Silverdale’s Wade Chapel holds onto its secrets
By Val Nicholls
For 150 years the little Methodist Chapel at Silverdale has refused to reveal the secret of its origins. Church historians and Silverdale locals have had many a discussion on the topic over the years.
This year the Silverdale and Districts Historical Society and members of the Whangaparaoa Methodist Parish combined to celebrate the Chapel’s century and a half at Silverdale. The church once more rang with the sound of the pedal organ and Wesleyan hymns.
Its story was told, its secret probed. Names of the early Methodist families were recalled, the service of home missionaries and ordained ministers was honoured, and the witness of the faith community celebrated.
Locals enjoyed the memories written by Cath Bowman, daughter of Rev Maitland Jones and sister of Rev Barry Jones. Cath arrived as a 10 year old in 1940 to live in the parsonage, which hadn’t housed a minister’s family since 1895.
In the 1840s the Silverdale area was part of Kaipara Circuit under Rev James Buller. In 1841 a Methodist Church was built on the corner of High Street and Chancery Lane in Auckland at a cost of £246 – a wooden building 40’x25’ on brick foundations.
This church was later sold and this has fuelled conjecture that it is the building that Rev Isaac Harding barged up to the Wade and erected at Silverdale.
Whangaparoa Methodist Parish and the Silverdale Historial Society
joined forces to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Wade Chapel.
Methodist Church father Eric Hames disputes this, basing his argument on Circuit minutes and the structure of the High Street building. However George Laurenson and Leslie and Keith Carter maintain that there were two buildings on the High Street site and that the Silverdale Church is indeed the original building from High Street.
They argue that a few years after the Church was built in High Street it was too small, so a second building was erected on the same site. The original building was moved to Parnell and later barged to the Wade.
Confusion and controversy has been further fuelled by a fire that destroyed records and the fact that a second Methodist chapel was built on the Wade property of Ranulf Dacre.
Local historian Margaret Stevenson believes that the lack of an oral history of the community pooling resources and energies to build the Silverdale Church adds weight to belief that it was brought in ‘pre-built’.
The little church has served many purposes. It was the local school during the week, was the receiving and dispersal depot for the district mail, it was used to store goods delivered by river boat, and at times served as a courthouse.
Early circuit ministers covered a wide area and services were not held more often that once a month. Preachers came from Auckland by boat, Maori canoe, on horseback, and even on bullock sledge. In 1864 Mr White was appointed the first resident minister for Wade Methodist Church, and in 1877 the first parsonage was built.
Early in the 20th century the church fell on sorry times. Rev George Bridgeman fell off his horse and was injured, the Presbyterian Church was having an influence, and World War I had begun.
However, a Sunday school block was added in 1939. 1948 saw a lot of renovation work on the church and then in the 1960s a decision was made to put a Keith Hay building on the property.
In 1969 the church became the property of the Silverdale Historical Society and the first stage of a “colonial village” was begun. A dedicated team repaired and restored the old Church. Until recently annual worship services continued to be held, as well as baptisms, weddings and funerals.
The Wade Chapel at Silverdale is in good repair and will stand atop the hill, holding onto its secret for many more years.