This is where the story begins. Robert Clinton Hughes a young lawyer had just been voted onto the Provincial Council. Hughes waas asked by his friend Peter Elliot, to table a question relating to the availability of land for recreational use at the Council sitting of January 1875.

In reply Thomas Kelly (Provincial Secretary) said there was an area referred to as the Botanic Gardens. This area had been identified by Frederic Alonzo Carrington on his original survey of the town. The site is next to the Te Henui Stream adjacent to Puketarata Pa.

Things went quiet for a few months; however, some residents were making noises. James Davis, later the funder of The Poet’s Bridge in his speech on the opening day of the bridge was reported to have said that when he arrived in New Plymouth, he saw that the great want of the town was a public pleasure gardens, and he at once commenced to agitate the question. Also, sometime during May or June a petition signed by 112 prominent residents, calling for a recreation area, had been presented to the Provincial Council. In the petition, the signatories vowed to look after any land given. It may well have been James Davis who initiated the petition.

Kelly had been extremely busy. He was a key player in setting up the inaugural Harbour Board and securing funding for its development. There had been a lot of talk about abolishing the system of Provincial Government and the sitting in June was possibly going to be the last chance to pass legislation. However, he did have another project that he was working on, which was to find a suitable location for an asylum. He had settled on the site known as Fort Herbert which lies on the hill behind the current east stand at the Sports Ground. At that time, the Pukekura valley was devoid of trees and he would have had a good view across it. He was aware that the valley had little commercial value and considered that it may lend itself to a recreation area. At the time most of the land belonged to the Education Board. Kelly wrote to Fred Carrington, who was the Superintendent at the time, laying out his vision (TH, JUNE 26, 1875).

Once Kelly got the green light, he went about writing The Botanical Garden and Public Recreation Grounds Bill, 1875. This vested approximately 39 acres of land for recreational purposes and was to be run by the Town Board. He ran this by the Town Board but unfortunately, they did not want the ratepayers to have to carry the financial burden of developing and maintaining such a recreation ground. This all happened the day before the Provincial Council was due to be prorogued. Kelly, disappointed with the Town Council was ready to drop the bill.  Hughes on the other hand was keen to salvage it and suggested that the reserve could be run by a board of trustees. Kelly agreed to this if by the next morning Hughes could find seven people to act as trustees. Hughes did this, the bill was amended and went through all its stages and was passed during the last sitting of the Provincial Council on June 30, 1875. Even though the bill passed through the Provincial Council it still had to be approved by the Governor. The bill did not get the Governor’s approval and it was not until September 1876 that the Taranaki Botanic Garden Act 1876 passed through parliament.

A list of board members was published in the TH on July 31, 1875. The names being: – Thomas King, Harris Ford, Robert Clinton Hughes, Isaac Broad, John Gilmour, James Thomas Davis, and Robert Joseph Collins.

The first board meeting was held on Friday, September 30, 1875, (TH 4 8 1875) at which it was agreed to meet the following Tuesday as a group to survey the land they had been granted, which was now estimated to be 47 acres. It was also agreed that the first work to be undertaken would be to erect a boundary fence.

The Board met as planned along with Arthur Standish to survey the task ahead. The next morning Hughes and Davis started to peg out the first path (Hughes Walk). There was a stream running through the park and the idea was to run a path along the west side of the stream and have a second path at right angles up to the racecourse. Even though Hughes and Davis were eager to see progress work on the paths did not start until 1876. To establish a good layout for the Recreation Ground the board ran a competition, offering a £5 prize for the best plan. Reginald Bayley was the winner (TH 8 9 1875).

Laying out paths etc. is a job for a surveyor and the board was fortunate that Thomas Kingwell Skinner offered his services, gratis. He spent many hours with his chain man over a period of 30 years laying out different aspects of the Recreation Grounds.

The first actual development in the Recreation Ground was the planting of a vineyard by Heinrich Breidecker. He was granted the lease of an acre of land behind the racecourse in what is now Stainton Dell (TH 8 9 1875). The vineyard was not successful and was abandoned a few years later. Breidecker moved to Hokianga where he did establish a successful vineyard.

A tender for clearing Furze (gorse) was awarded to Newell and James and a tender to make a section of ditch and bank boundary fencing was awarded to Huggett & Co.

Isaac Broad was relieved of his position on the board (TH 24 11 1875) after missing three consecutive committee meetings. Thomas Colson filled the vacant seat.


The Recreation Ground Board started the year by organising the clearing of parts of the reserve, building fences and cutting paths. Charles Tapp was awarded the contract to construct the first paths at 4s 6d per chain. The land was swampy, had few trees on it, and was covered in gorse (furze), ferns, and tutu. The plan was to have the main entrance at the northwest corner of the grounds onto Carrington Road (now Victoria Road) and run a path along the western bank of the stream down to Brooklands. From this path to have a second at right angles across the valley past the vineyard, exiting at the racecourse. Unfortunately, the Board did not own two sections (1084 and 1065), making it difficult to proceed with the main entrance at that location. A decision was made to move the main entrance to Liardet Street, (TH 29 3 1876) which was a slightly better option, but still not ideal.

When seeking access across sections 1084 and 1065 the Board’s request was denied because this land was earmarked as the start of a road planned to run through the Recreation Ground. This news came as a shock to the Board who immediately started protesting. Eventually this matter was resolved, and the road never proceeded.

The opening date was set. The ceremony was to be held around a mound (Cannon Hill) and the first paths would have been from the Liardet Street entrance around the mound.

During the opening day ceremony four trees were planted around the mound by Miss Jane Carrington, eldest daughter of Fred Carrington. On the east side an oak representing Britain, on the north a puriri representing NZ, on the west, a Norfolk Island pine representing the South Pacific Islands, and on the south, a Pinus insignus, representing America. The spade used by Miss Carrington can be found in Puke Ariki Museum. Following the official planting other folk were invited to plant trees. A rimu was planted by Mrs. M. A. Hughes, a yew by Mrs. T. K. Skinner, a Norfolk Island pine by Thomas Colson, and a puriri by Mr. R. Hughes. James Mitchinson of Egmont Nursery donated many young trees for the public to plant. Land had been prepared for this to the south of the path between Cannon Hill and Fountain Lake. Some of these trees may still exist today. An account of the opening day’s ceremony was published in the TH, May 31, 1876.

The original parliamentary bill of 1875 drafted to set up the Recreation Ground had some issues, and the Governor never signed it off, but after a few modifications the Taranaki Botanic Garden Act 1876 finally passed in September 1876 allocating almost 49 acres of land to the Board of Trustees. The land was made up of a combination of town sections, parts of roads and part of the original green belt that Carrington set out. Within the boundary of the park there were a few town sections that were privately owned, and the Board purchased these when they were able to do so. Sections 1172 and 1175, both of which had cottages, were purchased in 1876. (map)

Charles Carnell was employed as custodian, he worked two days a week. Carnell lived in a property adjoining to Recreation Ground where the Band Room stands today at the Rogan Street car park. At that time Carnell’s house was on Wakefield Street. One of his duties was to impound cattle wandering into the grounds.

Throughout the history of the park there has always been controversy about the selection of plants. In the early days planting was very much dependent on what was donated. The Board was always struggling financially and would accept any plant donations. In 1876 the Board received two thousand plants from Christchurch Domain which had a major impact on the diversity of plants in the Recreation Ground.

During the year, a boundary fence between the Recreation Ground and Brooklands was completed.


Clearing gorse and making new paths was the focus of 1877. Both were limited due to lack of funds. We see the start of fundraising events which form the core of revenue along with subscriptions and leasing of some sections. Over time the trustees donated a lot of their own money and acted as guarantors for necessary loans.

There were some tree planting done through the year, some of which will have been from the Canterbury donation. A significant addition was two California Big Trees (Sequiadendron giganteum), donated by, and probably planted by, James Davis. These trees are still going strong today (2020). One is by the old curator’s office on the east side of Sunken Dell and the other is on the east side of the same path leading to the Tea House. The Board during the planting season had also planted parallel with the northern and eastern boundary of the ground Pinus insignis (Pinus radiata).

Towards the end of the year the construction of the lake was on everyone’s mind. Thomas Kelly provided the drawings for the dam and the Board issued tenders for the dam construction. The contract was won by Messrs. Neil, Claffey and Power.

A notable departure from the Board was R. J. Collins, who left New Plymouth to take up a position in the treasury department at Wellington. Collins would go on to become Auditor-General. His replacement was Reginald Bayley. Bayley drew the plans of the Recreation Ground and designed the dam’s under-sluice.


This year was all about the lake. The construction of the dam was a massive undertaking. All the work was done manually, and the Board had hoped to get some assistance using prison labour. Unfortunately, this was not forthcoming. To raise the funds to construct the dam the board members had to extend their personal credit. There were some changes to the original design, including an under sluice, this being necessary to drain the lake as a safety measure. The changes recommended by resident engineer C. W. Hursthouse added significantly to the cost. An article about the dam construction was printed in the TH, June 13, 1878. 

There were unforeseen issues, such as springs appearing as the earth was removed and large rocks which occasionally had to be removed using explosives. Thankfully, these were overcome, and the dam is still doing its job today. When the dam was finished and the lake filled with water it was described as having an area of nearly two acres, a length of nearly 400 yards with varying widths. Then the lake extended down to the northern end of Goodwin Dell (plan 1880).

How the lake was to be used became an interesting issue. Contentiously, Mr W. K. Hulke of the Acclimatisation Society suggested a union between his organisation and the Recreation Ground Board on condition that bathing and boating were banned. He wanted the lake exclusively for fish, and duck breeding. The Board would have welcomed a union as the Acclimatisation Society was cash rich. Unfortunately the terms were unacceptable.

The Board decided that individuals could put their own boats on the lake at an annual cost of £1 1s. Mr Nicoll (tinsmith) took advantage of this as early as May, christening his newly built 15ft iron outrigger “Lady of the Lake”. Initially boating was not allowed on Sundays then it was changed to Sundays before 12 noon, much to the disgust of the New Plymouth Wesleyan Chronicle.

By the end of the year bathing in the lake was proposed but only if an individual had purchased a season ticket, and not after 8am. The southern end of the lake which was long and narrow had become known as The Dardanelles.

The Board decided to employ a full-time custodian and started discussions about reclaiming the swamp near the Liardet Street entrance. This would prove to be significantly more problematic than it first appeared.

Some of the plant donors this year were Messrs. Mitchinson, Skinner, Butterworth, Hammerton, Gibson, Howell, Newman, and Uncles. Also, a black swan was donated by Mr Wilson of Kakaramea.

A fundraising bazaar was organised, held in the Odd Fellows’ Hall (TH 8 11 1878). Lots of stalls were run by a who’s who of the local ladies. A huge £256 was raised for the Board.


This year saw two significant changes to the Recreation Ground Board members. John Gilmour and Thomas King both resigned being replaced by R. H. Thompson and James Davidson, respectively.

With the lake well-established there was a call to use it for recreational swimming. The town did not have a swimming pool so the water in the Recreation Ground looked very safe and inviting. After a public meeting chaired by C. W. Govett, he and Mr R. H. Thompson were charged with approaching the Board with a scheme to build a bathing house and get permission to swim in the lake. The Board agreed but stipulated that swimming would not be allowed until a bathing house was erected. Plans were drawn up by a Mr Northcroft and the building went out for tender.

The next problem was how to pay for the bathing house. The committee set up to organise the construction had managed to solicit £40 by way of subscriptions, the remainder would have to be found by other means. A couple of fundraising events were organised, one being the first swimming competition (TH 10 4 1879) on Wednesday, April 9, 1879. The competitors had to be suitably attired in drawers and singlets and get changed in the new bathing house. The occasion drew a large crowd who sat on the banks overlooking the lake. At that time, the sides of the valley were basically treeless, so there was an excellent view of proceedings. Board member, Robert Clinton Hughes was one of the competitors.

The park is now famous for its eels and in 1879 we have our first account of eels being caught, one being about 3 feet 6 inches long and weighing in at 15lb.

In November, the Recreation Swimming Club was formed with the intention of having annual swimming competitions and swimming lessons. Newton King was on the committee. The subs were set at 2s 6d. The final act of the year was the first swimming competition arranged by the Recreation Swimming Club. The day was a huge success. The Mayor declared a public half day holiday for the occasion.

Donations during the year included shrubs from Mr. Mitchinson and Muscovy ducks from Mr. A. Colson.

The history of the Recreation Ground is all about people, some of whom are household names even today. Most of the early trustees were prominent townsfolk. In 1879 one name stands out, Mr R. H. Thompson.  He was prominent in the forming of the bathing house committee and the Swimming Club at the end of the year. Thompson, who joined the Recreation Ground Board of Trustees in May was an active member of the community. He was manager of the Cash Palace (a shop in town), but he was also a town councillor, secretary of the Odd Fellows, the Garrick Club, and the Beach bathing house. He was a sergeant in the Mounted Rifle Volunteer Corps, director of the New Plymouth Gas Company and Chairman of the Public Works Committee.  Sadly for the Recreation Ground Thompson left New Plymouth in 1880 when the Cash Palace closed its doors.

The final act of the year was the first swimming competition arranged by the new Swimming Club. The day was a huge success. The Mayor declared a public half day holiday for the occasion.


This was a quiet year regarding progress. The Board found itself in a financial crisis and not able to do a lot of work in the grounds. The debt was troubling because the trustees were personally responsible for any debts incurred. They did receive a couple of cash injections, one by way of a lecture by Sir William Fox, (former Prime Minister on four occasions) who gave an account of his travels in Palestine and the Holy Lands at the Odd Fellows Hall.

The financial situation was desperate, and the Board went cap in hand to the Borough Council to get a subsidy. The council considered it, then rejected the plea. Councillor Nicoll wanted to table a motion that the council take over the running of the Recreation Ground. This motion was later withdrawn because Nicoll became aware that the Recreation Ground Board of Trustees would not step down. The reality was, the Borough Council had no legal authority to take over the Recreation Grounds.

In the Act that set up the grounds, Article 18 stated that, “The Governor may on the petition of the majority of the members for the time being of the Board, or of two-thirds of the rate-payers of the Borough of New Plymouth, dissolve the said board, and on such dissolution the said lands vested by this Act shall vest in the Borough of New Plymouth, and be managed by the said Borough as the Board is authorized to manage the said lands.” In later years, the Recreation Board would use this to try and extract money from the council by threatening to hand over the grounds to the Borough Council if they did not give a grant for the running of the grounds.

The Recreation Swimming Club organised an Autumn competition on March 3. The morning was not looking promising and the committee decided to postpone the event. As is often the case in New Plymouth the weather changed, and the committee decided to go ahead again. To inform the towns people they employed the services of the town crier. The competition had some interesting events, such as a blindfold race, “washerwoman’s surprise”, but the event that stands out is the diving competition won by R. C. Hughes. Hughes was a keen swimmer and member of the Board of Trustees for about 60 years.

Donations this year, included plants from Mr G. E. Duncan, pine seeds from the Geological Department, and water lilies from Mr Johnson of Christchurch. The board also received 200 trout ova to be released into the lake.


The focus at the beginning of the year was fundraising. The Board found itself in debt which it needed to reduce significantly. The main fundraiser was a Fancy Fair, raising £110. The Borough Council gave a grant of £50. Another way of raising funds was the introduction of a charge for using the bathing house, a season ticket being 2s 6d.

During the year three Board members resigned, Reginald Bayley, R. H. Thompson, and Thomas Colson. They were replaced by J. B. Roy, Dr Gibbes and T. K. Skinner. The Board remained unchanged until 1885.

Until 1881 the current Sports Ground was a swamp. A decision was made to drain it and fill it with earth to create a sports field, initially for croquet, but later changed to cricket. At that time, the land around the Liardet Street Entrance was not fully developed. There was a hill outside the gate making access to the grounds difficult. A request was made to the Borough Council to remove part of the hill to fill the swamp, permission was granted (TH 5 7 1881) to remove 2,000 yards. T K Skinner was requested to prepare a plan and specifications for the work. Mr Alfred Well was awarded the job. Work started towards the end of the year, but it took many years to get the ground looking as it does today.

It was reported that 1100 trees had been planted during the season. James Mitchinson of Caledonian Nurseries had graciously donated one thousand established plants.


Again the state of finances was front and centre of the Board’s thoughts. The filling of the swamp was halted due to lack of funds and the Board again approached the Borough Council pleading for help in funding the Recreation Grounds. The Board officially threatened to hand over the ground to the council if aid was not forthcoming and eventually the council granted the Board £50.

During one Board meeting it was suggested new blood should be found and the meeting descended into chaos, but eventually they settled down and the status quo was restored.

The Acclimatisation Society was approached to help the Board.  It was suggested that Darby Claffey, the custodian, be educated in the care of monkeys, goats, buffalos, elephants, serpents, and other interesting animals which the Acclimatisation Society may propose to let loose on the grounds if they come to the party.

In March a half day holiday was observed for the annual swimming tournament. The weather was fine, and the event was well-attended. Amongst the usual swimming events there was also a very amusing porker at the end of a greasy pole (TH 7 3 1882) competition which caused much hilarity. A greasy pole was fixed so as to hang over the water, at its end was fastened a box with a pig in it. The swimmers had to climb along a pole, let out the pig so it dropped into the water, then retrieve it to the bank. Several unsuccessful attempts were made before the prize was eventually claimed by W. Holford.

During the year, several people made personal donations to the grounds. Robert Clinton Hughes had a small ornamental lake made. Thomas Furlong donated a fountain, placed on what is now the Hatchery Lawn, two statues (Graces) in the main lake and a flagpole with a circular mirror hung from it. Thomas Furlong, or Professor Furlong as he liked to be known, was an interesting character, and very active in the community. He had arrived in New Plymouth with the 57th Regiment during the 1860’s.  In 1866 he opened a barber shop on Devon Street West by the Mangaotuku Stream, next to William Collis, the photographer. He always had the latest in equipment, such as chairs etc. At the back was an extensive tobacconist and a shooting gallery. He also operated as a chiropodist. Doctor Gibbes also donated a fountain. Thomas Wilson donated some King Ferns and Mr. Shuttleworth donated some Prussian carp.

Towards the end of the year reclamation of the swamp was resumed and a third of an acre was added to the lawn. The contractor was G Thompson.


The year began with an emphasis on fundraising which took the form of Ye Olde English Fayre. This was a huge event which lasted 5 days and bolstered the coffers of the Board considerably. However, the big story of the year was The Poet’s Bridge. Mr. James Thomas Davis, a prominent figure in town and a trustee of the Recreation Ground since its inception, had the good fortune to win a large sum of money from a horse racing sweepstake at the Auckland Autumn handicap. The horse was called “The Poet”. Davis, an active member of the Board had often thought about having a bridge halfway down the lake, he felt the lake would not be complete until a bridge was built. The windfall meant that he could make his dream come true. People were invited to supply bridge designs on the understanding that the design was gratis. The design chosen was that of Henry Vere Barclay, Civil Engineer & surveyor. The construction contract was won by Mr. Hooker. Mr. Campbell was the sub-contractor for the woodwork, Mr. Revell the iron work, and Mr. Bellringer the painting. Bridge construction started in November 1883.

Two Black Swans were donated to the Board from Mr. Vavasour of Blenheim. Unfortunately, one died on the ship bringing the birds and the second died shortly after being let loose in the lake. Dogs were becoming a nuisance worrying the waterfowl so a notice was placed in the Taranaki Herald stating that dogs found in the park would be shot. The author has found no evidence that this threat was ever carried out.

The Board received two packets of seeds from the government: one of eucalyptus, or blue gum and one of golden wattle.


The opening of “The Poet’s Bridge” was carried out on the evening of March 10th with a lot of pomp and ceremony. TH May 3, 1884. The Mayoress Mrs. Bayly did the official honours.  James Davis made a speech during which he referred to the petition presented to the Provisional Council in June of 1875 asking for land for recreation purposes.  This petition may well have been initiated by Davis and names from it used by Clinton Hughes to find the original members of the Board.

The bridge was designed by Henry Vere Barclay who also supervised the construction. Barclay who was a surveyor for the Royal Marines spent many years exploring Central Australia and the Northern Territories. It is unclear how he came to be in New Plymouth during the early 1880s.  Totara was the main timber used in the construction of the bridge and the original colour was brown. Rebuilt in 1938 using part of the bequest of Charles Score Sanders the bridge maintained a similar appearance. The bridge with the mountain in the background is one of the iconic views of New Zealand.

A cannon was presented to the Recreation Ground by Professor Furlong. This was said to be one of Dickie Barrett’s used to defend Otaka Pa at Moturoa in 1832. Over the coming years another three cannons would be gifted to the Recreation Ground, one of which was thought to be another of Dickie Barrett’s, one from the wreck of the Harriet and the third of unknown origin. The Barrett cannons were thought to date back to the 17th century. Initially these were positioned on the path at the north end of the lake but would eventually be mounted on Cannon Hill (hence the name).

Another gift to the Recreation Ground in 1884 was a pair of ornamental iron gates for the Liardet Street entrance. George Rhind was the benefactor. Rhind had come to New Plymouth in 1881 to help with the unloading and erection of machinery for the new harbour. He was kept on and made Superintendent of Works. Rhind worked for the Harbour Board for about 10 years, then briefly as the proprietor of the Taranaki Hotel. The gates were made by James Revell blacksmith, and survive to this day (2021) at the Victoria Road entrance.

The Board sold off two cottages that were deemed uninhabitable, these cottages were probably on sections 1172 and 1175 which the Board acquired in 1876.

There were plant donations of native shrubs from Mr. G. Oliver, puriris from Mr. R. Wells,  and hollies Mr. J. T. Davis. It is interesting that in some places in the park today holly trees appear to have been used as living boundary markers.


Both Furlong Graces statues in the lake were destroyed early this year, one by a boat that came loose from its mooring, the other being blown over. The Board decided to replace them with a pair of large earthenware vases. The job was given to Mr. White who had a brick-yard at Waiwhakaiho.

A bathing area was created for women and children by extending the lake by an eighth of an acre, to a depth of four feet, near the bathing house. This was separated from the deep water by a wire fence.

Changing the name of the Recreation Ground had often been suggested and in March of 1885 it was announced that the name would be changed to “Egmont Park” subject to confirmation. Unfortunately, the procedures to complete this proved too difficult and the idea was abandoned.

On April 7th, Captain Davidson, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees committed suicide. James Davidson joined the Recreation Ground Board at the beginning of 1880 to replace Thomas King. In 1881 he took over the chairmanship and kept that position until his death. He worked at Bayly’s the butchers as a bookkeeper. On April 7, 1885 he had an altercation with Bayly and on his way home he called into Gilmour’s shop where he had a revolver which they were selling on behalf. He took the revolver, went to his home (Fleetwood cottage) on Carrington Road, sat by a tree in his garden overlooking Marsland Hill and shot himself. F. P. Corkill took his seat on the Board.

The first rugby practice was allowed in the grounds this year, but the ground was poorly drained and when it rained it became unplayable. A lot more work was still necessary to get it into a satisfactory condition for playing sport.

Chew Chong donated a flagstaff which was positioned on top of Cannon Hill. This was a topmast off the wrecked ship the Australind which had come to grief whilst delivering cement for the development of the port in July 1882. The mast now stands in the reserve at Moturoa next to the Yacht Club.

Other notable happenings during the year were the decision to build a bandstand and the installation of the Rhind gates at the Liardet Street entrance.

There were many donations during the year. Six ornate garden bench seats from Mr. Sharland in the UK. A circular seat round the flagpole on Cannon Hill was made from money donated by students from Mrs. Dougherty’s Egmont Ladies Academy.

Many plants were also donated, water lilies from W. L. Newman and Mitchinson, several hundred young pohutukawa from Captain Messenger, 150 puriri from Captain Wilson and a large quantity of young trees from Mr. Mitchinson. Six-hundred trees were planted in the region of the Racecourse Walk. Other plantings included a box hedge around the lake.

Also noted was the abundance of fish in the lake – carp, perch, and trout. It was thought that offering a fishing licence would be a good way of raising money.


The lake was lowered to allow the sides to be cleaned and to remove a spit of land immediately south of The Poet’s Bridge on the east side. This increased the area of the lake by more than an acre.

Two large vases donated by Mr. White were put in the lake to replace the Furlong Graces that were destroyed.

Darby Claffey, the caretaker of the Recreation Ground, was a bit of a character and would often tell yarns such as the case of the reported poacher. His story of killing a shag whilst in the process of swallowing a fish, by hitting it with a well thrown stone was not quite accurate. Apparently, the shag’s eyes were bigger than its belly and it had the misfortune of choking itself.

Section 1086 was purchased, allowing easier access to the waterfall. The waterfall in question being the location of the present waterwheel.

Six fishing licenses were issued at 10s 6d each, as the size and quantity of the fish in the lake was on the increase. It was reported that Mr. R Gilmour caught eight or nine carp, weighing around 12lb.

After a lot of discussion ladies bathing was allowed between 8am and 11am, except Sundays. This caused a lot of concern because it was deemed necessary to close the park to men during these hours. Fortunately, a compromise was found, and it was decided to hoist a red flag on the Cannon Hill flagpole if ladies were bathing, warning gentlemen to stay away from the ladies bathing area.

With a donation of £25 from the Mayor Mr. Paul and £10 10s from the fireworks display it was decided to proceed with the Band Rotunda.  A design had been submitted by local architect James Sanderson, which was gratefully accepted. He also offered to supervise its construction. Scott Brothers of Christchurch were asked to quote on the structure. The price was beyond the board’s funds so they decided to approach the construction in parts, the foundation first, then order the structure when funds would allow.

A successful fireworks display was conducted with an attendance of between 1500 and 2000 people.


The year started with work on the Band Rotunda. Cannon Hill had to be cut back several feet to make space for it. The earth removed was placed behind the dam to give it more strength and to raise the level of the path leading down to what is now the Hatchery Lawn. The concrete base was laid but suffered a couple of acts of vandalism delaying its completion. However, it was completed in time to be used by the Taranaki Rifles Brass Band during Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee celebrations. Because of the lack of funds, the top was not erected until 1891.

There were two more cannons donated to the Recreation Ground, one by W. L. Newman which was said to be a Barrett cannon and a second by Mr Hoskin of Waitara accompanied by a 68lb cannon ball. The cannon ball was said to be fired from the H.M.S Pelorus. 

A five-acre section of land originally part of Brooklands, lying between the Recreation Ground and the racecourse, acquired by the Jockey Club was offered to the Board. This land was of no use to the Jockey Club and eventually they would hand it over to the Recreation Ground Board. Over the years there were several land swaps. The two groups had a good relationship and often had people on the executive of both boards including J. T. Davis, W. L. Newman, R. Cock, and C. W. Govett.

Some birds were introduced to the grounds. The Acclimatisation Society released two brace of English Starlings and a Mr. Loveridge donated a Mollymawk which he had caught on a hook and line at Sugarloaf Islands. Unfortunately, the bird was attacked, suffering a broken leg, and had to be destroyed.

The Board was always looking for extra sources of income so decided to issue eel fishing licenses for 2s 6d.


This was a quiet year for the Recreation Ground. The only real highlight being a Fancy Fair in March to raise desperately needed funds. The fair was to be held in the Recreation Ground in the area of the Band Rotunda. Lots of activities were planned, such as Aunt Sally, greasy pole, Punch and Judy, duck hunt, tub race, shooting galleries, etc. Unfortunately, the morning of the fair was wet and cold and a decision was made to have it at the Alexandra Hall in town that evening instead. Even at such short notice the fair was a success. All the Board members actively partook in the proceedings. As was usually the case Mrs. Humphries (wife of the late Dr. Humphries) was the driving force behind the organising of the fair. A profit of £61 14s was realised.

During the year, the Board got prices for supply and erection of the Band Rotunda which far exceeded what they were able to afford, therefore the plan was put on hold.

It was published that ‘The Recreation Board are at present adding a considerable number of trees to the grounds. The trees are all new to this place, being the product of American seed forwarded by the Government to the Board some three years ago.’ This probably relates to the mention of seed it received in 1886 and the possible/probable source of trees such as, Pinus torreyana, Sequoia sempervirens, Cupressus macrocarpa and Cupressus macnabiana.

A diphtheria pandemic during the year was a major event in New Plymouth.


At the beginning of the Year Dr. Gibbes resigned from the Recreation Ground Board as he was leaving the district, he had been an active member of the community. He was replaced by Richard Cock, a well-known businessman in town.

During the year, a few gifts of birds were received, the most notable of which was a pair of black swans from the premier Harry Atkinson. Also gifted were pea hens, a peacock, and a mollymawk. A sort of aviary was built near the bathing shed to house some of the birds.

The major news of this year was the formation of a Sports Ground Committee set up to reclaim the swamp by the Liardet Street entrance so it could be used for sporting events. Previous attempts to fill-in the swamp had mixed results and often fell short due to lack of funds. The committee to develop the grounds was given a seven-year lease at a rent of £1 per annum and allowed to use the area up to twelve times a year for fundraising, on the proviso that all funds raised would go into the development of the grounds.

The design of the Sports Ground was drawn up by surveyor T. K. Skinner who was a Trustee of the Recreation Ground. Any changes to the Sports Ground area had to have the approval of the Recreation Ground Board. Skinner also agreed to supervise the work.

Clearing the swamp of trees, etc. started in December.


The Sports Ground Committee was busy filling in the swamp and making an area suitable for an athletics meeting by Easter. They knew it would not be 100% suitable for all events given the time restraints but hoped they could still have a good competition. They were praying for fine weather knowing that a soggy ground would not be good. Working bees had been organised to clear the banks for spectators as at that time the terraces did not exist. The inaugural event on April 7 1890 was run under the name of the “New Plymouth Recreation Grounds Club”.  Fine weather prevailed and a crowd of around 2000 attended and the event was a success.

The ornate wrought iron main gates gifted by Mr. Rhind had become unstable, the foundations were in a bad way and Mr. Hughes senior had taken it upon himself to fix the gates and enhance their appearance. He had hoped to do this in time for the Easter sports day but raising money at the time was difficult. The gates were completed by the end of the year.

A sad event during 1890 was the murder of Stephen Maloney, an old soldier and veteran of the 1860s conflict. Maloney lived in the Recreation Ground, in a cottage on the hill behind the south-east corner of the sports ground. On the morning of his death, he had gone into town doing an errand for his neighbour Mrs. Carnell, which he often did. His route took him down Horton Walk and out the Liardet Street entrance. On this day he came across Darby Claffey the caretaker and stopped for a chat.  He mentioned that he had given a young Maori lad a cup of tea and the lad had said he was helping in the Recreation Grounds. Claffey told Maloney that was not the case.

Maloney went and did his errand, and on the way back he again went through the Recreation Ground and again Claffey saw him but this time they did not speak. On an evening Maloney would have his dinner at the Carnell’s house, she would summon him with a whistle. This evening there was no response, Mrs. Carnell sent her son looking for Maloney, but he could not be found. The next morning a search party found Maloney’s body amongst ferns close to his house. He had been assaulted with his own axe.  A young Maori lad who was seen wearing some of Maloney’s clothes and a new pair of boots the same as ones Maloney had recently purchased was arrested.

After hearing what Claffey knew at the trial, the Crown Prosecutor said “Oh! You are a most important witness; you are the last person who saw him alive.” Claffey: “I was not!” Crown Prosecutor: “Who was then?” Claffey: “Why, the man who killed him!” Crown Prosecutor: “Oh; you are an Irishmen, I believe.” Claffey: “I am.” The cross examination finished there.

The Board now found itself in a financial position to complete the Band Rotunda and in December a tender was issued for its construction.


The Board found itself in a position to complete the Band Rotunda which arrived in early February from Scott Bros. in Christchurch, they were determined to have it erected in time for the New Plymouth 50th jubilee celebrations which started on March 30, 1891, and they achieved this. It was erected by T. Bond & Co. The jubilee was a major event which lasted a week, and several programme items were held in the Recreation Grounds. There was a jubilee sports day attended by around 2500 spectators, including the premiere John Ballance. The jubilee marked fifty years since the first European settlers arrived in 1841.

Further improvements were made to the Sports Ground, including: fully sowing the field, improving the terraces, which were minimal at that time, and erecting a fence to stop spectators wandering onto the field.

A path to the waterfall (now the waterwheel) was made from the west of the grounds, this was possible since they had purchased Section 1086, and a bridge was erected over the stream above it. At that stage, the Gill Street entrance did not exist and the land which now forms Smith Walk was being rented out.

A major land acquisition was that of former Maori Reserve No 12, four full sections plus some part sections totalling over one acre. These sections cover part of Fountain Lake and Palm Lawn.

Again, the Board lost its chairman. James Davis (The Poet’s Bridge donor) drowned in the lake in September. Davis had been out one evening visiting his sister whose home he left at about 10pm. On his way home he decided to go for a skinny dip in the lake, and for whatever reason he drowned. The next morning the supervisor of a prison crew saw a pile of clothes by the bathing shed and when he could not see anyone in the lake sent someone in a canoe to look. Davis’s body was found in the lake opposite the bathing shed. The inquest resulted in the verdict of accidental drowning. There was no indication of foul play or suspicion of suicide.

A fire at the bathing shed in March was a bizarre event. The east end fire bell was rung, when people arrived at the bell the person sounding the alarm was the same person who had deliberately lit the fire. It later became known that the young man responsible wanted to go to jail for lighting the fire to hide other more serious offences. He was charged with the more serious offences and sentenced to eight years in Mount Eden Gaol.

A fourth cannon was donated to the grounds by Reginald Bayley after his departure to Wellington. Bayley a board member from 1877 to 1880, produced the plans for the Recreation Ground. He went to Wellington to take up a position with the government as Assistant Registrar in the head office of the Stamp Department in Wellington.

Clement Govett donated £20 for native trees with the proviso that the Board raise an equal amount. This led to 2915 native trees from all parts of the Taranaki region being planted during September. This included: 115 titi or cabbage tree, 69 mountain toi, 76 manuka rauriki, 189 horoeka or lancewood, 270 tarata, 110 ramarama, 40 wharangi (puka), 142 rewarewa (honeysuckle), 175 titoki or tapitapi, 109 kawakawa, 1 ngaio, 55 kohekohe or cedars, 223 totara, 58 nikau (palm), 60 rimu (red pines), 39 kahikatea (white pine), 53 miro, 30 tainui, 12 paratawhiti (the edible fern), 20 kowhai (yellow), 12 Prince of Wales feather ferns, 1 parapara or birdlime tree, 5 puka (parasite), 100 koromiko, 52 tawa, 2 rata, 14 akeake, 40 matai, 45 pukatea, 26 maire, 212 puriri, 1 stingnettle of New Zealand, 12 spear grass (wild Irishmen), 248 shrubs from the ranges, of different varieties, 170 matipo (red birch), 125 karaka. The planting was supervised by Mr. Kidd a landscape gardener from Inglewood. Kidd also planned the initial layout of Newton King’s garden at Brooklands. Pukatea, Kahikatea and some of the rimu that are growing in the area between the Tea House and the Fred Parker Lawn are the result of this planting. Miss Devenish, and Messrs. J. Elliot, C. Kyngdon, M. Sutherland, J. Wheeler, H. Arden, and Conolly also donated native plants around the same time.


Clement Govett was appointed to the Board at the beginning of the year to replace James Davis who had unfortunately drowned in September 1891. Govett was a prominent member of the community, had donated liberally to the Recreation Ground and was a founding member of the Swimming Club.

A system of annual subscriptions was introduced, set at 10s, this granted the subscribers free entry to all entertainment of any kind in the ground throughout the year.

An initiative to help the Board maintain the grounds and to beautify them was to invite people to take charge of small areas set aside as flower beds. The first to do so were Mrs. Hursthouse and Mrs. Weyergang but more followed including Central School. This had been tried earlier but unfortunately when the sports field was extended some of the flower beds were removed.

The head of the main lake was modified to strengthen the dam and to increase the width of the promenade in front of the Band Rotunda. This removed the point at the northern end of the lake that can be seen on Skinner’s map of 1880.

With the constant improvements to the sports field New Plymouth Cricket club approached the Board wanting to use the field for cricket. The request was granted, and a cricket pitch laid. The first match was played in December.

Archibald Hood approached the Board with the intent of planting a maze in the Recreation Ground. Hood had arrived in new Plymouth in 1861 as a Sergeant-Major in the Royal Artillery and retired following his tour of duty. He was a poet and author of short stories. The Board, always keen to improve the grounds especially if someone was willing to do the work, accepted his offer. The maze, coil shaped, constructed of 3—4000 Box-thorn plants was planted somewhere between the southern end of the main lake and the southern boundary of the Recreation Ground. The maze would become a thorn in the side of the Board and was removed after a few years.

Plant donations included: Mr. Duncan, two Norfolk Island pines. Mr. Fennell, an Azalea. Mr. J. Wheeler, ferns of Todea superba (Prince of Wales Feather) and constable Hickman, cabbage trees. The Norfolk Island pines are still present in the Park, one located near the old curator’s office/sports ground and the other adjacent to The Poet’s Bridge.


In March the bones of a baleen whale that had been beached near Tataraimaka arrived at the Recreation Ground. Cannon Hill had been recently beautified, paths cut into the face of the hill and the cannons placed on top. The bones adorned Cannon Hill and remnants can still be found today.

A long standing and controversial issue in the park has been the cutting down of pine trees. The culling of the early plantings started as soon as the 1890’s.

Dogs in the Recreation Ground had been an issue from the start, there had been several instances where dogs had killed birds that had been donated. Threats of shooting dogs and prosecuting owners had not been a deterrent so finally it was decided to go through with the threat. The first notable case was that of Newton King, the second that of F. P. Corkill. Corkill, a member of the Board was charged with having a dog in his following in the Recreation Ground. The unusual aspect of this case was that the complainant was Richard Cock who was also a member of the Board at the time.

In one of the court cases relating to dogs the judge asked a board member. “Why don’t you shoot the dog?” He replied that the Board would not like to do that. Sgt Duffin said that shooting would be a dangerous practice, as there were so many people about the grounds at times; and besides, he believed “Darby (custodian) was a bad shot.” This was followed by laughter in the court.

A major improvement to the grounds was the formation of what is now known as Fountain Lake. This was now possible after the acquisition of additional sections from Mr. Fookes. The formation was aided by prison labour which was not uncommon back then. The Board decided to build a boatshed and bridge at the southern end of the Main Lake and approached Mr. G Brown to draw up some plans.

The first interprovincial rugby game was played on the Sports Ground in August, Auckland v Taranaki.

The Board’s funds were boosted by £53 4s 10d from the distribution of an old relief fund for the Taranaki refugees that were sent to Nelson in the early 1860’s.

Section 1084 was acquired during 1893. This was the section necessary to give good access to Carrington Road (now Victoria Road). The Rhind Gates stand on the northern boundary of this section.

There were many donations of trees and shrubs from: Major Brown, Captain Mace, Messrs, A Standish, F Oliver, J wheeler, J Skinner and T Hickman, H Arden, J C Davies, J Dingle, Mesdames, R Street, Skinner senior, and Karira of Rahotu. The planting of many of the donations was supervised by Hamer Arden.

Other donations included a pair of pea fowl from Mr Reynolds of Pungarehu, a kiwi from Mr Skeet, and goldfish (which were released in the Fountain Lake) and a black swan from E M Smith, M.H.R.


The start of the year saw the completion of the Boatshed and the Boatshed Bridge. The Board’s finances once again were in a bad state with outstanding debts for lands purchased. In 1894 they acquired another section, 1135, for which they did not have the cash. Section 1135 was important because it was isolated in the middle of the grounds. When the Board originally got the Recreation Ground it was comprised of town sections, green areas, access ways and roads. Until the Board acquired a section any accessway leading to that section had to remain open.

Another change to the Board saw J. B. Roy replaced by W. L. Newman. Roy had been on the Board for thirteen years but had to resign due to pressures of work. He had been elected mayor the previous year. Newman was well known to the Recreation Ground Board having made several donations including a Dicky Barrett cannon. Newman was also a founding member of the Swimming Club and often helped with firework displays. He was the New Plymouth representative for the Union Steamship Company which also benefitted the Board.

The maze planted by Mr. Hood was growing well but it had cost him a considerable amount of money. To recoup some of this Hood decided to write a short story and sell it. The story was called Johnny Fro. This was the fourth story by Hood. Whether or not the book produced the income he wanted is unclear. The story is about a boy (Johnny Fro) who meets a girl, they end up getting married after some trials and tribulations. The Recreation Ground is at the heart of the story. (A copy of the book is in the Taranaki Research Centre).

A most novel event of the year was that of parachutist Miss Leila Adair. Her act involved sitting on a trapeze suspended from a hot air balloon, when the balloon reached a height of approximately 4000ft she would jump from the trapeze with a parachute. The balloon would come down of its own accord. Reading accounts of her performances in Auckland, Thames, Hamilton, Hawera, Wanganui and Palmerston North, all were unsuccessful, never attaining enough height to be able to jump. New Plymouth however was even more disastrous, while filling the balloon with hot air the people holding it down lost control and the balloon ended up on the burner and went up in smoke.

The Board organised a series of working bees to cull pine trees which had been planted too close together.

Some of the donations this year: R. H. Gibson, Himalaya Pines. Mrs Jameson of Koru, Camellia trees. Shrubs and plants collected by Mr A. Kyngdon during his recent visit in California and the South Seas. J C Davies, Meryta sinclairi (puka) and Marcus J MacReynolds, pair of pea fowl.


Originally the hillside south of the Boatshed to the east of the Serpentine was not part of the Recreation Ground. In 1895 the Jockey Club allowed the Recreation Ground Board to fence off part of the land to use. Board member W. L. Newman who was also a steward of the Jockey Club  initiated this move. Arbor day had recently started in New Plymouth, following the formation of the Scenery Preservation Society in 1891. C. W. Govett, being a member of both the Scenery Preservation Society and the Recreation Ground Board may have suggested that this newly acquired piece of bare land was a prime location to beautify. Planting took place on August 8. Puriri trees growing on this hillside adjacent to the walking track are undoubtedly from this Arbor Day planting.

The drowning suicide of George Duncan was a most unfortunate event. Duncan, 75, a money lender in town was observed by Darby Claffey (custodian) walking by the Bathing Shed to The Poet’s Bridge, then jumping into the lake. Claffey at the time was on top of Cannon Hill cutting grass. In his testimony Claffey said that he could not swim so spotting another gentleman in the ground he ran down the hill, got the assistance of the other man, went to the bridge stopping at the Bathing Shed on route to pick up a rope. On arriving at the bridge, they saw Duncan under the water and lifeless, and having taken ten minutes to get there decided there was no point in trying to rescue him. At the inquest Claffey was criticized for that decision. The incident led to the Board sacking him in early 1896 after being at the grounds for eighteen years. Claffey was more a labourer than a gardener and possibly the Board saw an opportunity to bring someone else in as custodian. On one occasion he was working in the grounds when he was approached by a visitor to town. They asked him if he knew of a particular flower that might be in the grounds. Claffey indicated in the affirmative and proceeded to show them flowering gorse. Claffey died a couple of years later at the age of 49. He is buried in Te Henui Cemetery.

During the summer there were several school picnics in the grounds with students around Taranaki participating. These were big events, on one occasion a group from the Stratford area came in by train and was said to number 1140 people.

To boost the planting of trees and shrubs Hamer Arden published a list of plants that he wanted the public to donate: Grevillea robusta, Ficus macrophylla, Lawson cypress, Norfolk Island Pine, Chilean pine, Cedrus deodara, Austrian Pine, Cryptomeria elegans, Silver pine, Tulip tree, Casuarina or shiok, Paulownia, Camphor laurel, Olive, Plane, Balbrogia lucida, Retinosporas (any variety), Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Alder, Mountain ash, Tamarisk, Yucca, Fan Palm or Kentia Palm, Washington Palm, and any native trees not too large, especially – Honeysuckle, Hinau, Rimu, Fern trees, Lacebark, Wharangi, Mountain toi, Pittosporum trifolium, Nikau. Arden suggested that the month of May would be the best time to send plants, as he would be in the grounds constantly during that month. Plants from this request are still present in the Park, which were likely planted at working bees in June 1895 include, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson’s Cypress), Ficus macrophylla (Moreton Bay Fig) and Rhododendron ‘Sir Robert Peel’.


Following the dismissal of Darby Claffey, Charles Edgecombe was selected from fifteen candidates for the position of custodian. He was given a salary of £1 5s a week the use of a cottage, its grounds and firewood. The cottage had been the home of Claffey, during his custodianship he had planted apple trees in the garden. Feeling a little upset about his dismissal Claffey decided to chop the trees down.

The Recreation Ground was again the focus of Arbor Day with 200 trees being planted in the area adjoining the Jockey Club, the same area that was planted the previous year.

The first interprovincial rugby match, against Nelson, was played in August 1896. The visitors arriving at 6am by the steamer, Mahinapua. Taranaki won 17-0. In January, the Recreation Sports Ground had also hosted the first interprovincial cricket match between the two provinces, which Taranaki won by 59 runs.

One of the major events of the year was Taranaki’s first Floral Fete in November, which fortunately coincided with a glorious day, and attracted a crowd of between 3 – 4,000 people. It was organised for the benefit of St Mary’s Parish, but the Recreation Board received a quarter of the profits which was £35 15s.

In September, the curator reported that during the month some 300 native plants had been set in the nursery bed – 200 from the Meeting of the Waters and the balance from Brooklands, and he was glad to say that all these are looking well, owing to the “puddling treatment”.  About 50 trees of a larger growth were planted out during the month. About 1000 native shrubs had been planted in the nursery during the season. Soon after T K Skinner donated 578 assorted native trees to put in the nursery.

Cabbage trees in the grounds were found to be suffering from an alarming blight in the form of a myriad of pale green caterpillars. The Board was advised to spray the trees with hellebore, which did not work. Subsequently they tried dried lime which was more effective.

After a period of not having swans in the lake because they were unable to control stray dogs harming them, the Board decided to try again. They were promised a pair of black swans by Mr. Wilkie which they intended putting in the main lake, and a pair of white swans by Mr. Lennard which they intended putting in Fountain Lake.


The Sports Ground Committee that was set up in late 1889 had a mandate to develop the sports ground to a point where it could be used for most sports including rugby and cricket. At the end of seven years they felt they had achieved their goal, so dissolved the committee and handed over the running of the Sports Ground back to the Recreation Ground Board. When they took over the area it was a partially filled swamp not fit for any sport. By 1892 they had played the first game of cricket and 1893 the first provincial rugby game. The terraces were still minimal, the most developed being the southern terrace occupying four rows of seating.

A major celebration in 1897 was Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. There were several events in the park but the one that stands out was the unveiling of the Jubilee Drinking Fountain. The fountain was the idea of G W Browne a member of the outgoing Sports Ground Committee. The committee had some cash on hand when they disbanded so started a fund to build a fountain. Browne, the owner of a fancy goods shop was responsible for the production of chinaware displaying scenes of the Recreation Ground.

When the location of the fountain was decided it was mentioned that this was where an unsuccessful attempt had been made to reconstruct a whale skeleton using a sketch by Dr Hector. The whale bones were subsequently displayed on Cannon Hill (see photo 1893).

The Board had a windfall, receiving £106 17s 5d, the proceeds of the Martha King estate after she died. Martha was a renowned botanical artist and considered to be New Zealand’s first resident botanical artist. Some of her work is at the National Library as part of the Alexander Turnbull Collection.

Because the Sports Ground had been handed back to the Board, they decided to employ an assistant custodian to help maintain it. Robert Mace was appointed in March of 1897. Mace later took over from Edgecome as custodian.

A changing room was built near the sports field thanks partially to a donation from Tukapa Football Club and H. Roberts who offered his services free of charge. The curator also helped with the construction. Until that time sports people had been using the bathing house as a changing room.

Some of the donations this year included: ferns from Miss Redman, two garden seats from Mr. Ricketts, and two Black Swans from Mr. Hooker of Nelson.


Due to there  being no records from the Taranaki Herald for the first six months of 1898 there is less known about this period. What is clear is that the Board was still in financial difficulties. Another Floral Fete was organised to try and bolster the coffers, and it was a huge success netting the Board around £150, enough to pay off most of their debts. They still owned money on sections bought but not paid for. The people they purchased sections from must have been easy going. At the floral fete there were several different types of decorated vehicles such as: perambulators, dray, two wheeled gigs, bicycles, tricycles, and wheelbarrows. Also go-carts, some drawn by dogs, some by children and others by goats.

Another fundraising event was a lecture by Saynor Griffiths entitled “Whenuaru” (trembling land) raising £25 4s. A notable feature of the lecture was that it was illustrated with limelight views. Limelight was a 19th century method of creating an intense point source of white light, leading to the saying, “in the limelight”.

The hatching of four young swans was a pleasant addition to the grounds and led to a renewed call to control stray dogs.

One aspect of the Recreation Ground doing well was the nursery, bolstered by a donation of two thousand native plants from T. K. Skinner, followed soon after by another fifteen hundred by a donor who wanted to remain anonymous. Water lilies were abundant in the lakes, so the Board advertised them for sale to raise funds.


The major development of 1899 was the completion and planting of what was known as Manhattan Island at the southern end of the main lake. The area where the island was formed was a raupo swamp. Originally there were two streams feeding into the lake, one at the east which ran through where the Serpentine is now and one at the west which came through Goodwin Dell the same as it does now. The stream back then was wider and less formal. Where the stream now runs under the path there was a bridge and to the south of the bridge a waterfall. In the 1800’s it is likely more runoff water would have been flowing through the park. T. K. Skinner came up with the plan for the reclamation and oversaw the project. Charles Edgecome did the planting of the island.

There were several fundraising events during the year, but the Aquatic Floral Carnival was probably the standout one. It was held on November 9, the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) birthday. A small flotilla of decorated boats was tugged up and down the lake by a pilot boat manned by Board members, Messrs. Newman and Cock. We are fortunate to have a set of photos taken by Collis and published in the Auckland Weekly News. The photos of the prize winners are taken near the western bank of the main lake south of The Poet’s Bridge. It is interesting to note that there were more than twenty ladies on the committee organising the event.

The Taranaki Volunteers, under the command of Captain Okey held a camp in the grounds. This became a regular fixture.

The Board received a petition requesting that the lake be available for swimming after 5pm. The Board’s response was positive if the petitioners formed a swimming club. They would allow swimming between 5pm & 7pm for club members only. The New Plymouth Recreation Ground Swimming Club was formed.

Even though the Board’s nurseries had enough plants for the season the custodian was asked to go to Ngati Maru country (Tarata) for a couple of days collecting native trees and shrubs.


Once again the Recreation Ground Board approached the Borough Council looking for an increased subsidy.  This time they recognised that the only way that this was going to happen was to offer the council some representation on the Board. The council agreed to this and to increase the subsidy once the legalities were sorted out and their members were active on the Board.

There was a push by local sporting groups to form another committee to further develop the sports ground and centralise sporting events, which would have made the Fitzroy ground defunct. The feeling at the time was that the Fitzroy ground was too far from town. T. K. Skinner came up with an ambitious plan to increase the size of the sports field considerably. The plan would have meant removing the hill where the western terraces now stand and part reclaiming what is now Fountain Lake. At that time there were no terraces on the western bank. The plan was a bit too ambitious and expensive and it met with significant opposition. The next major development would not get underway until late 1905.

The maze that Archibald Hood had so generously made was unsustainable from a maintenance point of view and had been pulled out. During 1900 the area was planted out with 200 native trees.

Star Football Club approached the Board to erect a memorial to three of their old members who had died in South Africa while serving their country. The Board agreed to this. However, the memorial did not eventuate until 1903 and was only for Clement Wiggins.

It is notable that some of the fundraising efforts at this time were for the troops in South Africa and that the Board pulled back on its own fundraising because of this.  No doubt this had some impact on the decision not to go ahead with major projects.

A noted donation was two garden seats by Mrs. Copland.

At the annual meeting of the North Egmont Forest Board,  “Permission was granted the Recreation Grounds Board to take from the Forest reserve two loads of plants.” It is possible/probable that this is where kamahi trees that are in the park originated.


The Jockey Club had previously allowed the Recreation Ground Board to fence off and use a piece of land they had acquired from the Brooklands Estate. In 1901 this piece of land was officially transferred to the Board. The area of land transferred was 3½ acres and lies to the east of the Serpentine between the Boathouse and the old Brooklands Boundary at the end of the Serpentine. It was mainly bare when the Board first got the use of the land and was partially planted on Arbor days of 1895 and 1896.

The curator Charles Edgecombe was sent to Raglan to collect plants. This was not the first time he had been sent to gather plants, but the first time he had been sent so far. This was all made possible because W. L. Newman had been the New Plymouth representative for the Union Steamship Company for many years. Edgecombe was given free passage for himself and the plants he collected. The Kauri Company of Auckland donated two substantial Kauri spars to be made into a flagpole, these were also shipped to New Plymouth free of charge thanks to W. L. Newman and the Union Steamship Company.

In 1901 the Board introduced tree labelling in the form of 10ʺ x 6ʺ zinc tablets. Kowhai trees were starting to bloom.

An unusual form of entertainment during the year was that of Alexander the Australian Blondin, a tightrope walker, who performed all sorts of daring feats while balancing on a 3/4” wire rope 30ft above the ground. The rope was most likely strung over the lake from one bank to the other.

Several people donated plants including, Mr. Pickett, Mrs. Gordon, and Mr. Hawes. The director of the Sydney Botanical Gardens sent several roots of Pontederia crassipes, a pale-yellow type of water lily.  Also, the curator in his report to the Board about his Raglan trip stated, “I brought back with me a quantity of Mangeo, Tanekaha, and Wharangi plants; also, some specimens of native heath and the umbrella fern together with a quantity of Kowhai and Manuka seed.”


Thomas Kingwell Skinner resigned from the Board after twenty years of valuable service. As a surveyor he had laid out most of the tracks in the park. He made plans for the development of the Sports Ground and the development of Manhattan Island. Skinner was replaced by Stephenson Percy Smith, better known as S. Percy Smith, also a surveyor. Smith had come to New Zealand with his family as a small boy, learning his trade as a cadet under Octavius Carrington as did Skinner.

The national band contest held in March was a huge success for the town. Fifteen bands came from all over the country to compete and it was said to be the biggest ever held. It attracted huge crowds from all over the province with daily attendances of 4000 to 5000. Extra seating had been put in the Sports Ground for the event.

During the year fishponds were established in the park in conjunction with the Acclimatisation Society. At that time W. L. Newman, a longstanding member of the Recreation Ground Board was also the chairman of the local Acclimatisation Society. The ponds were located where the Hatchery Lawn is now, this is why the name was given. The plan was that the society would supply trout fry and the Recreation Ground curator Charles Edgecombe would feed the fish with food supplied, mashed liver being the main diet. Once the fish were big enough the Acclimatisation Society would transfer them to local rivers and maybe a few in the main lake in the grounds. The first batch of 5000 Rainbow Trout were liberated in the ponds in October, the fry being approximately an inch long. Over the years there were issues such as water quality, eels finding their way into the ponds etc., but they did persist on and off for about thirty years.

An unusual event was the influx of roughly 40 wild ducks which put pressure on the resources of the Board. They made a plea for feed and the Acclimatisation Society donated £5 for that purpose.

Plant donations included: seeds from Mr. Chapman. Package of assorted seeds of African flowering shrubs from the Natal Botanic Gardens, per favour of Mr. M. Fraser who had recently returned from South Africa. Native shrubs and edible cabbage tree from Captain Wilson, Smart Road, and native shrubs from Mr. Whitmore of Invercargill and Mr. J. Kelly of Awakino.


The first event of the Recreation Ground calendar was a cricket match between a North Taranaki team and an English eleven. An unusual aspect of the game was that the Taranaki team were allowed to field 18 players. Considering that the pitch back then was smaller than it is now it would have been interesting to see the field placements.  On seeing the advert for the game, a person wrote in the Taranaki Herald. “ I understand from advertisements that the game is to be played on the Recreation Ground. May I ask if the local team intend placing their “field” on the terraces that surround the pitch?” The Taranaki team still got a sound thrashing.

A monument to C. E. Wiggins was erected in the park, arranged and paid for by the Bank of New South Wales in New Plymouth where Wiggins had worked before serving in South Africa with the 3rd Contingent. The erection of the monument caused a stir in the town. Many people felt that the Recreation Ground was not an appropriate place to put the obelisk. It was erected on a mound south of the Boatshed Bridge, now known as Monument Hill. He died aged 27, from enteric (typhoid) fever at Germiston in South Africa on 13 July 1900.

With the establishment of the fish ponds the previous year it was rewarding for the Acclimatisation Society to release 500 trout reared in the Recreation Ground into the Waiwhakaiho River. Another 10,000 fry were put in the ponds in September.

The Sports Ground pitch was still not satisfactory for the local sports teams. Whenever it rained the ground became sodden and unplayable. The Board asked Percy Smith to produce a plan to deal with the drainage issue.

The efforts of the Recreation Grounds Board in endeavouring to preserve the rarer native flowering shrubs were highlighted by some fine specimens of New Zealand ribbonwood and koromiko in bloom. An Australian red gum tree also had a fine show of flowers.

There were donations of plants from Mr. J Wheeler of Durham Road. A collection of South Sea Island seeds from Mr. Gordon Cliff, and a valuable donation of seeds of a varied collection of flowering shrubs and plants collected en-route from Colombo to Vancouver from T. K. Skinner.  Other donations included a peacock from Albert Bayly and two Russian geese from Mr. Holden of Makino.


For many years the Recreation Ground Board suffered from a lack of funds and sometimes found themselves in desperate financial situations. They would approach the Borough Council for a subsidy and received varying responses. The Board had on occasions threatened to hand over the grounds to the council if they did not get a subsidy (which they could have done). This threat was always a bluff.  Eventually the council agreed to an increase in the subsidy if they could have representation on the Board. This was agreed. Richard Cock (Mayor), Collis and Carter were the three selected to sit on the Board. Cock had been a past trustee of the ground for some years. The subsidy was raised to £100.

Harris Ford resigned as secretary of the Board having served twenty-three years in the position, he was replaced by E. H. Tribe.

One unusual occurrence was the release of a pair of opossums into the Recreation Ground, they were obviously unaware of the problems the little critters would pose. Back then they were introduced because of the value of their pelt.

The first interprovincial soccer match was played in the Recreation Ground against a team from Auckland. The local team was expected to lose badly as it was a fledgling team up against a well-established one. The Auckland team had agreed to come to town to help promote the game. The pitch in the Recreation Ground was in a sorry state, very heavy, carrying a lot of water and stifled the passing game of the visitors.  A game of hit and chase by the Taranaki team resulted in an unlikely win to the home side. A second game was organised to be played a few days later but the venue was changed due to the poor condition of the pitch.

The big sporting event of the year was the rugby match between Taranaki and Britain which drew an estimated crowd of 9000 people. The game finished in a draw.

Thousands of trout fry were lost over the summer months. A leak was discovered between a rearing pond and the lily pond allowing fry to escape and eels to enter. Other fish died due to the high temperature of the water because the ponds were small and shallow.

A disturbing event occurred in the grounds, that of an illegal operation. A young lady had got into trouble and her boyfriend solicited the help of an herbalist from Opunake to come to New Plymouth to terminate the pregnancy, this was attempted at night in the Band Rotunda. Unfortunately, the operation did not go well and the young lady had to go to hospital. The gentleman from Opunake was sentenced to five years imprisonment for his actions.

In an article from the Taranaki Herald 21st December there is a mention of a glowworm cave. The small cave was in the hillside close to where the Morten Bay Fig now stands. The cave was destroyed in the 1950’s when a tree fell.

Fundraising suffered this year because the Board decided not to hold a floral fete. This was to avoid interference with the New Plymouth Exhibition and Christmas carnival.

Plant donations included several roots of purple flowered water lily from Mrs. Wilkie and native shrubs from Messrs. T. McKenzie and J. Whitehead, of Tikorangi. Also gifted were two opossums from Mr. Moynihan and a pea hen from Mr. Carrick.


The development of the Sports Ground once again became a major issue, putting the Recreation Ground Board in a difficult position. Their position being that running the Recreation Ground was their brief, not developing a sports ground. The way forward was again to have a separate committee come in and take over the development of the sports ground. In November, a Recreation Sports Ground Committee was formed, made up of representatives from many different local sporting bodies. It was chaired by A. L. Humphries. Humphries was a rugby player who had represented his country 15 times scoring 47 points. He played halfback weighing in at 60kg, hence the affectionate nickname “Skinny”. He went on to manage the All Blacks in 1908. Humphries was an accountant by trade. The committee took control of the sports ground for 7 years.

The planned scheme involved cutting back the southern terraces 16 ½ yards, the eastern terrace 11 yards, and the hill on the west side of the ground to be cut back 16 ½ yards and a terrace built. The playing surface was to be raised 4 feet and measure 135 yards long and 110 yards wide. A cycle track was proposed around the playing field. The main entrance would move to Gilbert Street and a changing room and pavilion would be constructed in the south-east corner if funds allowed. The cost was estimated to be around £1300. A lot of fundraising was necessary and a ladies committee was set up to help. Fundraising got off to a good start with a £100 donation from the Licensed Victuallers Association.

The first Tea House was built this year, this was possible because local tradespeople gave their time gratis. The building was designed by architect J. A. Maisey who left New Plymouth for Wellington in 1905. The Tea House may well have been his New Plymouth swansong.

Plant donations included: Collection of native shrubs, bulbs, and seeds from Mrs. Weyergang of Ngaire for planting round the new ladies’ room, and shrubs from Miss Woods.


This year was all about fundraising for the Sports Ground development. Unfortunately, it had an adverse effect on the ability of the Recreation Ground Board to raise money for the rest of the grounds.

The plan for the Sports Ground development was to make the pitch bigger to the south and east and raise the level of the pitch substantially. Some of the fill would come from removing the existing terraces and cutting in new ones but this would not be sufficient. Coincidentally the railway in town was being deviated from its route along Lemon Street to its present-day route parallel to Molesworth Street, requiring a deep cutting. The Sports Ground Committee got eight hundred yards of topsoil from that cutting which was carted to the ground using horse and dray.

Once the Sports Ground Committee took over the sports field it was deemed necessary to keep the public out for safety reasons. The Liardet Street Entrance was temporarily closed, and a new entrance was made on Gilbert Street. One positive result was better access to the waterfall near the new entrance. 

Work on the Sports Ground started in September. The first job was to relocate any plants that were going to be in the way of the changes. Also, some trees needed to be felled which were cut up for firewood. A motorised circular saw was used for this and became an attraction for onlookers. By the end of November the old terraces had gone.

A commemorative marble tablet listing deceased people who had made donations to the Recreation Ground was placed on the side of Cannon Hill. The names on the tablet at the time of erection were: J. T. Davis, Martha King, Isabella Small, Peter Madsen and R. H. Govett. More names were added when appropriate.

Waterfowl in the Recreation Ground were always in peril especially from roaming dogs. However, one Russian gander found itself offside with the Board for eating duck eggs and it ended up on a board member’s dining table.

In September the Custodian of the Recreation Grounds reported to the Chairman the planting out of the following shrubs during the season just ended; kahikatea 130, totara 200, ramarama 40, rimu 30, hinau 8, maire 10, kowhai 20, manuka 50, tawhiri 20, tarata 15, rata 6, lacebark 10, koromiko 15, matipou 10, 16 sorts of miscellaneous native shrubs 151, tree ferns 40, paratawhiti fern 10, mountain toi 22, tree flax 12, flax various, 50, ribbon grass 15, Australian gums 10, arum lily, 130 clumps, also 2200 young native trees planted in the nurseries. The hinau tree at the Hughes Walk entry to the Children’s Playground may be of the eight listed above.


The Sports Ground Committee worked tirelessly during the year raising funds and developing the Sports Ground so that it could be ready for the official opening at the end of the year. The area of the field was increased by at least half a chain all round. The level of the pitch was raised by about 4 feet and new terraces were made.

Before the work began on the upgrade there were six terraces which could accommodate 500 people, after improvements this increased to 22 terraces accommodating around 2000 spectators. A promenade running around the ground at the bottom of the terraces was incorporated. The terraces were faced with turf, which was held in place using 25,000 wooden pegs, representing 2000 ft of timber.

A lot of seating was required for the new terraces and the Sports ground Committee asked the public to donate rows of seats. The call was answered by many people including, Mrs. Woolfrey Bridge, Mrs. F. L. Webster, Mrs. Capel, Misses Humphries, Messrs. H. Okey, M.H.R, W. G. Malone, A. G. Sykes, B. Tippings, George George, and Mr. Waugh.

Fourteen tons of soil was imported from Longburn, Manawatu for the cricket pitch and practice pitch. This was considered the best soil in the country for cricket pitches. The grass seed was donated by Tothill Ltd. of Invercargill, an agent of Sutton & Sons of Reading, England.

The first cricket match on the new pitch was on Boxing day 1907. Taranaki v Wanganui.

Another major development started during the year was establishing the Serpentine, the body of water between the Boatshed Bridge and the boundary with Brooklands. Prior to the lake being formed two streams entered the Recreation Ground, one on the west side of what is now Goodwin Dell, the other through the Maranui/Brooklands valley which formed the eastern boundary of the grounds.  When the lake was formed the stream beyond the Boatshed Bridge was wider than the original stream but not very deep and full of raupo. Percy Smith oversaw the development of the Serpentine and did the surveying required to lay it out. Smith was a retired Surveyor-General of New Zealand.  A lot of the labourers were Maori, some of them camped out with their families while employed on the development. On completion the crew were employed by Newton King to dig out the Brooklands lake near the Bowl of Brooklands. The board received a bequest of £100 from the estate of Mrs Broham, sister of C. W. Govett. This along with the bequest of her brother’s (R. H. Govett) was used for the Serpentine construction.

The renaming of The Recreation Ground to something unique and befitting its reputation had been discussed many times since its inception. Renaming would prevent confusion between it and the Sports Ground and other recreation grounds in the area. Previous attempts to change its name had hit difficulties and been unsuccessful as an application had to be made through an MP. Percy Smith came up with the name Pukekura Park because the valley had been known by local Maori as Pukekura for hundreds of years.  In Maori Pukekura means red hill. The name possibly refers to a hill at the southern end of the valley covered in rata with their beautiful red flowers. The name change went up for discussion at a board meeting and after considerable argument the vote was 5 – 4 in favour of change. The Sports Ground was still called the Recreation Ground Sports Ground.

It was reported that during the planting season, Mr Mace, the custodian of the Recreation Grounds, and his assistant had set out in permanent positions a total of 540 trees and shrubs, comprised of 250 in connection with the new entrance from Gilbert Street, 50 at the John Street entrance, 130 in the newly designed belt along the Carrington Street frontage and 110 in other parts of the grounds.

Mr Edgecombe (former curator) made an expedition to Raglan-Waitetuna country bringing back 390 trees, shrubs and other plants. These were transplanted in the Grounds, mostly in the nurseries.  There were about 340 trees comprising   of about twelve varieties not found in Taranaki, including some fine celery-topped pines, 45 ferns of new sorts and 5 native tois or grasses.

Mr R. Davies, a horticulturalist specialising in native shrubs offered to donate a complete collection of specimen shrubs on condition that he was employed to plant them. The Board agreed and allotted a piece of land on the upper level of the Carrington Road for the purpose.


At the start of this period of the Park’s history, the Board consisted of:  Chairman, F. P. Corkill; Messrs R. C. Hughes, S. Percy Smith, C. W. Govett, W. L. Newman, H. Ford and R. Cock and three representatives from the council. Hughes and Ford had been on the Board of the Recreation Ground since its inception in 1875.

1908 was an important year for the Park. The name Pukekura Park had been adopted just prior to the new year with little fanfare. The name was promoted by Percy Smith suggesting that Pukekura was the Maori name for the valley in which the Park was formed.

New Years Day saw the official opening of the newly revamped Sports Ground. The ground had undergone major improvements since November 1906. The playing area had been lengthened and widened by more than twenty yards in each direction. The ground level had also been raised by approximately four feet and an improved drainage system installed. The original terraces were cut back and bigger terraces cut into the hills, increasing the seating capacity dramatically. The Sports Ground Committee was rewarded for their effort by hosting the New Zealand athletics championships in late February.

William Walter Smith was appointed curator and held the position until 1920. His influence on the Park was noticeable and still is to this day. He was instrumental in replacing a lot of the original pine trees in favour of natives. He had many interests, being a keen amateur ornithologist, entomologist, meteorologist and as became apparent in 1920, astronomer. He is famous for being the first person to breed kiwi in captivity, which he did in the early 1910s. Later in the decade he also successfully bred weka. At the time, his kiwi breeding was not well recognised. Where he bred the kiwi is debateable. It is the writer’s belief that Smith made a purpose-built building near the curator’s house on Victoria Road where he was living.

Percy Smith made his mark on the Park this year. The Serpentine which he designed was completed and the beautiful wisteria next to the Tea House was his handy work. He designed and built the original mamaku pergola (bower) for wisteria and other creeping flowers.

A start was made to the construction of a swimming pool for the Central School students. It was located between the present Tea House and the Fred Parker Lawn. Unfortunately, it was never used as the spring which was to feed the pool dried up.


By 1909 the curator W. W. Smith was making his presence felt. He redeveloped the Gilbert Street entrance and what is now known as Smith Walk. Another area to get his attention was the swamp north of the Tea House which is now the attractive Sunken Dell. Smith promoted the planting of native trees and during the year felled several pine trees replacing them with natives.

The question of who should run the Park came up again. Councillor F. Bellringer, one of three council representatives on the Board, was in favour of the park management being handed over to the council. The three council representatives had equal voting rights on the board except when it came to voting on constitutional matters. Bellringer was not happy about that.

Again, the Board found itself deeply in debt and struggling to find funds to pay for labour to assist the curator with his work. A scheme for using the town’s unemployed was introduced, and a fund was started to pay these men.

The Acclimatisation Society introduced four more ponds in the park. Water was fed via a wooden flume and a drop of several feet was introduced to aerate the water and keep it agitated, resulting in stronger and more active fish. The Society also asked for permission to build a hatchery.

In July Richard Cock was appointed Chairman of the Board taking over from F. P. Corkill.


W.W. Smith and Percy Smith went on a native plant foraging trip to Government reserves. Percy Smith had special ministerial authority to visit certain Crown reserves to collect specimen trees because he had headed the Scenery Preservation Commission a few years prior.

The swimming pool that had been formed for Central School somewhere in the vicinity of what is now the Fred Parker Lawn was finally abandoned as the spring which was feeding it dried up.

The Acclimatisation Society had a hatchery building designed by Frank Messenger with the intention of building it in the park at the head of the Hatchery Lawn. Unfortunately, the cost was higher than anticipated and they decided not to go ahead with the project. The previous year the Society had four new rearing ponds built and placed 40,000 brown and rainbow trout in them. The fry did not do well on account of the hot and muggy weather. The continued dry weather caused the water to foul which was disastrous for the young fry. This caused the Society to doubt the quality of water coming from the Park lake.

The Taranaki cricket team famously held an Australian eleven to a draw at Pukekura Park. The local side did field fifteen men, so had a slight advantage. A good draw regardless.

The financial position of the Board was bad, and to make it worse the Council reduced their subsidy by £50. Fortunately, a donation of £50 by the Hon. O. Samuel eased the pain a little.

In June, the Board was approached by a group wanting to build a tennis club on park grounds, between the Vogeltown entrance and the curator’s cottage. The Board granted their request, leasing out the piece of land on a seven-year renewable contract. The president of the newly formed Park Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was Richard Cock, who was also the chairman of the Pukekura Park Board at the time.

One of the entertainment highlights of the year was the screening of a movie about Shackleton’s trip to the South Pole, shown on a big screen in the Park. Adding to the entertainment was the Taranaki Garrison Band playing a selection of tunes.

An extraordinary event was that of Sebphe the aeronaut, who successfully ascended to 4,400 feet in a hot air balloon, then parachuted down, his balloon following him after emptying itself of air and turning turtle. (Miss Leila Adair had attempted the same stunt in 1894 with disastrous consequences. On that occasion her balloon was destroyed by fire before getting off the ground.)


This was an uneventful year for the Board due to lack of funds. The financial situation had become serious, and any planned improvements were put on hold. The only highlights were the opening of the Park Tennis Courts and the visit of the Governor in January. The most controversial subject was the culling of pine trees, with several residents complaining vigorously.


To get out of the financial difficulty the Board found itself in they introduced Park Saturday. This was a door-to-door campaign. Many of the local ladies that did the canvassing were wives and daughters of the Park’s trustees. The day was successful, raising over £150, enough to put the Park’s finances back in the black for the first time in a long time.

Smith continued developing a fernery on Manhattan Island using thirty-seven species of native fern. At that time, the island was accessible to the public as a picnic spot, with two small bridges linking it to the mainland. Unfortunately, a lot of the ferns planted were stolen so the board decided to remove the bridges, this however did not stop the thieves.

Plant stealing was becoming a major concern, as were bike riding and dogs in the park harming the birds. To try and counter these issues the Board appointed Mr Tippins as an inspector to try and enforce the bylaws of the park. Tippins was a council inspector who did this sort of work as part of his job.

The Acclimatisation Society had stopped using the rearing ponds because of concerns over water quality, so the races feeding the ponds were removed with the intention to fill in the ponds.

  1. W. Smith went on a botanical expedition to Mount Egmont to find new species of plants. He was accompanied by Donald Petrie and Murdoch Fraser. Petrie was a preeminent botanist of the time. He was a long-time friend of Smith’s going back to when Smith lived in the South Island. The plants they found were introduced into the Park as appropriate.

The rose bed developed the previous year (Palm Lawn) flourished but the flowers had been stolen, so Smith decided to develop a new rose garden behind the Tea House. He transplanted the existing roses and many more donated rose plants. In the same area he intended to plant a bed of native veronicas.


The Park was now operating in the black instead of the red which was a massive relief for the Board. Throughout the year the Board received many donations of plants and birds for which the curator was thankful for. The main body of work comprised improving walkways and general gardening, cutting grass, weeding, etc.

A new path allowing people to walk from Vogeltown to the racecourse was completed.

Manhattan Island, which had previously had its bridges removed was again opened to the public. The area on the island where the ferns were planted was isolated with wire fencing.

Five pine trees were cut down near the curator’s cottage as they were deemed dangerous, and six above the western terrace in the Sports Ground were removed to give more light to the cricketers.


Richard Cock was appointed chairman. C. W. Govett died while serving on the Board, he had been a trustee since 1892. C. H. Drew (Jeweller) was appointed in his place.

It is noted that at this time the Bathing House was no longer being used by bathers, but instead, as a tool shed for the curator. It remained in its original location next to the lake until 1931. When the new Tea House was built, the shed was moved to a location between the Tea House and the Fernery.

The major projects for the year were enlargement of the Lily Pond and the reclamation of the swamp (Sunken Dell) near the Tea House. The dell was drained and the main lake overflow channel that ran through it was widened to about 6 ft to improve the flow of water. Fill was added and a lawn was laid. A pathway through the dell was formed and the banks were planted with a collection of native ferns.

Smith also remodelled the Gilbert Street entrance, greatly improving its appearance and making it the prettiest entrance to the Park.

A new path was started from near the Tea House, going up past the racecourse and behind the eastern terrace of the Sports Ground.


New Plymouth had its first meteorological station installed near the curator’s cottage on Carrington Road (now Victoria Road). The location was chosen because Smith lived in the cottage. He took daily readings and once a month they would get posted in the newspapers. This is another example of Smith’s contributions.

Because of the war it was decided not to have a Park Saturday fundraising effort. This had been a major fundraiser, and indeed a lifeline for the previous three years.

A new rose bed was established on the site of the old peacock house, which was at the southern end of what is now Palm Lawn.

A new path was completed (Claffey Walk) which ran from the John Street (Rogan Street) entrance, around the top of the Sports Ground Gulley (King Fern Gulley).

Several pine and macrocarpa trees were felled and sold for firewood.—another source of income for the Board.

Around this time, Walter Smith and Percy Smith were being called upon by several authorities in town to help with planting layouts, including: the Hospital Board, the Technical College and East End Reserve.


F. P. Corkill resigned from the Board after serving for more than 30 years. C. E. Bellringer was appointed to take his place.

The management of the Sports Ground was returned to the Park Board. The Sports Ground Committee which had developed and controlled the Sports Ground since 1906 was finding it difficult to get the men to look after it. This was because many of the local young men were away at war. The Board came to an agreement with the Technical College in town, that they would use it as a sports field and in return look after grass cutting, etc.

Clement Wragge, a world-renowned meteorologist, on a speaking engagement in New Plymouth praised the Park but suggested it could be improved by planting a selection of suitable palm trees.

Newton King gifted an outrigger canoe which he had acquired from Rarotonga.

Robert Clinton Hughes wrote ‘A Brief History’, which was a history of the Park until that time. It was published in three parts in the Taranaki Herald on August 3rd, 4th and 5th. The whole article appears in this document on pages (94 – 99).

The John Street (now Rogan Street) entrance was improved, and native trees planted in the vicinity of the entrance.


E. H. Tribe resigned his position as secretary of the Board of Trustees. Tribe felt that the Board were not forward thinking, yet he objected to the Board wanting to install electric lights in the curator’s cottage, thinking this was an unnecessary expense. When the chairman questioned his standing in the committee, Tribe walked out.

In 1917 the old Carrington Road was renamed Victoria Road and the portion of Holdsworthy Road which formed the southern boundary of the park was officially handed over to the Park Board.

Two improvements made during the year were the replacement of the wooden landing steps in front of the Band Rotunda and the replacement of the wooden culvert which formed the Mirror Waterfall by the old Lily Pond (Hatchery Lawn). Both structures were replaced with concrete counterparts. Frank Messenger donated the designs.

An addition to the amenities of the Park was a hot water fountain located by the Band Rotunda. This supplied hot water for people making a cup of tea and was donated by C. H. Burgess.

Another addition to the park was the initial palm tree plantings on what is now Palm Lawn. Supplied by Clement Wragge of Auckland. In 1916 Wragge had visited New Plymouth as part of a speaking tour and had commented on the fact that Pukekura Park would benefit from a planting of palm trees. The Board must have heeded his advice and ordered some from him. Wragge owned Waiata Tropical Gardens which was a well-known visitor attraction. It is believed there are four trees from that planting that that still grow in the park. 2x Livistona australis (cabbage-tree palm), 1 x Howea forsteriana (kentia palm) and 1 x Phoenix rupicola (cliff date palm).

A pergola was constructed by the Sports Ground. It was 8 feet high, rising to 13 feet in the centre.


On November 11, 1918, the Armistice agreement was signed ending WW1. This was celebrated in New Plymouth a few days later with a procession through town ending in the Park. The celebration coincided with the Spanish Flu making its presence felt in New Plymouth, but the parade went ahead even though other events that week were postponed due to the influenza epidemic.

The Board suffered two departures during the year. Percy Smith resigned after sixteen years and W. L. Newman resigned after serving for twenty-four years, both made significant contributions during their tenures. One of the replacements was the Mayoress, Mrs Burgess. Mrs Burgess had been very involved in fundraising for the Park for many years and was familiar with the issues the Board faced. She would prove to be a major asset for the Board. Having a lady on a Board must have been unusual back then.

There was a push to develop a fernery. The site chosen was near where the Fernery is today. At the time they knew of about sixty-four varieties of ferns indigenous to Taranaki, and about half of them were in the park. This was part of a bigger scheme to develop the valley leading from the Tea House to the racecourse. The plan was to have an entrance – an archway of native creepers – made from the path leading up to the racecourse, leading to a fernery which was to be the finest in the Dominion. Higher up it was intended to complete the lake which had been started some years previously. Walks were to be formed along the surrounding banks. It was anticipated that the changes would make this one of the most picturesque and interesting sections of the park.  During the year the curator completed the preparation for the fernery and planted a number of ferns there, some of which he collected himself from Whangamomona. The building however did not go ahead.

There were two rose beds in the park, one behind the tea house and the other in the Palm Lawn area. Due to the constant theft of roses, it was decided to move the plants from behind the tea house to the Palm Lawn bed. It was thought that people would be more exposed there and therefore less likely to take the plants.


The previous year Percy Smith had resigned from the Board; the vacancy was filled by W. C. Weston. Another change was that of secretary. Albert Grey resigned the position and the vacancy was filled by P. E. Stainton. The position of secretary was advertised as a paid position, but, Stainton took on the job as an honorary role. He remained on the Board for 44 years. Stainton Dell was named after him.

There were some improvements made to the Park. A new men’s toilet block, constructed by Messrs Russell and Son, was located by the old Tea House, remnants of which can still be seen today against the bank to the south of the old wisteria, next to the current Tea House. A short walk was formed from near the Band Rotunda down to the water Lily Pond (Hatchery Lawn). The curator thought this would be convenient for ladies and nurses with young children.

The theft of plants was an ongoing problem; roses were leaving the park as quickly as they were being planted. The curator also pointed out at one of the committee meetings that, “The last of the todeas or royal ferns, was stolen from near the lower waterfall recently.”

In April in the Taranaki Daily News, it was reported that: “There is at present to be seen at Pukekura Park the rare sight of banana trees in bloom. These are not the ordinary fruiting variety, but belong to the Abyssinian kind, which grow in great profusion in the vicinity of the Nile. Those in the park have been grown from seed, which was planted about seven years ago. The blooms which three of the trees have thrown are really magnificent specimens. The trees are now twelve feet in height and are situated just north of the lower lake. Some Fijian bananas were planted, but the severity of the past winter killed them.”


A major loss to the Park was that of the curator W. W. Smith. It appears that the secretary of the Board, P. E. Stainton, was not happy with some of the time Smith was spending outside the Park, helping other people and organisations. The way this dissatisfaction was relayed was not ideal. The outcome was that Smith resigned, threatening to take Stainton to court for slander.

Another sad loss for the Board was that of W. A. Collis who passed away. Collis first sat on the Board as one of the Borough Council’s representatives in 1904. He was a professional photographer and a lot of the old photos of the Park were taken by him.

A plan that caused a lot of consternation was the Council’s proposal to run a new tram route to Vogeltown via the Park. The proposed route was for the tram to come up Liardet Street from town, turn right at the Park gates on to Fillis Street, enter the Park, run across to where the Children’s Playground is today, take a left turn before reaching Hughes Walk heading south, cross Hughes Walk near where the Waterfall is today, and there have a tram stop, continue on the west side of Hughes Walk gradually rising up the side of the hill coming out on to Brooklands Road just after the Vogeltown entrance, opposite Shortland Street. (see map p. 147).

The Park had its first royal visit, that of Edward, Prince of Wales. The initial itinerary had the Prince arriving at the railway station at 8.55am and departing at 11am, giving him two hours in New Plymouth. After a reception at the Park, he was to be driven through the Park to the Boys’ High School, with the Racecourse Walk being widened in support. Unfortunately, a few days before the visit, the town was informed that the time had been shortened to one hour, arriving at 10am and leaving at 11am. This meant it was no longer practical to go to the Boys’ High School. The visit was still a huge success, the motorcade entering the park through the Gilbert Street entrance.

Pine cone sales were a bonus money earner for the Park, with 194 sacks being reported for sale in January.

Over thirty pine trees were cut down during the year and sold as firewood. Significantly, half a dozen were removed near the western terrace of the Sports Ground. The cricketing fraternity had wanted these cut down for many years. They threw large shadows across the pitch in the afternoon and detrimentally affected the light, sometimes causing play to be called off early.

A new Sports Ground Committee was formed to try and resurrect the Sports Ground to its former glory and to make further improvements. A. L. Humphries was again at the helm. The committee was granted three years rent to give it time to pay off old debts.

The fish rearing ponds on the Hatchery Lawn that had been abandoned and filled in in 1912 were reinstated, with the intention to also construct a hatchery building.


At the start of the year there was a push to hand over the running of the park to the Borough Council. The feeling among some of the newer members of the Board was that as the Park was a public place it should be run by people who were elected to office. This effort was spearheaded by the Mayoress, Mrs Burgess; she felt that having an essentially self-elected board with members for life, was outdated. However, this meant that the trustees were there because they had a passion for the park and its development.  There was also a lot of new blood on the board due to the recent departures of Percy Smith, Richard Cock and W. L. Newman and the death of W. A. Collis, all of whom had been long serving members of the Board.

The lack of a fixed source of finance big enough to run the park was the other main factor driving change. The board always struggled financially, it was receiving an annual subsidy of £250 from the council, but its running costs on wages alone was about £800. The shortfall having to be fundraised. Needing to constantly organise fundraising events was not easy. It was agreed that the Board would approach the council to see if they were amenable to the proposal. The council indicated that they were, however, they also made it clear that they were not prepared to increase the amount of ratepayer funding for the park. This meant that the new Board would essentially be in the same position financially as the existing Board. The matter of transfer was put to a vote at a Board meeting. Mrs. Burgess’ notice of motion was as follows: –

“That in order that Pukekura Park and all lands owned by the board shall be vested in the Borough of New Plymouth, a petition signed by the majority of the members of the board be presented to his Excellency the Governor-General praying that he will be pleased to dissolve the board under the powers conferred upon him by section 18 of the Taranaki Botanic Garden Act. 1876, and that in order to give effect to this resolution the board’s solicitor be instructed to prepare the necessary petition for signature.”

The motion was rejected, Mrs Burgess and Mr Griffiths being the only members to vote in favour. Soon after that Mrs Burgess resigned.

The Board granted permission for the Acclimatisation Society to build a trout hatchery. This took the form of a whare which was placed at the southern end of the Hatchery Lawn. The first consignment of trout ova was received at the end of June. The brown trout ova came from the Hakataramea hatcheries in Otago, while the rainbow ova came from the Government hatcheries in Rotorua. After hatching the young fry were released into local rivers in August. A good description of the hatching process can be found in a Daily News article, August 20, 1921, included in this document.

A notable decision by the Board was not to appoint a new curator after the resignation of W. W. Smith. This was done to save money; however, they did appoint William Bocock (retired farmer) as a working foreman, this position was basically curator without the appropriate salary.

To help the park free advice regarding planting was given by Victor Davies, of Duncan & Davies. This was the start of his long relationship with the park.

The Taranaki Rugby team held the touring Springbok side to a famous draw. The credit for the result went to the coaches, A. L. Humphries and C. Brown. Humphries had been a half-back for New Zealand around the turn of the century and was a stalwart of the Recreation Sportsground Committee dating back to 1906, overseeing the first major transformation of the sportsground.

During a July meeting held in the park it was agreed to establish a fernery and a rhododendron dell. The fernery was planned by John Gibson, a prominent horticulturist, of Frankley Road.

The new Sports Ground Committee got stuck into updating the Sports Ground. They started by re-laying drains and raising the level of the pitch to facilitate better drainage. They imported over 1500 yards of soil. The grass was re-sown by Christmas Eve.

In 1921 Gilbert Street between Victoria Road and the park’s Gilbert Street entrance was impassable because of a deep gully which carried the stream running through the park. It was suggested that this be filled in and the road completed to ease traffic problems on Liardet Street. There was pushback from the council because of the cost. At the time kerosine was used in large quantities and thousands of cans were dumped each year, it was suggested to reduce the costs, people be allowed to dump the cans in the gully to act as fill. Fortunately, it was not allowed.


Three Board members died during 1922. Harris Ford who was a current member and had been on the Board since its inception in 1875, Stephenson Percy Smith who had served from 1902 until 1918 and F. P. Corkill who was a trustee from 1885 until 1916. Hector Dempsey and James McLeod were brought on to the committee as Government appointed trustees. Dempsey remained on the board until 1939 and McLeod until 1943.

Following a suggestion by the Sports Ground Committee of sharing a custodian the board hired Charles Revell, working two days a week on the sports ground and the balance in the park. They hired Revell because they wanted a younger person in the position of curator, so they laid-off Bocock who was in his late 60s. Unfortunately, Mr. Revell died of pneumonia, aged 44, in December 1922.

Children’s swings were introduced for the first time, back then the park was seen as the domain of adults. C. E. Bellringer had visited the UK and noticed that all the public parks had children’s play areas with swings etc. and promoted the idea of introducing them to Pukekura Park. The swings were installed somewhere north of fountain lake, possibly where the children’s playground is today.

A New rose bed was introduced under the supervision of Hector Dempsey. The location of this bed is not clear.

The trout hatchery was now in full swing handling several hundred thousand trout ova per year. When the first trout ponds were opened in 1902, they received small fry which were fed for several months and when they reached a certain size (approx. 6 inches long) were released into local rivers. In the 1920s they received ova which were placed in the hatchery. When the eggs hatch the tiny fry, or alevin, have a yolk sack attached to their belly which they feed on for two to three weeks. These were released on mass in the local rivers a few days before their food sacks were exhausted, which meant they did not have to feed the fish; however, the mortality rate would have been very high. The eggs generally came from Rotorua and Hakataramea, near Oamaru.

The first rhododendron dell was planted in the park, the work of Charles Score Sanders, who supplied the plants and supervised their planting in what is now the eastern arm of Stainton Dell. Over two years he planted approximately seventy different varieties of rhododendron in this area. Some may still exist today. A fernery was also established in Stainton Dell by the Racecourse Walk.

The 1920s was a time of depression and high unemployment and the park board got involved in a subsidised scheme to give work to some of these unfortunate men. They pledged to give pound for pound raised by the public to a maximum of £100. They targeted the neediest, particularly returned servicemen and married men with children. The main work carried out with the extra labour was the cleaning out of the main lake and preparing an area for the fernery.

The Sports ground Committee were preparing for phase two of the redevelopment of the Sports Ground. With the pitch completed the next phase was to increase the number of terraces. This would be achieved by reworking what was already there. The plan was also to eventually construct a changing room incorporating toilet facilities.

Section 1117 on Fillis Street was purchased giving access to Kindergarten Gully.

The main lake in Pukekura Park in 1922 must have been a lot cleaner than today. It is hard to imagine Seventh day Adventists today performing submersion baptism, as they did back then.

Donations to the park were generally accepted with open arms, ducks, swans, plants etc., but to two lion cubs they unfortunately had to say no to.


Mr. G. Tunnecliffe was promoted to custodian following the death of Charles Revell. Presumably his duties were the same, looking after the park and the Sports Ground.

The Sports Ground Committee as part of its policy of improvements had a changing room designed. The architect was T. H. Bates, well known New Plymouth architect of the time. Bates was a keen cricketer and was on the Sports Ground Committee and was also the park’s honorary architect. The building he designed was a cute single-story structure which still survives today (2022). If you peer through the doors of the Bellringer Pavilion the original building is hidden inside. It was built by Jones and Sandford. The drawings were donated by Bates who also supervised the construction. The building was subsequently modified twice, once in 1956 when a second story was added, then again in 1988 when the floor area was increased towards the playing field behind a new facade. This is what you can see today. The future of the building is uncertain as there are structural issues and it is susceptible to flooding. It was constructed in the first quarter of 1924.

Shags have always been a feature of the park, but their diet of fish from the park lakes was not welcome in those days and was often remedied by culling the birds.


The Sports Ground changing rooms were constructed at the beginning of the year.

A major fundraiser was a successful Queen Carnival which netted the board over £1400. Unfortunately, the carnival was marred by the unfortunate death of the nominated queen, Miss Maisie Whittle, who died a few days after the Park procession having contracted influenza during the competition.

Mr. Tunnecliffe resigned his position as curator due to ill health, having served approximately one year. Advertisements were placed for a replacement and the Board was fortunate to receive an application from Thomas Horton, who started his tenure in July of 1924.

A new tram line to the Park’s gates was laid which opened in July of 1924. The line ran up Liardet Street from Devon Street where it branched off the main line. It terminated at the main gates on Fillis Street and branched off to the Gilbert Street entrance. This was made possible because a lot of the materials were left over from the construction of the Westown extension. It was also stated that the branch onto Gilbert Street could be extended to Vogeltown via Carrington Road. This extension never materialised, probably because of technical difficulties with the proposed route.

It was reported that a large poplar tree had fallen over and badly damaged the boat shed. Early in the parks history poplar trees were planted to identify the Park’s boundaries. On the hill just east of the boat shed is the southern boundary of section 1262, which in 1876 was a park boundary. There is still a poplar tree on that border today.

The first plan for a major fernery was put to the Board by Mr. Besely. It was to have three chambers, one 30ft by 50ft and the other two, 60ft by 30ft the wall was to be terraced, all covered with a glass roof. The plan had been drawn up by Mrs H. Lovell, of Hawera. The proposal was given the go-ahead and work started on clearing the hillside to the south of the John Street walk.

As part of the preparation for the fernery the board had decided to clear a number of large pine trees on the north side of the John Street walk which it was thought may cause issues in future years. This clearing of pines led to Horton’s first major planting of native trees. The trees in question are the rimu, totara and kauri which flank what is now, Horton Walk, leading from the Rogan Street entrance, down to the Tea House. He planted about 300 trees in this area, which were purchased from Duncan and Davies. His diary entry, September 25, reads, “Kauri, Rimu & other trees arrived. Planted John St walk. Mr Morshead presented Tanekaha (Phyllocladus alpinus)”. We know from Thomas Horton’s diary that tree felling started on September 3, and the job was finished by November 4. Also noted in his diary were the trees that were felled. His entry on October 28, read, “Total number of trees felled to date, 35 Pine (large), 3 Pine (smaller), 18 Oak and Sycamore.’ The board authorised the felling of large Pine trees that were dangerous to leave. The logs suitable for milling were purchased by the Sash and Door Factory and Timber Company, what was left was cut up and sold as firewood.

The first Taranaki Kennel Club dog show was held in the park and proved very successful. The champion ribbon for the best dog on the parade was won by Mr. J. Somerton’s smooth-haired fox terrier (Maidestone Donholm) (TDN Oct 6).

An interesting article was published in the Daily News March 25, indicating that some of the timber for the original St Mary’s Church came from Pukekura Park. “Great care was taken in the selec­tion and seasoning of the timber, a great deal of which was obtained from the gullies where Pukekura Park now is. The timber was all hand sawn and then dragged down to the Huatoki River, where it was chained down under the surface of the water for seasoning.”


It was noted in March, that boat takings were down due to the polio epidemic, an epidemic which killed 175 people in New Zealand. This epidemic triggered a lockdown and many schools closed and students had to study at home. In those days work was sent to them by post, not online as the case with the current pandemic.

An open-air boxing tournament organised by the Taranaki Boxing Association was held in Pukekura Park in February of 1925, the first of its type in Taranaki. The main event was a heavyweight title fight between George Modrich, of Auckland and Eddie Parker, of Hastings, Parker winning after Modrich’s corner threw in the towel at the end of the seventh round. There were several other fights on the undercard and a number of local boxers demonstrated their skill. The crowd of 1500 were well entertained under the lights of the sportsground.

Thomas Kingwell Skinner died in August 1925, he had been a board member from 1881 to 1901. From the parks inception in 1875 Skinner had selflessly given his time and skill as a surveyor to layout many of the paths in the park as well as working on the sportsground development and Manhattan Island.

A committee was set up to look at the possibility of erecting a new house in the park for the superintendent. The feeling was that if he lived in the park, it would deter vandalism. Plans were drawn up and estimates were done by T. H. Bates, so that the board could look at ways and means of financing it. Unfortunately, they could not come up with the means of paying for it and the house did not get built until 1931.  There was an old curator’s cottage on Victoria Road paid for by the Government when the land was first given to the board in the 1870s, presumably its condition was not suitable for habitation.  From 1926 the cottage was used by the scouts until it was pulled down in 1930.

At the July board meeting Thomas Horton told the committee that he had planted 800 native trees of different varieties that he had grown in his own garden saving the board a lot of money. Having only been in New Plymouth one year this action shows how dedicated he was to his job. He also initiated the labelling of trees for educational purposes and was a believer that if you could get people interested in the park, they would be more likely to look after it. To this end he reached out to schools offering to take groups round and teach them about the plants in the park.

A Pair of kiwis were donated and released on Manhattan Island. How they fared is a mystery as the birds were left to their own devices.

A monster fireworks display was held in the sportsground on November 5, which attracted a large crowd. A competition was run for the best guy. At the end of the display a huge bonfire was lit at the southern end of the ground and all the guys were burnt. The success of the bonfire was guaranteed as it was fuelled by a case of kerosene donated by A. S. Patterson and Co. and old motor oil donated by Criterion Motors Ltd. The night netted a profit of about £100.

The control of the sportsground was handed back to the board after an agreement was made whereby the Sportsground Committee would pay the board £175 per annum to look after the grounds. This payment was for maintenance only and did not include development of new terraces etc. Some new terraces were constructed at the sportsground during the year; however, the location and extent of work is not clear.

There was a renewed push to build a fernery and the fernery sub-committee submitted a new plan which provided for three large “dug-outs” each 60ft by 30ft. The estimated cost of the work was £450 plus cost of glass for the roof estimated at from £100 to £150. It was proposed that the board provide £300 towards the cost, the sub-committee undertaking to raise the balance. This was given the go-ahead in December.

On September 19, The Taranaki Herald printed an article, Ramble Through the Park, which describes what a person sees while walking through the park with a child. The narration of the walk, along with a botanical survey as part of the same article gives a very good description of the park as it was in 1925. With a bit of thought the same walk could be taken today and maybe some of the trees mentioned could be spotted.


In June, the fernery construction started, this had been many years in the planning. This was a huge undertaking, three 60ft x 40ft grottos linked by tunnels, covered with a glass roof. The front chamber lay east-west, the other two chambers behind, side by side laying north-south. The back chambers raised 10ft above the front one. These were cut into the side of a hill. To start, approximately 12ft of earth was removed from above where the fernery chambers were to be, forming a plateau roughly 180ft x 90ft. The topsoil from this excavation was put to one side and later used to cover what is now the Fred Parker Lawn. The fernery was designed by Mrs. Lovell of Hawera who had a fernery of a similar nature in her own garden.

Approximately 4000 cubic yards of soil and clay was removed during the construction, all dug manually with spades. The removal of this material off-site would have been prohibitive, fortunately, there was a swamp nearby which needed filling in, and the level was raised by as much as 12ft, to form a lawn (subsequently named Fred Parker Lawn). Clay was used for the bulk of the land reclamation then covered with black soil. They also decided to form a second lakelet and some of the clay was used for that. The excavated material was transferred to a truck on rails to take it approximately 100ft to the dam site. In charge of the construction of the fernery was Mr. W Holmes, of Putaruru. Six labourers were employed, four dedicated to digging out the earth, one to level the swamp and one in charge of the truck. This took about 5 months to complete, sometimes under very trying conditions. Thomas Horton was supervising the project.

By October the superintendent reported that the excavation for the fernery house construction had been completed as far as it was advisable before the carpentry work and glazing was done. The concrete foundations were also finished. Unfortunately, there was a delay in the delivery of the glass for the roof.

While construction was ongoing many people were out collecting ferns. The Fernery Committee had visited the Taranaki Forests property. Messrs Maxwell and Davies collected ferns on a trip to King Country, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty and Auckland. Plus, lots of friends of the Park from around the country sent ferns.

The other big project happening at the same time as the fernery excavation, was the dredging of the main lake. The newly acquired Fordson tractor for the Sports Ground, was adapted to drive the winch. The tractor was acquired for cutting the grass in the sports ground, until then a horse had been used to pull the mower. The tractor was four times quicker than the horse.

A major fundraising effort was carried out with circulars and envelopes taken to every house in New Plymouth. This managed to generate almost £500.


Pukekura Park hosted its second royal visit of the 1920s. This time it was the Duke and Duchess of York, who on the abdication of Edward VIII came to the throne as George VI and Queen Elizabeth the parents of Queen Elizabeth II.

The glass for the fernery arrived at the end of February 1927 and tenders were sought for the roof construction. The contract was won by Mr. F. Hartnell with a quote of £90. Once the roof was complete Mr. Hartnell and his team returned to finish the inside excavation. By mid-July construction of the fernery was completed and planting commenced. In total 2,340 ferns were planted, consisting of 145 species. The walls of the rooms were terraced to make it easier to display the plants. Large rocks and a water feature were added to exhibit the ferns as naturally as possible. A controversial aspect of the fernery was the addition of punga posts to prop up the roof, these had not been part of the original design and impacted on the paths inside the fernery. A door to the fernery was kindly donated and installed by Fred Parker who was a builder by trade. The building of the fernery was the beginning of a long relationship between the park and Fred Parker.

By this time the landscaping outside was complete. There was a lawn, flower beds, and a rose pergola. The new lakelet up in the valley was finished hosting water lilies and three islands, each island planted with a tree at its centre, a rimu, kauri and Halls totara.

The board was finding it increasingly more difficult to finance the running of the park and vesting of the park in the Borough Council was again on the table. Following a conference between the board and the council it was agreed that the council would take over the control of the park and strike a rate for its upkeep. An important agreement was reached that any bequest made to the park would be used for permanent improvements only. A petition that Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, be vested in the borough and come under the control of the council, and that the present board be abolished, was drafted.

Following the death of Mr. Newton King a £3000 bequest was left to Pukekura Park, it was suggested that this money be invested for several years, and the interest used to build a new teahouse.


The fernery was officially opened at 1.30 p.m. on January 28, the Mayor Mr. H. V. S. Griffiths doing the honours. This was arranged to coincide with the last day of a Shopping Week that had been organised to promote the businesses of New Plymouth. Later that afternoon a floral fete was held in the park and in the evening a Pierrot entertainment under the direction of Mr. Wauchop, both of which were fundraisers.

Another fundraising event was a sport meet at the park on February 18. A special feature of the meet was the appearance of Stanley Lay, New Zealand’s first nominee for the Olympic Games, he registered a very long javelin throw when he surpassed the Australian and New Zealand record of 209ft 4in, which he had established recently at the park, by three inches. The distance was not measured by a surveyor, as a record could not be granted because the meeting was not a registered one. (The drive from the main entrance at Fillis Street to the Bellringer Pavilion is named the Stan Lay Drive in honour of this amazing athlete).

During February, the cannons that had stood proud on Cannon Hill for more than thirty years were removed and delivered to the Carnegie Library, these can be seen today at Puke Ariki Museum.

The demise of ducklings by predators has always been a problem in the park but this year some locals took it upon themselves to take the young ducklings home, rear them, and release them back into the lake when they were big enough to look after themselves.


The main event of the year was the handing over of the park to the Borough Council. In his diary on October 17, Horton wrote, “This has been a “Red letter day” in this Park’s history. A great function was held, at which the Deeds of the Park were handed over to the Mayor by Mr. Amoore. Appropriate speeches were made & Mr. R. C. Hughes gave a resume of the Park’s early history. After the Mayor had planted a Memorial Kauri tree, afternoon tea was served & a donation of £100 was received.”

Several trees that had been planted on the opening day of the Recreation Ground on May 29, 1876, were marked with plaques to highlight their significance. These were: 1. Pinus Insignus planted by Miss Jane Carrington. 2. Rimu and Puriri, Mr. and Mrs. Hughes Senior; 3. Specimen pinus insignus above the lily pond; 4. Norfolk Island Pine, Mrs. Thomas Colson; 5. English Yew, Mrs. T. K. Skinner. Some of these trees may exist today, but unfortunately it is not known for certain. For a full account of the ceremony read the Taranaki Herald articles from October 17 and 18.

When the Borough Council took over the park it advanced the board £900 to cover debt, which the board had to repay within five years, however, the value of any permanent improvements done in the park were to be deducted from the sum to be repaid.

A new propagating house was built near the entrance of the fernery, paid for by donations. Before it was built one of the rooms in the fernery had been used for this purpose.

The main entrance was tar sealed and a turning circle put in.


A donation of £300 was made by W.D. Graham to help install lighting at the sportsground in the park. The Grahams were the proprietors of the Criterion Hotel from 1920 until 1937. Mrs Graham often donated plants to the park and when the couple died in the early 1950s, they left a large bequest to the park.

After years of deliberation the superintendent finally got a house built. The location chosen was on Victoria Road (now 25 Victoria Road) between the old curator’s cottage and the Park Tennis Club. The main reason for building the cottage was to hopefully deter vandals and with this in mind several pine trees were cut down giving a view into the park from the house. This was very controversial; many people were not happy at being able to see the house from down in the park so a group of native trees were planted on the slope below the house that would eventually hide it. The drawings for the house came from the Borough Engineer, and the house was built by Mr. L. F. Hand at a cost of £1080. The old curator’s cottage was pulled down.

A new lighting system was installed around the sportsground.


It was noted at the August committee meeting that a new entrance had been created at the end of Fillis Street.

The Tea House we see today was erected in 1931, and was the gift to the city of Mr and Mrs Burgess on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary. It cost approximately £1000, but their generosity did not stop there, they also donated £150 for furnishing and later another £60 for silverware. It was designed by Surrey Alleman, of Inglewood and built by Frank Hartnell. The original tea house built in 1905, was moved towards the fernery and re-purposed as a ladies conveniences and curator’s office by Frank Hartnell and some returned soldiers. Before building the new Tea House the old bathing shed that had stood next to the lake since 1879 was also moved, this was also relocated on the path leading from the Tea House to the fernery.

The first mention of a reserve at the Fillis Street gully was reported from the August committee meeting. “The chief work undertaken was that in the Fillis street gully. All the blackberry, gorse, fern, sycamore, and other useless growth had been grubbed and thoroughly cleaned up. This portion of the park was in good order. It would be desirable to plant the larger part of this area in native trees, but first the pines on the hill would have to be cut down.”

Another new feature added to the park were two ticket boxes for the sportsground which were built and paid for by the Sportsground Committee, and still grace the park today, but sadly are not used.

The committee decided to cut down a row of fourteen pine trees on the ridge above the eastern terrace of the sportsground, which caused an uproar in the town. A delegation which included W. H. Skinner tried to dissuade them from that course of action. The deputation was convinced that the committee’s intent was to eventually remove all the pine trees from the park. To try and allay any such fears the board issued a couple of resolutions.

  1. The Intention of the board at their discretion and after full consideration of each case, is to remove any dangerous, dead, dying, or redundant trees, whether native or exotic.
  2. That, while not excluding exotic flora, the board intend to make Pukekura Park a standard collection of native flora.

One committee member who vehemently opposed the cutting down of any pine tree was lawyer Robert Clinton Hughes and in reference to this, the satirical article below was published portraying the trees as defendants in a courtroom. The author of the article is unknown, but it may have been Hughes himself.

Court News

As everybody knows, a session of the Court was held in New Plymouth recently, or was it a drum-head court-martial? Mr. Justice (?) Park Board presided. The number of prisoners arraigned was extraordinarily large, and their variety was infinite, but most of them were from the well-known Insignis family. They were unrepresented by council, and being unable to speak the language of the Court officials they were compelled to state their case by means of signs and whispers.

“Have you no counsel?” asked the Judge sharply.

“Yes sir,” chorused the accused. “Mr. Hughes!”

But alas, where was Mr. Hughes? Perhaps he had grown weary of the long struggle on behalf of his clients, all of whom he had known from childhood. Perhaps he had not been told that the session was on.

“Very well,” continued His Honour, “we must make a start. Bring forth the first prisoner.”

And everyone in the court stood silent as the prisoner entered the dock, for she was the loveliest girl they had set eyes on for a very long time. Slim and erect, she gazed proudly at the bench, her arms outstretched in supplication, and her wonderous features quivering with emotion.

“What is your name?” asked the Judge.

“Poplar sir.”

“Where do you live?”

“Right at the very edge of your Domain sir, alongside Victoria Road.”

“Yor nationality?”

“English sir.”

“Prisoner at the bar,” exclaimed His Honour sternly, “you are found guilty of the heinous crime of not being a New Zealander.” Assuming the black cap the judge was about to pass sentence when the prisoner cried out piteously, “But  can’t I have a fair trial, sir, and put my case before the jury?”

“What jury?”

“Why, the people of New Plymouth, sir.”

“Certainly not! They are too old-fashioned altogether, and can’t keep pace with the times. Off with her head!”

And with Mr. Groundsman as the Lord High Executioner off went her head forthwith. Suffice it to say that she had a fitting funeral, for after her limbs had been dismembered and her body sawn into pieces she was duly carried to her grave with fitting solemnity and dignity by an army corps of unemployed. But all this is by the way.

“Next please!” called out the judge impatiently.

A whole row of the Insignis family stepped into the dock.

“Where do you live?” asks His Honour, having ascertained their names.

“Along the ridge above the Eastern Terrace sir.”

“You are old,” said the judge, “and what is more you are not New Zealanders. Off with their heads! Next please.”

And so it went on. And soon the whole countryside resounded with the chop, chop, chop of the executioner’s axe, as it plied its grim trade, and the whole countryside re-echoed with the monotony of that passionless sentence “Off with their heads!”

Far away, however, a new note struck the ear. From a murmuring it grew to a rumble, and His Honour stirred uneasily in his chair. For it sounded uncomfortably like the voice of an enraged people.


  1. M. Spence resigned from the committee because he was leaving town and his place was filled by Victor Davies, owner of Duncan and Davies nursery.

The Girl Guides asked permission to plant twenty-one trees in the park to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Girl Guide movement. The request was granted and on May 27 they planted twenty-two, mainly native trees near where the old curators house had stood. Why they planted twenty-two is not clear.

There were some interesting plantings during the year. Forty king ferns were planted in the gully at the back of the sportsground, this is the gully called King Fern Gully today.

On the brow of the hill above the rhododendrons and azaleas (Stainton Dell), 100 totaras, 86 coprosma and 15 assorted native trees were planted.

Forty extra pohutukawas were planted on the hill at the eastern side of the sports ground. White pines and King ferns were planted in the low, damp part of the gully (King Fern Gully) running south-east from the sports ground, and quite a number of other assorted native trees planted on the higher slopes in the same area.


Colonel Tate resigned from the Park Committee and was replaced by E. J. Carr. The new Mayor Mr. E. R. C. Gilmour also joined the Park Committee.

A major undertaking at the beginning of the year was the desilting of the lower lake from which Horton estimated that 2350 tons of silt was removed. This was all done by hand with shovels and wheelbarrows. Disposing of such a quantity was challenging, some was used on flower beds and quite a large amount was used to reclaim a section of the lily pond north of the old hatchery building.

Removing two to three feet of silt unearthed some surprises: a six-inch glazed pipe running across the floor of the lake from the direction of the Sportsground, and seventeen logs of various sizes, mainly pine, which Horton was at a loss to explain how they got there. Horton’s theory about the pipe was that when the formation of the Sportsground was first mooted there was a stream running across the area and it would need diverting or piping before the area could be filled to become a playing field. The pipe captures and diverts a stream that arises in what is now called King Fern Gully, under or around the Sportsground and away to the Pukekura Stream. In the years that have passed silt to a depth of over two feet in places has settled on the pipeline.

In the middle of the lower lake was a small island which Horton decided to make bigger. His idea was to erect a wall of pungas around the small island six feet from its bank using approximately 300 pungas, then filling the void with silt that was being dug up. This was a convenient way of disposing of more silt. The island that Horton created was ultimately removed in 1955 when the Queen Elizabeth Fountain was erected.

The desilting of the lake took over two months to complete. The work of clearing the lake was done using relief workers who did such a good job that they were kept on and put to work cleaning the lake at Brooklands.  1100 tons of silt was carted away to the Fitzroy golf course and Rugby Park.

Under the terms of the will of the late Mr. Newton King, who died in 1927, varying amounts totalling £7000 were bequeathed to New Plymouth reserves as follows: —Pukekura Park, £3000, East End Reserve, £2000; Kawaroa Park, £2000. With the consent of beneficiaries interested under the terms of the will, the trustees offered the valuable “Brooklands” property (53 acres 1 rood and 19 perches) in complete fulfilment of the terms of the will in respect of these three reserves. This was a very generous action and having made satisfactory arrangements with the Kawaroa and East End committees, the New Plymouth Borough Council accepted “‘Brooklands ” to be placed under the control of the Pukekura Park Board. The gift included the buildings and chattels on the property. The transfer was done through an Act of Parliament. Thomas Horton was asked to produce a report to highlight what work needed to be done to incorporate Brooklands with Pukekura Park. Work in Brooklands by the park staff was started before the transfer was completed. Brooklands was opened to the public on December 21, 1933. When the transfer was completed Newton King’s son Eliot was given a place on the park committee and his long-time gardener Tom Boulton was asked to continue in his job.

The park also received a large bequest from the estate of Charles Score Sanders, £350 of which he wanted set aside to make a rhododendron dell, plus, after providing for legacies and bequests of a private nature and payment of the usual duties and charges, the Trustee was directed to keep the residue of the estate in trust for the New Plymouth Borough Council to be used for permanent improvements to Pukekura Park which would be of benefit to the public. This was a large sum of money.

One of the significant plantings this year was a belt of pohutukawas planted as a hedge on the northern boundary of the Park, adjacent to Fillis Street. Three trees from this hedge still remain today.”


Ā Report on Brooklands compiled jointly by Thomas Horton and Tom Boulton (Brooklands Head Gardener).

This report for the Park Board was done to highlight the volume of work required to successfully incorporate Brookland into Pukekura Park once it was officially handed over. It was issued on December 30, 1933


The boundary fences all require overhauling. Some new posts and battens will be required, and where new wires are necessary, we can use spare wire from intermediate fences, that we recommend be removed. It is imperative that all boundary fences be put in good order promptly, so as to ensure safety from stock.

The boundary of the Brooklands area, (excluding the bush gully near Upjohn Street) is roughly 100 chains. To repair the boundary fences efficiently, it will require 78 posts, 4 strainers, 100 battens and 5 stays. The bush gully area at the far end of the estate, containing 5 acres 1 rood 11 perches has a boundary of approximately 39 chains, and of this, 24 chains require to be erected. For this purpose, we require 80 posts, 4 strainers, 200 battens, 5 stays, 5cwt wire and staples. Total material required, and cost, is as follows:-

158 totara posts @ 2s 3d    = £19 1s 10d

8 Strainers @ 10s   = £4

300 Battens @ 15s  = £2 5s

3 Cwt Barbed Wire @ 19s  = £2 17s

2 Cwt Plain Wire @ 16s  = £1 12s

25 lbs Staples @ 3d  = 6s 3d

10 Stays, 12ft long, 4 x 3  = £1 16s

Total = £31 18s 1d


There are over one hundred chains of dividing fences. Some of these are in good condition, and in others, repairs are necessary.

The dividing fence between the orchard and garden, we recommend should be removed, and this will give us all the material necessary for repairing the other dividing fences.

The fence in front of the homestead, we suggest be moved out at the North-east corner, so as to enclose the small group of trees at present exposed to stock.

Practically all the wires on boundary and dividing fences will require to be tightened up.


The old orchard, we suggest, should be destroyed, trees grubbed out, and the area prepared for planting. We recommend this area be planted in assorted native trees.

At the Western side of the orchard, there is at present a row of pines, affording fair shelter from Westerly winds. This shelter belt should be strengthened and considerably fortified, by planting additional pines or other suitable shelter trees on the vacant land at the western side of the present row of pines. The row of Lawsoniana now growing between the orchard and front garden shrubbery, we suggest, should be dug up, and replanted approximately twenty-five feet from their present position. In close proximity to the Lawsoniana hedge, are some dilapidated old pines and a smothering growth of Eleagnus. We advise these be grubbed out later on.


We recommend that a suitable area near the gate leading into the orchard and to the right of the main entrance gate, be reserved and prepared for this purpose.


All that area between Messrs Grundy, Bond and Shepherds boundary, on the western side of the bush, we suggest be planted with suitable shelter trees; and that this shelter be extended (at least half a chain wide) along the whole of the Southern side of the bush to Mr. List’s gully.


We suggest that all the old bush tracks be opened up and clearly defined, and new tracks formed where essential. That notices be erected where necessary, asking visitors to keep to the defined tracks and not to injure or mutilate trees, or remove ferns or plants. The opening of the bush paths as indicated will reveal a much greater extent of bush than most people think there is, and we are of the opinion that walks through this portion of the property will become very popular and enjoyable. A really good job of these tracks can be made without the necessity of cutting or damaging much of the growth. It will be necessary to cut through a dead log or two, and to remove a little of the debris, but we advise leaving everything as natural as possible. From these paths, visitors can obtain a glorious view of the whole bush area, and there should be no reason or excuse for anyone not keeping to the regulations.

The historic puriri tree and one or two other trees of special value and interest, we advise, should have a low protecting fence erected around them.

Many of the trees in the native bush are threatened with ruin by the phenomenal smothering growth of a noxious climbing plant. To save the trees it will be advisable to remove this as much as is it is possible. Quite a lot has already been removed, but it is a slow and tedious job, much of the growth being difficult to get at.


We advise that this area be cleaned up, trees and plants eradicated, posts and wire removed and the whole of this part be levelled up and prepared, so as to extend the lawn over to the bush. There are two small hedges, ( Escallonia and Fuchsia) that may have to be removed to enable this scheme to be carried out. When completed this will be a very decided Improvement. We think this work should put in hand as soon as possible.

A very fine specimen of Fagus Purpurea (Purple Beech) now growing outside the entrance gates, together with two or three other specimen trees, could be planted on this new grass extension, which we think would considerably enhance the beauty of the garden.

There are several large flowering shrubs, now overcrowded and getting ruined, which should be transplanted to more suitable positions, notably the Ghent Azaleas and one or two ordinary Azaleas. This should be done next Autumn.

The summer-house and garden seats want overhauling. This work is urgent. A few more garden seats should be provided, and at least half a dozen erected in the bush.


The Gables: This has a tenant in and we have not inspected, but the hedges around the property have recently been trimmed, the paths cleaned up, and the place looks spick and span.

The Bungalow:  The building is in fair condition, the papering of a room, a little paint, and small repairs to the spouting, will make it good. The electric range, copper and tubs, having been removed, these will require to be replaced. The garden and shelter hedges need trimming up and grass cut and fences repaired.

The Vinery:  This is a well constructed house, in excellent order, and only requires painting periodically to keep it in first class condition.

Conservatory and begonia House:  This is in fair order. Some repairs are necessary. It requires painting.

Propagating House: This also requires painting; otherwise this is in good condition.

Potting shed:  We advise this be removed to a more suitable position, one of greater privacy. This building and the out-door frames are in fair order, but are in the wrong place for a public park, and are too small for requirements.

Motor garage Near Gate:  We advise this building be removed to a position at the back of the trees, near the South-east end of the old barn, to be used as an implement, tool, potting shed, and general purposes for the permanent staff. This building to be efficiently screened from public view. The old potting shed could be attached to this building as an office and store-room for records, seeds, spraying materials, etc. A private room of this nature is essential.

Old Stables and Barn: The group of buildings comprising the above are in a dilapidated condition, and should be removed. Some of the iron and best of the doors and timber might be used to advantage in the construction of temporary conveniences for the public. The old building adjoining the dairy at back of the house, we think should also be removed. It is in bad condition and a source of danger from fire.

The Homestead: We are not reporting on, presuming you will be getting a more expert report than we would be able to furnish.


This is well stocked with suitable plants for requirements, and features of the place at this time of the year.


If the Board finally decide to adopt the site that has been recommended for the Sanders Rhododendron Dell, then a great deal of preparatory work will be necessary, such as digging, draining, fencing, etc.

There is a swampy area between the old Park boundary and the Brooklands lake, eminently suitable for a sunken bog or iris garden. We suggest this work be put in hand as opportunity offers.


There are three paths in the park, that can quite easily be extended into Brooklands.

No 1. is the lower bush path starting at the steps by the Tea House. This goes right through the Park bush, and can be carried on through the bush in Brooklands, on the racecourse side of the lake, as far as the bridge.

No 2. is on the Western side of the arm of water beyond the boat house. This can be taken right on, following the bank at the Western side of the lake, and merging into another path on the hillside, right in front of the homestead.

No 3. is what we know as the “totara” walk. This can be extended along the hillside, under the Park-like trees growing in No. 1 paddock, and thence on until it junctions with No. 2 in front of the house. From this path, a beautiful elevated view will be had of the bush, lake and proposed Rhododendron Dell.

We are making no report on that portion of the estate between the main drive and Brooklands Road, unless you desire us to do so.

We think cattle and other large stock should not be allowed in the paddocks where English trees are growing. breeding ewes and lambs should be used to graze in these parts.

We think we have given you a fairly full and detailed report of Brooklands as it is, and our suggestions for its improvement, and we think the suggested work will take two or three years to carry through. This, of course, depends on the amount of labour that will be available to assist the permanent staff.

Thomas Horton F.R.H.S    T. C. Boulton


The official handing over of Brooklands to the borough on March 10 was an historic day and a full account of the event can be read in pages following. As well as Brooklands, parts of the Highlands estate (Maranui Gully) belonging to the T. C. List and C. W. Wilkinson were also gifted to the Borough, however, it would appear that this piece of land did not become officially part of the park until 1944.

Trying to incorporate Brooklands into the park was a big task. The estate was a bit rundown; it had been seven years since the passing of newton King. There were several buildings including the family home that the park committee had to decide the fate of. Fences needed repairing, the driveway need upgrading, paths needed to be made to connect Brooklands to Pukekura Park and it needed connecting to the town’s sewerage system. The buildings included: The family homestead, The Gables, the bungalow, the vinery, conservatory, and begonia house, propagating house, potting shed, motor garage and the old stables and barn. The old stables and barn were the first to go. After long discussions the homestead, which in its day was a magnificent house was deemed unusable in the park setting and went up for auction for removal.

In recognition of the long service of R. C. Hughes the committee invited him to plant a kauri in the park. The site chosen was in the lawn on a newly reclaimed piece of land in front of the old hatchery building. The park committee members attended the ceremony as well as Mr Hughes’ wife. Unfortunately, the location, that had been part of the lily pond before being reclaimed with silt from the lower lake did not suit the kauri and it was removed in the 1950s as it was dying.

When the committee received the Sanders bequest of £350 for a rhododendron dell, they had chosen a location in Brooklands in front of the old homestead. It was pointed out that the bequest stated that the dell was to be in Pukekura Park, so it was planted on the site of the old maze where it remains today.

The spade that was used by Miss Jane Carrington on the opening day of the park in 1876 was returned to the park by Mr. Harry Wood of Eltham and hung in the kiosk.

It seems that the planting of the Fillis Street reserve started on September 5, when Horton recorded in his diary, “In Fillis St. gully all day. Took load of trees there & rec’d coll of rare native trees from D & D.”


The year started with the Royal visit of Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester who was the third son of King George V.

Robert Clinton Hughes passed away on January 18, 1935, at the age of 87. Hughes had the distinction of being the oldest practicing solicitor in the country. He was very much a community man and had been on the Park Board since its inception in 1875. In honour of Mr Hughes, the path from the Victoria Road entrance at the corner of Gilbert Street to the bandstand was named Hughes Walk. These days the path bearing his name runs all the way to the Brookland Road entrance.

The concept of Kauri Grove, the plantation between Brooklands Road and the gables was introduced by Horton in 1935. He wanted to have a plantation of all the native timber trees in New Zealand, especially Kauri. The area chosen was described as rough wasteland, partly swamp and partly a hill slope covered with fern, gorse, blackberry and broom. The land required a lot of preparation, clearing the unwanted growth and draining the swamp, boundary fences between the park and private residences were also erected.

The Wiggins memorial built in 1903 to commemorate Clement Wiggins who died while on service in South Africa in 1900 was removed from the park. Over the years it had been the object of vandalism on several occasions. A cypress tree was planted in its place.

Plant diseases were becoming an issue in the park and Thomas Horton at one of the committee meetings Stated, “Insect pests and fungus diseases of various types are prevalent on many of the native and exotic trees in this park, both in the old Pukekura Park area and in Brooklands. For many years there have been signs of the pests but they are now spreading to an alarming extent, and if they continue unchecked for a few more years, the lives of many trees will be in jeopardy and the disfigurement of the foliage serious.”

The native trees most seriously affected were kapuka, rewarewa, kawa-kawa, mapau, karaka, porokaiwhiri, several varieties of olearia, mairehou, puriri and many others. Most of the varieties of large growing timber trees were not seriously affected, but Mr. Horton could not say if any species or variety were absolutely immune. The trees attacked most seriously were the large glossy foliaged varieties. Exotic trees badly affected were the strawberry tree, English holly, and a few others. This issue was a country wide problem.


The year had an inauspicious start with the death of King George V. There was a large memorial service held in the sportsground. A few weeks later the sportsground hosted a more celebratory occasion when the Taranaki cricket team managed to hang on for an unlikely draw against the M.C.C.

Another significant ceremonial occasion at the sportsground was the 1st Battalion, the Taranaki Regiment, receiving new regimental colours from the Governor-General, Viscount Galway with much pomp and ceremony. The traditional trooping of the Colours was performed in the presence of about 10,000 people in Pukekura Park and provided a memorable scene under a blazing sun.

Thomas Horton raised the issue of the safety of The Poet’s Bridge and on inspection by the Borough Engineer (Mr. Clarke) it was deemed unsafe and closed to the public. The cost of repair and the cost of replacement were considered, and replacement was chosen as the way forward. Mr. Clarke’s first design was a cheap metal bridge which the park committee were not enamoured with. The bridge originally built in 1884, designed by Henry Vere Barclay was as an iconic part of the park and the view from the Tea House was used in all the promotional advertising and the park committee wanted to maintain that. Bearing that in mind Clarke offered to come up with a design which resembled the original, which he did at the beginning of 1937. When the issue of replacing the bridge came to the public’s attention, Richard Cock shared an interesting story about the funding of the original bridge by J. T. Davis. It is widely known that Davis won the money on a horse named “The Poet”, but what was not known was that Davis entered several sweepstakes some in partnership with Cock with the intention of paying for the bridge if a sizeable sum was won. His winnings from the sweepstake were £500 and he donated approximately £155 for the construction of the bridge.

The terraces in the sportsground had an upgrade increasing the spectator capacity significantly and at the same time increasing the playing area by about 500 square feet. The terraces were a work in progress starting in the early 1890s. The southern stand was the first to be developed followed by the eastern stand and it was not until a major development in 1907 that the western terraces came about. Another development in the early 1920s made some improvements and the changes in 1936 developed the terraces into basically what can be seen today.

The planting of kauri Grove which Horton had initiated the previous year started in 1936. The council granted the committee £500 over a four-year period, and the committee also received a grant from the Bruce Trust, of Hunterville for £250 again to be paid over a four-year period. Stage one, started in August 1936 when a total of 2245 trees were planted, comprising: 350 Kauri; 50 Titoki; 50 Taraire; 100 Rimu; 25 Hinau; 25 Porokaiwhiri; 25 Rewarewa; 25 Pukatea; 50 Mangaeho; 200 Pohutukawa; 200 Ngaio; 100 Red Beech; 50 Silver Beech; 25 Maire; 10 Toru; 50 Tanekaha; 200 White Pine; 100 Matai; 150 totara; 50 Tawapou; 200 Kowhai; 10 Puriri; 25 Towai; 100 Lawsoniana; 75 Thuja plicata”. The trees planted were valued at £106 15s, of which £43 5s worth came from the park’s nursery.

The new Sanders rhododendron dell was planted at the beginning of June. The site selected was the site of the old maze at the southern boundary of Pukekura park. Because the Sanders bequest stated that the plants were to be planted in Pukekura park a decision was made not to encroach into Brooklands.


A new entrance was put at the west end of Fillis Street, which would allow access to the park avoiding the sportsground when sports were in progress.

A memorial tablet with the names of deceased donors erected in 1906 on the south side of Cannon hill was removed. The tablet made of marble was carved to represent an open book with the names engraved on the pages. Over the years it had been the target of vandalism. The tablet carver was stonemason W. F. Short, long-time park board/committee member. He had on many occasions done remedial work on the tablet.

Extensive tree-planting had been carried out during the 1937 season, which included 360 native timber trees in the extension of the forest area at Brooklands, also 160 Lawsoniana and 250 macrocarpas had been planted to protect the native bush in the gully running towards Avenue Road corner and Upjohn Street. At the back of the old orchard site at Brooklands 550 pinus radiata had been planted behind the old pine plantation, and 40 white pines had been put in the swamp ground near the rhododendrons. Around the lake and in other parts of Pukekura Park 165 tree ferns had been put in, and 650 native trees were planted in the new botanic reserve at Fillis Street making a total of 2175 trees planted. Twenty-eight trees were to be planted in the forest area to mark Arbor Day.

Plans drawn up by Mr. Clarke for The Poet’s Bridge replacement, made of timber and similar to the original were accepted by the committee. F. W. Whittaker won the contract with a tender price of £877. The money for the construction came from the Charles Score Sanders bequest fund. Unfortunately, Mr. Whittaker suffered a fatal heart attack while working on the bridge construction. When the bridge was completed the question of colour had to be finalised. The committee decided to throw the question open to the public, unfortunately no direct written evidence has been found stating what colour was chosen, however from reading accounts of subsequent bridge paintings the author believes it was the first time red was used and has probably remained that colour until today.

The pine trees behind the eastern terrace of the sportsground were finally felled allowing a further 650 trees to be planted in the new Fillis Street gully native botanical reserve.

The new main entrance was constructed in 1937, designed by Messrs Griffiths and Syme. The entrance with two 30ft tall towers with a base 7ft 6in square incorporating ticket boxes was an imposing structure. It was originally intended to be built with Mount Somers stone, but this was difficult to acquire and expensive, so the architects came up with an alternative which was to build the towers out of concrete and plaster the outside then point it to resemble stone. This was accepted and the contract to build the gates went to Boon Bros, of New Plymouth. Committee member W. F. Short, stonemason by trade, was not happy with the decision to imitate stone.


Planting of the forest extension area was continued in July and August of 1938. Between this and the 1937 plantings Horton added in total another 1570 trees, comprising: 150 Kauri, 100 Rimu, 25 Hinau, 100 Rewarewa, 25 Pukatea, 200 Pohutukawa, 100 Maire, 50 Tanekaha, 100 White Pine, 150 Totara, 500 kowhai, 20 Puriri, 50 Lawsoniana.

This brought the total number of trees planted to 3815, comprising: 500 Kauri; 50 Titoki; 50 Taraire; 200 Rimu; 50 Hinau; 25 Porokaiwhiri (pigeonwood); 125 Rewarewa; 50 Pukatea; 50 Mangaeho; 400 Pohutukawa; 200 Ngaio; 100 Red Beech; 50 Silver Beech; 125 Maire; 10 Toru; 100 Tanekaha; 300 White Pine; 100 Matai; 300 Totara; 50 Tawapou; 700 Kowhai; 30 Puriri; 25 Towhai; 150 Lawsoniana; 75 Thuja plicata (western redcedar).

Thomas Horton was aware that the popularity of the fernery had a lot to do with the flowers on display, not just the ferns. Unfortunately, the conditions inside the fernery were not suited to the growth of begonias which were the big attraction and so he promoted the idea of relocating the grape house from Brooklands. This was done at a cost of about £150 which came from the Sanders bequest and was carried out by Messrs. Cook and Son. Over the course of one weekend members of his staff worked tirelessly to dig the tunnel connecting the new begonia house to the north-west fernery house.

In his diary Thomas Horton recorded measuring the kauri tree near the boatshed bridge. “Height 50 ft. Circumference 4ft from the ground 41 ½ in. Diameter 14 inches. Tree planted 1913. Average yearly growth 2ft. 400 feet of good timber in tree.”

The old main gates at Fillis Street removed when the Sanders gates were erected dated back to 1885. They were a gift from Mr. George Rhind an engineer who worked on the harbour development. By 1890 it became necessary to re-hang the gates and Mr. Robert Hughes senior took it upon himself to organise this and from that point they were affectionately called the Hughes gates. Following the removal of the gates in 1938 the committee received a letter from Mr. Len Hughes asking if possible that the iron gates removed from Liardet St. entrance could be erected at the Victoria Road. Entrance, this was agreed to.

Thomas Horton and George Huthnance suffered severe irritation when removing Rhus verniciflua from flower beds in front of the fernery, the irritation so bad that Huthnance was off work for several days.

Tom Boulton who had worked at Brooklands for Newton King as his head gardener for decades and kept on when Brooklands became part of the park was let go. It was felt that he could no longer handle the heavy work required to maintain Brooklands.


New Plymouth was approaching its centennial celebration in 1941 and to commemorate this it was decided to develop a reserve encompassing 80 acres on what is now Centennial Drive in the vicinity of Paritutu Rock. Thomas Horton was asked to design and oversee the development and was released from park duties for 2 days a week for several months.

The Park Tennis and Croquet Club was advised that within five or six years they would have to relocate so a shelter belt could be planted. It was felt that the rapid decline of the pine trees on the western hillside below the tennis courts would soon create a problem leaving that side of the park exposed.

Another glasshouse was moved from Brooklands to the fernery site and used as a propagating house.

Thomas Horton in his diary on September 4, noted, “WAR DECLARED last night.”

Ivan Waddle who was running the fernery in 1939 had joined the park in 1934 as Horton’s apprentice, was called up for active duty at the outbreak of WWII, also, Committee chairman, Lieutenant Colonel F. S. Varnham who had served in WWI was called up and deployed to Egypt.

Miss Evelyn Lawson was first female staff member at the park. She started on a casual basis to help in the fernery, then when Ivan Waddle went off to war Miss Lawson’s position became a permanent one.


In a review of the plantings of the Brooklands forest reserve and the Fillis Street native botanical reserve, Horton said that at Brooklands, in an area of approximately 10 acres 3815 trees had been planted which included all the principal native trees, and at Fillis Street in an area of approximately 4 acres 1200 trees had been planted with over 200 varieties. Sadly, the Fillis Street reserve never reached its potential probably due to the lack of manpower during the wartime period.

Thomas Horton was appointed Superintendent of Reserves for the Borough. For some years he had been doing work outside the park for the Borough Council, such as the supervising of the Centennial Park reserve. Horton was still doing a lot of manual labour in the park, so the borough council gave the park committee an extra £150 to compensate for his time out of the park.

The old main gates at Fillis Street (dating back to the 1880s) that were removed when the Sanders Memorial gates were built were finally re-erected at the Victoria Road entrance.

A memorial plaque was erected at Brooklands to recognise the gift from Newton King.


Staff levels were down to a minimum which was barely enough to keep up with general maintenance. The only new work was a new ponga gateway at the Kaimata Street entrance.

With a show of optimism, a V for victory sign was planted on the Fred Parker Lawn using red iresine, with a background of bronze and yellow African marigolds.

In 1941 the southern boundary of Brooklands was protected by a shelter belt of lawsoniana trees unfortunately, some of the trees had to be removed when a dip in the land was filled to facilitate the forming of Kaimata Street. About 2000 yards of soil was brought in.

To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Nov 16th, 1931, Mrs Burgess and her late husband had gifted the kiosk and all its contents to Pukekura Park.  On what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary Mrs Burgess carried out her and her late husband’s intention to renovate and replenish the contents of the kiosk. One year after the opening of the kiosk while visiting England with her husband Mrs Burgess had bought the new crockery. Since then, it had been stored in packing cases and moved from place to place. To mark the occasion Mrs Burgess was entertained by the Pukekura Park Committee with a morning tea at the kiosk. It was suggested that as a commemoration of the work of Mrs and the late Mr Burgess a picture of each of them be displayed in the kiosk.

The park staff joined a Borough Council Industrial Union. They came to an agreement which saw their working week reduced to 40 hours over 5.5 days.

L.W. Lovell joined the Committee. Mr Lovell was a councillor.

The park received a bequest from the estate of Mary Bingham for £250.


When Brooklands was handed over in 1934 Messrs. Horton and Boulton suggested planting a shelter belt on the southern and western boundaries of Brooklands, however, it was not until 1942 that Horton planted a shelter belt along the Kaimata St boundary. THDE, July 22, “Planted trees at Brooklands.”; July 23, “Men finishing off the trees at Brooklands.”; July 26, “List of trees planted 22nd & 23rd at Brooklands Kaimata St.” The trees listed are: 106 lawsoniana, 5 years old, 5s each, £26; 20 lawsoniana, 3 years old, 10s, 40 Podocarpus totara, 5 years old, 4s each, £8; 40 kowhai, 4 years old, 2s 6d each, £8; 24 Rewarewa, @ 2s 9d each, £3 6s. Four men did the job in 2.5 days. Some of these trees can be seen next to the Ambush Gully nature walk.

During the war it was decided that slit trenches should be dug to protect people in the event of an air raid. These were simply holes in the ground approximately 3 ft wide, 3 to 5ft. deep, and in Pukekura Park, 12ft long. They were made to cater for people working in town and were dug next to the paths at the northern end of the park, beside the paths from the Fillis Street entrance, the Gilbert Street entrance, and the Victoria Road entrance at the end of Gilbert Street. They were designed to protect against shrapnel, not a direct hit. During the war at night blackouts were in force hence walking through the park at night could prove dangerous and people falling into trenches was not unheard of. They were also traps for nocturnal animals like hedgehogs. In Pukekura Park 300, 12ft long trenches were dug, approximately 1500 yards of earth being excavated. The earth that was dug out was piled next to the trench as a bund. The trenches were never used in New Zealand and generally they were filled in a year or two later.

Sometimes extra assistance came from men temporarily employed through Government subsidy schemes. An unemployment Board was set up in 1930 to administer such schemes. In 1942 they were operating scheme 13 which the park benefitted from.

Visitor numbers were down at the beginning of the year and one of the contributing factors was the introduction of fuel rationing, which meant people were travelling less.

Two more staff were called up to serve in the war. George Huthnance and Edwin Grant were a big loss to Horton at a time when staffing was already depleted. Huthnance held a diploma in horticulture and ran the fernery. To help in the fernery Noline Lawson was hired joining her sister who had been working there for about 3 years.


Vandalism was a serious issue during the war and in 1943 it was probably at its worst. One act that stood out was the destruction of the Gilbert Street entrance gates by a car driving into them. One of the more unusual forms of vandalism was the theft of two pitchers from the Nepenthes plant in the begonia house. This plant had been a centre or interest, and school children enjoyed lessons about it during visits to the park. The pitcher plant, as it is commonly called, has two pitchers, or long bell-like tubes, with a liquid inside which attracts unwary insects. The insects steal into the pitcher to feast on the liquid and are trapped. the plant absorbing them for food. The theft of the pitchers meant that the exhibit lost its interest until the following season, when the strange growth would form again.

The parapara, or bird-catching plant, was, and still is controversial. This is the plant that small birds or even moreporks can get caught up in and die if unable to free themselves. From a report in the Taranaki Herald, a bird lover, not happy with the plant being in the park, would break off the branches bearing the pods when the sticky seed pods appeared, There are over a dozen in the park now, rather than snapping off branches, removing the sticky seed pods would seem more appropriate.

A sad event in the park was the drowning of Barry Frank Brown, aged four years eight months. He was found in the Brooklands lake. The exact circumstances of how he ended up in the lake were not known.

The meteorological station at Brooklands Park was shut down and moved to Marsland Hill. Its exact location is not known but was likely to have been in the vicinity of the Gables.

When T. C. List donated a part of the Maranui gully to the Borough Council along with C. W. Wilkinson in 1934, it was stated that a second piece of land associated with the homestead would also be donated when Mrs. List no longer wanted it. During wartime it was difficult to get the labour to look after the garden and the decision was made to hand over the land (section marked A on plan below). To gain access from List Street the council purchased (section B below) a smaller section from the List estate. Section A includes the List garden and the giant ginko.


The park lost two stalwarts with the deaths of James McLeod and C. E. Bellringer. Charles Bellringer had been a board/ committee member since 1916 and James McLeod since 1922. Both men were prominent members of New Plymouth society.

Three plots of land in the Maranui gully were officially added to the park. Plots C, D and E on map below.

H.S. Varnham was welcomed back having spent 4 years serving in Egypt but unfortunately a few months later resigned because he was transferred to Gisborne.


The sections on the corner of Liardet and Gilbert street (currently model railway; “Pukekura Junction”) were being used as a dump. Originally a stream in a deep gully ran east to west through the sections, this was filled in over the years. During the war people abused the privilege by dumping types of rubbish that wasn’t allowed so it was decided to close it to the public.

The Park Tennis Club tenancy was extended to 1949 but notice was given that they would have to move after that. They were offered a site at Brooklands big enough for 8 courts which would be suitable for hosting North Island Championships but not National Championships which would need 12 courts.

E. Jackson passed away; he had been a committee member since 1934. This meant that three committee members had died in an eighteen-month period.

The sportsground became popular as Mr. Horton stated in one of his monthly reports. “Unusually large numbers of people are using the sportsgrounds in Pukekura Park for training purposes. Athletic sports were held on two evenings every week, and athletes and marching teams used the grounds regularly for practice. All the cricket pitches had been given regular attention and cricketers were appreciative.”

New wage agreements were reached. The men were part of a union and a nurserymans award of £5 6s 8d /week plus cost of living bonuses were agreed to for the general park staff. The female staff received considerably less, see letter below outlining their pay grades.


The chairman Frank Amoore died in September 1946, and became the fourth committee member to die in 30 months. He had served on the board/committee for 23 years. The four men had served a combined total of almost 85 years’ service to the park.

Ivan Waddle returned to the park staff on returning from duty overseas. When he left in 1939, he was told his job would be kept open for him. During his service he had spent some time as a prisoner of war.

A large and apparently healthy macrocarpa tree fell with a terrific crash in dead calm weather at 9.30 p.m. For many years this tree had stood on the bank overlooking the entrance to the glowworm cave, but its roots had been undermined by erosion, and the superintendent, Mr. T. Horton, stated that he had been expecting it to fall for 10 years.

Mr. Horton said it had always been the policy of the Pukekura Park committee to remove dangerous trees, but the removal of any trees had invariably provoked a storm of protests from a certain section of the public.

The tree, which was about 80ft high, smashed through a group of other trees and growth and fell across the lawn in front of the old hatchery, completely uprooting a poplar tree 120 feet high and smashing many others, including a beautiful rimu and half a rubber tree (Morton Bay fig). As a further safeguard against any future damage at this spot, three large poplars and two big macrocarpas were removed from the top of the bank. Native trees were planted in the gap made by the felling of trees, which included pohutukawa, kowhai, miro and tree ferns.

Alterations were made to the Tea Kiosk costing £750, which were completed by Messrs. W. J. Cleland & Son Ltd.  The kitchen was extended by 10ft, and a new water heating system was installed. A small shop was transferred from the eastern side of the buildings to the back. The alterations were designed to give more space to the kitchen, where small goods were prepared. The enlarged kitchen incorporated a kitchenette, solely for the making of small goods. Except for the shifting of the small shop no alterations were made in the front of the building.

Due to the financial constraints and lack of manpower the park had deteriorated badly during the war. Horton was acutely aware of the need to bring the park back to its former glory before it was too late. Some of the structures were getting so bad that if left much longer without maintenance they would need replacing. To highlight the issues, he assessed all the work required and the cost necessary to get the park into good order. He estimated the park needed almost £3000 spending on it.

Horton’s diary note, “December 10, King Abdicated.”

During the war the Park deteriorated because of the lack of manpower. Horton gave his assessment of what was needed to restore the Parks esteem. Below is the letter he sent to the chairman of the Park Board.

Pukekura Park, Nov. 1946.

The Chairman, Pukekura Park Board.

Dear Sir,

Realising the deterioration that is rapidly going on in this Park and Brooklands, I desire to draw your attention to some the most urgent work that requires doing. The fact is, that practically all the work is more or less urgent and as there is so much requiring attention, I suggest the most urgent be put in hand as early as possible, (say during 1947) and the balance might be spread over a period of say 4 or 5 years.

The time to complete the whole of the improvements suggested, will of course depend on the amount of money and labour available. Very serious further deterioration will take place, in fact several of the buildings will become useless, if neglected for a longer period.

During the war years practically nothing was spent on the maintenance of buildings and permanent structures, and prior to the war, the annual monetary grant from the Council was too small for the satisfactory maintenance of such buildings etc.

I know that to carry out my recommendations it will require a large sum of money, but I feel it to be my duty to draw your attention to the matter, and after all, (no matter what the cost) Is Pukekura not worth it?

The Park has a reputation far beyond our own country. If we are to maintain that reputation it will be necessary to carry out the works suggested and when these are all completed, an increased staff will be essential to maintain it as it should be maintained. We have always worked with too small a staff and much maintenance and improvements that should have been done, have simply had to be left undone. The war and the shortage of permanent labour, has to an extent contributed to the deterioration referred to. There is sufficient repair work to keep a handy man, such as a rough carpenter and painter, permanently on the staff. When there is a bush and forest area of the Park and the parts where pines and other exotics are growing that should have regular attention, requiring the services of two more men.

If the staff could be increased by these three men, then the whole park could and would be maintained much more efficiently than hitherto.

First of all are the houses and other buildings.

  1. The Superintendents house. This requires two coats of paint and new spouting and a little interior painting. Wood, tool shed and gates also require painting.                                                 Estimate of cost            £55
  2. House at Brooklands known as The Bungalow. House, shed and gates all require painting and new spouting, new flushing and lavatory outfit.                                                             £60
  3. The Gables. This being a very old building and minor repairs only having been done over the past 15 years, requires a very extensive overhaul. Some floor joists have decayed, some weather boards require replacing, windows and doors adjusting, chimney and fireplace must have some attention. The roof leaks badly in places and the house, shed and gate requires 3 coats of Paint.                         £250
  4. Brooklands. The implement shed, office lavatories and gates require painting, at least two coats. £50
  5. Pukekura. The Pavilion in the Sports ground requires painting and new spouting, boiler room put in better condition and the concrete floor re-surfaced. £35
  6. Reporters room, ticket Boxes. Railing around the playing area and gates require painting very badly. £50
  7. The Engine and Implement shed. Much of the iron is decaying, new iron required and the shed thoroughly overhauled. £15
  8. Band Rotunda. This badly requires painting and roof inspected for leaks in the iron. £25
  9. Mens Lavatorys. These are in a deplorable condition and I suggest that a new building is absolutely necessary. I can’t enumerate all the details of their deterioration and unsuitability but advise you to inspect them. Cost £250
  10. The staff room and tool sheds. A new site should be found for this building. The position of the present building is very damp, being under large trees and close to the foot of a hill. Nothing can be kept dry during winter months, and tools get rusty and deteriorate and mens clothing kept there for changes etc., are practically always damp. Cost at least             £200
  11. The Ladies Rest Room and Office. These require a complete overhaul, new spouting and painting. £60
  12. Fernery Conservatory Begonia and Propagating Houses. These comprise a group of six glass houses with two potting-sheds attached. These require a complete overhaul. There are many leaks and some broken glass, ventilators are in bad order and all the houses require at least two coats of paint. These buildings have not been repainted since their construction 19 or 20 years ago.             Rough estimate £250
  13. Superintendent’s Office. For many years a small room attached to the Ladies Rest Room has been used for this purpose. This is situated in a very shady and damp position and all books, papers and records, are perpetually damp and mouldy and many books are absolutely ruined. In spite of using a small radiator during the winter and wettest periods, it is most unhealthy and unsuitable. I suggest that provision be made as early as possible for a new office. Probable cost    £100
  14. The Boat House. The present house is beyond repair and a new building is definitely necessary. The late chairman and myself went into this matter some time ago and we agreed that something was urgently required to be done to provide better accommodation for the boats. but on account of the shortage of material and high cost of labour, it was decided to leave the matter in abeyance for a time.                                                            This may cost about      £150

This brings us to the latest of the buildings in the Park.

There are several other jobs I wish to draw your attention to.

  1. The Pillions at the Main entrance and the wall in Fillis St., are getting smutty and black and should be cleaned and re-surfaced, and the doors or gates in this wall badly require painting. The Main gates require painting too. The iron work has all been cleaned and prepared ready for this to be done.                                     Say       £35
  2. The Main Drive and parking area is beginning to break up and should be re-surfaced and put in good condition. Approx. cost     £25
  3. Terrace seating needs attention. Many new blocks are required to replace those decaying, and broken seats must be renewed.                                                             Cost     £30
  4. The Poet Bridge. As you know the framework of this bridge is constructed of steel. This steel work in many parts has rusted and corroded. This requires to be removed and cleaned off, preparatory to treating with a coat of material for the purpose, and then the whole bridge painting with two coats of paint. If this is well and faithfully done, it should maintain the bridge for many years in good condition. Approx. cost       £60 to £80
  5. The Boat—Shed Bridge. This is the smaller bridge by the boat shed. This has been partly repaired, but requires further strengthening and painting two coats. £25
  6. Brooklands Lake. This requires another clean out. Rushes have grown and developed there to an incredible extent and should be removed. The foot—bridge over this lake has been torn or pulled to pieces by vandals and what bit of framework is left is decaying. I do not recommend its re-construction, as it served no very useful purpose and would be very expensive. £100
  7. The main Lake. The streams, (one from the Highlands and one from the Brooklands Road areas) that feed this lake have brought down such large quantities of silt since the lake was last cleaned out, that it is almost filling up the water ways and the upper reaches of the lake. It is one of the most serious problems we have to contend with.

The dam constructed to trap the silt at the Brooklands Road end, is not capable of holding it back. The water after heavy flood rains comes in with such a rush from the Vogeltown and Brooklands Road areas, that although the dam catches a good deal the silt, the bulk of it is carried into the lake and deposited there.

This deposit has got to be removed sooner or later or the trouble will extend and it will be more difficult to contend with. There must be at least a thousand yards of silt already there.

I think the removal of this is too big a job altogether for men and barrows and that machinery will be necessary to remove it. The undertaking is altogether too big for our own staff to attempt and as I think it requires the services an Engineer. I suggest that the Borough Council be asked to allow their Engineer to report on the work or perhaps to undertake it.       £500

  1. Fences gates and Park Entrances. There are approximately 4 to 4 ½ miles of post and wire fencing around the boundaries and various other parts of the Park. Hundreds of battens require replacing, some posts and strainers renewed and wires tightened up. There are 27 gates or other entrances to the park and must be kept in good order and condition.      Cost to put in order £40
  1. The Fordson Tractor and Mowing Machines are now very old and the periodical cost of repairs to these machines is heavy. I suggest in the not too far distant future, new and modern machinery to replace them be procured.            £500
  1. Seats. At least half a dozen new portable seats are required in Pukekura Park. £40

I cannot close this schedule of proposed improvements, without reference to the Pine Trees.

These are Pinus radiata and they are growing old and dangerous. They are nearly all of them over 60 years of age and some are 70 years old and as a result of old age are getting thin and grey in their foliage and as they have practically ceased growing, all the lower branches and many of the higher ones have died, and periodically they break off and fall to the ground and so are a danger to pedestrians.

This variety of pine matures at thirty-five to forty-five years of age and after that they deteriorate. What should be done about them is a matter for you to consider and decide.

I might mention that where any group of Pines have been removed in the Park, there is now growing groups of native and other trees, many of which are permanent, tall growing, sky line conifers. There are all doing remarkably well, and hill tops formerly growing old ragged looking pine trees are now being covered with permanent heavy foliaged and beautiful trees, which ultimately will be the admiration of everybody. After only being planted a few years, many are twenty to thirty feet high.

( signed )

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Horton


Committee member E. J. Carr died, he had served the committee since 1933. With yet another loss the committee was forced to invite new members. Ken Lippiatt, Brian Scanlan and Don Saxton joined the committee along with Mr. M. J. Neville as a council representative.

The New Plymouth Junior Chamber of Commerce had publicly criticised the state of the park and at their request a conference to discuss the state of Pukekura Park was arranged between themselves, members of the park committee and the New Plymouth branch of the Institute of Horticulture, New Plymouth Rotary Club, and the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce. Many suggestions were made including the reorganisation of the method of control of parks and reserves of New Plymouth by setting up a separate department under a superintendent to administer all parks and reserves. At the end of the conference, Mr. Stainton (park committee secretary), said, “I was hopeful that I would hear a solution as to how to do all this, I hoped to hear Mr. Wilson say the Junior chamber would take charge and run carnivals to finance Pukekura Park. Up to now I am disappointed.” In response Mr. G. M. Porter, the chamber’s president said, “it was not the intention of the junior chamber to raise money.”

The Rhododendron Dell which was planted in 1937 on the site of the old maze was overcrowded. The plants had been planted 6ft apart with the intention of moving every other plant four years later. This did not happen because of the shortage of staff during the war. Being ten years later the plants were much bigger and more difficult to move, some weighing as much as half a ton. These were all moved manually. Approximately eighty-five were moved, most to an adjacent area in Brooklands which still is part of the Rhododendron Dell today.

The park received a £400 bequest from the estate of Mr. A. R. Standish with no restriction on its use.

The superintendent stated that visitor numbers were down due to a Polio epidemic.

The ceremonial spade that was used by Miss Jane Carrington on the opening day of the park in May 1876 was gifted to the New Plymouth Museum. It had been hung on the wall of the Tea House for several years.


Thomas Horton gave his notice of resignation at the beginning of May, to take effect on March 31, 1949.

The need for a ladies dressing shed at the sportsground was highlighted by a deputation from a number of local sports groups. It was pointed out that the women competitors had to change in their cars or the bushes because of the lack of facilities. It was also pointed out that there was every possibility that the following year the New Zealand women’s and junior track and field athletic championships would be held at New Plymouth. The committee was in full agreement with the deputation and promised they would make it a priority.

The ladies changing room got the go-ahead to be built at the southwest corner of the sports field. To site the building and a future curators office it was necessary to cut into the bank on the west side of the southern terrace hill. It was deemed prudent to remove nine pinus insignus on the side of the hill, this caused quite a stir. The building was designed by the borough engineer, Mr. R. F. Mainland and built by Messrs. Curd Bros. who tendered a price of £1317 10s.

With the finance situation being dire lots of thought was focused on how people could help the park and one suggestion was forming a group called “Society of Friends of Pukekura Park.”

George Huthnance was appointed to the committee as the representative of the Institute of Horticulture, he had worked at the park prior to the war and was running the Fernery before being called up to serve his country in 1942.

The first Carols by Candlelight was organised in 1948 which was a collaborative effort between the park committee, the Y.W.C.A. and the Rotary Club. The event was a huge success, notwithstanding the inclement weather on the night.

The Junior Chamber of Commerce had been very critical of the park committee in 1947 and when challenged by Mr. Stainton, secretary of the park committee was told that it was not the intention of the junior chamber to raise money, however they must have taken the comment to heart and in 1949 embarked on a fundraising drive to help the park and raised a sum of £475.


Thomas Horton at the age of 81 left the park on March 31, after spending 25 years as superintendent. He left an indelible impression changing the look of the park forever. While in charge he introduced thousands of native trees while gradually dispensing with the pinus radiata which had outgrown their usefulness. He oversaw the building of the fernery and the transformation of a nearby ugly swamp into a dell admired by all. He planted the Sanders rhododendron dell with plants personally selected, many of which were imported from England. The kauri Grove plantation between The Gables and Brooklands Road was his idea along with the Fillis Street Native Reserve, but what he will always be remembered for is his first planting, that of kauri, rimu and totara along Horton Walk leading from the Rogan Street entrance down to the Tea House.

The new ladies dressing shed was completed early in the year in time for the New Zealand Women’s and junior men’s track and field championships featuring names like Yvette Williams, Shot Put Champion and Miss Shirley Strickland, Australian Olympic games representative.

The Gables celebrated being 100 years old. The old colonial hospital commissioned by Sir George Grey, designed by Frederick Thatcher, and built by George Robinson of New Plymouth, was moved to its current site at new Plymouth at the end of 1904.

New Plymouth received city status on January 27, 1949.


Over the summer of 1949 – 1950 Baden Winchcombe and some of his friends got permission from the Park committee to play recorded music from the Tea House on Sunday evenings. The concerts started at 8.15 and ran until 10pm with 24 sides of records being played. The first half of the concerts were described as “light classical”, and the second half consisted of “major works” of a more “serious nature”. The equipment which Winchcombe and his friends supplied amplified the sound so it could be heard clearly around the lake. The concerts started the discussion about erecting a Soundshell in the park which eventually led to the creation of the Bowl of Brooklands.

Opossums had become a major problem, and to counter the issue park staff were given permission to kill them which they did using a shotgun. Until 1946 opossums were a protected species in New Zealand.

The Park Tennis and Croquet Club were given a date of March 31st 1952 to vacate the site occupied by the club on Victoria Road. This had been talked about since 1939.

Brian Scanlan produced his first book about the history of the Park, titled “Pukekura Park and Brooklands” and the profits from the sales went to the Park.

W. F. Short, a monumental mason who had served on the board for 35 years, died in a car crash when his car hit a power pole. He was 81 years old.

Plans were submitted for a new administration building. The need for a new building had been identified by Thomas Horton in 1946.


The boat house bridge that was built in the 1890s was inspected by the city engineer and deemed safe, which would prove to be a flawed assessment in 1953.

A new nursery was established between the Gables and the house by the zoo for growing young trees. This area had been previously offered as the new site for the Tennis and Croquet Club.

The committee requested that the road leading into Brooklands be changed to Brooklands Park Drive to avoid confusion. This name change was confirmed by the council in 1952.

A punga kiosk was built for the boat attendant.

The plans for the new Administration building were completed by Graham Harvey and the construction was put out for tender. The successful contractor was Messrs. Ashman Ltd. Before the new administration building could be constructed an old tractor shed had to be moved. This was done during the year and moved to an area on Smith Walk next to the Fountain Lake where it remains today.

The committee was notified of a large bequest following the death of Leah Graham. It was estimated to be worth around £16,000, but eventually realised over £21,000.

A new path from the end of the Serpentine through to the List Street entrance was started by students from N.P.B.H.S.


Construction of the new administration building started in February of 1952 and was completed in May 1952. It comprised an L-shaped workshop accessed by a large double doors, a staff lunchroom, and a small dressing room with a shower, a storeroom, and an office for the curator. This was a huge improvement on the dark damp repurposed wooden buildings that they had been using.

The new path from the end of the Serpentine through to the List Street entrance was completed by students from N.P.B.H.S, This was coordinated by D. F. Saxon and named Saxton Walk in his honour. Now Saxton walk extends from the Tea House to the Bowl of Brooklands. It is unclear when and why the Saxton Walk change occurred.

The council set up a Parks and Reserves Committee. D. F. Saxton was appointed to the committee and Jack Goodwin was appointed Superintendent of Parks and Reserves. Goodwin’s time was split 75/25 between being curator of the Park and his new role as Superintendent of Parks and Reserves.

A new 30 cwt Bedford truck was purchased for the Park costing £836.

The development of a Children’s Play Area was proposed. Jack Goodwin was tasked with finding a suitable area and developing it. He chose the current site which at the time had some macrocarpa trees growing on it, which were subsequently removed. Until this time the only children’s playground equipment were two swings hanging from one of the macrocarpa trees.

The rhododendrons in the dell were plagued by an infestation of lacewing bug which was treated with 400 gallons of spray.


The first payment of £10,000 was received from the Graham bequest. Suggestions on how this money should be spent included: Lengthening and levelling the Sportsground, flood-lighting the Sportsground, erection of a Grandstand, erection of a suitable Men’s Pavilion, Children’s play area, new Boatshed, and a new Boatshed Bridge.

The new Boatshed Bridge became the priority when in May it collapsed under the weight of a dozen rugby players from the Hinuera Rugby Football club near Matamata. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.

The bridge was replaced in in the latter part of 1953, using funds from the Graham Bequest which had been left to the Park for expenditure of this nature. It was designed by the city engineer Mr. R. F. Mainland and constructed by Thomson and Williams. The total cost of replacement was approximately £1800.

The Park Tennis and Croquet Club finally vacated their site on Victoria Road and moved to Kura Street at the southern end of the Maranui Gulley.

During the year the first Children’s Playground was established. The equipment included: two sets of four swings, one set of four see-saws, one nine-foot merry-go-round, one fourteen-foot slide and two climbing frames.

Coloured lights were installed for the Christmas holiday period around the Main Lake and through the fernery, and the fernery was open during the evenings. This was inspired by the Queen’s visit scheduled for January 1954. Even though the committee knew the Queen was not going to see the lights they knew many more people would be in town over the Christmas and New Year period.


Queen Elizabeth II visited New Plymouth on January 9th and was welcomed by a crowd of around 18,000 people in Pukekura Park.

Alois Schonbachler retired after working in the park for 25 years. He was well known for feeding the ducks every morning at 8am.

The Graham bequest which the park received in 1951 included seven gold cups which were trophies from horse racing victories. Over the years the Grahams owned several very good horses. Two of these cups were sold to the New Plymouth Amateur Road Cycling Club for £50.

The decision was made to go ahead with the installation of an illuminated fountain. Messrs. Turnbull and Jones Ltd., of Wellington were asked to submit pricing and plans. Initially it was going to be a memorial to fallen soldiers then it was changed to commemorating the Queen’s visit. The park committee received heavy criticism for the decision to erect the fountain on the basis that the fountain would spoil the natural beauty of the Park. Phase one of the project started in August 1954, which was the partial removal of the island that was in the middle of the lake and the filling in of the old lily pond to form what is now the hatchery Lawn. To fill the lily pond several truckloads of clay were brought in from Fitzroy.

Tom Wagstaff joined the staff and moved into the house next to the zoo at a rental charge of 25s a week.

A deputation from various local cultural societies approached the committee with a view to constructing a “Soundshell” west of cannon Hill. The plan also included a proposal to demolish the Band Rotunda. The plan was rejected because the committee felt that they had enough projects in the pipeline.


Another of the Graham’s gold cups was sold. It was the N.Z. Gold Cup which was sold to the N.Z. Metropolitan Trotting Club for £100.

A female staff quarters was built near the entrance of the Fernery. The building which was designed by Edward Borrell and built by Ross Allen also housed a female toilet and a ticket box for the Fernery. The estimated cost was £1192 10s. When this was completed the old Tea House which had been used as a female toilet was dismantled.

In 1954 the committee was approached by the N.P. Society of model and Experimental Engineers, who wanted to build a model railway on the corner of Gilbert and Liardet Street. The committee decided to relinquish control of the two sections in question and let the City Council take over responsibility for them. The City Council took control of the sections and granted permission for the railway to be built. It was opened in October 1955.

The fountain was officially opened on Saturday May 9, 1955, to the delight of several thousand people who spent the evening admiring the fountain. People were also entertained at the Main Lake which was encircled with coloured lights as far as The Poet’s Bridge. The centre of attraction was Mr. Sonny Pratt’s Hapu-O-Rongo Maori concert party slowly moving over the water in a chain of nine dinghies, bow to stern singing Maori songs.


The single story (T H Bates designed) sports pavilion built in 1924 was extended in 1956 by adding a second story. The extension was designed by Edward Borrell and constructed by A L Roberts. The extension proved to be tricky when it was discovered that there were basically no foundations for the original building. The total cost of the extension including furnishings etc. was £5840.

Two sixty-year-old cabbage trees that grew next to the sports field were cut down because they blocked the view of spectators from the new second story extension of the pavilion. The trees can be seen on photos taken at a floral fete in 1896.

During 1956 the playing of the fountain was severely restricted because of power restrictions. Consequently, on the occasions it was allowed to operate it drew large crowds.

A ceremonial kauri planted in 1934 by Robert Clinton Hughes at the southern end of the hatchery Lawn was dying and probably removed that year.


A three-day water carnival organised by the Public Relations Office was a huge success. The third day drew a crowd of around 10,000. The main attraction during the evening was wrestling on a floating stage on the main lake. Another main event was dancing on the Hatchery lawn.

Jack Goodwin, the curator of the Park went to England to attend an international conference of Park Superintendents. He was away several months, and the trip was used as a fact-finding mission for future park developments. During his absence Tom Wagstaff was acting curator and on Goodwin’s return Wagstaff was promoted to assistant curator.

The last of the Graham’s bequeathed gold cups were sold to Mr. Eric White for £20.

The Free Kindergarten Association was granted the right to lease town section 1118 on Fillis Street to build a kindergarten, which was the first of its kind in the country. It was named “The Pukekura Kindergarten” and remains so sixty-five years later. The building was designed by Edward Borrell and constructed by Jones and Sandford.

In June the committee received the first communication from the Public Relations Office requesting the use of the grass area between Pukekura Park and Brooklands (Bowl of Brooklands) for a comprehensive festival to be staged in February/March 1958. At that stage the area was grazed by cattle and not used by the public. Permission to use the area was granted, free of charge for an initial 5 year period on the understanding that the Park Committee would have no financial commitments to the project. One thing that the committee did agree to was the rebuilding of the bridge across the Brooklands Lake that had been vandalized during the war. This was done by Fred Parker with help from the Park staff. For more information about the Bowl development check out the following link. (Bowl History)

After several years of indecision the committee finally decided a new Boatshed should be built. Graham Harvey was asked to submit drawings for a shed positioned at the north-west corner of the main lake opposite the Tea House capable of housing 12 boats. After considering the cost of the proposal and the aesthetics of having a shed opposite the Tea House, it was agreed that building a new shed on the old site would be a better option. Drawings for a 40ft x 27ft shed were submitted by Arthur Sandford. Sandford, who designed the structure with Fred Parker. Mr. R. M. Clough won the tender to build the boatshed with a price of £1780.

Comprehensive floodlighting was installed at the Sportsground, consisting of twenty-one 1500-watt lamps mounted on 30-foot poles. The twenty-one lights were expected to produce 48,300 candlepower.


Thomas Horton who was the curator from 1924 until 1925 died at the age of 90.

Eliot King, son of Newton King died at the age of sixty-six, and had been a member of the Park Committee since the handing over of Brooklands to the city at the end of 1933. As a boy Eliot King grew up living at Brooklands and as a committee member was always consulted on any changes that affected Brooklands.

The Queen Mother visited New Plymouth in February and was welcomed by an estimated crowd of 1,600 at a reception in the Sportsground.

Gardener, Frank Parker, resigned after working at Brooklands for twenty years

The first “Festival of the Pines” at the newly developed Bowl of Brooklands was a huge success. The event was a trial, as the sound shell and sound systems were all temporary. Following its success, the Public Relations Office presented the Park Committee with a list of proposed developments they wanted to carry out over a period of five years. The list included: a new permanent Sound Shell, better seating, relevelling the amphitheatre, reforming the access road, an access road from the racecourse, widening the bridge across the lake, dressing room facilities, sound columns in the lake, and permanent toilet facilities.  The new permanent Sound Shell designed by Edward Borrell was constructed before the New Year.

There were hundreds of frogs living in the bowl lake, and during the summer mating season it was feared the croaking would interfere with the performances on the Bowl stage. One idea put forward by Hanbury was to blast the frogs with gelignite.


Prior to the 1959 “Festival of the Pines” two wooden 9ft x 9ft x 25ft high towers were erected in the lake into which sound and lighting systems were incorporated. They were placed 90ft apart to avoid affecting spectator’s view of the stage. The sound and speaker system was designed by Baden Winchcombe, and was the first full stereophonic sound system to be used at an outdoor performance in New Zealand. An access road from the racecourse was created making better access for spectators from the eastern part of town. The audience seating was ripped up, the area regraded, and new seating for 7,000 spectators built that was supported on concrete blocks.

Towards the end of the year a dressing room was built at the Bowl of Brooklands, which was designed by Edward Borrell. Also, a toilet block was constructed at the south eastern end of the Brooklands Lake which is still used.


For several years the Sportsground had been having issues with the turf having a lot of paspalum and kikuyu mixed in with it, the level of the ground not being suitable for athletics and inefficient drainage. Trying to come up with a solution that was acceptable to all the sporting bodies proved difficult, but a fix was agreed in 1959, and work started towards the end of that year. The spraying of the kikuyu and paspalum was successful, soil was brought in from Longburn for the cricket wicket, and new drains were laid, unearthing old drains and sumps that they were unaware of. The surface was re-levelled, and new grass sown. It was hoped that when the upgrades were finished the track would meet New Zealand athletic championship standards.

The committee asked Jack Goodwin to produce a comprehensive report on the future horticultural development of the Park, and this report was subsequently published in the local newspapers on August 12.

Another development was the addition of a paddling pool built by the New Plymouth JAYCEES in the children’s playground. Next to the pool a drinking fountain was installed, and Don Driver’s “Cats” sculpture was mounted on the top of the fountain.


Jack Goodwin was made an Associate of Honour of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.

The Administration Building was modified internally to accommodate the curator’s secretary, an office for the foreman of the Parks and Reserves Dept. and an office for the deputy curator, the work being carried out by Mr. S. B. Priest. To replace the workshop and store that were lost when the building was remodelled a 36 feet x 12 feet shed was constructed behind the Administration building.

Assistant curator Tom Wagstaff, resigned at the end of 1961 and was replaced by Alan Jellyman who started in April 1962.


Two of the staff received awards during the year. Miss Iolanthe Small who was in charge of the Fernery, received the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture Fellowship Certificate, and deputy curator Alan Jellyman was selected for the David Tannock Special Award.


Seventy-six trees, mainly pinus radiata and a few macrocarpa were identified for removal due to the danger they were posing to the public or that were past their best. Thirty-three were on the west side of the main lake, twenty-four were on the east side of the lake south of the Tea House, and nineteen were on the Racecourse Walk south-east of the Fernery.

In July Pukekura Park hosted the first hockey test match between Australia and New Zealand. Australia won 3-2. The old press box was given a spruce up for the occasion.

Percy Stainton resigned as secretary after holding the office for forty-four years. His successor was Mr. N. H. Guscott.


The Gables which had been lived in since coming under the control of the Park Committee was vacated and declared an historic place under the Council’s District Planning Scheme.

In June 1964 the committee were advised that the Council had approved in principle an offer of the N.P. Jaycees to establish a ‘Florafauna’ zoo at Brooklands. Work on this development started in October.

In October Fred Parker offered to make provision under his Will to bequeath to Pukekura Park his collection of Orchids which were valued at several thousand pounds. It was pointed out that it would be necessary to construct a suitable building to house the collection.


The Florafauna zoo was completed by the Jaycees. This was a block of 10 cages totalling 100ft in length each one measuring 10ft wide by10ft high and 15ft deep which housed a variety of birds and two monkeys. (zoo history)

The Bowl of Brooklands had significant improvements made leading up to the festival of 1965. The woodland stage was rebuilt and linked up with five other permanent staged areas. Bayden Winchcombe designed improvements to the sound system creating a state-of-the-art electronic sound system, with thirty speakers installed in three positions and six sound channels to produce amazing stereophonic sound. Seating with backs were provided for about 4,000 people.

Fred Parker donated his amazing collection of cymbidium orchids. A shadehouse was built at the fernery especially to house the collection and fernery house two was modified for displaying the collection. House two upon completion of the modifications was dedicated to the memory of his recently deceased wife Agnes Mary Parker. Orchid expert George Fuller who had recently returned from overseas was employed to look after the collection.


There was an agreement to extend the recently completed aviary at Brooklands following an offer of peafowl, seven varieties of pheasants, pigeons and other birds from Mr Larsen, Ureti.

The Auckland Zoo curator was brought to New Plymouth for advice on how to expand the Brooklands Zoo. He advised building a free flight aviary about 80ft long, 25ft high and 25ft wide. By the end of the year the Jaycees had built a peafowl cage.

The main lake and Fountain Lake were desilted by sluicing using fire hoses, which proved to be very successful.

A nature trail was suggested by Alan Jellyman following an oversees trip where he had seen them in action.


In March the first cricket test against Australia was played in the park. The event proved financially successful netting the Park Committee £700.

Opossum traps were introduced as opossum numbers were getting out of hand. Poisoning was considered but thought to be too dangerous in a public area.

A gift of £10,000 was received from George and Mabel Kibby for the purpose of building a begonia house. The money was donated for that particular purpose because begonia growing was George Kibby’s main hobby. A design by Auckland architects L. J. Fisher & Co. Ltd., was approved.

A new deer enclosure built by the Jaycees was opened in June 1967.

The development of water features in the Park was raised. George Fuller, Alan Jellyman, Jack Goodwin and Ian McDowell produced reports with their suggestions.

This could possibly be described as the year the festival of the lights began. Since 1952 Photographer Joseph Swainson had staged an impressive display of Christmas lights and an illuminated nativity scene in his garden, attracting thousands of visitors each year. By 1967 at the age of 77, he felt it had become too difficult for him to manage and he donated the nativity scene to the Park. It was assembled at the southern end of the Hatchery Lawn and recorded Christmas music was played. Lions Club members organised cars to take elderly and immobile people to see the displays.


Joe, the rhesus monkey died from a cancerous abscess. He along with Willie a Bonnet monkey had been at the zoo since its opening in 1965.

This was the year that ushered in paying for the fountain to play. The fountain was fitted with a slot machine which took a 20c coin and operated the fountain for 15 minutes. The full combined sequence which took 45 minutes to work through was maintained, however wasn’t run every night. Frequency of the full sequence run depended on the season of the year.

The Pukekura Park Committee was disbanded in 1968 and the running of the park was transferred to the Parks and Reserves Committee. Even though this was a council committee there were four citizens’ representatives on the committee.


The old bathing shed built in 1879 near the site of the current Tea House and moved in 1931 to a site between the Tea House and Fernery  was finally demolished.

George Fuller introduced guided tours of the Park.

The new Kibby begonia house was constructed and replaced the old begonia house, a glass house that had been relocated from Brooklands in 1939. The new house was three times larger, and the tunnel connecting the begonia house to house 3, was retained.

Plans for the waterfall at the North West corner of the main lake, designed by Ian McDowell, were approved and partial funding was received in the form of a donation from the New Zealand Insurance Co. They donated £1700 towards the estimated cost of £3000. Construction commenced in August.

A viewing platform overlooking the Fountain Lake was constructed during 1969 by members of the Park staff, as well as a new path from Victoria Road to access the platform.


The Jaycees constructed a wallaby pen which was officially handed over to the council in September along with a peacock cage and deer pen. The Jaycees also built a dovecot in memory of Ronald Brooker who came up with the idea of the zoo in 1964 when he was the president of the New Plymouth chapter of the Jaycees.

The waterfall was officially opened in October 1970. It incorporated approximately 100 tons of boulders and was almost entirely constructed by park staff. (It is a credit to the gentlemen who built it that it is still standing over 50 years later and remains a huge crowd favourite.)


Victor Davies discovered a Rua (Maori food pit) in the Park near the site of the old Wiggins Memorial on the hill south of the boatshed bridge lawn, which he thought to be well over a hundred years old. (It is the author’s opinion that Davies was correct about a small group of Maori living in the area but questions the date. Until 1908 the area of water south of the boatshed known as the Serpentine was just a stream. Percy Smith came up with the plan to extend the lake from the boatshed down to the border with Brooklands. To do this the Park Trustees employed a group of Maori to manually excavate the extension. This took several weeks during which time the Maori camped in the Park. It is logical to suggest that the Rua dated back to this time.)



The Jaycees started construction on the free flight cage which was the last phase of their involvement in the development of the Brooklands Zoo. The cage is 90ft long by 40ft wide and 14ft high. The majority of the work was carried out by volunteers during evenings and weekends.

Another major project initiated during the year was the waterwheel near the Gilbert Street entrance. Initial plans were to install a waterwheel at the outlet of the main lake in the Sunken Dell next to the Tea House. Unfortunately the wheel that they acquired from the Omata Dairy Factory was too large and a new location had to be found.


The free flight cage was opened in October 1974 and was the first of its kind in New Zealand. It was stocked with a variety of birds over a period of time.

Three rooms of The Gables were reopened to the public even though the house was occupied by the New Plymouth public relations officer Mr B. McPherson and his family. It was open for just two hours on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Work started on the construction of the waterwheel with the intention that it would be completed in time for the centennial celebrations of the park’s opening. The wheel was rescued from the Omata dairy factory and was restored by Jones and Sandford.


The waterwheel installation was completed by December 1975. A feature at the time was the ability to walk down a track from Smith Walk, go behind the waterwheel and up the track at the other side to the Children’s playground. Most of the work necessary for the completion of this project was done by Park staff. Even though the wheel was installed with the necessary equipment to have it produce power it has never been used for that purpose.


The Park’s centennial celebration took place on May 1st. The event included the official handing over of the waterwheel and a tree planting ceremony performed around the Park by various prominent local people. The following trees were planted:

  • A Kauri, Agathis australis, was planted on the western side of the summit of Cannon Hill by Mr D. F. C. Saxton and A Brodie. Mr Saxton was a long-time chairman of the Pukekura Park Committee.
  • A ginkgo tree, Ginkgo biloba, was planted near the foot of Cannon Hill, by Mr Fred Parker, a local horticulturist and long standing member of the Pukekura Park Committee.
  • A Norfolk Island Pine, Araucaria heterophylla, was planted at the northern end of the summit of Cannon Hill by Mr D. V. Sutherland, the Mayor of New Plymouth.
  • A Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’ was planted near the outlet of the Fountain Lake, by Councillor, Mrs A. N. Gail, Chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
  • A Linden, Tiliaeuchlora, was planted at the southern end of Hatchery Lawn by Mrs Eliot King, the daughter in law of the late Newton King.


The bridge above the waterwheel was replaced and paid for by a bequest from the late Mrs Eva Alice Wood. The Poet’s Bridge was also renovated. It was strengthened, repainted and re-decked.


The Fernery marked its 50th Jubilee with special lighting features installed to celebrate the occasion.

 Silt was removed from the Stainton Dell Ponds.


Silt was removed from the Main Lake using a dragline.


The Traffic Island at Brooklands was created using silt dredged from the Bowl Lake.



The last remaining pine and macrocarpa trees were removed from the Western Hillside.


There was an Arbor Day plantings on Western Hillside where pines had been removed.


The Gables was restored by the City Council and the Historic Places Trust.


A 16 year old Auckland boy drowned in the main lake after he dived into the lake from a boat that he and some of his friends had hired.


The top propagation house damaged by cyclone Bola and rebuilt.

Wendy Snowden was attacked and left for dead while jogging through Brookland. She died in hospital two weeks later from her injuries.


The Rogan Street carpark was developed.

The children’s playground was remodelled and renamed at this time “TSB Children’s Play Area’ (TSB Bank was a key sponsor of the project).

The viewing deck opposite the teahouse was constructed.

A Bowl of Brooklands trust was established.

The band rotunda celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was first used in 1887 during Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee celebrations, and at that time was only the completed concrete base. Due to a lack of funds the canopy wasn’t constructed until 1891.


The sportsground pavilion was extended and renamed the Brian Bellringer Pavilion. The estimate for the extension was $160,000 but the final cost was $215,000.


The waterwheel was overhauled by Fitzroy Engineering. The work included strengthening the wheel and making it more concentric so that it turned more easily.

Planning for a major redevelopment of fernery began.

A major point of concern was the proposed sale of an area of the Park facing Gover Street. The sections in question have still not been developed and most people would not realise that they are part of the Park.


Anthony Joines took over the running of the Park following the retirement of George Fuller.

The Fountain Lake was drained to allow repairs to be made to one of the jetties, with the repairs being carried out by a member of the Taranaki Model Marine Club. The Jetty was originally built in 1959 for the purpose of launching model boats.


Eighteen 100 year-old pine trees were cut down on the hillside between the children’s playground and the Fountain Lake.

The banks of the sportsground eastern terraces were faced with horizontal timber planks to repair damage caused by erosion and people climbing up and down the face of the terraces.


Iolanthe Small retired from running the Fernery and Ken Davey took over as person in charge.


The waterwheel was damaged during the anniversary floods of 1990. It was removed and repaired by Fitzroy Engineering.

The first stage of plantings on Japanese Hillside took place after pines were cleared from the site.

Silt was removed from the Stainton Dell Ponds

The annual summer decorative lighting was established and branded as the “Festival of Lights” (the concepts and origins for the summer lighting in the Park dated back to the illuminated fountain installation).

The staffroom in front of the fernery entrance was demolished and the potting area of the bottom propagating house was converted to a temporary staff room.


Ian McDowell took over as curator from Anthony Joines. McDowell had worked for the parks department for many years and designed and helped build the waterfall which opened in 1970. He also played a key role in the acquisition and transfer from Omata,  of the Omata Dairy Factory waterwheel and its installation in the Park.


The Friends of Pukekura Park was formed by Heather Allen and Patricia Stewart in 1995.

 Silt was removed from the Main Lake using a suction dredge. The associated dewatering plant was located to the north of the Brooklands Traffic Island near the path leading down into Rhododendron Dell.


The cricket wicket block was completely dug up and replaced using Patamahoe clay. The old block was laid in the early 1970’s.

The Victoria Road Car Park was developed using the southern half of the section of the former Curators house.

The Bowl of Brooklands stage was redeveloped, with the wooden extension to the original concrete stage (which was at a lower level) being removed and a new concrete extension constructed to make a large single-level all concrete stage. A new roof was also erected to cover the extended stage.

A new outlet culvert for the Pukekura stream was created to reduce the risk of flooding.

The Poet’s Bridge featured on an 80c stamp issued by New Zealand Post.


The Zoo Deer pen was redeveloped to become a Farmyard feature, which included the construction of a barn.


Stage one of the fernery redevelopment including a new roof structure for houses two and three and the creation of house 2A and annex was completed raised the roof by 2.5m over house two and three. A new high level walkway was part of the design, using the newly created annex  at the north end of the fernery giving wheelchair access for viewing the lower houses. The project was carried out by Inglewood construction firm Fabish & Jackson.

A six seater golf cart was donated to the Park by Saywell Motors for taking less abled people on tours of the park. Bookings were taken through the kiosk and members from the Friends of Pukekura Park provided the drivers.

New direction signs were erected throughout the park, which had a dark blue background and yellow lettering.

The main lake was dredged. The work was carried out by Amtec Engineering and Drilling Fluid Equipment Ltd using equipment normally used in the oil industry. It took 18 months and an estimated 2500 m³ of dry material was removed.


The walk from the waterfall up to the Shortland Street entrance was named Scanlan Walk after Brian Scanlan. Mr Scanlan wrote two books on the history of the Park (1950 and 1978) and served on the Parks and Reserves Committee from 1967 to 1971.

The Rhododendron Dell was extended onto the bank below the Brooklands Traffic Island.

Ian McDowell retired and was replaced by Brian Gould who had the job title of Pukekura Park manager. Gould was formerly chief arborist with the Auckland City Council.

A new 8-seater mobility cart was donated to the park by Saywell Motors. The new cart was battery-powered and therefore quieter that the first.


The second stage of fernery redevelopment took place, with the rebuilding of the Kibby House completed.

Ian McDowell died at the age of 63 only one year after retiring.


The 125th anniversary of the opening of the Park was commemorated with the planting by Mayor Claire Stewart of a Mountain Coconut at the Palm Lawn.

A wetland walkway was developed in 2001 at the base of the Bowl Lily Pond dam. This was the brainchild of the park manager Bryan Gould, and was partly funded by a grant from Fletcher Challenge Energy.

Brooklands Bowl was remodelled and re contoured to provide a better view over the stage for the audience towards the back.

The Tori gate was installed on Japanese Hillside, a gift from New Plymouth’s sister city Mishima, and the lower section of Japanese Hillside was developed and planted.

Plans and discussions to purchase a block of land from the Education Department (formerly part of Highlands Intermediate), to become part of the Park were initiated.


The Park’s orchid collection was relocated from the nursery at Brooklands to the fernery. The warm growing/tropical collection being housed in top propagating house, intermediate temperature collection to the house 4 extension/growing area, with the remainder distributed around other growing houses at the fernery and new palm house. Plans for final stage of the proposed redevelopment of House 1, and the growing areas occupied by Nova roof house, bottom prop including new staffroom and remodelled fernery entrance, drawn up. These plans however put on hold.

Major development plans for the park were mooted. Suggestions included: a 500m treetop walkway connecting Brooklands and the zoo to the TSB Stadium carpark, an information centre at the TSB Stadium and a cable car from the TSB stadium to the Tea House.

Overcrowding of kauri in kauri grove led the council to cull approximately 40 of 160 kauri.


The sportsground was transformed into a military encampment for the filming of parts of the movie “The Last Samurai.”

The first ever New Zealand Womad festival was held at Brooklands Park in March. The festival used 5 generators, 400m of fencing, 30 portable toilets, 5km of cabling and 80 production staff.

The paddling pool and “Cats”sculpture in the children’s playground was removed.

When a Kunming delegation visited New Plymouth for the first part of the sister city signing, Mayor Zhang announced the gift of a pagoda-styled pavilion.


The Scanlan Lookout which sits amongst the Skyline Pines behind the Bowl of Brooklands and adjoining the racecourse was officially opened in April 2004. It took a year to complete.  Plans for a memorial lookout were originally drawn up in 1996 by George fuller for a lookout overlooking the main lake.

Construction of the Kunming Garden started in November 2004 with an initial team of eight Chinese craftsmen arriving from Kunming.

One of the two Torrey Pines at the Children’s Playground was removed (remaining tree is the sole survivor of plantings of Torrey pines in 1888).

The Council purchased the 2.5ha of land owned by the Ministry of Education bordering Highlands Intermediate and the park’s Maranui Gully, first discussed in 2001.

A decision was made to replace the worn-out old waterwheel with a new one. The project started in December 2004 with the removal of the old wheel.


On February 27th Kunming Garden was officially opened.

A New Waterwheel was installed in time for Christmas. It was designed by New Plymouth engineer Michael Lawley and built by carpenter Dave Carnahan in a shed on his property in Kent Road.

A block of two unisex toilets were installed at the children’s playground and one unisex toilet  at the Rogan Street carpark.

The Parks department Nursery was disestablished and the buildings demolished

Ken Davey retired and Donna Chrstiansen took over as person in charge. An irrigation system was installed at the top of the fern banks in houses 1, 2 and 3.

Chris Connolly started his role as curator of the Park in December.


A major Study by Wellington research group Pistoll and Associates found that the majority of people supported developing and promoting Pukekura Park as an international attraction. Ideas that found favour included a revamp of the Tea House, extending and upgrading car parking, building a visitors centre, creating a café at Brooklands Zoo, constructing a look-out tower and developing a new main entrance at the racecourse. The only major proposal not to get a favourable outcome was that of a cable car from the TSB stadium to the Tea House. The only project to be actioned was the Tea House renovation which commenced  in July 2006. Costing around $520,000, the aim was to maintain the character of the original building while meeting the then current building standards. A new floor was laid with underfloor ventilation and the interior redesigned to make it easier to operate. A patio deck was laid and an access ramp was added leading to a new main entrance. Local architect Jenny Goddard was responsible for the sympathetic restoration. Demolition of the building had been considered.

Another consideration in 2006 was setting up a Centre for Sustainable Living in the house next to Brooklands Zoo.


Pukekura Park and Brooklands was assessed as a Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. In its assessment, NZGT made particular note of the Park’s superb natural landscape and how it contrasts well with the lake, pockets of horticultural delight as well as “quirky additions” such as the Chinese garden, serene atmosphere and uniformly high maintenance level. They also noted good use of the landscape’s natural form, with a logical flow through the park.

The Lions faces and bowls of the Victoria drinking fountain were vandalised. The repairs were carried out by conservation stonemason Jerry Smith using marble from the north Italian city of Carrara.

The Michael Smither sculpture “Aotearoa” was installed in the Bowl Lily Lake. Smither donated the sculpture but the Council had to cover the cost of materials to build it and the cost of installation which was estimated to be $97,000. The sculpture is made of bronze and painted with a special marine resin to avoid issues such as algae growth. There was a lot of opposition to its installation the most vocal of which was ex-curator George Fuller.

The Centennial of the naming of the park “Pukekura Park”, was commemorated with plantings taking place on Eastern Hillside.

The park gained fame on New Zealand’s version of “Monopoly” claiming the prestigious Mayfair square.

The park’s cricket ground was named one of the six great cricket grounds in the world in the 2007 version of Wisden. 

The Tea House which was saved from the brink of destruction in 2006 and restored to its former glory by architect Jenny Goddard received a stamp of approval from the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ western region judges who awarded it (what was the award?) in the Heritage and Conservation category.

The New Plymouth District Council published a book Pukekura Park and Brooklands – A Guide to Walks, written by Ron Lambert.


The 80th anniversary of the fernery was celebrated on the Fred Parker Lawn with a barbecue and a birthday cake. People were dressed in 1920’s attire.

New tracks were made in the part of the Maranui Gully that had been purchased from the Ministry of Education in 2004.

The park got its first all-electric buggy from China. The buggy was designed to carry less able bodied persons around the park.

A diseased section of the northern most of the two Norfolk Pines at Brooklands was removed. About 9m was taken off the top of the tree. These trees are believed to have been planted in 1851.


March 2009 marked the 75th anniversary of the gifting of Brooklands to New Plymouth City.

The Gables Garden was revamped with the assistance of the “Friends of the Park”

The Wisteria Arbor by the teahouse was rebuilt by Tenix Robert Stone to commemorate their 60th anniversary.

The waterwheel was spinning a bit wonky making repairs necessary. The wheel was removed and a new drive shaft and bearings were installed.

Both The Poet’s Bridge and the Boatshed Bridge underwent major refurbishment work during the year.


The waterwheel had to again be removed for maintenance.

The approach to the waterfall was modified with boulders that were in front of the pool, at the bottom of the falls, being removed and replaced by the forming of steps  to improve public access


Kunming Garden was closed while repairs were made to the main supporting columns of the Pagoda. The timber used in its construction was not treated and therefore not suitable for New Zealand conditions.

Four of the park’s fleet of clinker boats were rotten beyond repair. The boats were very expensive to maintain so four plastic lookalike boats were trialled. They were supplied by Auckland Company, Mac Boats.

The cricket practice nets in Fillis Street got the go-ahead after fierce debate. They were first proposed in 2008. The project got approval after the TSB Community Trust came up with half of the cost.


The park was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor.

 The cricket practice nets on Fillis St were constructed following a lot of heated debate.

The unisex toilet block at the west end of the Brooklands Bowl Lake was constructed replacing an old block that had been destroyed by fire.

Another three unusable clinker boats were replaced with plastic lookalikes. The three boats were put on Trade Me with a reserve of $1 but remarkably raised $2765.
The third and final stage of the fernery redevelopment commenced putting a new roof on House 1 and building a new office block for the curator and park staff.


The Fernery redevelopment was completed including the new administration offices

The Children’s Playground was redeveloped which included removing the much loved wooden fort. The cost of the upgrade was $560,000. The original Don Driver “Cats” sculpture was removed and replaced by a replica. The original was restored and is now housed in the Govett Brewster Art Gallery collection.

The band rotunda was given a complete makeover which included repairing the damaged finial on the roof, cleaning and repainting the roof and supports, re-plastering the steps and renewing the electrical wiring and fittings.

The Kaimata Street Entrance at Brooklands was redeveloped with the creation of six angled car park spaces on Kaimata Street. This was the first of the many entrances to be smartened up.

Interlocking gravel-filled geotextile bags were placed around the crumbling edges of the Main Lake and Fountain Lake. They are held to the edge of the lakes with 1m long pegs. The Main Lake was also dredged of thousands of litres of silt.


Improvements were made to the outlets of the Main Lake and Fountain Lake. The changes made it easier and safer for staff to operate the lakes’ level control outlets. A new underground pipe was also installed near the waterfall running to the Fountain Lake to improve the water flow through the Fountain Lake and improve water quality.

Capillary irrigation matting installed in growing areas, Top Prop, 2A, Propagation house, Nova Roof.