An extraordinary squabble erupted in 1890 between the St Paul’s parish, Octavius Hadfield (who at the time was both Bishop of Wellington and Primate of New Zealand) and a Canon Howell, who had briefly acted as curate at St Paul’s while Rev Still was overseas.

During his brief time at St Paul’s, only seven months, Howell had become extraordinarily popular with the congregation. In 1890 Canon Howell urged the women of the Dorcas Society to ‘conduct house to house investigations in the exercise of their functions, as in this way causes of real need would be sought out’. He also reminded the women that they should not only support those of the parish who were in need, but people of all denominations.

Their dispute was widely reported in the press and many people protested in letters to the editor, after Hadfield apparently instructed all three Wellington city churches that they would not allow Howell to officiate at their churches.

The ban caused a long dispute, probably inflamed by the deep unpopularity of Hadfield toward the end of his life. It seems from the reporting that Howell was too ‘High Church’ for Hadfield and that he had given offence to the Bishop at some point during his brief tenure at St Paul’s.

Now no longer able to work in Wellington, Howell moved to Dunedin. The dispute rumbled on, until in 1892 at the national synod, a Dunedin member of the synod tried to ask a question about the dispute, causing Bishop Hadfield, who was the chair of the meeting, refuse to allow him to speak and then threatened to leave.  In response, the Bishop of Dunedin and a large number of others walked out of synod.

Canon Howell eventually went to live and work in Australia.

Image: Octavius Hadfield, c1890s. Photographer unidentified. Ref: 1/4-015156-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.