Wesley in the Buller

A Historical record of the work of the Methodist Churches in the Buller District

Compiled by Shirley McMorran
Edited by Gordon Leary

(By the Rev. W. J. D. Wakelin;, Minister of the Westport Methodist Church, 1967)

This is the story of Methodist people in the Buller who gladly gave all that they could to Jesus Christ our Lord.

It tells of Methodists who offered their talents to Christ and all musical, artistic and creative abilities found full expression within the fellowship of the Church.

It tells of Methodists who gave their time and energies to Christ and applied themselves diligently year after year to the practical everyday and sometimes mundane tasks of the on-going work of the Church.

It tells of Methodists who gave their finance to Christ in a day when incomes were low and a Church with a small membership, without any great wealth, was faced with the burden of erecting buildings and maintaining a ministry.

It tells, finally, of Methodists who, after 100 years of Methodist witness, were prepared to sacrifice their denominational Church which they dearly loved and cherished because they have caught a vision of the greater work that could be done for Christ by a Union Church which incorporated the Methodist and Presbyterian people of Westport.

I commend this book, not so much for the nostalgic memories of by-gone years which it will inevitably raise in the hearts of those who have been associated with Methodism in the Buller, but rather for its quiet witness to the spirit of self-sacrifice which marked the Methodist Church of our district. 1 believe that this book cannot be read sincerely without the reader being challenged to consider the depth of self-sacrifice which should mark every Christian life.



THE REV. JOHN WESLEY, M.A. (Oxford) Born 17th June 1703.
Converted 24th May 1738.
Duration of Ministry: 65 years.
Travelled in preaching: 225,000 miles.
Preached 40,500 sermons.
Wrote or abridged over 200 volumes.
Gave over ?40,000 to charities.
Died moneyless, 2nd March 1791.

"John Wesley was certainly the greatest force and the most strenuous figure in the 18th Century. No man lived nearer the centre than he. You cannot cut him out of our national, life. No single figure influenced so many minds, no single voice touched so many hearts. No other man did such a life's work for England. His journal contains the most amazing record of human endurance, ever penned or endured."


Part of the Congregation and Sunday school taken outside the Church in 1957


The influence of John Wesley was first felt in the Buller District in the year 1866 when Rev. Joseph White, of the United Methodist Free Church, came to the booming goldmine shanty town of Charleston, it is known he made frequent visits to the newly established town of Westport.

By 1871 Westport was showing signs of vigorous growth and Mr White moved there, being succeeded at Charleston by Rev. J. Parkin. In October 1871 the first recorded Methodist service was held in Fraser's Schoolroom. After the evening service there on 20th October 1871, Rev. J. White called on those present to form a Wesleyan Church and as a result the United Methodist Free Church of Westport was established with an initial membership of eight.

The first committee consisted of Messrs H. Neill, J. R. Fraser, S. A. Leach and B. M. Oakes. Before very long the names of Messrs Patterson, Barkley, Chamber, Atchision and Came were added to the list of officers.


The first Methodist Church building in Westport was in Wallaby Street and was opened in 1872. Services were held regularly in Fraser's Schoolroom until this Church was opened. At this time also a Sunday School was started with Mr H. Neill as the first superintendent. This first Church was known as the South Spit Chapel and was eventually sold to Jules Simon for use as a bulk store. The proceeds of the sale of this building amounted to the sum of ?6.

The next Church was the one in Russell Street built during the ministry of Rev. W. Worbays (1877 - 1880) for the sum of ?350. A grand tea meeting was held to celebrate the opening, tickets being sold at the reduced price of 4/- instead of the usual 5/-. It is on record that ?65 was made at one such meeting in the very early days.



This later became the Anglican Sunday School Hall The bell tower was latter removed and a porch added at the front

The Russell Street building became known as the Wesley Methodist Church, Westport. It was surrounded by pines, pungas and birches, and though its appearance has been altered on many occasions it remains today, basically the same as it was ninety years ago. This can be attributed not only to the skill of the original builders and the fine building materials used but also to the care and attention given to it by trustees such as Messrs A. Taylor, W. Taylor, T. Parfitt, P. Tregurtha, L. McDonald and A. Petherbridge. Church funds were rarely called upon to meet the cost of these repairs.


In the early 1890s the Primitive Methodists also began work in Westport but the town was too small for two Churches of Wesleyan supporters and in 1911 the two congregations united. The Primitive Methodist Chapel is still standing and is now the Anglican Church Hall. The Rev. W. Laycock was the first Primitive Methodist Minister. It was in the newly-established mining centres of Granity and Denniston that this branch of the Church made its most valuable contribution.


After Rev. W. Warboys left the Rev. Mr Hodgson became minister for a short time. The Church was now largely supported by grants from the District Committee, this being the original New Zealand Methodist Conference. The New Zealand Church was still a branch of the Australian Methodist Church.

During the ministry of Rev. John Pendray a preachers' plan was adopted and preaching places included Westport, Charleston, Brighton, Waimangaroa and Banbury Mines (Denniston). Preachers were Rev. J. Pendray, Thos. Pratt, Robert Rigg and Mr Davidson. Financial statements show that this was a profit- able arrangement since Waimangaroa appears in one quarterly statement in 1883 to have received ?15 more in collections than Westport. A later meeting reports that Waimangaroa was trying to obtain the services of a Wesleyan or Primitive Methodist minister. This move tended to divide the Circuit between the two branches of the Church.

About this time also, moves were being made to unite the two branches of the Methodist Church but the Church in Westport decided to wait for news from England.

Finance was the main burden during these early decades and on several occasions rather drastic steps were taken to rectify the position. At the close of the ministry of Rev. E. O. Perry in 1889 the situation was desperate. Trusting in God to provide alternative arrangements, the Trustees sold the Parsonage in Peel Street, together with any furniture the new minister might possibly not need. Only such items as were absolutely necessary were retained but there is no record of any building to house the new minister or his "essential furniture". At the same meeting the Church insurance was also reduced 50% to save money.

A typical quarterly statement in the 1890s was:


Westport Collections ,.?? 24 19 9 Paid Mr Field ...... .?.? 9 10 0

Charleston ..?? ..... 900 Horse Feed ... .?.?4 0

Denniston ... .?.. 283 Doorstep ..?? ?:?. ...1 0

Rev. Bycrofts Lectures 1 2 6 Minister's Stipend 37 10 0

Public Subscriptions ??.. 11 00 Kerosene ?..? .... .? 17 0

Tea Meeting ... ..?? 15 1 3 Insurance ,?... .... 2 0 0

Mr B. Oakes ?.?. . 5 0 0

Minister's Fund .. 1 2 6

Balance Deficit ..?.. 1 12 6

?57 17 0


The ?5 paid to Mr Oakes in this statement was the salary due to him as Chapel Keeper.

Mrs G. Polglase writes of him:

"Ben Oakes had the key and was always in time to ring the bell and show the people to their seats. The Minister did not open the service until old Ben was in his seat—the second or third front. He always took up the collection. With a strong bass voice, as he was deaf, he boomed out and the organist more or less took his time."

In the pioneer days the Church meant a great deal to the early settlers such as Ben Oakes. They rarely missed an opportunity of attending worship. Before roads were formed one of the early officials, Mr W. Champion, regularly brought his family to Church over the rough bush track in the wheelbarrow.


A rather amusing feature of the Quarterly meeting minutes in this period is the number of entries made asking the ladies of the Church to conduct a tea meeting. Inevitably a report of the financial affairs usually giving cause for alarm was followed by a minute resolving that the ladies be asked to conduct a tea meeting. Usual also was a deficit in payments to the minister. In 1892 Rev. J. Wrigley was farewelled with "all the money on hand." No doubt he was still not fully paid.

This spirit of co-operation and help by the ladies of the Church has been a feature of the Westport Methodist Church since its inception. Outsiders have sometimes scoffed at the money raised at fairs and cake stalls, maintaining that direct giving was simpler and meant less work. This may be so, but Westport has never boasted any wealthy members, and practical avenues of giving have given opportunity to all to do their share in keeping the Church going. The spirit of fellowship and hospitality, and the doing of a job well, even if it has only been baking a cake, are surely as acceptable to the Lord as a gift of ?50 from a rich man.


By 1893 the question of adding a vestry to the existing Church was raised. The resolution passed wanted "a vestry 3(V x 15' the height to be not less than 10 feet, the studs to be red pine, lower wall plates silver pine, rusticated weather boarding, to have a chimney built of brick up to the arch, to have three windows, and three doors."

The cost of getting this built was found to be too great and under the direction of Rev. J. Benning a working bee began erecting a vestry on 24th May 1894 (Aldersgate Day), At this time the Church had 26 full members and 9 on trial. This was to increase considerably during Rev. J. Benning's ministry and now the question of a parsonage was again raised.

The year 1894 is recorded as being highly successful as regards youth work. The district at this time was feeling the effects of a depression, and, as the Primitive Methodists were functioning by this time the financial position of the Church was really serious. Although the membership rose from 26 to 55 during this one year most of the new members were young people with little money to spare,

Officials of the Church in the 1890s included the circuit stewards Messrs North and Kelly, Sunday School Superintendent, Mr C. Liggins, organist Miss Elliot and Mr Richardson, choirmaster. Prominent amongst the ladies were Mrs Ursula Taylor (fondly known as Granma Taylor to many) and her daughter Fanny Taylor. Later years were to see many of Mrs Taylor's family occupying important positions in the Church and particularly active in the musical field.

Always a cause for alarm was the obtaining of sufficient finance to enable work to be continued. The great optimism of the officials cannot but be admired —- especially when a minister was leaving and arrears of stipend amounting to ?50 were owing to him. When this happened on one occasion the officials did not despair. Trusting that something would turn up to ease the situation before the next minister arrived, they handed over the thing they felt the Church needed least "the parsonage furniture." Fortunately the next minister was single.


In 1898 the Rev. H. L, Blamires arrived as a probationer. The roll again rose steadily and when he left in 1900 there were 65 full members. At this time the envelope system of contribution was introduced and brought with it great order. Names appearing on the list of officials included Messrs D. T. Gibbard, W. Panckhurst and W. Champion all of whom were to become prominent Church members and citizens of respect.

The Rev. R. P. Keall arrived in Westport in 1901 and has written of his recollections of Westport. He remembers the organist, Miss Stubbs, and especially her mother and father at whose home after-Church gatherings were held every Sunday evening. To these gatherings Rev. R, Keall invited sometimes five or six seamen whose acquaintance he had made when walking along the wharves, as was his custom on Saturday afternoons.

He recalls meeting a Mr Rasmussen, whom he described as a huge Norwegian, whose home was on one of the fiords across from the home of Nansen, the Arctic explorer. This same man

is mentioned in the books of Frank Bullen author of "With Christ at Sea" and "The Cruise of the Bachelor". The descriptions of Mr Rasmussen were so vivid that those attending this after Church gathering felt they were travelling with him around the world.

The sea seems to have held a particular attraction for Rev. R. Keall as he mentions also studying for his final exams (he was a probationer) at the end of the breakwater. So great was his

energy and zeal, that he cycled to Nelson for the Synod and recalls not the distance, or the undeveloped nature of the roads, but the great beauty of the scenery.


After Rev. R. Keall came one of the New Zealand Methodists' best loved and most respected ministers — the Rev. E. P. Blamires, who was killed in a road accident early in 1967. Before he died he too recorded some of his memories of Westport. Although he was President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, and travelled widely in both Australia and New Zealand, it was in Westport that he spoke to his largest crowd — 4,000 people in Palmerston Street. The occasion was the Declaration of Peace at the end of the South African War. He writes:

"On the morning of that notable day I rang our Church bell until my hands were blistered. In the evening everybody from town and district seemed to throng the street. Mayor Scanlon was to make the declaration from the Fire Brigade Tower and the Council arranged for a ball in each of the two theatres. I felt responsible that there should be Thanksgiving to God. I called on the Rev. John Hall but he only wished me well. Then Canon Dent, but he was away in Nelson. On my own I went to see the Mayor, It took a while to persuade him but he finally agreed. So following his Declaration I had my word, offered a prayer and called for the Doxology.

"When the 'Buller Miner,' published the event, Editor Munson who was anti-church ridiculed this feature and said profanely that 'the Almighty would have been nowhere without Lord Kitchener.' I then advertised my Sunday evening subject "What Kitchener did and what the Almighty," and I had my largest congregation ever in the Church in Westport."


Rev. E. P. Blamires also recalled several names and writes at length on the conversion of Mr Chas Taylor whose wife Mrs Ursula Taylor had been prominent in Church activities for several years. His letter states: .

"I remember while preparing a sermon feeling expectant about him (Mr Taylor) and hoping while I preached it that it might be used by the Holy Spirit to help him over the line. I held an after meeting and was greatly encouraged when he stayed. Would it happen there and then? It had already happened. On a recent Sunday morning in Russell Street, one block before he reached the Church the light of God shone into his heart. The after meeting was the occasion of his first public confession and I saw the tears of joy in the face of his wife, sitting beside him. I listened that night and often afterwards to the prayer of a very sincere man with a truly humble and thankful heart. He was a good moral-living man before, but the grace of God lifted him to higher plains of light.

"In the pulpit, to see him enter the Church meant to me an elevation of spirit. The transformation was felt in the community. The firemen on the engine with him, checked their swearing in his presence, they did this spontaneously,"

When one considers the many homes in which his descendants have played a part, and looks at the long list of relatives active in the Church even today, one realises to what extent the character of Mr and Mrs Taylor has moulded the Westport Methodist Church in the last 60 years.

Grandchildren of this couple active today include Mesdames Doris Tregurtha, R. Beime, M. Maxwell, L. Campbell and Mr Max Taylor.

In the Bible Class at this time were May Stubbs,. Lily Roberts (Woodcock), Eva Wheatley (Mrs Taylor) and Ruby Hill (who became the wife of Rev. M. Rugby Pratt).

The Tregurtha family arrived at the same time and also the Warrens. Mr Warren later became Sunday School Superintendent.

Other names prominent were Duthie, Auld, Robertson, Josephson and Bowden.

Rev. E. P. Blamires closes his recollections of Westport with the wish: "May Westport Church continue to prosper. And never let hobgoblins nor foul fiends ever daunt your spirits."


Early in this Century an active Church was evident. There was a successful Men's Club which held regular camps in Carter's Paddock (Carter's Beach) and a Wesley Hockey Club took an active and successful part in local competitions.

A Church newsletter printed during the ministry of Rev. M. Rugby Pratt shows a lively Church:

1. 'The King's Brigade' for boys and girls meets every Sunday morning at 10.30.
2. The Young Men's Bible Class meets every Sunday afternoon at 2.30.
3. The Cradle Roll Department of the Sunday School is in vigorous operation.
4. The Open-Air Singing Band meets every Sunday evening at 6.30.
5. The Mid-week Service is conducted by the Minister every Wednesday at 7.30p.m.
6. The Choir Practice is held every Friday evening at 7.30.
7. The Hospital Singers visit the hospital on the second Sunday afternoon in each month.

The same newsletter shows:


1. Cases of sickness, and also the arrival of strangers should be promptly reported to the Minister.
2. Those desiring an interview with the Minister will be cordially welcomed.
3. Young men are NOT excluded from the week night service.
4. Services begin at the stated time. The supposition that it is five minutes later is a mistake."

In 1907 negotiations were opened again for the purchase of a parsonage and after several sections had been viewed and properties inspected, a house situated on the corner of Wakefield and Derby Streets was purchased at a price of ?575. Only ?175 of this was required immediately. Already ?75 of this had been paid by members of the congregation towards a parsonage, and four trustees, at the meeting held to finalise the purchase, gave the remaining ?100 as a free-of-interest loan. The furnishing of this parsonage was undertaken by the Ladies' Guild. About this time also a new organ was purchased.

The list of officials for this era contained the names Warren, Auld, W. J. Wilson, Silcock, Knight, Rutledge, Rose, W. Bowden, H. P. Mourant, J. Mason and Tommy Walker, who was Sunday School Superintendent for a time. His grandson Canon Nicholson, was Anglican Vicar in Westport in the 1960s.

After the resignations of Mr J. Auld and Mr Warren as Circuit Stewards and Mr Warren also as Trust Secretary, appointments were made which were to continue for the next 40 years. Mr Percy Tregurtha became financial Circuit Steward and Mr A. Petherbridge became Trust Secretary. Mr Fred Knight was the other Circuit Steward.


In the early 1920s the minister was Rev. W. B, Pickering, brother of Mr H. Pickering. He was followed by Rev. O. Burnet, who was responsible for improving the parsonage with many built

in cupboards and wardrobes. An enthusiastic camper, Rev. and Mrs Burnet were keen organisers of several camps at Carter's Beach. About this time Bible Class camps became yearly events and camps were held at Crushington, Paroa, Kaiapoi and several other centres. The Bible Class became very active and held many picnics at Martin's Island, Carters and Cape Foulwind while regular walks were made to the Tip Head after evening worship.

In 1928 while repairing the Church, Mr W. Taylor discovered the bottle placed under the foundation stone when the Church was built. The bottle was opened after the evening service on 29th April 1928, and the documents were examined with great interest. The papers were in a fair state of preservation but moisture had penetrated the cork so the original papers and coins with some new ones were placed in a fresh bottle. After the completion of the work of renovation, on which some ?150 was spent, a special service was held and the bottle was replaced by Mrs Sundstrom, widow of one of the original trustees.

A document recounting these events was included with the original documents and showed the number on the Church roll in 1928 as 85 with Sunday School roll 113. The Circuit Stewards were Mr F, Knight and Mr P. L. Tregurtha. Trustees were Messrs W. J. Wilson, J. Auld, A. Taylor, F. Wood, J. M. Robertson, J. A. Davies, A. Petherbridge, A. Parry, P. Bowater, J. Mason, Wm. Taylor, P. L. Tregurtha, J. Rose, F. Knight, W. Bowden, L. McDonald, T. Parfitt and T. Fowler. The Minister O. Burnet.


After the earthquake in 1929, several letters and donations were received from former members and ministers including Rev. O. Burnet who had left the district a few months before the 'quake. The Church itself was not badly damaged but the parsonage sustained considerable damage. For some time Rev. C. Foston and his wife had to live in very difficult conditions. All the chimneys were destroyed and part of the roof damaged. This leaked badly when it rained. An urgent appeal to the Chairman of the District, Rev. F. Knight, brought a telegraphed reply:

"Order repairs of ?150. Church will pay." This relieved a desperate situation as most of the Church members had suffered widespread damage to their homes and could ill afford extra to repair the parsonage.

The depression which affected New Zealand from 1929 until 1933 made things difficult for the Church but with the help of Rev. C. Foston the crisis passed. By 1934 the debit balance began to decrease. A large sum of money was raised this year for the Hall which still stands at the rear of the Church. By present day standards that hall may not measure up to requirements, but it was a herculean task tackled with courage and determination with a gold and silver tree. Small bags were issued to the members and adherents of the Church and when collected by the Ladies' Guild were attached to a tree. At a social evening the bags were opened. This event continued for many years and was probably a variation of an early fund-raising effort in the early days when small knitted socks were issued to the congregation for contributions. The name was later changed to the Silver and Note Tree.


In the 1930s also, the work of the Chrysanthemum Club, originally started and encouraged by Rev. C. Foston, began and the yearly show became a well-known and eagerly awaited local event. The show was held on a Friday in May when the prize blooms were at their best. Long rows of trestle tables were set up in the Friendly Societies' Hall (now Dellaca's Furniture Show- room) and many blooms were displayed. Great care taken in the growing of the prize plants produced elegant blooms of many colours. There were many trophies and cups and competition was always keen. Among the most successful growers were Mr L. McDonald, Mr H. Tregurtha and Mrs W. Taylor. As well as the flowers, display stalls and games were an added attraction and afternoon tea was served almost continuously by the ladies in the Foresters' Lodge Room adjoining the hall. On the Sunday following the show, great bowls of prize chrysanthemums were used to decorate the Church and one could not help but feel a sense of awe at the sight of nearly a dozen creamy-white heads, each about six inches across in a large bowl at the centre of the Church. Before the show finally stopped during the ministry of Rev. W. G, Eisner it had been necessary to change it to a general "Flower Show", and the venue was shifted to the Church Hall. After a couple of years in this form, the event became the "Winter Fair" but this too ceased after the first stewardship campaign.


Rev. Norman Larsen arrived in Westport just as New Zealand was emerging from the depression and in 1961 he recorded his memories of Westport in a letter which reads:

"First of all I must mention the abounding hospitality of the people called Methodists in Westport. Not only was this seen in Church functions but it was very evident in the homes of the people.

Secondly, I shall never forget the enthusiasm with which the men (and women) tackled the very big task of building the Youth

There is certainly no foundation stone telling of the date of erection or giving the names of those most closely associated with its erection, but I have no doubt at all that it is recorded in the mind and heart of God. It was a great task undertaken in most difficult days."


The hall as mentioned here has had a most interesting life. It was originally started as a Young Men's Room and much of the cost was met in various ways. One early Bible Class member, Mr M. Josephson recalled that some of the money necessary to build the room was raised from the sale of fish caught by the Bible Class members. Under the direction of Mr Tom Parfit this room was extended to the size of the main hall today by working bees, as mentioned by Rev. N. Larsen.

When Granity and Waimangaroa Churches closed, material from them was used to build on—first a kindergarten room and a small kitchen, and later a parlour and a slightly larger kitchen. This work was done mainly by Messrs W. Taylor, L. McDonald, B. Gibbard and A. Petherbridge.


Rev. N. Larsen continues his letter saying: "Thirdly (I remember) the singing and congregational and Sunday School life generally. The singing was always of a high standard. The Church Choir was an excellent one with Bill Taylor as conductor and Mrs McKinley as organist. On a summer's evening, with upwards of 30 in the choir, the march in from the vestry was something to be remembered. Indeed looking back upon it now one can subscribe to the statement made more than once then, that it was something of a fashion parade- And there were some nice looking girls in the choir in those days — dare I mention some names — the Taylors of both families, the Knight girls, the McDonalds, Willie Laurenson, May Bowden, Gwen Woodcock and others whose names at the moment elude me. Not only are they remembered for their attractive ways but also for their loyalty and devotion to the choir and to the Church. Congregations were good in those days. It was an inspiration to preach to the splendid crowds that gathered. The Sunday School and Bible Class were in good heart. Miss Laurenson, a teacher in the day school was a tower of strength. She brought many recruits into the Sunday School."


During the ministry of Rev. N. Larsen and Rev. C. Kendon the Church progressed spiritually and financially. Never was a debit balance recorded and social and spiritual activities were harmoniously balanced. This continued when Rev. H. C. Brown arrived in 1942, although the Church was at this time feeling the effects of the Second World War and young men were virtually non-existent in Church activities. The ladies busied themselves knitting and baking for Red Cross parcels.

Mr Brown remains in the memory of many Westport Methodists for the tremendous zeal with which he applied himself to his duties. Not possessing a car, Rev. H. C, Brown used to cycle around his circuit, regularly cycling to Waimangaroa to conduct services and to visit. Repairs around were quickly attended to by this minister. When he left Westport in 1947, Joyce McDonald left also as his wife.


Rev. H. Ford and Rev. Warren Green, who followed, both stayed only a relatively short time in Westport but in 1951 Rev.W. G. Eisner arrived as a newly ordained minister to begin a six-year term. The local ladies were somewhat dismayed to find him a young eligible bachelor, especially when he moved into the parsonage to do his own housekeeping. However, the Bible Class were thrilled to find a really energetic minister and were soon engaged in a vigorous round of activities which became even more widespread when the minister obtained a car. A young people's group began at Stockton and visits there became a regular feature of Youth Sunday. During these years the highest youth rolls are recorded. The Bible Class seemed for a time to regain the spirit of its counterpart in the 1920s and 30s. After Church gatherings were held regularly in members' homes and camps and retreats gave pleasure to many. The Youth Club was formed and flourished. Nor did the members confine themselves to the Bible Class, but most took an active part in the choir with Lawrence and Lots Tregurtha, Margaret McHerron and the late Betty Douthett being prominent. Many of these and others taught in the Sunday School where large numbers had made the staffing position difficult.

The older folk were not forgotten and a transport officer, Mr Lawrence Tregurtha, was appointed. Congregations improved and the weather problem for elderly folk without cars was overcome. On one particularly bad night the Fijian Rugby Team who had played Buller the previous day attended worship and an after Church social. Over 300 people attended on this. occasion and seating eventually ran out. The supper at the after-Church function was distributed in baskets as movement amongst the crowd was practically impossible.

The Leary family arrived from England in this period and have made a very valuable contribution to Church life and the community generally.

At this time also moves were made to procure a new parsonage and eventually the present one was built and opened before Rev. W. Eisner left Westport.

The first occupants Rev. & Mrs A. Newman and their family were only in residence a short time before the house was extensively damaged by fire. The first stewardship campaign was organised by this minister and was held in February 1958.

Now many of the older officials who had been in office for many years began to retire or pass on to a better world. Mr Ron Taylor succeeded Mr A. Petherbridge as Trust Secretary, Mr L. McDonald handed over the baton in the choir, and Mr H. Pickering resigned from the Sunday School- Mr G. A. Leary took on much of the Local Preaching and has been an inspiration to many.


In 1960, a probationer, Rev, Frank Hanson and his wife arrived and quickly endeared himself to old and young alike. After his ordination he was urged to stay on in Westport and did so for another two years. The final service conducted by him in the Church the Sunday evening before he left was a very moving occasion and will be remembered by all who attended, for a long time. It was fitting that we sang Hymn 745 a favourite of many, and the atmosphere as we joined in the final verse —

"And if our fellowship below
In Jesus be so sweet,
What heights of rapture shall we know
When round His throne we meet." was completely embracing.

Insert photo here

The present parsonage, built in 1956 at a cost of 4,500 pounds

It was always an inspiration to take part in a baptismal service conducted by Rev. Frank Hanson. No matter how loudly the child was voicing his protest earlier, the moment he was handed to the minister he would almost magically quieten. Mothers wondered what he did. The child probably realised he was now with one who truly loved all little children, and who's love for his master was so great that it radiated about him.

The last minister to be recorded in the books will be Rev. W. D. Wakeling whose work has been largely concerned with the winding up of the Westport Methodist Church. The older generation had now practically all passed from office and Messrs P. L. Tregurtha and H. Pickering were replaced as Circuit Stewards by Mr G. A. Leary and Mrs A. Petherbridge.

The first 100 years have passed and we shall carry into life and worship of the wider Church a heritage of faithful work and witness handed down to us by those who built the Westport Methodist Church.

The Church is on the move and denominations are merging under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Methodist Church in Westport now ceases its separate existence but the spirit of evangelism and the assurance which characterised Wesley and the early Methodists will still inspire future generations in the Union Church.

This chapter in our history has now closed and a new era thus begins.


A Bible Class started in 1933 in Stockton, being held in the home of Mrs Slack. This was conducted by Rev. Coombridge, who was stationed at Granity. At that time Ella Mclntyre, Tony Graham and Marion Slack were active members who encouraged many others to join. Eventually there were too many to meet in a home and meetings were transferred to the school.

These young people raised money and decided to build a Church. A house was purchased at Millerton for ?60 and the Bible Class boys assisted by Rev. Coombridge and some residents pulled it down and rebuilt it at Stockton. It was opened on 5th December 1935. Services then began and were quite well attended.

A Sunday School was started by Mrs Slack and Mrs Roberts and at one time had 41 scholars. Other teachers were Olive Bennett, Army Evans, Edith Roberts and Marion Slack, Mrs Slack started a sewing class for Bible Class girls who later held a sale raising sufficient to pay for paint to decorate the Church.

Marion Slack, was the first one to be married in the Church, in a ceremony conducted by Rev, Sanderson who succeeded Rev. Coombridge at Granity. He presented the couple with a lovely Bible suitably inscribed to mark the occasion. There was only one funeral ever conducted in the Church that of Mr Syd Lowery who was killed in the mine.

When Mrs Slack's health declined, the Sunday School was taken over by Mrs Pirie and Miss Army Evans, A remarkable record was achieved by a brother and sister, Bob and Grace Shearer, who never missed one Sunday School meeting for three years. Both were presented with a Bible to recognise this record.

It was a sad time for the elder members Mesdames Parfitt, Evans, Fox, McGregor, Slack and Roberts when Church membership declined and it was necessary to close the Church. Those who remained transferred their loyalty to other churches and continue their work for the Kingdom.


Detailed information on the early Church life in these places has been difficult to trace, apart from Stockton where an old member supplied information.

Although Waimangaroa is mentioned as a preaching place about 1881 it appears later to have joined the Primitive Methodist Church.

The Denniston Mission too was first mentioned as a preaching place, Banbury Mines, about this time, but in 1890 a record states "The Denniston Mission was opened on the 2nd day of May 1890 by Wm. Laycock." He was a Primitive Methodist Church Minister succeeded in 1891 by Rev. J. Dawson, Meetings were held now at Denniston, Waimangaroa, Burnett's Face, Griffith's Mill (Birchfield), Ngakawau. Later Granity, Seddonville, Mokinui, Cape Foulwind and Westport became Primitive Methodist Meeting places.

After the union of the two Methodist Churches services continued and by the 1930s a Home Mission Station centred on Granity was responsible for services in a wide area.

Prominent members of the Quarterly Board include Mr R. Finlayson, who later shifted to Westport and lived with his daughter Mrs Joe Mason Jnr, Mr A, Prosser, a local preacher Mr A. Jones, Mesdames Slack, Fox, McEwan, Parfitt, Jones, Roberts, Bennett, Evans, Smallholme, Pain and Prosser.

In the 1930s a motor-cycle was purchased to enable the minister to reach his Churches more easily.

As the population moved away from the mining townships these Churches have been forced to close, the last one being Stockton. Many faithful members continue their work in other. places.


Although Methodism in the Buller began in Charleston this Church had the shortest life of any in the district. Resident ministers served in Charleston for only 12 years and the township was then brought under the direction of the Westport Church. For the rest of the 19th Century, Charleston was removed and placed on the Westport list of preaching places several times. Ministers stationed at Charleston were:

1866-70 Joseph White
1871-73 John Parkin
1874-75 Robert Taylor
1876 John A. Caygill
1877-78 C. Penney
All were ministers of the United Methodist Free Church.


The first known Sunday School meeting took place on the 19th December 1892 although it is likely a Sunday School was established much earlier than this when the services were being held in Fraser's Schoolroom. At the meeting in 1892 Mr C. J. Liggins was in the chair, while teachers were Mrs Bassett, Misses Robertson, England, Cross, Patton, Messrs Davidson, Carter, North, Roberts and Josephson.

In 1893 there were 13 teachers and the Sunday School had a roll of 133. Picnics were held at Martin's Island and those attending crossed the river in flat-bottom boats. The following year socials were held for the teachers and older scholars.

The expenses listed for a picnic in those days would be very acceptable today:

Cakes ??? ...... ?1 0 0
Buns 14 6
Butter 2/9
1 Ham 10 0
1 Train 1 10 0
Cartage to Train 2 0

From 1896-1899 picnics were held from 10 a.m. till 7 p.m. on Carter's Paddock, Carter's Beach.

Miss LILA ROSE for many years Superintendent of the Beginners' Department of the Sunday School.

This photograph has been included at the special request of the Ladies' Fellowship as a memorial in recognition of a faithful and devoted worker for the Westport Methodist Church.

An additional youth activity in 1899 was a Band of Hope.

Later picnics were held at Cape Foulwind. Those attending travelled in cattle waggons. When the trains to the Cape stopped in 1933 picnics were held at Mokinui usually on Boxing Day.

For many years the Sunday School Anniversary was an important event and scholars have always been well-trained for both Sunday service and the concert which took place during the following week. Those who have assisted in this work are Miss Davidson, Mrs McKinlay, Mr W. Taylor, Mr L. McDonald, Miss Rose, Mr John Baird, Mrs M. Taylor.

Sunday School Superintendents have included Revs. Pickering and Burnett, Mr C. Liggins, Miss Hill, Mr R, Dawber, Mr H. Pickering, Mr R. Smart, Mr R. Taylor and Mr J. Baird.

Infant Department leaders have included two very faithful women Miss W. Laurenson (now Mrs Greenland) and Miss Lila Rose. The latter's love for little children was completely genuine and there are few who have attended Sunday School who would not express their appreciation of her life, love and devotion to our Church. She gave herself unstintingly and her reward in heaven must be truly great. Her photograph is included in this book as a tribute to a wonderful woman.

In addition to her work in the Sunday School she was also for many years the Cradle Roll Superintendent. Others have been Mrs Kendon and Mrs A. Petherbridge. From 1951 an annual Cradle Roll Service has been held in November


Back Row: A. Cox (Mrs Mockett), N. Nesbitt, V. Bowden (Mrs M. Robinson), E. Mockett, W. Fowler, C. Reese.

Middle Row: J. McDonald (Mrs Brown), M. Mason, A parry (Mrs Firth), R Bowden (Mrs Fairlie), ---------------- , A Tregurtha, R. taylor (Mrs Beirnie), I. Sutherland

THE YOUNG WOMEN’S BIBLE CLASS Mentioned in the recollections of Rev N. Larsen

Back: May Warren, may Bowden, Tot Auld, Carita Warren, Wilhimena Laurenson
Front: Edna Taylor, Isabel Vincent, Mavis knight, Francis Warren.

A Youth Council was first formed in 1938, the same year in which the Sunday School meeting time was changed from after- noon until morning. Later a Boys' Brigade was begun by Rev. H. G. Brown, Miss J. Dawber taking over when he left. Other groups which functioned at different times was a Star Brigade and a Youth Club.

Singing has always played an important part in the youth activities of the Church in Westport and when the Choir Competitions for all Sunday Schools commenced in 1925 the Methodist choir won the banner for several years in succession.

For many years (1944-1962) a Junior Choir took a leading part in morning services. Conductors of this choir were Mr W. Taylor, Mr L. McDonald, Misses S. Petherbridge and D. Tregurtha..

Long service teachers in the Sunday School have included Mesdames Went, Parfitt and Petherbridge, Miss H. Tregurtha, Messrs F. Knight, H. Pickering, J. Auld, W. Taylor and Miss L. Rose.


" Methodism was born in song."

From the beginning the Methodist Choir has made a valuable contribution not only in Church services but also in the cultural life of the community.

In 1877, according to a copy of the Buller News on 10th September an advertisement gave the full programme of a Vocal and Instrumental Concert which was to be held in the Masonic Hall three days later, in aid of the Methodist Free Church Building Fund. The conductor was Mr A. D. Dobson and the accompanists Mrs Dobson and Mrs Blackburn. The ability of the performers must have been exceptional when one considers items by Mendelsohn, Donizetti, Rossini and Moore were included in the programme.

When Rev. Perry was minister he conducted the choir and every year produced a concert in the Public Hall (Empire) under the name of "Jubilee Singers". The hall was always crowded and a repeat performance was given in the Waimangaroa Hall. A special train was engaged for the occasion.

At the tea meetings and the annual conversazione (held during the ministry of Rev. M. A. Rugby Pratt) the choir was al- ways present and rendered items.

Organists who have played a prominent part in Church worship have included, Misses Stubbs, Elliot, Davidson, Mesdames McKinley, H. Tregurtha and the present organist Mrs D. Tregurtha. Mr D. T. Gibbard also acted as organist in earlier years.

Many will remember the long and faithful voluntary service given to our Church by Mrs H. McKinlay as Church Organist. She served in this capacity from 1910 till her death in 1940.

There have been many choirmasters and choir mistresses, the best known being Messrs A. Davies, W. Taylor, L. McDonald, H. Tregurtha and Mesdames R. and M. Taylor.

Special music has always been presented by the choir on Christmas Night, and at Church Anniversary Services. The faithful attendance of members at regular services, often in inclement weather, is one of the Choir's many outstanding features.


Back: Mesdames W Taylor, Auld, Taylor, Rutledge, Warren, Anderson, Gemmell, Silcock

Front: Mesdames Rose, Petherbridge, Dudley, Went, Duthie.


This group first came into being as "The Makariri Club" with a membership of 30. Meetings were held in the homes of several of the members and a very warm and friendly atmosphere was maintained.

In Rev. H. G. Brown's ministry the group decided to change their name to "Junior Guild" feeling that they could do more active service in conjunction with the afternoon group if they were recognised as a guild. From that time on Senior and Junior Guilds combined to strengthen ladies' efforts in the Church, In 1963, in common with other Guilds throughout New Zealand, the Guild here changed its name to "Evening Fellowship" incorporating more missionary activity into its monthly programme.

The group has been fortunate in having faithful officials since its beginning. Among those to hold office of president or secretary have been Mesdames H. C. Brown, W. Greenland, M. Pickering, M. Brett, L. Biyth, R. Parry, F. Hosking, N. Silcock, C. McHerron, V. Mason, B. Wilson and Miss M. Gemmill.


For many years there was only an afternoon Guild with a membership of approximately 16. This group of women served the Church faithfully from earliest times and arranged such functions as Tea Meetings, Conversaziones, Sales Tables, Fairs, Note and Silver Tree Evenings and Anniversary Teas or Banquets.

The Ladies of the Church have always made themselves responsible for the furnishings at the parsonage and have also given many donations to special funds set up by other organisations within the Church.

In 1963 the Afternoon Guild and the Women's Fellowship combined and became the Afternoon Women's Fellowship. This group has continued to organise many of the efforts on behalf of the Church and also to raise finance for Missionary Work and the Methodist Kurahuna Maori Girls' Home,


Back: Mesdames Jenkins, M. Pickering, Knight, Silcock, H. Tregurtha, L. McDonald, McGeorge, Petherbridge, Price
Front: Mesdames Duthie, W. Taylor, Larsen, Gemmill, Taylor.

Many officials of this group have given long service. The Minister's wife has usually held the office of president, but Mrs E. Tregurtha held office as president from 1952 to 1962 after having been secretary for 12 years and treasurer for 8 years. Mesdames Went and Knight were secretary and treasurer respectively for 9 years. Other officials have included Mesdames T. Parfitt, R. Dawber, P. L. Tregurtha, H. Silcock, N, Baumber, M. Petherbridse and Miss M, Gemmill.


Unfortunately records of people acting as Local Preachers of the Westport Methodist Church have not been kept, but it is known that those that there have been have given faithful service.

Earliest Local Preachers were Thos. Pratt, Robert Rigg, and W. Davidson, white others known include Messrs D. T. Gibbard, W. G. McDonald, C. Beilby and H. G. Pickering Jnr. Mr H. W. Pickering Snr has been the only local member to be awarded a long service diploma and gave faithful service to the Church for many years.

Local Preachers to officiate in recent years have been Messrs P. Moss and G. A. Leary and Mrs S. McMorran.


At various times during the Church's history a Men's Fellowship has been in operation. A particularly active group was formed during the ministry of Rev. O. Burnet. Later the group was revived by Rev. W. G. Eisner, and met regularly for tea and discussion. This group held a stall at the Summer Fairs and greatly contributed to the success of the event during those years. During the ministry of Rev. F. Hanson the Men's Fellowship combined with the Presbyterian Men's group but has since disbanded M.W.M.U.


Back: Messrs J. Baird, M. Price, W. Britwn, G. Leary, F. Baumber. Middle: Mesdames Tregurtha, Petherbridge, McMorran, Pickering, Taylor. Front: Rev. W. D. Wakeling, Messrs H. Pickering, J. Mason, E. Price.

The Westport branch of the Methodist Women's Missionary Union was started by Mrs H. G. Brown and has met monthly ever since. This group has interested itself primarily in missionary activity both in New Zealand and on the mission field overseas.

Members have contributed used clothing, as well as raising money for missionary work through special objectives and sale of stamps and tea coupons.

Hospitality has been given and meetings arranged for Mission Deputations and Deaconesses touring New Zealand while on furlough.

This group has been closely linked with other missionary unions on the West Coast and Annual Conventions have been looked forward to eagerly.

In 1963 the M.W.M.U. united with the Afternoon Guild to form a Afternoon Fellowship, the last officials being Mrs Doris Tregurtha and Mrs Mabel Pickering.


Many Methodists have served their Church on the N.C.C. which has been largely responsible for the growth of Ecumenical activity in the town. This is probably the greatest characteristic of the 1967 Christian Church as compared with the Church of 1866.

As understanding of our sister churches has increased combined activities have spread. In recent years this has been directed and inspired by Mr G. A. Leary, President of the Local Branch of the N.C.C. and an untiring worker for both his own Church and the Ecumenical Movement in Westport.

The office of President of the N.C.C. was held by Rev. W. G. Eisner and Miss P. Rogers, a member of Wesley Church as secretary for some time.


Westport Methodist Church

1871-74 Rev. J. White

1874-77 Rev. R. Taylor

1877-80 Rev. W. Worboys

1881-84 Rev. J. Pendray

1885-89 Re