The making of Tūpare

The Mangorei Rd property that was to become Tūpare was a wilderness in 1931 when Russell and Mary Matthews bought it.

Blackberry, gorse and bracken were its main features. with one mahoe tree in the Dell (it died in 1974).

The Matthews family.

The Matthews family.

Development of the garden began at the time of the Depression when labour was cheap and plentiful. For 18 months the Matthews employed men to clear gorse and blackberry through the ‘over the fence’ Depression relief scheme. They planted shelter trees, starting with eucalypts in 1933, rhododendrons and magnolias followed, along with maples.

The range of plants flourished as the garden progressed, where Russell and Mary planted their favourite flowers throughout, including Russell's favoured rhododendron hybrids, Loderi's and Mary's favourite cottage garden plants, daisies, along with many more.

Russell Matthews used his engineering skills to achieve the contoured walks, brick walls and concrete walls on what is a very steep property, where various parts of the garden are named after family members.

The house

Initially designed by the renowned James Chapman-Taylor, the house at Tupare was built under the direction of Russell Matthews. Much of the furniture and accessories were bought on overseas trips, or commissioned to Matthews' specifications.

House under construction.

House under construction.

Russell and Mary Matthews were familiar with the work of James Chapman-Taylor through the house he had designed and built (work began in 1930) for C A Wilkinson, the MP for Egmont, at Pukearuhe, now known as “Wilkinson’s Castle”.

Chapman-Taylor prepared drawings for Tupare. The Matthews required minor changes to these including the size of the dining room in order to accommodate the family dining table (hence the cantilever above the garage).

Chapman-Taylor was not prepared to make the changes, and furthermore he insisted that he should provide full-time supervision for the construction of the house. This was entirely unnecessary, in Russell Matthews’ view, and the commission was terminated. The house as built, however, followed the general form and plan layout as originally designed.

The main construction during 1932 to 1935 was supervised by Russell Matthews. The house took 12 years to complete with most of the construction work carried out by Russell Matthews’ road construction gangs in the winter off-season through an employment agreement with a government department.

Foremen included Roy Smith, Stan Riddick and Cliff Corkill.New Plymouth building firm Jones and Sandford carried out some of the work including the preparation of timber. Sand and shingle from the neighbouring Waiwhakaiho River were used to make the concrete for the house and the original cedar roof shingles were imported from Canada.

The splendour

Tupare was considered to be an important house in New Plymouth and many local people were very proud to have it in the city. It was a private residence, but everyone knew that Russell and Mary Matthews lived there, and that it was a very attractive home. The Matthews were considered to be very prominent people in the city, and people took an interest in the house. There were many parties in the house, sometimes involving singsongs around the piano.

It attracted many local and international visitors. In the 1960s, busloads of members of various societies visited Tupare including the Compost Club, the Camellia Society and the Lily Society. One particularly memorable group was a busload of dendrologists from the United Kingdom almost all of whom had titles. 

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