Brooklands 75th Anniversary

Speech by Adrienne Tatham on the occasion of 75th anniversary of the gifting of Brooklands property to the city of New Plymouth.

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75th Anniversary

Mayor, Councillors and guests

Thank you to the Council staff for organizing this special occasion, to celebrate the generosity and
wisdom of my forbears in gifting the magnificent property which is Brooklands to the people of New

I am delighted to be here taking part in this anniversary. I share the vision of the speakers at the
original ceremony in keeping the character of the garden for all time. It should retain its own identity
and name forever, although it is managed in conjunction with Pukekura Park.

With five out seven of the remaining grandchildren of Newton here today, it shows how special this
occasion is to us. Several of the following generation live locally. We have a small group of them here
in the hope that they will provide a continuing link between Council and the King family in whatever
capacity arises.

This park was my grandparents’ garden. Newton King bought the property in 1896 having leased it for
the 8 years prior to that. It was a farm holding planted already with a couple of Norfolk pines, the odd
specimen tree and orchards.

Newton was an energetic and enterprising character, a pioneer of Taranaki who began the first stock
and station agency in New Zealand. Some years ago I researched his life and this led me to write a
book about it, for there was little material available in one place. In doing this I became tremendously
impressed with the energy he applied to all his different interests and achievements. But always he
made time in the mornings before work to inspect his garden with Tom Boulton, his head gardener, and
it was Tom who made sure he was supplied with a fresh buttonhole.

At first Newton commissioned a landscape plan but for the rest of his tenure he and Tom developed the
garden together. They used skill with colour and form in enhancing and thickening the only remnants
of the original New Plymouth bush which provided a border to the south and west, by using pongas and
different native trees which complemented each other. The bare rutted paddock which was the hill to
the racecourse was planted in natives with a few exotics to provide autumn colour. This paddock is
now the backdrop to the Bowl. Two glasshouses were built, one for soft plants such as begonias, the
other for grapes. Hydrangea and rhododendron plants were among those he imported. A big home was
built to house the family, and the pond was cleaned out manually. The garden was not planned but
evolved into a pleasing blend of native and exotic plants with plenty of colour and food for the birds he
Frequently he opened it to the public for viewing, sometimes he charged them and this money was
given to the Plunket Society which was founded by his brother, Sir Truby King.

Brooklands 75th Anniversary
A.T. Tatham

When Newton died in 1927, times were tough financially and death duties were harsh. His trustees
were two of his sons, Truby and Eliot. Eventually they found that they could not in the short term meet
the specific legacies listed in the will, and Truby said on the day “I believe the acquisition of the
property to the town to be of much greater importance than any monetary arrangements. It goes without
saying that we are not parting from Brooklands without regret. It has a number of happy associations
for us, but we hope that it will retain its character and identity.” Truby is represented here today by his
son Vivian, who boarded weekly with our grandparents for a few weeks. Vivian was present at the
ceremony 75 years ago.

The weather was perfect on the day when Brooklands was formally handed over to the council with an
impressive ceremony with an audience of about 5000 people. The actual ceremony was held on a dais
on the lawn. My sister who is here today, Lynette Jolicoeur, is the only living participant from that
ceremony, she was the little girl who handed the Governor General’s wife a bunch of flowers.

The speeches included phrases such as “old world charm and splendour” and “that Brooklands would
always be Brooklands, retaining its own identity” “ A newspaper leader afterwards spoke about attacks
of vandalism and the mischief of short sighted administration.

Had I been present at that ceremony, I would have been in a pram, but I carry memories of my own
childhood, for we lived in Shortland Street and I spent many hours in the big playground which was
Brooklands and the Park. We used to swing on rata vines in Maranui Gully, watch the bees high in the
hive in the crown of the big Puriri, climb and swing on the branches of the huge chestnut and roll down
the rutted grassy slopes of the cow paddock which became the Bowl. We gathered by the handful the
beautifully scented flowers of the big port wine magnolia and revelled in the perfume of the horse
chestnuts as we ran down the grass to the pond. Scents are unforgettable. The now massive plane trees
were large even then.

My sister Jenny and I recently spoke together of my terror in entering the pond from the paddock bank,
as Dad tried to teach me to swim in the murky lake. We stepped off into this brown water and I was
terrified of the eels, the mud swirling around my toes, and the holes in the bank where all sorts of
nasties could have lived. Eventually Dad gave up and I had lessons at Kawaroa before I returned to that

Spanning this pond was a graceful curved wooden bridge which became progressively more
dilapidated as people removed the planks for their firewood during the war.
Cows grazed the paddock, at first they were driven from the gaol across Shortland Street after morning
milking, and we had to close the gate to our drive. Later Mrs Slinger who lived in the Gables grazed
her cows there and my sister Lynette had a horse she kept in that paddock.

I used to see Tom Boulton often as I trailed along with Dad to discuss things in the garden. Dad was
Eliot King and he was appointed to the Pukekura Park Committee and continued there until he died in
1958. On some occasions he used to take me to do small things in the Brooklands garden. Once we
measured the trunk of the chestnut, the diameter and circumference, and a notice was painted and hung
there, for it was a massive tree. Sometimes Tom would have a paper bag full of chestnuts ready for us,
he’d store them in the gardeners’ shed opposite the glasshouses. During the 1950’s Dad kept a keen
eye on the growth rate of the kauri and kahikatea trees planted in the horse paddock. He was pleased
with their progress.

Brooklands 75th Anniversary
A.T. Tatham

I became a horticulturist and then a farmer and moved away, and fifty years later I have returned, and
became a member of the Friends of the Park in the capacity of vice president. On their behalf I made
submissions for some contact between the council and the Friends, with the result that two councillors
were appointed to liaise.
The next goal was to try to get a curator appointed again, for this position had disappeared. Much later
this submission was repeated and now we have an able curator in Chris Connolly, and the Park is
regaining its former glory and colour. The decision to once again employ a curator has been
completely vindicated.
I find the present condition of this garden attractive and in keeping with the nature of Brooklands. The
addition of colour has brought it to life and I congratulate those staff who manage the garden.

My role now is a quiet one, as I volunteer to work in the garden weekly as a Friend of the Park. I feel
honoured to be able to help in my grandfather’s garden.

Where to from here? We will keep having to replace the big old trees which grow so fast in New
Zealand that they have a shorter lifespan than elsewhere. Trees which have done so well in the past
show us the way, and the character of Brooklands must be kept in mind, using mixtures of trees rather
than plantations of a single species. It is ironic that the Auracarias so disliked by King family members
were planted in this way.

There is a limit in allowing events to dictate the way the Park is designed and managed.
It is great though to see children swinging and climbing on trees and having picnics on the lawns with
their families where they are safe and in sight. Those families picnicking there are free of demands to
buy an ice cream or chips, and can relax in a great atmosphere.

The decision to gift Brooklands to the Council was nothing short of brilliant. Let’s enjoy our park.
Brooklands 75th Anniversary
A.T. Tatham

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Brooklands 75th Anniversary

Date of event:2009-03-09
Event:75th Anniversary


Creator or author:Adrienne Tatham
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