parochial district. Offertories were small, and the district could only pay a very small part of their clergy’s salaries, which mostly came out of a “Home Mission Fund”. In June 1873, for example, Bishop Cowie attended a Papakura church committee meeting to discuss the matter of finance.
A typical statement of accounts was that for 1873:
Balance from 1872 ..................£ 11.6.9
Offertories – General ..................£ 16.0.10
Offertories – Special ..................£ 2.5.6
Entertainments and subscriptions ..................£ 28.8.6
Clergyman’s Stipend (paid standing committee) ..................£ 24.8.1
Sunday School ..................£ 2.5.6
Expenses ..................£ 25.8.4
Balance ..................£ 5.19.8
We have the names of the church committee for 1873: Messrs. O’Callaghan, Willis, Trafford, Smith, Carlile, Harper and Heard (Drury). This is the first reference to Mr. William Smith, another layman who gave outstanding service. He was Minister’s Warden for over twenty-three years, and a committee member for an even longer period.
From these years too, we have our earliest surviving marriage register. The first Papakura entry fittingly marks the union of two families that have given great service to the church in the district:
No. 1 | May 9
Register No. 1
William Walters, Papakura
Harriet Jane Willis, Papakura
R. O’C. Biggs
Finally during this period the first structural alteration was made to Christ Church, Papakura. Late in 1881 a small vestry was added to the church “greatly to the convenience of the visiting clergymen, who often arrives wet (in winter) or covered in dust (in summer) and in any case needs a room in which he can rest for a few minutes before beginning the service”.