In 1983, Ada Ackerly became aware of the Rev. William Waterfield when she was researching correspondence sent to Superintendent La Trobe in 1839. Amongst Waterfield's letters were marriage certificates, the records of which were not noted in the Early Church Records microforms. Waterfield had asked La Trobe, "Are my marriages legal?"
Rev. William Waterfield was born in 1795 in Nottinghamshire, England. He was single and aged 42 when he joined the Missionary Society in London and accepted the post to Australia. For 10 years he had worked as a pastor at Rexham in Wales.
Coming via Tasmania with 15 letters of introduction he arrived in Port Phillip on 21 May 1838. Rev. Thomas B. Naylor from Hobart had performed the first Anglican marriage in Port Phillip in 1836, in the then unfinished, pioneer church. The wealthy Hobart merchant, Henry Hopkins had established the 1st Congregational church in Tasmania in the 1820's and he saw the need in Port Phillip for a missionary for Dissenting Protestants. He offered to pay the fare for a minister to come out from England and to guarantee his stipend for one year.
Waterfield kept diaries of the 5 years that he spent in Port Phillip and the time he later spent in Tasmania. They are of interest to genealogists as he notes the names of many early settlers. He details information on marriages, baptisms, burials and memorial services he performed.
A very devout man, he couldn't understand why his congregation didn't turn up to every meeting he held. His "mind was too harassed" when he noted people were guilty of walking on the Sabbath. He was shocked to find the couple who shared his house had danced and sung on Xmas Day. They had invited friends to dinner. ". . glad I wasn't there" he noted in his diary. "I don't like parties." He regretted that a regatta had been held on the Bay. "1st regatta and may it be the last."
He was not prepared to go to the ships to meet new immigrants, nor prepared to visit people who were not members of his congregation. He turned down dinner invitations with the excuse that he was too busy. He had few close friends. As an Independent Minister, he did not receive financial assistance from the Government, but relied on his congregation. During the depression years of the 1840's, he and his family were in financial trouble. Arguments broke out amongst his congregation, some of whom wanted to apply for government assistance.
Waterfield was upset because this went against the ideals of his Church. Governor Bourke of New South Wales had realised that a dominant church would cause problems and so a new Church Act came into being which stated that any church community that could raise £300 could ask for help to purchase land. Henry Hopkins made a loan of £300 to Waterfield so he could request land, on which he could build a church, a school and a cottage. Waterfield was better off with his own house and he wrote in his diary about his vegetable garden. He also wrote to Henry Hopkins asking him to find him a new church in Tasmania.
The Hardwick Act of 1754 made clandestine marriages illegal. Other than religious houses of Quakers and Jews, all marriages had to take place in a church of the Church of England. In Australia it was decided that this act was not practicable. In 1839, all Wesleyan and Methodist marriages were validated retrospectively. In 1840, those of Congregational, Independent and Baptist churches were validated. In January 1841, Waterfield received official forms to be filled out, under the banner of the Independent church to be sent to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, to register births, deaths and marriages.
On 8 July 1843, Waterfield left for Tasmania. He lived to the age of 73. His wife, Mary Purves, 20 years his junior died in 1865 aged 49. They had 5 children whilst in Tasmania.
Contributed by Jan Hanslow (PPPG Member No. 1057)
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