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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]

The Venerable Henry Francis Butt

The Venerable Henry Francis Butt , sometime Archdeacon of Marlborough, in the diocese of Nelson, was born at Shrewsbury, England, in October, 1816, and was the son of the Rev. John Marten Butt, vicar of Oddingly. He was destined for the medical profession, and upon completing the necessary course of training and study became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England. A religious training and home surroundings, however, had so influenced his early years that he decided to devote his life to the service of the Church. In order to achieve this object he, in 1841, became a missionary student of the Society for the Propagation of
The late Ven. H. F. Butt.

The late Ven. H. F. Butt.

the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and attached himself to the party which sailed with the celebrated Bishop Selwyn in the ship “Tomalin,” on the 26th of December, 1841, for New Zealand. Mr Butt acted as ship's doctor on the voyage. Sydney was reached on the 14th of April, 1842, after a passage of 109 days, and Auckland a few weeks later. The Bishop established himself at Waimate, in the Bay of Islands, where he founded a college, to which Mr Butt was attached, and his medical knowledge was of great service, not only to the students, but to settlers in the neighbourhood. On the 24th of September, 1843, Mr Butt was ordained to the Christian ministry, and received deacon's orders at the hands of Bishop Selwyn. He was at once despatched to Nelson, where, in company with the Bishop, he arrived in the Government brig on the 8th of December. On the 10th he was appointed to assist the Rev. C. Reay, the first incumbent of Christ Church, Nelson. An educational institution, known as the Bishop's school, was shortly afterwards founded and Mr Butt took charge of it. In 1844, the pupils numbered eighty, and fourteen years later there were over one hundred. When Mr Butt succeeded Mr Reay in the incumbency of Christ Church, the district was large and scattered. It stretched from Motueka to Kaikoura, and Mr. Butt had only one assistant, the Rev. T. L. Tudor, who resided at Motueka. There were long and wearisome journeys to be undertaken, often for long stretches on foot, and without food or shelter, except such as the bush afforded. It was at this period, when both Nelson and the Wairau were peopled with the native race, that the deep feeling of attachment and gratitude felt for Mr. Butt by the Maoris sprang into existence. In 1857, shortly after the formation of the Nelson diocese, Mr Butt was transferred to the Wairau, a district which he had previously traversod from end to end, and where he was endeared to the settlers in their remote, scattered homes. There being no place of worship, divine service was celebrated in the old Courthouse (used by all denominations), which then stood on the banks of the Opawa, near the site of the present railway station. Three years later the first Church of the Nativity, now used as a Sunday school, was built and opened; and in a very few years church work progressed at a most satisfactory rate. The remaining events of Mr Butt's life are intimately associated with the parish, of which he was the spiritual overseer. The present Church of the Nativity was erected in 1877, the parsonage in Weld Street in 1874, and Mr Butt was created first Archdeacon of Marlborough in 1872. Old age, and infirmities caused by a life which would have worn out a stronger frame than even Mr Butt's, compelled his resignation of the incumbency of the church in 1885. Almost up to the day of his death, however, his was a familiar form in the churches of Marlborough, and also at public gatherings for promoting Christian work. He frequently ministered at Picton, and the Sunday before his death he officiated at the Church of the Nativity. On the 21st of December, 1886, the venerable Archdeacon died after a very short illness. Persons drawn from many classes and creeds attended the funeral to show the esteem they entertained for one who, by many acts of kindness and forethought, had endeared himself to all. The service was performed by the Bishop of Nelson, and amongst the pall-bearers there were members of the Legislature and others who had been church officers in Blenheim and Picton. Mrs Butt, who survived her husband till the 18th of October, 1901, was a daughter of the Rev. Richard Davis—who, as a missionary, arrived with his family at the Bay of Islands in the year 1824—and was her husband's faithful helpmate for forty-three years. Four children, who all grew to manhood and womanhood, were born of the marriage.