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Samuel Marsden

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Children  9
Church  Church of England

Ordained  May 1793
Name  Samuel Marsden
Samuel Marsden Early contact TREATY 2 U
Born  25 June 1765 (1765-06-25) Farsley, Yorkshire
Died  May 12, 1838, Windsor, Australia
Education  Magdalene College, Cambridge
Books  The Life and Labours of the Rev. Samuel Marsden - The Original Classic Edition

lean on me samuel marsden chorus

Samuel Marsden (25 June 1765 – 12 May 1838) was an English born cleric of the Church of England and a prominent member of the Church Missionary Society, believed to have introduced Christianity to New Zealand.


Samuel Marsden Samuel Marsden NZHistory New Zealand history online

Marsden was a prominent figure in early New South Wales and Australian history, partly through his ecclesiastical offices as the colony's senior Church of England cleric, but also for his employment of convicts for farming and his actions as a magistrate at Parramatta, both of which attracted contemporary criticism.

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Samuel marsden whitby taiko drummers in the 2014 ployfest

Early life

Samuel Marsden Reverend Samuel Marsden 17651838 Marsden Online Archive

Marsden was born in Farsley, near Pudsey, Yorkshire in England, the son of a Wesleyan blacksmith turned farmer. After attending the village school, he spent some years assisting his father on the farm. In his early twenties, he won a scholarship from the Elland Clerical Society to train as an Anglican priest. After two years at free grammar school he attended Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was associated with the reformist William Wilberforce. While still studying, Marsden was offered the position of second chaplain to the Reverend Richard Johnson's ministry to the British colony of New South Wales on 1 January 1793. He married Elizabeth Fristan on 21 April 1793 and the following month was ordained by the Bishop of Exeter (having abandoned his degree).

Samuel Marsden Ruatara

Marsden travelled by convict ship to Australia, his eldest child Anne being born en route. Shortly after arrival in 1794 he set up house in Parramatta, 15 miles (24 km) outside the main Port Jackson settlement.

In Australia

In 1800 Marsden succeeded Johnson and became the senior Church of England chaplain in New South Wales; he would keep this post until his death.

Marsden was given grants of land by the colonial government and bought more of his own, which were worked with convict labour, a common practice in Australia at the time. By 1807 he owned 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land. Successful farming ventures provided him with a secure financial base, although they also formed a plank of contemporary criticism of Marsden for alleged over-involvement in non-church affairs. In 1809, Marsden was the first to ship wool to England from Australia; he is believed to have later introduced sheep to New Zealand, where he would develop a somewhat gentler reputation than in Australia.

Marsden was appointed to the Bench of Magistrates at Parramatta, a role that attracted criticism in his lifetime. History has remembered Marsden as the "Flogging Parson", with contemporaries claiming that he inflicted severe punishments (notably extended floggings), even by the standards of his day. This view of Marsden is disputed in some circles as part of an anti-clerical writing of history, in turn attributed to a dislike of Roman Catholics and the Irish.. In the detailed Memoirs of General Joseph Holt, who was transported to Sydney following his surrender post the 1798 United Irish Rebellion, he gave vivid account of the search for Irish plotters in which he himself was falsely accused and arrested. Marsden was held to be involved in this secret action by the authorities. Holt himself was released but he was forced to witness the fate of others not so fortunate. He related: "I have witnessed many horrible scenes; but this was the most appalling sight I had ever seen. The day was windy and I protest, that although I was at least fifteen yards to the leeward, from the sufferers, the blood, skin, and flesh blew in my face", as floggers "shook it off from their cats" (referring to the cat-of-nine-tails scourging lash). He continued "The next prisoner who was tied up was Paddy Gavin, a young lad about twenty years of age; he was also sentenced to receive three hundred lashes. The first hundred were given on his shoulders, and he was cut to the bone between the shoulder-blades, which were both bare. The doctor then directed the next hundred to be inflicted lower down, which reduced his flesh to such a jelly that the doctor ordered him to have the remaining hundred on the calves of his legs .... 'you shall have no music out of my mouth to make others dance upon nothing'. Some have written that Marsden ordered such treatment. However, Holt's memoirs do not explicitly link Marsden to the floggings at Toongabbie on that day. Joseph Holt in his memoirs did express his impression of Marsden, as "a busy meddling man, of shallow understanding" who thought himself "a great lawyer". Holt believed that Parson Mardsen tried to intimate to Holt that his wife and children were free but he was not. Holt considered that he had surrendered back in Ireland under terms of free exile. But when the Holt family arrived in Parramatta, Mr Marsden, Mr. Aitkins and Dr. Thomson called on them and asked Holt to accompany them to Toongabbie, where Captain Johnstone there tried to assign him to the overseer Michael Fitzgerald. The next day the Governor was to come to Parramatta and Holt determined to ask the Governor if he was really free; determined to "have the highest authority, even the Governor himself, and not submit to the whims of understrappers, who always assume tenfold the airs that their superiors might be supposed to have" (his opinion of Marsden). The Governor confirmed he was free.

Marsden's attitudes to Irish Roman Catholic convicts (including many who were transported to Australia for their role in the United Irish Rebellion) were illustrated in a memorandum which he sent to his church superiors during his time at Parramatta:

Despite Marsden's opposition to Catholicism being practiced in Australia, Governor Phillip Gidley King eventually permitted monthly Catholic masses at Sydney from May 1803 onwards, although these were to take place under police surveillance.

Early in 1804, Marsden christened the one-year-old George Lilly in St John's Cathedral, Parramatta. Lilly later became the noted pioneer of Melbourne, Portland and Auckland.

In 1806 Marsden was the originator of the New South Wales "Female Register", which classed all women in the colony (excepting some widows) as either 'married' or 'concubine'. Only marriages within the Church of England, including those celebrated by Marsden, were recognized as legitimate on this list; women who married in Roman Catholic or Jewish ceremonies were automatically classed as concubines. The document eventually circulated within influential circles in London, and is believed to have influenced contemporary views of the Australian colony as a land of sexual immorality, some of which survived into 20th century historiography.

In 1809 Marsden was in England. There he befriended the Maori chief Ruatara who had gone to Britain in the whaling ship Santa Anna and been stranded there. Marsden and Ruatara returned together on the convict transport Ann (or Anne), which was under the command of Captain Charles Clarke and which carried some 198 male convicts. They arrived in Sydney on 17 or 27 February 1810. Ruatara stayed with Marsden at Parramatta for some time, and again in 1811 after a failed attempt to reach New Zealand. Ruatara eventually reached New Zealand where he did more to facilitate Marsden's mission to the Maori than any other native.

In 1822 Marsden was dismissed from his civil post as a Parramatta magistrate (along with several other officials) on charges of exceeding his jurisdiction.

During his time at Parramatta, Marsden befriended many Māori visitors and sailors from New Zealand. He cared for them on his farm, providing accommodation, food, drink, work and an education for up to three years. He gave one Māori chief some land on which he could grow his own crops and taught other Māori to read and write English. He learnt Māori, beginning an English-Māori translation sheet of common words and expressions.

Marsden described himself as first and foremost a preacher. His sermons therefore are important primary documentation in Marsden studies. There are approximately 135 sermons written by Marsden in various collections around the world. The largest collection is in the Moore Theological College Library in Sydney, Australia. These sermons reveal Marsden's attitudes to some of the controversial issues he faced, including magistrates, the aboriginal people, wealth. A transcription of the Moore College collection can be found on line. [2]


Marsden was a member of the Church Missionary Society and remained formally based in New South Wales, but developed an interest in evangelizing New Zealand from the early 1800s onwards. Europeans had known of New Zealand since the 1640s and by the early 19th century there had been increasing contact between Māori and Europeans, mainly by the many whalers and sealers around the coast of New Zealand and especially in the Bay of Islands. A small community of Europeans had formed in the Bay of Islands, made up of explorers, flax traders, timber merchants, seamen, and ex-convicts who had served their sentences in Australia (as well as some who had escaped the Australian penal system). Marsden was concerned that they were corrupting the Māori way of life, and lobbied the Church Missionary Society successfully to send a mission to New Zealand.

First trip to New Zealand

Lay missionaries John King, William Hall and Thomas Kendall were chosen for the New Zealand mission in 1809, but it was not until 14 November 1814 that Marsden took his brig, the "Active" (captained by Thomas Hansen), on an exploratory journey to the Bay of Islands with Kendall and Hall, during which time he conducted the first Christian service on New Zealand soil during Christmas Day 1814. The service from the Church of England Book of Common Prayer was read in English but it is likely that, having learnt the language from Ruatara, Marsden preached his sermon in the Māori language. Ruatara was prevailed upon to explain those parts of the sermon the 400-strong Māori congregation did not understand. Marsden met Māori rangatira (chiefs) from the Ngāpuhi iwi (tribe), who controlled the region around the Bay of Islands, including the chief Ruatara who had lived with him in Australia, and a junior war leader, Hongi Hika, who had helped pioneer the introduction of the musket to Māori warfare in the previous decade. Hongi Hika returned with them to Australia on 22 August.

Establishment of the mission

At the end of the year Kendall, Hall and King returned to start a mission to the Ngāpuhi under Ruatara's (and, later, Hongi Hika's) protection in the Bay of Islands. Hongi Hika returned with them, bringing a large number of firearms from Australia for his warriors.

A mission station was founded with a base at Rangihoua Bay, later moved to Kerikeri, (where the mission house and stone store can still be seen), and ultimately a model farming village at Te Waimate. The mission would struggle on for a decade before attracting converts, in competition with Wesleyan and Catholic missions. Thomas Kendall abandoned his wife for the daughter of a Māori tohunga (priest), and also flirted with Maori traditional religion.

Marsden was in the Bay of Islands in May 1820 when HMS Coromandel, under the command of Captain Downie, arrived at the Bay of Islands from England for the purpose of procuring a cargo of timber in the Firth of Thames. When Coromandel sailed for the Thames a few days later, Mr Marsden accompanied them on their voyage. Downie reported that while at the Bay of Islands whalers were in the practice of trading muskets and ammunition for pork and potatoes.

In 1820 Hongi Hika and Thomas Kendall travelled to England on the whaling ship the New Zealander. Hongi Hika met King George IV, who gifted him a suit of armour; he also obtained further muskets when passing through Sydney on his return to New Zealand. On his return to the Bay of Islands, Ngāpuhi demanded the Church Missionary Society missionaries trade muskets for food, which under Kendall became an important means of support for the Kerikeri mission station. The trade was opposed by Marsden, largely because of its impact on the wide-ranging intertribal warfare occurring amongst Māori at the time.

For refusing to stop trading arms, Kendall was dismissed by the Church Missionary Society in 1822. Marsden, who also knew of Kendall's romantic affair, returned to New Zealand in August 1823 to sack him in person. When Marsden and Kendall sailed from the Bay of Islands, their ship the Brampton was wrecked. Marsden later went to some trouble talking to all Australian printers to prevent Kendall from publishing a Māori grammar book, apparently largely out of spite.


Marsden is generally remembered favourably in New Zealand, which he visited seven times (the longest trip lasting seven months). The Anglican school, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Karori, Wellington and also (more recently) in Whitby, Porirua were named after Marsden. Houses at King's College (Marsden House) and at Corran School for Girls (Marsden) are also both named after him.

In 1819, Marsden introduced winegrowing to New Zealand with the planting of over 100 different varieties of vine in Kerikeri, Northland. He wrote:

Later life

It was on Marsden's last visit to the Reverend Henry Stiles at St Matthew's Church at Windsor when he succumbed to an incipient chill and died at the rectory on 12 May 1838.

Marsden is buried in the cemetery near his old church at Parramatta, St John's.

In fiction and popular culture

The Australian poet Kenneth Slessor wrote a satirical poem criticizing the parson, Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden.

A portrait of Marsden based on Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore appears in Patrick O'Brian's book The Nutmeg of Consolation.

In the 1978 Australian television series Against the Wind, Marsden was portrayed by David Ravenswood.

Reggae band 1814 took their name from the year that Marsden held the first sermon in the Bay of Islands.


Samuel Marsden Wikipedia