Topic: Bracken Street (TDN 20/07/2013)

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Bracken Street 

Bracken St is home to arguably New Plymouth's most distinctive historic residence. The large house with its striking turret sits proudly on your right as you drive up Cutfield Rd. The local landmark was built in 1911 for New Plymouth businessman Charles Stuart Curtis. At this time the street was known as "Glen Road", and the house itself as "Glen Stuart". New Plymouth born author Helen Brown spent her childhood living in the house and has written of her affection for the grand homestead.

By the 1920s the name of the street had changed to Bracken St. It was named after Margaret Bracken Skinner, the wife of noted New Plymouth surveyor and historian William Henry Skinner. It's thought the couple owned the land that was subdivided for the development of the area. Bracken is a family name tracing its origins back to Margaret's grandmother. Grace Bracken married Thomas Hirst at the Parish Church, Halifax, Yorkshire on June 22 1829. The Hirsts arrived in New Plymouth in 1851 with five of their 11 children, including Margaret's mother Mary.

Margaret married WH Skinner on August 15 1880 and the couple had two daughters and one son. Although for the much of her life she devoted herself to the family, church and community work, in later years she accompanied her husband on surveying trips into the Taranaki bush. Colleagues of Skinner spoke of the, "quiet influence exerted by Mrs Skinner and her skill in softening the roughness of camp life." Mrs Skinner died on May 12 1952, aged 93, and was buried at Te Henui cemetery.

Many readers will remember that Bracken St once had a southern section, off Gladstone Rd. The two were separated by a steep ridge, with old maps indicating the intention to join the two together. By 1989, when it was obvious this wasn't going to happen, the council renamed the southern portion Hoyle Place.


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