Topic: Dr Hutchinson's House, 2211 Tarata Road (1888)

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Hutchinson House, Tarata (Puke Ariki collection)

2001 View By Ron Lambert: Courtesy Puke Ariki Collection, Not to Be Used Without Permission

This cottage was constructed for Dr Francis Blake Hutchinson and his family in 1888, soon after moving to Taranaki from Wellington. 

A Life Well-Travelled 

Dr Hutchinson first served in the Royal Navy, before leaving to study medicine at Kings College Medical School. He first practiced with P&O Company from 1864-65; then at Bideford, Devon in 1866; Brighton in 1867; and at Manchester until 1871. He developed tuburculosus and subsequently shifted to Denver, Colorado to take up farming. His first wife died three years later during childbirth (see linked article showing grave), and Francis married their Swiss maid sometime later.

The newly married couple moved to Hawaii later in 1874, where Francis practiced at Kauai from 1874-75. In 1875 they shifted to Honolulu, where Francis was appointed Port Health Officer. From 1879-1882 he was Assistant Physician at Queens Hospital, Honolulu, before relocating to New Zealand later in 1882. The Hutchinson's first settled in Wellington, where Francis began practice soon after arrival. From 1883 until 1887 Francis was an Honorary Physician at Wellington Hospital, and during his time in Wellington also became President of the Wellington Philosophical Society, the Wellington Photographic Society, and of the Wellington Rowing Club. In 1887, Francis gave up his career to shift to Taranaki, purchasing Section 10 of Block 15 Waitara Survey District, located in the remote Taramokou Valley near Tarata. He first built a small 'whare', and then about a year later constructed the present home. 

The Hutchinson's moved to New Plymouth during the 1890s, residing at Vogeltown until 1901, when they decided to leave New Zealand and return to England. From England, the Hutchinson's moved to Switzerland, residing at Basle, the birthplace of Mrs Hutchinson, before finally settling on the shores of Lake Lugano, on the border of Switzerland and Italy, where Francis died of heart failure on 17 October 1910. 

Hutchinson House, Tarata (Puke Ariki collection) 

1889 View of Hutchinson House: Courtesy Puke Ariki Collection, Not to Be Used Without Permission

Devotion to the Betterment of Health

Dr Hutchinson devoted much of his life to writing and lecturing on the topic of human health and physical development, and believed that crowding in cities caused great harm to human health, and that people should live a natural lifestyle in the countryside. Whilst living at Tarata, he regulary made the long and arduous journey to New Plymouth to lecture on a variety of health topics such as the importance of physical education for young people, and the severe harm that could be caused by wearing corsets. In addition to being a proficient doctor, lecturer and writer, Hutchinson was also a devout Christian and regulary preached across the denominations. 

A Valued Citizen

On their departure from New Plymouth in October 1901, the Taranaki Herald praised the Hutchinson's for their immense constribution to Taranaki during their residence in the province, describing Dr Hutchinson as "... a leader of thought, a striking personality, an influence for good, [and] a grand good all-round general man". In 1910, a number of past and present Taranaki residents including members of the the Skinner, Hamerton, Hirst, and Copland families visited the Hutchinson's at their home in Switzerland; W. H. Skinner was a member of this group, and recalled his experience a short time later when writing Hutchinson's obituary (see linked). 

A Forgotten Legacy?

Whilst the Hutchinson's were deeply involved in Taranaki affairs during the 13 or so years they lived in the province, they are largely absent from the historical literature, and deserve greater recognition for their part in the development of Taranaki during this period. Of particular significance is Dr Hutchinson's role in educating Taranaki citzens on physical and mental development in an era when such knowledge was largely confined to academic institutions located in large cities far from provincial New Zealand.  

The Tarata farm is currently owned by Hans and Stephanie Michel, who live in a newer house on the property.

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Dr Hutchinson's House, 2211 Tarata Road (1888)