Topic: Alfred Nesbit Brown (1803-1884)

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Alfred Nesbit Brown served as a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary in New Zealand from 1829 to 1884. He spent much of his time at the Te Papa Mission Station in Tauranga where the Brown family took up residence in January 1838. Story researched and written by Debbie McCauley.

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Alfred Nesbit Brown was born in Colchester, England on 23 October 1803. His parents were Joseph and Ann Brown.

He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London on 10 June 1827 and priest on 1 June 1828.

Just prior to his departure from England in 1829, Brown married Charlotte Arnett (c1796-1855). She had been a teacher in Islington, London. They arrived in Australia on the Elizabeth. On 29 November 1829 they arrived in the Bay of Islands on the City of Edinburgh.

The children of Alfred and Charlotte Brown:

  1. Alfred Marsh Brown (1831-1844). Born in Paihia on 22 June 1831. In March 1844 Marsh went to St John's Collegiate School at Waimate North, Bay of Islands. In April he had an accident which resulted in illness from which he never recovered. He was aged 14 when he died at Te Papa on 14 September 1845 and was buried in Mission Cemetery. His death notice appeared in the New Zealander (4 October 1845): BROWN At Tauranga, on Sunday 14th September 1845 in the fourteenth year of his age, Alfred Marsh, only son of the Ven Archdeacon Brown.
  2. Marianne Celia Brown (1837-1928). Born in the Bay of Islands on 25 April 1837. She married Anglican clergyman and artist John Kinder (1819-1903) at Te Papa on 15 December 1859. They had no children of their own, but in 1866 adopted the two children of John’s younger brother Henry, who was murdered in Sydney in 1865. They were Frances Nester (Nessie) and Harry. Celia died in 1928. 

The Brown family arrived in Te Papa (Tauranga) in January 1838.

Charlotte died at St. Stephen's school in Parnell, Auckland, aged 59, on 13 November 1855. She was buried in St Stephen's Churchyard in Parnell. Her death notice appeared in the New Zealander (14 November 1855):

BROWN On the night of the 12th November 1855, at St Stephen’s School, Auckland, Charlotte, the beloved wife of Alfred N Brown, Archdeacon of Tauranga, aged 59 years. Interred St Stephens burial ground.

In Wellington Brown remarried to Christina Crombie Grant Johnston (1818-1887) on 18 February 1860. Christina was sister to Wellington Supreme Court Judge Alexander Johnston.

Archdeacon Alfred Nesbit Brown (c1860)

Alfred Nesbit Brown (c.1860).

The Rev Alfred Nesbit Brown made two land purchases at Te Papa on behalf of the Church Missionary Society. The first, of about 7 hectares, included the land on which The Elms (formerly the Te Papa Mission Station) stands today. He and his second wife bought it from the CMS in 1873. The second piece of land stretched from Brown Street to Church St, Gate Pa.

Brown spent many years teaching local Maori about Christianity both here and in the Waikato, while his first wife, Charlotte, taught reading, writing, and the skills to run a home in the European manner.

On the eve of the battle of Gate Pa in 1864, Brown and his second wife invited about twelve officers to dine with them at the Mission House. Only one, Surgeon General William Manley, survived the battle. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery at Gate Pa.

The work of the mission station was totally disrupted by the New Zealand wars in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. After the battle some local Maori felt betrayed by Brown, and many were displaced from their ancestral lands. The work of the mission station never recovered.

Brown died in Tauranga, aged 80, on 7 September 1884. His death notice appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times:

BROWN At Tauranga, on Sunday morning 7th inst, Alfred Nesbitt Brown, Archdeacon of Tauranga, in the 81st year of his age. The funeral will leave his late residence for the Mission Chapel at 3.30pm tomorrow where the ordinary portion of the burial service will be read and from thence the cortege will proceed to the Mission Cemetery. Friends will kindly accept this notice (Bay of Plenty Times, 9 September 1884).

Brown was buried in Mission Cemetery with his son, Marsh.

Christina died, aged 68, on 26 June 1887. Her death notice appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times:

BROWN Our readers will regret to hear of the death of Mrs Brown, widow of the late Archdeacon Brown, at the old age of 69. Particulars of the life of the deceased lady will appear in our next issue (Bay of Plenty Times, 27 June 1887).


Alfred Nesbit Brown served as a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary in New Zealand from 1829 to 1884. He spent much of his time at the Te Papa Mission Station in Tauranga where the Brown family took up residence in January 1838. Bishop George Augustus Selwyn granted Brown his licence as minister of the Tauranga district on 19 December 1842 and appointed him the first archdeacon of Tauranga on 31 December 1843. He was installed in September 1844. His missionary work was affected when the New Zealand Wars spread to Tauranga in 1864. The government confiscated land in the western Bay of Plenty and made it available to military settlers, displacing Maori from their whenua, and Brown’s mission work came to an end. He and his wife purchased 17 acres from the CMS in 1873, renaming the property “The Elms”. Brown died in Tauranga in 1884 and was buried in the Mission Cemetery. The historic Elms Mission House is the oldest European heritage site in the Bay of Plenty.

See also Betty Cole's 2013 entry in the Memoir and Local History Competition.



McCauley, Debbie (2011, August 5). Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864 (Tauranga Memories Kete).

Rorke, Jinty (1970). Alfred Nesbit Brown and Charlotte Brown (Dictionary of New Zealand Biography).


This page archived at Perma CC in March of 2017:

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Alfred Nesbit Brown (1803-1884)

First Names:Alfred Nesbit
Last Name:Brown
Date of Birth:23 October 1803
Place of Birth:Colchester
Country of birth:England
Date of death:7 September 1884
Place of death:Tauranga
Place of burial:Mission Cemetery, Tauranga
First settled:Tauranga
Date of Arrival:29 November 1829
Name of the ship:City of Edinburgh
Place of settlement in Bay of Plenty:Bay of Islands
Other places of settlement:Tauranga
Spouses name:Charlotte Arnett and Christina Crombie Grant Johnston
Spouses date of birth:c1796
Spouses place of birth:England
Spouses date of death:13 November 1855
Spouses place of death:Auckland
Spouses place of burial:St Stephen's Churchyard, Parnell
Date of marriage:1829 and 18 February 1860
Place of marriage:England and Wellington
Fathers name:Joseph Brown
Mothers name:Ann
Name of the children:Alfred Marsh Brown and Marianne Celia Brown
Member of Society:Church Missionary Society (CMS)