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The Octavius Hadfield Papers
The Octavius Hadfield Papers are an extensive collection of letters, diary extracts and miscellaneous documents relating to the Anglican missionary, Octavius Hadfield (1814 - 1904). Together they form what is the most significant collection of correspondence from one of New Zealand's most important early missionaries and supporters of Māori rights.
Hadfield arrived in New Zealand shortly before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. After briefly working as a school teacher in Northland, he made his way to Kāpiti where he established missions in both Waikanae and Ōtaki. There he befriended Te Rauparaha and was able to convince the great warrior not to make a retaliatory attack on Wellington following the 'Wairau Affray’ of 1843. Te Rauparaha and his son Tāmihana later encouraged Hadfield to establish the famous Rangiātea church in Ōtaki. He worked closely with Māori communities, introducing them to farming to allow them to engage with the settler economy and became a fierce critic of the NZ Government and the British Colonial Office because of their actions in causing and aggravating the NZ Wars. Despite many Europeans turning against him and even accusing him of being a traitor because of his support for Māori, Hadfield was elected to become the second Bishop of Wellington in 1870 and then to head the Anglican Church as 'Primate of New Zealand' in 1890.
These letters are some of our most precious taonga and they offer a fascinating insight into the mind and thinking of one of the most significant New Zealanders from the colonial period. Most were written to Hadfield's parents and siblings in England but were later gathered together by a family member and repatriated back to New Zealand. Other material includes letters from his wife, Catherine (Kate) Hadfield, and Catherine's father, the missionary Henry Williams. They were gifted to Wellington City Libraries in several deposits during 1950 and 1951 by Hadfield's youngest daughter, Amelia (Amy) Caroline Hadfield (1869 - 1956). Many of the documents also include a full typed transcription to make it easier to read Hadfield's handwriting; just click on the 'Text' button below the magnifying glass icon to enable this (note that this functionality works best on a laptop or desktop computer rather than a mobile device).
See the following links for further information about Hadfield's life and work
Brief biography from NZ History (Ministry of Culture & Heritage)
Full entry from the NZ Dictionary of Biography
The Man who saved Wellington, a short documentary film about Octavius Hadfield produced by 'The Incredible Journey' television ministry.
Biographical article about Hadfield's work in the Kāpiti area published on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the NZ Church Mission Society
Index to material
Photo credit: Octavius Hadfield., circa 1880 (photographer unknown), from the collection of Te Papa, Ref: A.000114
Address from the Committee of the Diocese of Wellington on the occasion of Octavius Hadfield's retirement