William Marshall, the first schoolmaster in Hawke's Bay, was born probably in 1816 or 1817 and had migrated from England to Wellington, New Zealand, by 1850. The names of his parents and his place of birth are not known. Early in 1850 Marshall opened Wellington Grammar School in Hawkestone Street. His wife, whose identity is not known, assisted with beginners. In 1852 Marshall moved to Ahuriri (Napier) to tutor pupils, on the recommendation of Donald McLean.
Soon after his arrival he was appointed a lay reader by Bishop G. A. Selwyn, who was on a visit to the district. Marshall claimed to have preached the first sermon in English on Napier hill, at Domett's Gully, but this was disputed by William Colenso, who had been at Ahuriri since 1844.
Early in 1853 the Marshalls left for Thomas Guthrie's station at Castlepoint, Wairarapa, to teach the Guthrie children. With the founding of the town of Napier in 1854 and the sale of sections in 1855 there was an influx of settlers. Education was needed for their families, so a subscription list was opened. Marshall was induced to return in 1855 to establish a school. He was active in getting subscriptions and acquiring land. He chose two adjoining sections on the corner of Hastings and Tennyson streets, paying £10 for the land and £200 for the erection of the building. Marshall became the first headmaster of this, the Napier Trust School. With the help of his wife he conducted the school until 1858, when they moved to Rakamoana station at Te Pohue to tutor Donald McLean's son, Douglas. The Marshall name is perpetuated there by Marshall's Crossing.
Marshall returned to Napier in 1863 and on a site on Napier Terrace, near Napier Central School, he established the Academy for Young Gentlemen. Commodious buildings with classrooms and accommodation for boarders were completed and the school opened in 1864. Instruction in Classics, French and other subjects was provided. Three years later the title Napier Grammar School was bestowed on the school. He remained there until 1872 when he gave up teaching.
His intention was to return to England, but instead he took orders and was ordained deacon at St John's Church, in Napier, in December 1872, and priest on 12 March 1873. He was given the cure of Havelock North, which included Hastings and Clive. During the next few years he was deeply involved in the extension of the Anglican church during a period of rapid population growth. Without much help from the synod or from prominent local clergymen, the Reverend S. Williams and J. N. Williams, but with the support of local citizens he initiated the construction of St Luke's in Havelock North, St Matthew's in Hastings and St Mark's in Clive.
For health reasons brought on by anxiety and hard work he resigned in 1878 and went to a parish in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. From there he accepted a call to Murrurundi in New South Wales, where he died on 25 April 1906.
William Marshall was a humane, well-respected and worthy man. The Marshalls had no children.