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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


BROWN, Charles Edmund Bevan

Also known as Bevan-Brown (1854–1926).


Charles Edmund Bevan Brown was born in 1854 at Camelford, North Cornwall, the son of the Rev. William Robert Brown, a Methodist minister, and of Eliza, née Pearce. He was educated at the Louth and Bristol Grammar Schools and, in 1873, won an Oxford Leaving Scholarship. In 1874 he gained an open scholarship to Lincoln College, where he was a contemporary of H. H. Asquith, Herbert Gladstone, George Curzon, and Oscar Wilde. He studied classics and, in 1878, took second-class honours in Literae humaniores. While at Oxford he was influenced by Jowett, Ruskin, and Matthew Arnold. The latter almost destroyed his faith in religion. Later, however, he became an Anglican. From 1879 Bevan Brown was assistant master at Manchester Grammar School, but in 1883, when T. Millar resigned the headmastership of Christchurch Boys' High School following a disagreement with the Board of Governors, Bevan Brown was selected to succeed him. At first, partly because many parents sympathised with the former headmaster and partly because of his successor's inexperience, the school declined in numbers; but after 1886, when the new headmaster's abilities began to be appreciated, the rolls increased once more. From 1883 until 1920 Bevan Brown remained at Christchurch Boys' High School. In 1899 the New Zealand Government offered him the position, which he declined, of Inspector-General of Schools; a few years later, however, he became president of the Secondary Schools' Conference. During the First World War Bevan Brown presented a pocket Bible to each of the 800 old boys who served overseas and corresponded regularly with them. He retired in December 1920. During his early years at Christchurch Boys' High School the pupils surreptitiously nicknamed him “Balbus”—from an example he often quoted in his Latin classes. The name stuck and, when he retired, the old boys presented him with a silver trowel on which were inscribed the words of the old tag Balbus inurum aedificavit (“Balbus has built his wall”). During his last years Bevan Brown was a semi-invalid. He was an ardent supporter of the Young Citizens' League; but, apart from attending the meetings of that body, he seldom appeared in public.

In 1884, at Exeter, England, Bevan Brown married Annie Allen, daughter of Augustus Cridland. He died at Dunedin on 14 June 1926, being survived by his widow and three sons.

Bevan Brown believed that the principal aim in teaching should be to build character and that scholastic attainment was not the only criterion of a person's educational standing. He attached immense importance to religion and religious observance and personally superintended the instruction of his senior classes in that subject.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Christchurch Boys' High School Magazine, Jubilee Number 1881–1931
  • Sun (Christchurch), 15 Jun 1926 (Obit)
  • Press (Christchurch), 15 Jun 1926 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.