Reverend brothers Arthur and Reginald Hermon


Bishopdale Old Boys

Young men must be found for the ministry, and they should be fit and proper men. They must be men who feel called to the work, and above all they should be those in whose hearts was the Spirit of God”.  Bishop Andrew Burn Suter.1

Hermon Rev. Arthur Hermon

Rev. Arthur Hermon 1854-1932. Nelson Provincial Museum ref, 16564

Arriving with the dawn on the 6th of August 1880, brothers Arthur and Reginald Hermon got their first glimpse of Nelson from the deck of the coastal steamer “Taiaroa.” Their overnight trip from Picton had been the last stage in a journey to New Zealand via Australia that had begun a couple of months earlier when they boarded the S.S. “Garonne” at Plymouth, England.

Hermon Allred Sarah Hermon

Alfred and Sarah Hermon. The Hermon brothers’ parents. Courtesy Ronald Hermon

Londoners by birth and orphaned young, they were sons of Alfred Hermon and Sarah née Owtram2 early residents of the Berrylands suburban development at Surbiton, on the outskirts of London.  A keen churchman, Alfred Hermon was closely involved with the establishment of the Anglican Christ Church at Surbiton Hill.

Hermon 22 King Street

Hermon family firm in London (mauve building), flanked by St James Theatre (rt) & Almack’s Assembly Rooms (lt) Courtesy Ash Rare Books, London

Nineteen year old Reginald Hermon (known as Reg), found employment in Nelson as a bank clerk with the BNZ but, having been called to the ministry, his older brother Arthur, then 24, enrolled at the Bishopdale Theological College. The brothers came with social credibility in the form of a distinguished uncle, Edward Hermon, cotton magnate, and Conservative M.P. for the electorate of Preston in Lancashire –  in colonial Nelson much mana was attached to such connections from back "Home" in England.

The Hermon brothers also had an influential connection in Nelson itself – Bishop Suter. After calling upon the Bishop with letters of introduction and recommendation from one of Suter’s “old and tried” clerical friends in London, Arthur Hermon and his brother were warmly welcomed into the Bishopdale fold.3

Arthur and Reginald came from a line of prosperous master tradesmen: builders and home decorators who for nearly 80 years ran a family firm from premises (with workshop behind) at 18 (now 22) King Street, off St James Square in Westminster, London. This business had been set up in 1806 by their grandfather Richard Hermon, a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass. After his death in 1849, “Richard Hermon & Sons” was carried on by said sons, John and Alfred, both master builders. The building industry in London was a small world and it is conceivable that the Hermons might have had dealings with the Bishop’s father, Richard Suter, an architect based in London at 35 Fenchurch Street.

Bishop Suter

Consecrated Anglican Bishop of Nelson in 1866, Andrew Burn Suter (1830-1895) was a man of energy and evangelical vision. He was a dynamic preacher and his emphasis on simplicity of worship sat well with parishioners suspicious of anything that smacked of High Church leanings. The Bishop revitalised his Nelson diocese. During his tenure he established a number of new churches whose parishes he personally visited as often as possible, frequently taking his students with him on these pastoral tours.4

Until Suter’s arrival, Anglican clergy had been supplied from England, but there were never enough of them to go round. As a stop-gap the Bishop brought with him several highly qualified men of the cloth who later helped out as tutors at Bishopdale College.

However, new churches meant a pressing need for even more clerics. The answer lay in home-grown clergymen, and not just any clergymen, but what the Bishop called “missionary clergymen”. Outside the cities, parishes in New Zealand were large and clergymen by necessity itinerant. It required fortitude as well as faith to travel by foot or horseback through difficult country, often without roads or bridges, spreading the Word and doing the rounds of a widely scattered flock.

Bishopdale Theological College

Bishop Suter opened a theological college at his episcopal residence in 1869, initially with three students. At his own expense he had the building extended in 1874 to allow for six resident students and a tutor. A large library and further accommodation were soon added, along with the Chapel in 1877.5 Suter was a kindly mentor and inspirational teacher who, with his wife Amelia, created a family home away from home for the students drawn to the College by the Bishop’s reputation as a scholar and theologian. The Hermon brothers were among those who later paid tribute, recalling the “many happy days spent at Bishopdale and the unceasing kindness shown them by the Bishop and Mrs Suter.”6

Hermon Botany class at Bishopdale

Botany Class at Bishopdale. Bishop & Mrs Suter with students. Botany was one of the Bishop’s many enthusiasms. Nelson Provincial Museum ref. 179295

Bishopdale Students Id

Reginald Hermon among students with Bishop Suter at the Bishopdale Chapel in 1885. Courtesy Ronald Hermon

Bishopdale also became a centre of social activity for the Nelson community. With many a fund-raiser and garden party held in its spacious grounds, students were able to mix with a wide range of Nelsonians and also meet suitable young ladies;  the right wife being, after all, one of a clergyman’s greatest assets.

The teaching schedule was intensive, so outdoor expeditions led by the Bishop made a welcome break. One such excursion - well-documented by Arthur Hermon’s Bishopdale contemporary Edward Jennings (they were ordained deacons together) - was a camping trip made in the summer of 1880 to Mt Arthur, where the Bishop preached to diggers working their claims on the Tableland. The features around Cundy Creek named "Bishop's Cave" and "Bishop's Pool" are said to date from this time. While in the area the Bishop also pegged out the future site of Ngatimoti’s St James’ Anglican Church, on a hill looking towards the Mt Arthur Range.7

Arthur moves to Spring Creek

When he ordained Arthur Hermon deacon at Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral in December 1881.8 Bishop Suter already had a job lined up for him. In January 1882 he was sent to take charge of the newly created parish of Spring Creek in Marlborough. Arthur’s “faithful and zealous ministry” soon bore fruit10 and a successful first year in the field won him the tick of approval at the Session of the Nelson Diocesan Synod convened in March 1883. Although he was based at Spring Creek.  Rev. Hermon’s charge also included Tua Marina and Grovetown. There was then no actual church attached to the area and although Arthur actively promoted the establishment of a church at Spring Creek, he himself was three years gone by the time St Luke’s was consecrated there by Bishop Suter on 22 October 1890.

Hermon Annie Jane Hermon nee Turner

Annie Jane Hermon nee Turner, 1863-1889, Nelson Provincial Museum ref. 20465

The Bishop ordained Arthur to priest’s orders in September 188311 and on 15 November 1883 conducted the wedding ceremony when Rev. Arthur Hermon was married at St Peter’s by the Strand, Atawhai, Nelson, to Annie Jane Turner, oldest daughter of Wakapuaka settler William Henry Turner and Isabella née Mackay of “Hillmore”, Clifton Terrace.12 Isabella was a daughter by his first marriage of another early Wakapuaka settler, James Mackay, owner of the “Drumduan” estate and a well-known  political figure. Her brother, James Mackay Jnr, was a notable explorer and Commissioner of Native Reserves.

The newlyweds settled in at the Spring Creek parsonage and their daughter Faith Adine was born there in August 1884.

Hermon Faith Adine Hermon

Faith Adine Hermon, 1884-1898. Only child of Arthur and Annie Hermon. Nelson Provincial Museum ref. 22878

Reginald enters the Church, 1885 to 1931

Meanwhile, Reginald, who was best man at Arthur’s wedding, had also entered the Church. He began his training at St John’s College, Auckland, but completed it at Bishopdale Theological College in Nelson. His brother,  Arthur Hermon, now of Spring Creek, preached the sermon at the service when Reginald was ordained deacon by Bishop Suter in 1885. An assignment soon followed - as curate to the parish of St Mark’s at  Charleston, a gold rush boomtown on the West Coast.13 Two years later, Reginald Hermon was ordained to priest’s orders at Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson.14

Hermon Rev. Reg Hermon Flora

Rev. Reg Hermon, 1861-1931, and Flora nee Mackay,1863-1926. Nelson Provincial Museum ref. 178669

Following still further in his brother’s footsteps and keeping it in the family, on 6 January 1887 Reginald Hermon married Flora Mackay at St Peter’s by the Strand, Atawhai, Nelson.15 Flora was a daughter of James Mackay Snr of “Drumduan” by his second wife, Ann Adney née Shuckburgh. Although they were the same age, Flora was the aunt of her new brother-in-law Arthur’s wife, Annie, who now also became her sister-in-law. Bishop Suter conducted the marriage service, assisted by Reginald’s brother Arthur and Rev. John Pratt Kempthorne, a foundation student of Bishopdale College, later Vicar of Christ Church Cathedral in Nelson and Archdeacon of Waimea. 

Hermon OLd Christ Church ca 1884

Old Christ Church, ca 1884 Artist: Benjamin Branfill,1828-1899. Member of Bishop Suter’s Bishopdale Sketching Club. Nelson Provincial Museum ref AC468

On 27 June 1888  Rev. Reginald Hermon was inducted as Vicar of St James’ Anglican Church at Ngatimoti, a rural settlement in the Motueka Valley, with a pastoral charge extending as far as Stanley Brook. St James’ was a relatively young church, having only been consecrated by Bishop Suter in 1884,16 and services had till then been taken by local lay readers. The decision to obtain a resident vicar was an ambitious one for a small and not particularly wealthy community at a time when each church had to pay its own way.

Hermon Berrylands vicarage

Berrylands vicarage at Ngatimoti. Rev. Reginald Hermon and wife Flora, holding baby Noel, on porch. Nelson Provincial Museum 179203

A suitable property in the Orinoco Valley was selected as a vicarage and Rev. Hermon named it “Berrylands” for his birthplace - Berrylands, Surbiton, in London. His second son Stanley was born there in February 1891. The first, Noel, had been born in August 1888 at the Mackay family home in Bronte Street, Nelson. The vicar’s stipend was set at £80 per year and was often in arrears – at one stage for a whole year! - as the congregation struggled to find sufficient funds to pay it. The vicar’s position became untenable and he was unable to stay on. The Rev. Hermon preached his final sermon at St James’ on 8 March 1890, becoming at the same time St James’ first and last resident vicar.17

Hermon St James Church Ngatimoti

St James Church, Ngatimoti. J. McFadgen

His next appointment was to the extensive Whanganui Parochial Missionary District, an area with three churches and so large that it was later divided into four separate parishes to make it more manageable. The Hermons moved north, joined by Flora’s widowed mother Ann Mackay and unmarried sister, Marion. Reginald Hermon was based at St John’s, Matarawa, and it  was at the vicarage in Fordell that  his mother-in-law died in 1898 and a third son, Arthur, was born in September 1899.  After nine years of constant travel on the parish circuit – during just one such pastoral tour around his parish  in 1896 he covered 225 miles on horseback over nine days18 - Rev. Hermon was given an appreciative send-off when he moved in May 1900 to the smaller, less demanding incumbency of St George’s, Patea.  His last and longest charge was as Vicar of St Peter’s, Pahiatua, in the parish of Mangatainoka.

Once himself a volunteer with the Nelson Naval Brigade, Rev. Hermon had a ongoing interest in the volunteer military training movement. In 1910 he was appointed honorary chaplain to the second-class New Zealand Territorial Force with the rank of Lt.-Colonel, and was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration in March 1918.

In 1921 Reginald Hermon retired to Palmerston North, where he died on 18 October 1931 at the age of 70, his wife Flora and youngest son, Arthur, having predeceased him. He was praised after his death as “A man of wide sympathies and understanding--a much loved pastor in the various parishes wherein he worked during his long life”.19

Arthur Hermon 1887 to 1932

In the meantime, his brother, Rev. Arthur Hermon, noted as “a plain, bold, vigorous speaker with broad views”, had made the move north ahead of Reginald, having acceded in June 1887 to the incumbency of St John the Evangelist at Feilding, in the Manawatū.20

Hermon St Peters by the Strand

St Peter’s by the Strand, Atawhai. Now known as Old St Peter’s, located at Founders Park. Nelson Provincial Museum 181967

Tragedy struck two years later when his wife Annie, aged just 26, fell seriously ill and died at Feilding on 5 June 1889. Her remains were returned to Nelson, where St Peter’s by the Strand saw sadder service as the setting for her funeral, followed by interment in the Turner family plot at Wakapuaka Cemetery.21

Hermon Headstone Annie Faith Hermon

Headstone of Annie Hermon at Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson, with inscription to daughter Faith. Courtesy Ronald Hermon

Arthur then took bereavement leave and, accompanied by his small daughter Faith, went back to England. He remarried on 31 July 1890 at Priory Church, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, to teacher Edith Beardsall, with Faith as their bridesmaid.22 Worksop was Owtram stamping ground and it’s likely that Edith, a daughter of surgeon Thomas Langley Beardsall, was a family connection.

There were Owtram relatives on both sides of the family – Arthur and Reginald’s parents, who married at Worksop on 13 September 1849, were cousins. When Alfred and Sarah Hermon both died one after the other, the way Owtram kin rallied around to care for their orphaned children was not forgotten by the Hermon brothers.

Rev. Arthur Hermon, with his new wife and daughter Faith, returned to Feilding soon after the wedding and for a few brief years the Hermon brothers lived close enough to exchange visits with each other. However,  in May 1893  Arthur resigned from his post, citing “urgent personal affairs” as the reason.

The Hermons were farewelled by Arthur’s parishioners in July23 and on 4 August 1893 they departed on the “S.S. Rimutaka” for England, where they settled permanently. Over the years Rev. Arthur Hermon continued to serve as clergyman at a number of parishes in England. His final incumbency was as Vicar of St Mary’s Church in Swaffam Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire, where he died on 10 February 1932, aged 77, having outlived his second wife and his younger brother Reginald, who had died just a few months earlier in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

On a poignant note, Arthur Hermon’s only child, Faith, died on 16 April 1898 at Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, where her father was at the time Curate of St Edmund’s Church, Walesby. She was 13. Her burial took place at the Priory Churchyard in Worksop three days later and an inscription to her memory was added to her mother Annie’s headstone at Wakapuaka Cemetery in Nelson.

The fate of Bishopdale College and Bishop Suter

Hermon Suter Art Gallery

Bishop Suter Memorial Art Gallery. Nelson Provincial Museum A630

The Bishopdale College was a great success but revolved so closely around the Bishop himself that it struggled to survive after he suffered a stroke which left him incapacitated and forced his resignation from the bishopric in October 1891. From 1893 on sporadic attempts of varying duration were made to revive the College, but it is only now, nearly 150 years since its foundation, that the Bishopdale Theological College appears in its current form to be once more on a solid footing.

Bishop Suter never recovered. He died on 29 March 1895, remembered as “a scholarly, energetic, generous, public-spirited diocesan, who had won the affection of people of all classes and creeds”.24 Art had always been one of his passions, and as a lasting memorial to her husband, Amelia Suter honoured his wish to gift the people of Nelson with an art gallery, giving land, money and the Bishop’s art collection, including works by Suter’s friend John Gully, as a founding donation for what would become today’s Suter Art Gallery.25


Thanks to Ronald Hermon (NZ) for access to photographs and information relating to the Hermon family & Maria Screen (England) for help with research queries.

Note - Bishopdale brothers in Holy Orders

Three sets of brothers altogether studied at Bishopdale College under Bishop Suter: Revs. Arthur & Reginald Hermon,  Revs. Alan & Melville Innes Jones and Revs. Charles & Edward Jennings. Melville Innes Jones  later became the Anglican Bishop of Lagos in Nigeria. His brother Alan Innes Jones took over the incumbency of St John’s, Feilding, following Arthur Hermon’s departure for England in 1893.

2018 (updated Nov 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. Bester, Rene. (ed.) (2010)  Harvest of grace : essays in celebration of 150 years of mission in the Anglican Diocese of Nelson. Nelson, NZ. Standing committee of the Diocese of Nelson, p.110 [Quote from a speech made by Bishop Suter at the consecration of the Church of the Nativity in Blenheim on 22 February 1879.]
  2. or Ancestry ProQuest [Arthur Hermon was born 7 July 1854 at Westminster St James, London.  Reginald Hermon was born at Berrylands, Surbiton, London, on 29 July 1861.]
  3. Hermon, Ronald. Ronald’s Genealogy:  Hermon Family. Arthur Hermon: Theological Studies
  4. Lash, Max (1992) Nelson Notables. Nelson, NZ: Nelson Historical Society Inc. Suter, Andrew Burn (1830-1895), pp 135-6
  5. Bester, ed. Harvest of grace. Bishopdale Estate, pp 126-7. See also:
    Ault, H.F. (Harold Frank) (1958) “The Nelson Narrative”. Nelson, NZ: Standing Committee of the Diocese of Nelson. Bishopdal Theological College pp. 195-202 (includes list of students).
  6. Presentation to the Bishop of Nelson (1885, December ) Nelson Evening Mail, p2
  7. Salisbury, N. J. (2006) Bush, Boots and Bridle Tracks. The Salisburys: Pioneers of the Motueka and Aorere Valleys. Auckland, NZ: J. Neville Salisbury. [Expedition to the Tableland] pp 153-162.
  8. An ordination will be held at Christ Church. (Mr Arthur Hermon) (1881, 27 Dec) Nelson Evening Mail, p. 2
  9.  Ault [Spring Creek], pp. 292-3
  10. The English Church in Marlborough (1882, June 1) Marlborough Express, p. 2
  11. Ordained to priest’s orders (Rev. Arthur Hermon) (1883, 21 September) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
  12. Wedding at Wakapuaka (Rev. Arthur Hermon to Annie Jane Turner) (1883, 16 Nov), Nelson Evening Mail, p. 2
  13. Ordination of Mr Reginald Hermon to deacon (1885, 28 Nov) Nelson Evening Mail, pg 2
  14. Ordination of Rev. Reginald Hermon to priesthood (1887, Sept 28), Nelson Evening Mail p. 2
  15. Marriages: Herman-Mackay (1887, 7 January)Colonist, p. 3
  16. Consecration of St James’ Church, Ngatimoti (1884, 30 October)Nelson Evening Mail, p. 2
  17. The History and Milestone Celebrations of St James Church, Ngatimoti, 1884-2009 [unpaged] (2009)  Nelson, NZ: Anglican Diocese of Nelson.
  18. Anglican Mission Services in Waimarino District (Pastoral Tour by Rev. R. Hermon).
    Part One  (1896, 13 March) Wanganui Chronicle
    Part Two (1896, 14 March) Wanganui Chronicle
  19. Obituary, Rev. Reginald Hermon, originally published in  the Manawatū Daily Times on 20 October 1931. Reprinted at WikiTree courtesy of Laurence Burns.
  20. Local & General News: Clerical: The Rev. Arthur Hermon, formerly Incumbent of Spring Creek has been appointed to the charge of Feilding. (1887, 17 June) Marlborough Express, p. 2
  21. The Late Mrs Hermon (1889, 18 June) Feilding Star, p. 2
  22. (1890, 1 August) Sheffield Evening Telegraph Sheffield Independent newspapers. Ancestry Library.
  23. Farewell to the Rev. A. Hermon (1893, 28 July) Feilding Star, p.2
  24. Morrell, W.P.  (William Parker) (1973) The Anglican Church in New Zealand: A History. Dunedin, NZ:  Anglican Church of the Province of New Zealand, pp 112-13
  25. The Prow: Stories from the Top of the South:The Bishop Suter Art Gallery/Te Aratoi o Whakatū.

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