Friday, 13 July 2018

Missionaries and Early Rotorua Churches

Missions 1831-1880's : Church of England

c.1831 Thomas Chapman & Archdeacon Henry Williams. [Church of England] His 1st Visit to this region.

Part of an Embroidered Wall Hanging, showing the Chapman family,
done by Rotorua Embroider's Guild for the Rotorua Library.
c.1835 Te Koutu Mission Station - destroyed by Te Waharoa 6 Aug 1836.


c.1838 Chapman returns with Mr & Mrs Morgan set up on Mokoia Island.  Mrs Morgan gives birth to the first European child in the district, sadly he died just months later on 16 October 1838 and is buried on Mokoia Is. She had another son 1 month prematurely before leaving the island in 1839.
The Morgan’s left Rotorua c.October 1840 after Mrs Morgan began suffering ill health and it was decided she would be better in Tauranga.

Chapman carries on without the Morgan’s and work gets underway for a new mission at Te Ngae.

1843 Bishop Selwyn arrives on 31st Oct and conducted the Confirmation within the bounds of the ‘Diocese of Waiapu’ 55 Maori were confirmed.

Chapman returns to Rotorua in 1843 and Rev. Spencer .... 

1843 Rev. Seymour M. Spencer arrived at the Te Ngae Mission and resides there until 1845 leaving the area due to ongoing unrest between tribes he moves his family to Kariri at Lake Tarawera where he establishes Te Mu, and is in residence there until c.1861 He is then posted to Auckland leaving the whole Maketu-Rotorua area in the care of Ihaia Te Ahu.     Spencer returns often but Te Kooti’s attack on Te Arawa forced the abandonment of Te Mu.

The 1870's passes without a permanent priest or church existing in the area. Periodically there were visits from various Priests - Marist, Benedictine and Franciscan. 

1876 Chapman returns to visit his Mokoia Island mission, only to die overcome by heat in Hinemoa’ s Pool on 22 Dec 1876. His body was taken to Maketu to be buried with his first wife who had predeceased him in 1855. 

Bay of Plenty Times, Volume X, Issue 1084, 30 August 1881 

from Papers Past


1880-1881 Principal Arawa chiefs are making moves to set aside a piece of land at Ohinemutu to build a church, it was to be called St Faith’s.  Part of the Muruika Peninsula is decided on and locals called in Tuhoto to lift the tapu on the area which was a burial ground for earlier residents of that pa.  

Reverend Ihaia Te Ahu is appointed 1st Vicar of St Faith’s in 1882 and remains until 1889.
St Faith’s is consecrated in 1885. The following postcard shows both the original St Faith's 1885 and the new St Faith's 1914.

Postcard : Overlooking Ohinemutu, circa 1930s. St Faith's Church is visible.
Photograph taken by Sydney Charles Smith. PAColl-5932-33 Alexander Turnbull Library.
Rev. F.H. Spencer (son of Seymour) took up residence there in 1887 and remains until 1895.


Rev. S. Ingle arrived to take the post in 1896 and Ratema Te Awekotuku is admitted as a deacon. Te Awekotuku serves there until 1902 followed by Walter Tuahangata Fraser until 1905. 

Frederick Augustus Bennett (born Ohinemutu 1871) is ordained as a deacon in 1896, followed by in 1897 as a priest… takes charge of St Faith’s c.1905-1917 he is ordained as the 1st Bishop of Aotearoa. Serves until his death in 1950 and is buried under the sanctuary of ‘his’ church.  During his time the new St Faith’s was built and the older one moved and turned to face west c1910 it was still used as a Sunday school & church hall until Feb 1936 when it collapsed during a severe gale. The pieces of the old church were then removed from the site altogether.

Find more information here on the official St Faith's website

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