Pew rents argument: Vicar A.C. Yorke writes, 1895

SIR,--It may seem presumption in a new-comer to correct an old resident like yourself, but I am bound to take exception to the tenor of your remarks in Tuesday's issue. They do not fairly represent the case of Mr Teakle or of free seats.

The minute books clearly show that Mr Teakle was Curate of the Parochial District of Masterton; and that this District (I use the word in its technical and statutory sense) was constituted a Parish on December 8th, 1879. When a Parish is formed Churchwardens and Vestrymen have to be elected, under provision of our Church Statutes, and they have to appoint Nominators who shall in conjunction with the Diocesan Nominators, nominate an incumbent to the charge of the newly-formed Parish. Of course such Nominators may nominate to the Bishop the recent Curate of the Parochial District; or they are at liberty to nominate anyone else. In this case they did not nominate Mr Teakle. He was never "Incumbent" of the Parish. The Rev. J. F. Teakle was therefore not "starved out," in the way which delights some people to treat their Parish priest. That shame was spared to Masterton. He was simply not nominated to the new Parish by the Nominators appointed by a Vestry that was hostile to him upon this very matter of free-sittings; of which Vestry you were yourself a member. Nor had Mr Teakle to "take refuge" in a Southern Diocese. He has always been esteemed in the Diocese of Christchurch where he now holds an honourable post. It is only fair treatment to record these facts.

It seems to me that you are no less unhappy in your reference to free and rented sittings. On January 18th, 1878, a Parish meeting was called "to take into consideration the pew-rent system": adjourned to the 28th, it was resolved, with only two dissentients, that "It is not desirable to make any alteration from the existing system of pew-rents." But on July 3rd, 1878, at the Statutory Annual Meeting of Parishioners, it was carried, with only one dissentient, "That St Matthew's Church be free and open." During the following year all accounts for stipend were passed for payment, and at the annual meeting, held on July 23rd, 1879, there was no motion for reverting to the old system, and you yourself, Sir, are recorded as moving the adoption of the balance sheet at Churchwarden's report. Five months afterwards the Parochial district was changed into a Parish. With this change there was (July 28th, 1880) a reversion to seat-rents, upon your own motion. According to your argument, Sir, now should come the season of prosperity. "Starving out" should be an impossibility, when the accommodation was leasehold. Yet, after it had been tried for nine years, the Diocesan Standing Committee reported to Synod that they had

"Informed the Rev. W. E. Paige that they could not see how the arrears of stipend were to be met, and that they were unable to make provision for the payment of the current stipend. The Parish is still in arrears £118 with its assessment for stipend." (See Synod report for 1889).

In May of 1894, after fourteen years of pew-rents, the stipend was still drifting into arrears, and the Vestry informed the Rev. W. E. Paige that they could not pay any stipend to a locum tenens for quite four months, and then only at a reduction of £50 per annum. It seems to require in Masterton as "bold and lucky" a man to "run a Church" with seat-rents as without. If the Churchwardens and Vestry can be assured of some definite income as large as that brought in by seat-rents though from another source, their anxieties should be no greater than now, and the pew-rent system, which I gladly note your acknowledge is in theory (you meant principle, I am sure) wrong, may give way to a system which is right. If the seat-holders and others will but take up a system which I hope to place before them at the Parish meeting, I shall hope the Vestry and Churchwardens will feel justified in accepting the free-seat "theory."

I am, etc.,


ST. MATTHEW'S PARISH. Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XVI, Issue 5081, 19 July 1895, Page 2