Hero photograph
High Street Wesleyan Chapel and Pitt Street Church baptism register 1844-1972 held Methodist Archives.

Records See the ‘Light of Day’

Ian Faulkner, President, Wesley Historical Society —

In April last year Connexional Archivist, Jo Smith, advised me that 40 or 50 years ago some Methodist records, previously held at Pitt Street Methodist Church in Auckland Central, had been placed ‘on loan’ with the Auckland Public Library. The Archivist was seeking assistance in facilitating the ‘repatriation’ of the records to the national archive in Christchurch. None of the longstanding members of the Pitt Street congregation were able to recall the records being loaned to the Library. Those Pitt Street members asked me to view these prior to any action being taken.

In the intervening 10 months the Library has been undergoing repairs and my request to view the records could not be granted. This changed on 16 February 2022, when a three-hour slot was allocated. I was able to view most of the records that were listed in a document stating what was held. For research purposes the originals and copies of such records as the Cradle Roll for the Auckland Wesleyan Chapel in High Street, the Register of Baptisms for the Wesleyan Chapel, High Street and for Pitt Street have an Auckland flavour. The Schedule of Pew Rents for the Wesleyan Chapel, High Street, hints at the methods adopted to provide funds for the maintenance and extension of the complex there. Pew Rents were standard in Wesleyan chapels at the time. Today there is evidence of the charges made at Pitt Street on a plaque displayed in a side room. They are now a curiosity. Likewise the Register of Marriages recorded at the Wesleyan Native Institution, Three Kings, has an Auckland interest. Many of the names of those in that register were from other parts of the country: some referred to as students - part of the Institution’s community at Three Kings.

The other documents such as the Registers of Baptisms and Marriages at the Wesleyan Missions, Hokianga and Kawhia, invoke the question of why these were lodged at Pitt Street. I’m sure that the detail concerned will be of interest to those researching whakapapa, where forebears were from or associated with these mission station sites. I was interested to see some records of the Christian marriages included space for recording any prior ‘marriage’ arrangements that may have been entered into by the couple, and the opportunity to list any “issue” (children); others referred to the date of the reading of Banns.

Two of the manuscript documents referenced as being lodged were not amongst those that I viewed. These were the Auckland Wesleyan Chapel, High Street / Pitt Street Wesleyan Church, Trustees Book (minutes and accounts), 1846 – 1874; and the Auckland Circuit Minute Book, 1846 – 1882. Perhaps these contained some ‘confidential’ material, as access to them was limited to the Auckland Regional Archivist then working from Hames House in Turner Street, Auckland City, and one other. An appended note advises that a Register of Baptisms, 1844 to 1971, had been returned to the Pitt Street Office in 1982. This is now within the national collection in Christchurch. A further note states that in 1985 ten volumes of Wesleyan registers were uplifted by the second person listed on the restricted viewers list mentioned above. Further investigation may reveal the content of these and where they are located now. They are not housed at Pitt Street.

This was a valuable visit to the Auckland Public Library to view these records. From time-to-time the Wesley Historical Society receives enquiries about family members associated with Methodist/Wesleyan churches and settlements in Aotearoa and the Pacific Islands. Where a response to these enquiries cannot be readily referenced to WHS publications, these enquires are generally referred to the Connexional Archives. These documents once held at Pitt Street will be a useful reference point to add to the Connexional Archives. Discussions with the Connexional Archivist indicate that any registers held by the Library at the moment, when they are repatriated, will be indexed and included in the Methodist Archives Wesleyan Missionary Registers Index; and copies of any index made from these registers will be given to the Auckland Library and also to Pitt Street if they request a copy.