John Aldred was born in 1818 at Stutton, Suffolk, England, where he later qualified for the Wesleyan Ministry. He was ordained at Bristol on 4 September 1839 and was selected for missionary service in the South Seas by the Centenary Wesleyan Conference at Liverpool. On 8 May 1840 Aldred arrived at Hokianga in the Triton and, shortly afterwards, accompanied Buttle and Ironside to the mission at Ahuahu, near Kawhia. Later in the year the three travelled overland to visit the Wanganui and Taranaki settlements. On their way they fell in with a Waikato taua who were returning from a campaign in Taranaki with a large number of prisoners. The missionaries interceded with the Waikato chiefs and secured the prisoners' release. They then accompanied these back to their homes; and, in return, the grateful tribes set aside 100 acres of land for mission use.
Shortly after their return to Kawhia Aldred sailed for Port Nicholson which he reached on 23 December 1840. He took up residence in Manners Street, near Te Aro pa, and was the first Wesleyan missionary to be permanently stationed in Wellington. On 16 June 1842 he paid a brief visit to the Chathams and was the first clergyman of any denomination to do so. While there he ministered to the 600 Maoris who had accompanied W. P. Pomare on the Ngati Awa migration seven years previously.
On 24 February 1843, shortly before the Wairau Affray, Aldred left Wellington to take over the Wesleyan Mission at Nelson, where he remained until 1849 when he was appointed to the Hutt Valley. In January 1854 he transferred to Christchurch and became the first resident Wesleyan missionary to be stationed in the growing Canterbury settlement. Previously the needs of the Wesleyans in this area had been catered for by Watkin, who made periodical trips from Wellington. Aldred opened the first Wesleyan Chapel in Christchurch and was assisted in his work in the province by the Rev. W. Rowse, who was stationed at Lyttelton. In 1859 he returned to the Hutt Valley and, later (1862), to Wellington. He was appointed to Dunedin in 1864 and travelled widely in the Goldfields districts. In 1867, while riding between Port Chalmers and Dunedin, Aldred met with an accident which obliged him to retire from the active ministry. He settled in Christchurch, where he undertook connexional work and took an interest in the British and Foreign Bible Society.
On 1 May 1849 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Auckland, Aldred married Mary Australia, daughter of Walter Lawry, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Missions in New Zealand and the South Seas. On the same day, in a double ceremony, Lawry's son, Henry, married Hepzibah, a sister of T. S. Forsaith.
Aldred died at Christchurch on 14 January 1894, leaving two sons and three daughters.
In his day Aldred enjoyed a considerable reputation as a Maori scholar and specialised in Maori land tenure. When W. J. Hamilton was investigating Maori titles and negotiating land purchases between 1856 and 1859, he recorded that he “could find no competent European Maori scholar in the Province save Rev. J. Aldred of the Wesleyan church … (who) … is repeatedly thanked for his services at Akaroa, Port Levy, Rapaki and Kaiapoi”. Up until the arrival in Christchurch of Canon Stack, Aldred and J. Buller acted as official Maori interpreters to the Provincial Government.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Early Wellington, Ward, L. E. (1928)
- Maori and Missionary, Pybus, T. A. (1954).