Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Angus Gordon and his topic is “In the Shadow of the Cape – the Gordon family history of Clifton”.

Our Guest speaker for June 10th meeeting is Angus Gordon and his topic is “In the Shadow of the Cape – the Gordon family history of Clifton”. Gordon will talk to us about his book and the history of the cape and in particular the clifton area.
This is an easy-to-read, 216 page history of the original European family, the Gordons, who in 1859 bought the iconically beautiful 13,500 acre (5465 hectare) Cape Kidnappers block of land in Hawke’s Bay from the Crown, and called it Clifton.
It is a very personal book, written by the current owner of Clifton Station, Angus Gordon, who has a degree in English Literature from Victoria University (1972). Like a novel, it traces the lives, tragedies, disasters and triumphs of the 6 generations of the same family, who still own and farm 5774 acres (2338 hectares) of the original block at Clifton and at Ocean Beach.
Stories of some of the more colourful characters to have lived and worked at Clifton Station are also included. 200 black and white photographs are placed strategically throughout the book to give further interest to the story. There is also a selection of colour photographs at the back. The book, published by the author himself, is a trimmed A4 size with hardcover, and has been printed by CHB Print.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Overview of James Chapman Taylor From Judy Siers Talk & Book

James Walter Chapman-Taylor’s life was dedicated to designing and building houses. His style, consistency and commitment aligned with the principles of William Morris, and Chapman-Taylor would become his farthest-flung follower. The two did not meet: William Morris died in 1896, and it was not until 1909 that Chapman-Taylor returned to England, the country of his birth, which he had left in 1880. However, in 1909 he was to meet English architects who followed the Arts and Crafts creed, and who further inspired him.
Chapman-Taylor built his first house in 1903, and the 96 buildings that followed all revealed his commitment to the English Arts and Crafts Movement, which had become, by that time, an international movement.
His childhood was spent in colonial Ngaire, south of Stratford in Taranaki, living with his parents on heavily forested land that they slowly converted to a highly productive dairy farm. The assumption was that Chapman-Taylor would become a dairy farmer but his ambition lay elsewehere, as did his heart. He wanted to design and build houses, and the first step was a building apprenticeship with Boon Bros Construction Company in Taranaki. As well, he studied architecture by correspondence with the International Correspondence School, Pennsylvania, USA. He graduated and his career unfurled and flourished in Wellington through the early 1900s.
His education was superior to that of many colonial children, as he was taught by both parents: Theodore, his highly educated father, and his mother, Ada, who had been employed as a governess in England and Europe before her marriage. She was also an experienced writer and regularly contributed to English and New Zealand newspapers. She taught her children to learn literary tracts by heart – the Bible, Shakespeare, the classics – and they learnt astronomy. Chapman-Taylor became enthralled with the mysteries of the southern skies – so bright and clear in the darkness of the Taranaki bush – and later in life he would become a highly successful, professional astrologer. The family was isolated, with few neighbours, and they developed their imaginations and a creative understanding of the world around them – the spiritual world of the trees, the birds, all under the shadow of the Mount Taranaki that Chapman-Taylor would photograph as an adult and about which he would write his romantic descriptions:
“Taranaki gathers his Korowai cloak around his shoulders. The gathering clouds tinged to rose-pink with the colours of the sunset, are likened to a Maori cloak lined with the feathers of the Kaka.”

Chapman-Taylor attended the local Ngaire School that opened in 1882. Here the standards of scholastic achievement were variable, and, in country style, adventure was never far away. Stories of the boys’ escapades have survived, and some are retold in the Ngaire School Souvenir Booklet, A History of the School and District 1882-1957; Chapman-Taylor contributed his story, titled “An Old Boy Looks Backwards”. Here he explained the inability of the teacher to control the children, of whom he was one: “For justification my words must speak. My ‘concrete’ mind developed later on, but in childhood I lived in a dream-world of romance which was evidence of things to come, if only my parents had known it.”
Theodore had a passion for English heritage and volumes of books that he could share with his children. Ada’s interests included art, architecture, education and socialism, and books included John Ruskin’s and William Morris’s writings. Reading these with his parents, alongside the regular magazines and newspapers from London, shaped and influenced the young Chapman-Taylor. Many of the books became his enduring literary treasures.
Chapman-Taylor married Mary Gibson in 1900, two children were born soon after, and the family moved to Wellington in 1905. He designed and built their first home, at Island Bay, a house the locals called “The Church House” because of the high gabled extension to the roof, above the front entrance.
He advertised and promoted himself as “architect and craftsman”, and his business cards offered designs for “houses, furniture and gardens”. His first houses were signposts of the future, revealing his distinctive touch and his vernacular interpretation of the English cottage style that the Arts and Crafts Movement promoted, and Chapman-Taylor preferred.
They were constructed in timber, followed by experiments in lath and plaster with rough-cast, exterior finish; but also employing brick, stone, and concrete block. Reinforced concrete houses would follow after 1912. The characteristic high roof with Marseille tiles, small paned windows and a love of jarrah timber in the interiors of the houses defined his work. Many room designs were completed with both built-in and free standing furniture, an opportunity Chapman-Taylor welcomed. He worked the timber with a distinctive adzed finish – a technique he had perfected as a child on the farm. He designed his houses, interiors and furniture to suit the client’s way of life, and he often included careful planning of how the rooms would be used to full advantage – a position for the writing desk, for example, shelves for books, the studio space, the piano. His fireplaces were either an inglenook design, with built-in seating, or corner pieces with seats on each side.
The mantle pieces were artfully planned for ornaments, lamps, candles, flowers and niches for special artistic objects; and, imagining that members of the family could well seek quietness within the embrace of the family, in the sitting room (often referred to in Arts and Crafts language as the “Houseplace”), he offered half-walled corner designs that he called “the den”.
Small windows, sometimes rounded, were positioned for just enough light into the allotted space, often onto the ingle-nook – practical but with a theatrical flair.
Chapman-Taylor loved his houses as if they were for himself and kept in contact with his clients over many years, some until his death. It was hard for him to let them out of his life – visiting them regularly and taking photographs. Yet he knew his limits and wrote that “the craftsman builds the house but those who live in it make the home”.
His magazine articles, as early as 1907, are evidence of a confident young architect and designer, and an indication of his search for more than the material results in his achievements. Romance engaged with the spiritual path and the magical ingredients of love, commitment, truth and beauty. The words of William Morris - “have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – resonated, were consumed and took flight in Chapman-Taylor’s vocabulary:
“When we set out to build a cottage it is well that we should realise the responsibility of our undertaking. We all know that man is the result of a chain of circumstances which from his earliest moments gradually builds and moulds his character. Man is influenced by his environment for good and evil. But besides its mechanical perfection it has spiritual beauty. Most of us are born in cottages. In them we receive our earliest and most lasting impressions. In them we live out our lives. Our cottage exercises an influence on our characters such as most of us little dream. Beauty in our homes will put beauty in our hearts.”
Later in his life, from the mid-1920s, Chapman-Taylor turned his remarkable multi-talents to photography; and his understanding of astronomy to astrology and the production of horoscopes. These became professional activities in addition to his architectural and building commissions, and served him well during the lean years up to and during the Depression; he continued until his death.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Judy Siers - Mystery Speaker

Judy Siers author and publisher in her private life and in 2007 published the biography: The life and times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor, architect and builder, best known in Havelock North for his Arts and Crafts houses.
Judy was previously a Wellington City Councillor, 1992- 2004, working in all areas of Council business. Her particular focus was the community, natural and built environment; and in cultural heritage which fits well with the Napier Art Deco and Heritage City objectives.

Judy gave us an inspiring talking about history, from her house in Ngaio to the Wellington area and the "Onslow Historical Society" to "James Walter Chapman-Taylor"
Judy was over-whelmed with the fabulous response to the first edition. 1,500 copies sold in 10 months and the correspondence from readers who have enjoyed the work has been hugely appreciated. So much so that a second volume book is now underway. This is a form of epilogue that could have been included in the first edition except for the size and scale of The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor - it was already a massive tome.
'The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor' judy enabled us to enter into the life and times of a man, a family, a society, and ways of thinking and acting different to, yet not so distant from, our own. We enter the world of an architect, who is also an artist; builder, craftsman; a theosophist, an astrologer, a photographer, a furniture maker. We are presented with the life story of a complex and talented man, a man who influenced the lives of others, and was influenced by particular beliefs, both religious and artistic.
A fabulous night enjoyed by a group of 48 interested Historians, Genealogists, Librarians and members of the community.