AVERILL, Most Reverend Alfred Walter, C.M.G.
Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand, Bishop of Auckland, Bishop of Waiapu.
A new biography of Averill, Alfred Walter appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Alfred Walter Averill was born at Stafford, England, in 1865, the son of H. A. Averill. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Stafford, and St. John's College, Oxford, being in the college rugby XV and eights. He graduated bachelor of arts in 1887, master in 1891, and received an honorary doctorate of divinity in 1912. He attended Ely Theological College in 1888, and was ordained deacon in 1888 and priest in 1889. Averill was curate of St. George's, Hanover Square (1888–91), and Holy Trinity, Dalston (1891–94). On 30 November 1893 he married Mary Weir, and had a family of one daughter and four sons.
Averill came to New Zealand in 1894 as Vicar of St. Michael's, Christchurch, which position he held till 1909. He was also an honorary Canon of Christchurch Cathedral (1902–09), Archdeacon of Akaroa (1903–09), and Archdeacon of Christchurch (1909–10). Averill was consecrated Bishop of Waiapu on 16 January 1910 and during the time he held this office he made an annual visitation of all parts of the diocese, despite primitive travelling conditions. He came to know and love the Maoris well and continually maintained a deep interest in their spiritual and physical welfare. As a result, at the second General Synod in 1928, the Reverend F. A. Bennett was appointed first Bishop of Aotearoa.
When the Diocese of Auckland fell vacant after Bishops Neligan and Crossley had been forced to retire through ill health, Averill took the episcopate and was enthroned on 14 February 1914. Despite the great area of the diocese, which extended from North Cape to the middle of the King Country and included part of Taranaki, Averill entered into his work with unflagging enthusiasm. He restored historic buildings, notably the old mission buildings at Kohimarama and St. Stephen's Chapel, Parnell, which had fallen into disrepair. He took a great interest in schools, consecrating chapels at the Diocesan School and King's College, and by his efforts securing King's College as a church school. He appointed the Reverend Jasper Calder first Auckland City Missioner on 22 May 1920. New buildings both for the Order of the Good Shepherd and for the Missions to Seamen were completed during his episcopacy. The Archbishop's Church Extension Fund, which he founded, enabled new districts to be opened up and new buildings to be erected.
Averill was made Archbishop of New Zealand on 21 April 1925. As a result of his added duties, he now found it impossible to supervise adequately the Auckland Diocese; thus in early 1926 the Waikato, King Country, and Taranaki areas were constituted the new Diocese of Waikato.
During Averill's long association with General Synod, much legislation was passed, including a Bill to alter the Fundamental Provisions of the Constitution in 1925 and enactments governing the appointment of bishops and clergy. The cause of the Bible in Schools League was advanced considerably by his enthusiastic support. He attended Lambeth Conferences in 1920 and 1930, where he stood tenth in precedence. At the latter, he took a very active part in a subcommittee which made an historical pronouncement on Christian reunion. Throughout his long ministry Averill strove to make the influence of the church felt in public life; consequently he actively supported the Venerable Order of St. John, the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, the Royal Empire Society, and Rotary Clubs.
He retired from the Primacy in March 1940 and was made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G.) in 1957, a few months before he died in Christchurch on 6 July.
Averill's forceful personality, intellectual powers, and breadth of understanding made him a distinguished church and national leader, while his direct and honest approach and kindliness established him as a man beloved of the people.
by John Sidney Gully, M.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Assistant Chief Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington.
- Fifty Years in New Zealand, 1894–1944, Averill, Alfred Walter (1947)
- New Zealand Herald, 8 Jul 1957 (Obit)
- Church and People, Aug 1957 (Obit).