Octavius Hadfield

Bishop

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Octavius Hadfield
Bishop

Octavius Hadfield
Portrait of Octavius Hadfield, c1890s. A member of the Church Missionary Society, Hadfield was the first priest to be ordained in New Zealand.

'Octavius Hadfield', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/octavius-hadfield, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013

Octavius Hadfield while born in a small village in the Isle of Wight spent his early years in various parts of Europe. In 1832 he went to Pembroke College, Oxford, but had to give up because of ill health. Because he did not have a degree, he was not accepted for ordination in England. He recovered, and eventually fulfilled his wish to become a missionary, being ac-cepted by the Church Missionary Society in 1837. He went to Australia in 1838 and while in Sydney was made a deacon. In 1839 Bishop Broughton of Sydney was asked to visit New Zealand to report on the church in this country. Hadfield accompanied the bishop to Auck-land, where he became the first priest to be ordained in New Zealand.

Hadfield worked for a while at Waimate North, learning the Te Reo (Maori). He volunteered to go with Tamihana, son of the famous Te Rauparaha, and his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi, who had come north seeking a missionary for the Kapiti coast (see 18 May). Hadfield, still in poor health, thought he didn’t have long to live and so offered himself knowing it was a dan-gerous undertaking. Working from Otaki among the Ngati Toa and the Ngati Raukawa and also from Waikanae among the Te Ati Awa, Hadfield established churches and schools. The gospel became well established, and the formerly warring tribes made peace. Hadfield soon earned the profound respect of both Maori and Pakeha, both the humblest folk of each race as well as their rangatira and leaders. One of his finest achievements was to plead for peace when, as an aftermath of the Wairau incident in 1843, Te Rauparaha was determined to de-stroy the Pakeha settlement at Wellington.

In 1844 Hadfield’s health broke down completely, and for four years he was close to death. But throughout his illness he was an influential figure in Wellington, being frequently con-sulted by the new governor, George Grey; especially on matters of Maori land tenure. By 1849 his health had improved, and he returned with acclamation to Otaki, where his restora-tion was celebrated in the great new Rangiatea Church, built under the direction of Te Rau-paraha. Hadfield was made archdeacon of Kapiti, and in 1852 married Catherine Williams, the third daughter of Henry and Marianne Williams.

For a time the work in Otaki continued to flourish, but Hadfield found himself increasingly at odds with government policy over Maori affairs, and in particular over the war which erupted in Waitara in 1860. He suffered much vilification in the press, being described as “a traitor and a bigoted, meddlesome missionary”. In the end even Prime Minister Stafford agreed that Hadfield had been proved right. In the course of the dispute Hadfield published three influen-tial pamphlets on the war. He was also involved with a petition for the recall of the governor, and had to defend himself before the House of Representatives in August 1860. Later in the 1860s Hadfield supported Ngati Raukawa in their claims before the Native Land Court.

When the Diocese of Wellington was formed in 1858, Hadfield was offered the bishopric, but declined. When Bishop Abraham resigned in 1870, Hadfield, now fifty-six years of age, was again offered the position and this time accepted it. As bishop of Wellington and later as pri-mate (1890-1893), Hadfield was a defender of the independence of the New Zealand church from the mother Church of England. He was a fine administrator and an enthusiastic supporter of Sunday schools and church schools. He followed carefully and critically the intellectual controversies of his times, and worked tirelessly to see churches and parishes established throughout the Diocese of Wellington. Hadfield retired to Marton in 1893 and was 91 before he passed to his reward.

BORN: 6 October 1814, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight

DIED: 11 December 1904, Marton, New Zealand