Henry Williams (Nottingham, England 11 February
1792 – Pakaraka, Bay of Islands, New
Zealand 16 July 1867) was one of the first missionaries who went to Aotearoa, New Zealand in the first half of the 19th
He was named “the sea-warrior”. He entered the navy
at the age of fourteen and served in the Napoleonic Wars
. He went to New Zealand in
1823 as a missionary. His Māori name was Te Wiremu Karuwha
(Williams Four-eyes. Henry wore spectacles). His younger brother
a missionary in New Zealand. William was “the
scholar-surgeon”.Although Henry Williams was not the first
missionary in New Zealand – Thomas
, John Gare Butler
and William Hall
having come before
him – he was “the first to make the mission a success, partly
because the others had opened up the way, but largely because he
was the only man brave enough, stubborn enough, and strong enough
to keep going, no matter what the dangers, and no matter what
enemies he made”.
Henry Williams translated the Treaty
into the Māori
, with some help from his son Edward (1840).
In 1844 he was installed as Archdeacon of Waimate.
Parents, brothers and sisters
the son of Thomas Williams (Gosport, England, 27
May 1753 – 6 January 1804) and Mary Marsh (10 April 1756 – 7
They married 17 April 1783.
Thomas Williams was a supplier of uniforms to the Royal Navy
, in Gosport. In 1796 Thomas and
Mary and their six children moved to Nottingham, then the thriving centre of the East Midlands industrial revolution.
Thomas invested in a lace-making machine. The family prospered. In
1802-03 Thomas was one of the city's two chamberlains and in
1803–04 he was one of the two sheriffs. In 1804 he died of typhus
at the age of 50, leaving Mary with five sons
and three daughters to look after.
Thomas and Mary Williams had 9 children, who were all born in
Gosport (except Henry and William):
- Mary (2 March 1784 – Gosport, England, 19 April 1786)
Sydney (11 February 1786 – Altona, Germany, 12 February
- Lydia (17 January 1788 – 13 December 1859), who married on 7
July 1813 to Edward Garrard
Marsh (8 February 1783 – 20 September 1862)
- John (22 March 1789 – New Zealand, 9 March 1855)
- Joseph William (27 October 1793 – Gosport, England, August
Rebecca (3 June 1795 – Bethlehem, Palestine 17 December
- Catherine (28 July 1797 – Southwell,
England, 11 July 1881)
- William (Nottingham, England, 18 July 1800 – Napier, New Zealand, 9 February 1878)
Thomas Williams died when Henry was 11 years old. William was only
three years old then.
1806–1815: Navy years
In 1806, when he was 14, Henry entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman
. He served on different ships and
under different commanders. In 1807 he took part in the action at
Copenhagen when the Danish fleet was seized.
"Galatea," he took part in the engagement off Tamateve, 1811,
between three English frigates, under the command of Captain
Schomberg, and three French vessels of superior force. He was
wounded, from the effects of which he never entirely recovered. For
this service a war medal was given.
Among other subsequent engagements he fought on board the
in her action against the American warship
. When the latter was forced to surrender,
Williams was a member of the small prize crew which sailed the
badly damaged vessel to port, after riding out a storm and quelling
a mutiny of the American prisoners.
When peace came, in 1815, he retired on half pay. At the age of 23
he had been "in the North Sea and the Baltic, around the French and
Spanish coasts, southwards to the Cape, up to the eastern shores of
Madagascar, across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius, and northward to
the coast of India. After service at Madras and Calcutta, it was on
into the cold American winter and that epic last naval engagement
in which he took part, on the Endymion".
Marriage and children
Henry married on 20 January 1818 to Marianne Coldham (Yorkshire,
England, 12 December 1793 – Pakaraka, New Zealand, 16 December
1879).They had eleven children:
- Edward Marsh (2 November 1818 – 11 October 1909)
- Marianne (28 April 1820 – 25 November 1919)
- Samuel (17 January 1822 – 14 March 1907)
- Henry (10 November 1823 – 6 December 1907)
- Thomas Coldham (18 July 1825 – 19 May 1912)
- John William (6 April 1827 – 27 April 1904)
- Sarah (26 February 1829 – 5 April 1866)
- Catherine (Kate) (24 February 1831 – 8 January 1902)
- Caroline Elizabeth (13 November 1832 – 20 January 1916)
- Lydia Jane (2 December 1834 – 28 November 1891)
- Joseph Marsden (5 March 1837 – 30 March 1892)
Samuel married Mary Williams (daughter of William and Jane
Williams). Henry married Jane Elizabeth Williams (also a daughter
of William and Jane).
Edward Garrard Marsh
, being the
husband of his sister Lydia, would play an important role in
Henry's life. Marsh was a member of the Church Missionary Society
(CMS).Henry received a copy of "The Missionary Register" from him
about the work of missionaries in distant lands. Henry took a
special interest in New Zealand and its native Māori
people. It was not until 1819 that Henry
offered his services as a missionary to the CMS. He was initially
accepted as a lay settler, but was ordained later.
He studied surgery and medicine, and learned about boat-building.
He studied for Holy Orders for two years and was ordained Deacon
of the (Anglican
) Church of England
, on 2 June 1822, by the
Bishop of London
; and Priest
, 16 June 1822, by the Bishop of Lincoln
September Henry and Marianne and three children sailed for Sydney, Australia on the Lord Sidmouth, a convict
In February 1823, at Hobarton, Henry met Samuel Marsden
for the first time. At Sydney
he met Marsden again. In July 1823 they set sail for New Zealand,
accompanying Marsden on his (fourth) visit to New Zealand on board
In 1823 he
arrived in the Bay of
Islands and settled at Paihia.
was close to Kororareka , then named "the hell-hole of the South Pacific", a
settlement with a very bad reputation, visited by many whalers in
that part of the Pacific.
The missionary team, placed there by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, had
quite diverse members:
- John King, placed there in 1814. Shoemaker by trade,
employed as a catechist, teaching the Māori at nearby Rangihoua.
- James Shepherd, placed at Rangihoua 1820. A skilled gardener,
who taught the Maoris how to plant vegetables, fruit and trees. He
was generally employed itinerating among the different tribes,
instructing them in the Christian religion, as he understood the
Maori language better than any of the other missionaries at that
- James Kemp, arrived August 12, 1819. Blacksmith, taught the
natives at Kerikeri.
- George Clarke, arrived April 1824. Another blacksmith at
- William Puckey, carpenter, who had come in 1819.
- William Fairburn also a carpenter.
- Charles David also a carpenter.
- Richard Davis, a farmer, landed in May 1824. Taught the natives
- James Hamlin, who arrived in 1826 with William and Jane, was a
flax dresser and weaver.
- William Spikeman was a herdsman.
Watercolour painting by Henry Williams
of the CMS mission house at Paihia
Henry soon became the leader of the missionary team. He had a
different approach to the missionary work than Marsden. Marsden's
policy had been to teach useful skills as a preparation for
evangelism. This approach had little success. Also, in order to
obtain essential food, they had yielded to the pressure to trade in
, the item of barter in which Māori
showed the greatest interest. Henry concentrated on the salvation
of souls. Williams stopped the trade in muskets. The result was
that the mission could not trade for food, and that the Māori
became resentful of those who denied the muskets. But soon the
mission began to grow sufficient food for itself. The Māori came to
see that the ban on muskets was the only way to bring an end to the
tribal wars, but that took some time. At first there were several
conflicts and confrontations with the natives. One of the most
severe was the confrontation with Tohitapu in February 1824.
In 1826 the 55 ton schooner Herald
was constructed on the
beach at Paihia. Henry was assisted by Gilbert Mair
. This ship enabled Henry
the better to provision the mission stations and to more easily
visit the more remote areas of New Zealand. (She was wrecked in
1828 while trying to enter Hokianga
). One of the first trips of the
Herald brought Henry to Port Jackson, Australia.
Here he joined his younger
wife Jane. William, who had studied as a surgeon, had decided to
become a missionary in New Zealand like his brother. They sailed to
Paihia on board the Sir George Osborne
, the same ship that
brought William, and his wife Jane, from England. William had a
talent for learning the Māori language, and soon started
translating the Bible into Māori.
Henry Williams had a forceful personality, that contributed to his
among the Maori. “Although his
capacity to comprehend the indigenous culture was severely
constrained by his evangelical Christianity, his obduracy was in
some ways an advantage in dealings with the Maori. From the time of
his arrival he refused to be intimidated by the threats and
boisterous actions of utu
In 1827 there were new battles between Māori tribes. Hongi Hika
, a Ngā
chief, was largely involved. He was hurt and died many
months later. Henry was active in promoting a peaceful solution in
what threatened to be a bloody war. Apart from that, on the morning of 5
January a brig had arrived, the Wellington, a convict
ship, from Sydney, bound for Norfolk Island.
The convicts had risen, making prisoners of
the captain, crew, guard and passengers. Henry convinced the
captains of two whalers in the harbour to retake the
. Forty convicts escaped.
In 1827 six chapters of first Maori Bible were issued .
In 1830 there was a battle, in Kororareka, sometimes called the
which led to the death of the
leader Hengi. Henry tried to bring peace.
Tohitapu then cooperated. When the highly respected Rev. Samuel
Marsden arrived, it looked like peace. But Hengi's sons Mango and
Kahaka were not satisfied with the situation. In March 1831 and
March 1832 new raids took place. Henry tried to bring peace again,
but the majority of Ngā Puhi
maintained the offensive.
When Henry sailed back to Paihia he was caught in a raging sea.
Henry took command out of the hands of the captain and saved the
On 7 February 1830 Rawiri Taiwhanga (1818 - 1874), a Ngā
leader, was baptised. He was the first high-ranking Maori
to be converted to Christianity . This gave the missionary work of
the CMS a great impetus, as it influenced many others to do the
In 1833 Henry was involved in negotiations to free a number of
slaves, taken by Ngā Puhi
, most of them Ngāti Porou
, from the East
1830 to 1840 Henry Williams ruled the mission with a kind but firm
hand.(...) And when the first settlers of the New Zealand Company landed at Wellington in 1839, Williams did his best to repel them,
because he felt they would overrun the country, taking the land and
teaching the Māori godless customs”.
Expansion over the North Island
Henry Williams played a leading role in the southward extension of
the missionary activities.“He made several trips to other parts of
the North Island to explore the possibilities for expansion, and
directed the establishment of new missions. He sent missionaries
to begin work at several places in the Waikato during the 1830s. His brother William
moved to Turanga, in Poverty Bay, at the end of the decade, and stations were
founded as far south as Otaki”.
Treaty of Waitangi
Henry Williams played an important role in the coming about of the
Treaty of Waitangi
Together with his son he translated the English draft of the Treaty
In his translation he used a dialect known as "Missionary Māori",
which was not traditional Māori, but had been made up by the
missionaries. The Māori were thus confused by some of the wording.
An example of this in the Treaty is kawanatanga
, a cognate
word which Williams is believed to have transplanted from English.
It appeared in the Māori language for the first time in the Treaty
and hence, some argue, was an inappropriate choice.
Henry Williams was also involved in explaining the Treaty to Māori
leaders, firstly at the meetings with William Hobson
, but later also when he travelled to many
places to persuade Māori (leaders) to sign the Treaty.
His involvement in these debates brought him “into the increasingly
uncomfortable role of mediating between two races”.
Dismissed from service; rehabilitation
In 1844 the first Anglican bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn
, made Williams
1845 brings George Grey
to New Zealand
faced serious revolts in the North. During the 1830s Henry Williams
had purchased extensive areas of land, to provide some security for
his growing family. Grey now accused him of being a “land-jobber”
and (falsely) stated that the cause of much difficulties in the
North were the landholdings of CMS missionaries.Bishop Selwyn took
the side of Grey, and in 1849 the CMS decided to dismiss Henry from
moved to Pakaraka.
Here his children were farming the land
that was the source of his troubles. He continued to minister and
preach. In 1854 he was reinstated to the CMS.
Image:Holy Trinity, Pakaraka.jpg|Holy Trinity Church at
PakarakaImage:Holy Trinity, Pakaraka,i interior.jpg|Interior of the
Holy TrinityImage:Holy Trinity, Pakaraka, plaque.jpg|A plaque in
- Gillies 1998, p. XI.
- Mitcalfe 1963, p. 34.
- Evans 1992, p. 21.
- Evans 1992, p. 15
- Gillies 1998; Evans 1992 (p. 15) says Thomas moved to
Nottingham in 1794.
- Gillies 1998, p. 18; Evans 1992 (p. 15) says he was made a
Burgess in 1796.
- Genealogy of Thomas Williams. But see
discussion page for questions on this.
- Carleton 1874, pp. 13–14.
- Henry Williams in Te Ara Encyclopedia of New
- Gillies 1998, p. 8.
- Evans 1992, p. 19
- Carleton 1874, p. 18.
- Carleton 1874, pp. 91–123.
- William Puckey was the father of William
Gilbert Puckey, who was to become a missionary
- Gillies 1998 , p. 27/8
- Gillies 1998, pp. 9f.
- Evans 1992, p. 21. The schooner is depicted on the 5 cent New
Zealand stamp of 1975. See also: Crosby 2004, p. 27
- Gillies 1995, p. 24
- Fisher 2007
- Gillies 1995, p. 29-34
- Gillies 1995, p. 48
- Smith, S. Percy – Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century.
Christchurch 1910. online at NZETC
- Gillies 1995, p. 35 – 44 and see also Williams 1867, p. 109 -
- Orange, Claudia & Ormond Wilson. 'Taiwhanga,
Rawiri fl. 1818 – 1874'. in: Dictionary of New Zealand
Biography, updated 22 June 2007
- Missionary Impact > 'A high profile
conversion' by Museum of New Zealand Te
- Mitcalfe 1963, p. 35
Literature and sources
- Carleton, Hugh – The life of Henry Williams, Archdeacon of
Waimate. Auckland 1874. online available here from ENZB.
- Crosby, Ron (2004) – Gilbert Mair, Te Kooti's Nemesis.
Reed Publ. Auckland. ISBN 0790009692* Evans, Rex D. (compiler) –
Faith and farming Te huarahi ki te ora; The Legacy of Henry
Williams and William Williams. Published by Evagean
Publishing, 266 Shaw Road, Titirangi, Auckland NZ, 1992. ISBN
0908951167 (soft cover). ISBN 0908951175 (hard cover). ISBN
0908951183 (leather bound)
- Gillies, Iain and John – East Coast Pioneers. A
Williams Family Portrait; A Legacy of Land, Love and
Partnership. Published by The Gisborne Herald Co. Ltd,
Gladstone Road, Gisborne NZ 1998. ISBN 0473051184
- Mitcalfe, Barry – Nine New Zealanders. Christchurch
1963. The chapter “Angry peacemaker: Henry Williams – A
missionary's courage wins Maori converts (p. 32 - 36)
- Fisher, Robin – Williams, Henry 1792 - 1867 in
Dictionary of New
Zealand Biography (DNZB), updated 22 June 2007
- Williams, William - Christianity among the New
Zealanders. London 1867. Online available here from ENZB.