The loss of any Church record diminishes the memory of who we are, what we as a Church or individual stand for, where we have been, and how we have evolved and progressed to find a way forward in our lives and common bonds of worship together.
This site is designed to act not only as an easily accessible database
confirming known records lost or placed at risk through fire, flood,
decay, neglect, theft or "act of God", but also as a sobering reminder
highlighting the need to ensure adequate storage and preservation of
valuable Parish, Committee and other irreplaceable Presbyterian Church
records and artifacts. Also listed are details of some of the unfortunate
and more unusual events which have befallen Churches at various times,
even when no records were lost.
The details on this site have been compiled from information supplied
by Parishes, listings of records held in regional Archives and from other
records, books and Parish histories held in our Archives. What you will
read is as accurate as is the information we hold. We welcome additional
information on lost records or corrections to these entries.
Collecting oral interviews and written histories from older
Parishioners and Ministers is often overlooked but equally important as
they can portray aspects of Parish ministry and activities not covered in
more formal Church records. As one historian noted in the1930's :
"Much of the most interesting matter gathered into this history
has come, not from records and documents, but from people".
Another very pertinent comment was made by the Secretary of the Historical
Records Committee of the general Assembly in 1947 : "It is not likely that our generation will be over indulgent in the matter of wordly adornments to its records,
we are too liable to err in the opposite direction. Our first aim is to preserve clear records which admit no possibility of misreading in the future."
"All records seem to have been lost", "Incomplete, nothing prior to 1907", "Destroyed by fire in 1884", "Stored in vestry stationery press, always kept locked", "Laid to rest in Manse study", "Early records cannot be found", "In portable wooden locker in choir room behind pulpit", "Old records found in wash house", "65 years records, no protection", "[Records Stored] Pending purchase of suitable receptacle", "Old records presumed to be burnt", "No trace of old records", "At manse and in pantry of Managers' vestry in Church" - Some responses from a return of Parish records to the Historical Records Committee in 1931
"Will you please inform the Department that our records for the
1930's have now been reduced to the material of permanent
value... We are dependent upon the minutes of the Committee,
The Assistant Director of Missions writing to
a retired Missionary, 3 February 1960.
"I was over yesterday to the Foreign Mission Office. There is a
large pile of stuff stored there. Much of it will have to be
sent to the destructor. The value of keeping records, other than
minutes, for years and years, is to my mind very doubtful.
For instance all the outward letters have piled up from year one.... Had I time to go through it and cull out anything that might be
useful for reference in the days to come and let the rest be
burned, but when I will get that time I do not know. It seems a shame to
shift all this rubbish over to the new office, for that is what it
The Rev George Budd, Superintendent of Missions, wiriting
to the Church General Treasurer, 22 November 1935.
"Destruction of Foreign Mission Correspondence - Permission was
given for the destruction of correspondence prior to 1929" -
Committee Minutes, 28 February 1939 -(This directive was thankfully not
"Through the loss of records or through the neglect to keep records
of the first days of Presbyterianism in this charge, very
little written material remained for use in compiling a history" -
Rev Alexander Watson recorded this comment in the Alexandra Session book
when endeavouring to writea short Parish history in 1910.
"Accuracy has been aimed at, but no doubt imperfectly attained.
Records made at or near the time of events vary, and many
Church records have been lost by fire and otherwise. Greater care in their
preservation is desirable.... Omissions are many.... and more so through
lack of information." - A Footnote to the History of the Presbytery of
Auckland written by the Rev WJ Comrie in 1939.
"There is no correspondence of any value to pass on. All of any
importance has been dealt with, and it will be a good thing
for you to start with a clean sheet" -
The Rev L Rogers, retiring
Secretary of the Temperance Committee writing to the new Convener, the Rev
CJ Tocker, probably in the early 1940's.
"I had to be my own Secretary as well as Convener - and more often
than not the whole Committee - and did not keep a regular minute book,
only notes for my own guidance. My job was to do the work, not to keep
The Rev CJ Tocker, retiring Convener of the
Temperance Committee writing to the new Secretary, the Rev SW Webber, in
"Re another matter you wrote about some time ago, i.e. old Church
records. We have raked up quite a few, some from under the
rubbish thrown under Manse - who by ? I don't know - others from odd
corners - some of them date back to 1870.... Now what shall we do with
these books of wisdom (or otherwise)?" -
The Rev AC Hampton of Howick
Parish, Auckland, writing to the Very Rev DD Scott, Convener of the PCNZ
Historical Records Committee, 1947.
"It [The Historical Records Committee] wishes to emphasize the fact that minute books and other such documents are not the private property of the persons who have the custody of them for the time being" -
Rev WC Comber, Secretary of the Historical Records Committee of the General Assembly, 1947.
"[Many] records were found to have deteriorated considerably due to
affection by dust and grime, fading from exposure to sunlight and general
depreciation from inadequate storage arrangement. In fact, the place would
not measure up to the standard of a common junk room. This is not surely
good enough for our precious irreplaceable archives ?" -
of the First Church of Otago Archives Committee reporting on the state of
their archives in 1969.
"The spiritual records of the church have not, for various reasons,
received that strict and consistent attention which their
importance demands..... We must, however, make the best of such records as
we have, and strive to keep a more careful record in the future." -
The Editor of the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Levin-Waiterere Parish
This site devised & researched by
Donald Cochrane (Curator of Photographs)
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