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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.
 
 

 

Business and Industry

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The wheels of business and commerce keep on turning through the ages of the horse and cart, steam, the advent of electricity and the appearance of the motorcar into the modern day world markets and global village. Go back to the good old days of pie carts in the street, the development of Taranaki’s dairy industry and the battle to build a breakwater that was the beginning of Port Taranaki. Family businesses, entrepreneurs, empire-builders, visionaries and men of substance are all catalogued and celebrated in these stories.

A devoted disciple – architect James Chapman-Taylor

Permanency, honesty, simplicity, beauty and fitness were the guidelines followed by Taranaki architect James Chapman-Taylor throughout his 60-year career. James was dedicated to the New Zealand Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century, earning the title of its most devoted disciple.   A bold decision James Walter Chapman-Taylor was born in London on 24 June 1878. He was the first... more
 

A Flax Mill at Pungarehu

Amazingly, James Rutherford (father of Lord Ernest Rutherford, who became one of the world's best-known scientists) was one of Taranaki's first flax millers.  Originally trained by his father to be a wheelwright and joiner, he first went into the milling business in the South Island.   After marrying schoolteacher Martha Thompson - the couple would eventually produce a large brood of 12... more
 

A Legacy in Design – Frank Messenger

Ever wondered who designed New Plymouth's iconic Devonport Flats, the Cenotaph or the St Aubyn Chambers?   Frank Messenger did. He might have grown up in a raupo whare, but he left a legacy of fine New Plymouth buildings - a staggering 315 in total.   A book about a man and his buildings In 1994, New Plymouth architect Ian Pritchard put together a book to celebrate the... more
 

A Life of Adventure – John Till

John Till shakes his head in wonder "I'll be 90 next month for goodness sake. The whole thing about old age is just that you can't be looking back and saying 'Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I do that?' As far as I'm concerned I've done so many things I'm not doing that!"   The Stratford man has lived a life packed full of action and adventure - both in the courtroom and outside. The 'Till'... more
 

A Life of Deeds and Some Little Fame – Rewi Alley

You could say Rewi Alley's parents were responsible for the man he became. He was the third of seven children produced by a school master, and a wife who was passionate about the sufferance and temperance movements.   Born in Springfield, Canterbury in 1897, Alley was named by his childless Aunt Amy, who had great admiration for Ngati Maniopoto leader, Rewi Maniapoto. "I, a little blonde... more
 

A man with gumption – Arthur Fantham

An Italian marble statue stands looking out over the gardens of Hawera's King Edward Park. The greying statue - of a rotund gentleman with a beard - is leaning forward slightly. Rumour has it that the statue of Arthur Albert Fantham is trying to hear all the town gossip.   Described as an energetic and enthusiastic stalwart of Hawera - Arthur A Fantham was also a man who liked to be in on... more
 

A Place To Be Proud Of

In July 2006, the New Plymouth Technical School building turned 100 years old. The forerunner to the Taranaki Polytechnic, now Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki (WITT), it was set up by men of foresight and was once a place to be particularly proud of.   When the Polytechnic opened in 1972, it was built on the sturdy foundations of New Plymouth's Technical School.   The word... more
 

A Sawmill on Arawhata Road

Sawmilling in their blood In 1909 Henry and John Bartle balloted for two sections of land at Arawhata Road, Opunake, in order to start a sawmill.  Milling was in their blood as their father William Bartle had been one of the first millers in the district.    After leaving Stibbard in Norfolk and sailing with his family from Southampton in 1890, William farmed land at Koru. Later, he bought a... more
 

A Shining Example – Envoy Stephen Buick

Envoy Stephen Buick was a legend in Taranaki. Over 70 years the Salvation Army officer walked thousands of kilometres throughout back-blocks Taranaki spreading the word of the Lord.   Stephen Buick knew what it was to be poor and hungry. Born in South Australia in 1857 he grew up in a small wooden cottage on the banks of the American River, an inlet on Kangaroo Island. The nearest school was... more
 

All Aix and No Pains

First you get your kit off, your togs on, and then you lie down on your belly on a thick orange towel draped across a wide, slightly dipped, massage table.    Amy introduces herself, slicks up her hands and begins to work your flesh and bones beneath the 42 degree mineral water that shoots from the nozzles overhead.   To the sweet nasally strains of Dionne Warwick she kneads the stress from... more
 

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