An Excellent Recruit Frederick Thatcher, Architect, Priest and Private Secretary

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By Margaret H Alington
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Frederick Thatcher trained as an architect in England before immigrating to New Zealand, arriving in December of 1843. His original intention was to farm land bought through the New Zealand Company in New Plymouth. This venture was not very successful and Thatcher soon found himself in demand, as architectural skills were in short supply in the young colony. A move to Auckland brought closer contact with Bishop G.A. Selwyn, the first bishop of New Zealand. Thatcher worked for Selwyn on many of the churches and other buildings in the Auckland area, and in particular on the buildings for St John’s College. Despite his skills, architecture was not Frederick Thatcher’s main employment. He was for some years, in two separate periods, a private secretary to Governor Grey and was closely involved with Auckland’s early development. He travelled widely with Grey and this account of Thatcher’s life gives the reader many interesting glimpses of the episodes in which he was involved as well as the buildings for which he was responsible, many of which still stand. The title of this biography arises from Bishop Selwyn’s assessment of Thatcher who became a candidate for ordination and trained at St John’s College in the late 1840s. After ordination he was the first minister of St Matthew’s in Hobson Street. Health problems led to a spell in England from where he was once again recruited, this time by the first bishop of Wellington, C.J. Abraham. Perhaps Thatcher’s crowning memorial is Old St Paul?s church in Wellington. It stands as a witness to a great architect and devoted pastor. Margaret Alington has given us a very full account of Thatcher the architect, priest and private secretary. This book is thoroughly researched, well documented and interestingly written and will stand as an important contribution to early New Zealand history.

Paperback, 2007, 297 pages, very good condition