Historical Significance or Value
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is representative of the labours of colonial New Zealanders to develop civic amenities through their own efforts, at a time when municipal councils did not have the resources to do so. The fountain tells of the development of the townscape of New Plymouth and its now-celebrated waterfront.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain, located on New Plymouth’s highly scenic Coastal Walkway, has aesthetic significance for its Edwardian design. Its picturesque setting on the seafront is enhanced by the ornamental design of the structure, which helps to evoke images of people from bygone ages strolling along the promenade and ties this past with the present generations who do the same. The charm of the Fountain in its setting has seen its use as the feature of picture postcards promoting New Plymouth.
Social Significance or Value:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is of social significance for its ability to tell of the leisure activities of New Plymouth residents in the early twentieth century, and their desire to improve their urban environment. Alice Brown Honeyfield was a philanthropist who made numerous contributions to the New Plymouth townscape, and this fountain, bearing the legend of her name, was her most prominent gift. Its social significance is enhanced by its location as a feature on New Plymouth’s waterfront promenade, which has grown from humble beginnings to become the city’s celebrated Coastal Walkway. The community have advocated for and supported the repair and conservation of the fountain, further demonstrating its social heritage significance.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is representative of nationwide community efforts to beautify and improve their urban environments at a time when local Councils did not have the funding for this. The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain tells of the efforts of civic-minded individuals who have contributed to the townscapes of the country’s provincial centres through private donations and voluntary labours.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the plac:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is a valued part of New Plymouth’s heritage landscape. Proposals to relocate the fountain to a different location were dropped after the public objected on the grounds of the community association with the fountain in its waterfront position. The 2006-2007 conservation of the structure was enabled in a large part by community fundraising efforts, supplemented by New Plymouth District Council, further demonstrating the public esteem in which the fountain is held. In addition, members of the Honeyfield family continue to have an attachment to the place.
(f) The potential of the place for public educatio:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain’s location on the popular and well-used Coastal Walkway gives it great potential for public education about this aspect of New Plymouth’s history. The structure has a plaque fixed to it, noting details about the fountain’s history and the community restoration efforts, providing information that is easily accessible to the large numbers of people who pass. The history of the structure continues to arouse public interest and has featured in local media.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of theplace:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain has heritage value for the charm imparted by its design, which is redolent of Edwardian aesthetics in monumental masonry. Stonemason George Parsons was considered to be the leading monumental mason in Christchurch at the turn of the twentieth century, and was responsible for many headstones, monuments and stone carvings for buildings and churches in that city. The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is a fine example of his craftsmanship.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the plac:
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain has commemorative value for its association with Alice Brown Honeyfield, who made many donations and contributions to the New Plymouth townscape. This fountain is Honeyfield’s most prominent gift, and tells plainly of her legacy through the inscription of her donation.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, f, g, h.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The Taranaki region is thought to have been settled by Maori around 600-700 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that pa were being built in the area, which surrounds Mount Taranaki, as early as the fifteenth century. A number of iwi hold mana whenua in the west coast of the region, including Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa and Taranaki. The area which would become New Plymouth was initially populated by Nga Mahanga a Tairi of Taranaki, and then Te Atiawa, who affiliate with the waka Tokomaru and are said to descend from the semi-divine origins of ancestor Awanuiarangi, whose people moved south from Northland to the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.
European whalers initially arrived along the Taranaki coast in the first half of the nineteenth century, and generally integrated themselves relatively harmoniously with the local Maori communities. By the early 1840s, a Ngati Te Whiti pa at Ngamotu, called Otaka Pa, was still populated but many other Maori strongholds in the region had been abandoned following attacks by taua from the Waikato a decade earlier, which had prompted a major migration of the remnant Te Atiawa population to Otaki, Wellington and Marlborough.
Organised colonial settlement at Taranaki was first instituted by the Plymouth Company in 1839-1840, who arranged to purchase land from the New Zealand Company for the settlement of immigrants from Devon and Cornwall, although this purchase would be much disputed in the future. The site of the township was chosen and laid out by Chief Surveyor Frederic Carrington in February 1841, and settler ships arrived from England from March 1841 onwards. By this time the Plymouth Company had fallen into financial difficulties, and was formally merged with the New Zealand Company in May 1841. Settlers continued to arrive throughout the ensuing decades, but disputes around the Crown’s role in transferring land out of Maori ownership, and between tangata whenua over who had the authority to transfer land were already evident, affecting all involved.
The series of prolonged conflicts during the 1860s are now commonly known as the Taranaki Wars, waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori uprising against the enforced alienation of their land. These caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863. The devastating effects of these actions have since been acknowledged by the Crown through formal apologies and efforts of redress by settlement agreements.
The conflicts also affected the fledgling European settler communities, with many residents of outlying areas abandoning their homes and taking refuge in the urban centre of New Plymouth town, or leaving the region altogether for a time. Complaints from anxious European settlers eventually forced the Government to station troops at New Plymouth, and the site of the former Pukaka pa (Marsland Hill) was transformed into a military stockade and barracks in 1855. As the frequency of battles decreased the British troops were gradually withdrawn, until the last detachment of the 50th regiment left in 1867.
Development of New Plymouth’s urban amenities
Although land-related clashes occurred sporadically until the 1880s, the relative security of the less frequent military engagements saw the European settlers able to develop the township of New Plymouth with more certainty. This included the development of public amenities to improve the attractiveness of the town, and extend recreational opportunities for its inhabitants. The Recreation Ground, today known as Pukekura Park, was founded in 1876, due in part to the hard work of prominent, community-minded solicitor Robert Clinton Hughes. This 128-acre tract of native bush and botanical plantings surrounding man-made lakes in central New Plymouth remains a much-treasured amenity with an international reputation for its beauty, as well as a popular cricket and cultural venue.
Hughes and fellow foresighted public benefactors, including Aldophus Kyngdon, W.A. Collis, W.L. Newman and W.H. Skinner worked hard to institute other facilities and improvements around the town, eventually formalising their efforts by merging with the Scenery Preservation Group to form a new Beautifying Association for the town in 1909. This organisation, like similar volunteer groups around New Zealand, was specifically dedicated to improving the urban environment, at a time when municipal councils did not have the resources to provide for such objectives. Consequently, much of the work was achieved through the voluntary labours of individuals and by fund-raising efforts for larger projects.
The accomplishments of these people were greatly appreciated by the population. The Recreation Ground was much celebrated in the local newspapers, as were the Saltwater Baths at Kawaroa, opened by the beginning of 1904. However, everyone agreed that more could be done. An article in the Taranaki Herald in November 1907 discussed the attractiveness of New Plymouth, especially expressing disappointment that the best sea-beach had been ‘sacrificed to utilitarianism’ by the positioning of the Railway Station directly in front of it (between Queen and Egmont Streets). However, the article drew attention to ‘another resort of great possibility’ for improvement: the (Victoria) Esplanade, a walkway extending along the foreshore west of the former Railway Station past the Baths to Morley Street. This stretch of coast was at that time known as Candish Bay.
This waterfront promenade had been formed on the newly-named Regina Place in 1898 to commemorate the Record Reign of Queen Victoria, who had just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee on the throne. Like other projects of its kind, the work was funded by public subscription and donations of land but also with a grant from the Borough Council, and had been instigated by the efforts of Messrs Hughes, Kyngdon, Collis, Newman and Courtney, among others. On opening day, the organising committee expressed its earnest hope that ‘the public would not rest content until the Esplanade is carried as far as the Breakwater on one side and to the Henui River at the other.’
Alice Brown Honeyfield
Alice Brown Honeyfield (1843-1927) recognised the high amenity value of the Esplanade, and in 1907 made a generous contribution to its improvement in the form of a combined drinking fountain and lamp-stand now known as the Honeyfield Drinking Fountain.
Alice (nee Cotterell) was born in Weymouth, Dorset, and emigrated to New Plymouth in 1881 aged 37, joining an aunt already living in the town. After having previously taught at her sister’s school in England, three years after arriving in New Plymouth Alice married local widower Henry John Honeyfield on Christmas Day in 1884. Henry had emigrated from England in 1852, and after successful turns as a draper and miller was a substantial landowner by the time of his second marriage. The couple farmed at Waitara and Bell Block and also had a residence in New Plymouth. Tragically, Henry committed suicide in April 1898, leaving Alice a widow at 55.
Alice was the main beneficiary of Henry’s large estate, receiving £11,795 (the equivalent of around $2.5 million). She appears to have followed Henry’s advice from his suicide note to her (‘clear out and go to England as soon as you can’), visiting England, America, Japan and travelling widely for the rest of her life. She moved to Sydney in 1902 but never forgot the town where she spent her married life, making many contributions to New Plymouth’s townscape and its people. Among other donations she is known to have given to the Town Clock Fund and covered the renovation of the Curator’s Cottage at Pukekura Park. She also paid for two tram shelters, new gates at the Te Henui Cemetery and Western Park, the Fitzroy School war memorial, a children’s paddling pool at Kawaroa, and three showcases for the Museum.
Honeyfield Drinking Fountain
Alice was not in New Zealand in 1907 at the time she gifted the drinking fountain to New Plymouth, and so it was arranged on her behalf by Mr William L. Newman (her nephew by marriage), who referred to her as an anonymous well-wisher. The offer of the fountain and lamp stand, including installation costs, was accepted by the Borough Council on 12 March 1907, with the council agreeing to cover the supply of electricity and water. The fountain was carved by leading monumental mason G.W.J. Parsons of Christchurch, who used dressed Maitland freestone (sandstone) for the base, Corinthian capitals and ornamental canopy, creating a structure with classical styling including Aberdeen granite pillars and a marble basin. Alice was no longer an anonymous well-wisher, with the legend ‘1907, The gift of Alice Brown Honeyfield’ inscribed on the seaward face of the canopy. The cast iron lamp standard on the top provided lighting for the adjacent street, and the structure was installed by local stonemason William Short.
At the unveiling on 14 November 1907, the Mayor, councillors and community members gathered at the spot where Regina Place intersects the corners of Dawson and Hine Streets. This site had been chosen for its location convenient to the Railway Station and Baths, and to encourage people to use the esplanade as Alice ‘had always returned to New Plymouth [from her overseas travels] impressed with the idea the town had a very valuable asset in its sea front.’ The Mayor, Mr Edward Dockrill, conveyed the Council’s and burgesses’ appreciation to Mrs Honeyfield for her handsome gift, and assured everyone that he too realised what a valuable asset the town had in the esplanade, now made more attractive by the addition of the fountain. The Taranaki Herald applauded ‘the example set by Mrs A.B. Honeyfield in donating the handsome fountain which…should stimulate others to do something to add to the attractiveness of the town.’ The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain subsequently featured in scenic postcards of New Plymouth’s ‘marine parade’.
The lobbying to develop the Esplanade further was advanced by the formation of the Tisch Memorial Committee in 1911, their function being specifically to improve, extend and beautify the promenade. The railway station and yards were removed during the latter part of the century, improving the possibilities for the area. However it wasn’t until 1999 that New Plymouth District Council made a concerted effort to form a walkway stretching 10 kilometres from Port Taranaki to Bell Block. This is now known as the Coastal Walkway, and is promoted as a key, award-winning attraction in New Plymouth’s tourism marketing, as well as being extremely popular and well-used by the locals. As such, the vision behind Alice Brown Honeyfield’s donation of the Drinking Fountain was finally fully realised over 100 years later.
In 2003 however, the fountain was showing signs of severe deterioration due to the salt-laden environment of its location. The need for repairs and maintenance had been discussed since at least 1973, when the Council had proposed to undertake restoration in conjunction with re-siting the fountain to a new location at Brooklands Zoo, away from the sea. However, due to negative public reaction the relocation plans were dropped. Letters to the editor of the Taranaki Herald at the time included this statement from Val Mills, who wrote:
‘Sir, The old fountain in Regina Place has established itself as part of the history of New Plymouth city and this is where it should remain. It deserves more than a quiet resting place in some suburban park. It is part of the very atmosphere of our city and surely should be considered in any planning for the central city seafront area where, by its nature, it belongs.’
The great-nephew of W.L. Newman and Alice Brown Honeyfield also contributed to the debate, maintaining that as it was the desire of the donor that the fountain should help inspire the restoration of the foreshore as a public amenity for the pleasure of the citizens, the anticipated removal of the railway yards provided a chance to ‘restore the fountain to its former splendour on its present site.’
A 2003 conservation report on the fountain noted rusting to the lamp standard and fittings, and damage including efflorescence, microbiological growth, pitting, fractures and blistering of the stone. Relocation to a site away from the ravages of the seafront was again suggested, however due to the fountain’s location on the now-fêted Coastal Walkway, this was not pursued. Typically, funding for any restoration was a sticking point, however in March 2004 New Plymouth District Council resolved to contribute $10,000 of the estimated $50,000 if the community could raise the balance. Accordingly, a ‘Friends of the Honeyfield Fountain’ group was formed by three councillors, and over the next two and a half years the necessary funding was raised through grants from the TSB Community Trust, NZ Lotteries Commission, Govett Quilliam The Lawyers (whose premises are next door to the fountain), private individuals, and members of the Honeyfield family.
In May 2006 the structure was dismantled and transported to Christchurch, where sculptor Mark Whyte spent the next year conserving the structure including replacing damaged sandstone, pinning fractures, and steam cleaning the stone. Whyte said that originally the fountain would have had four drinking cups attached to the bowl by chains, however these were replaced with two water spouts as a more lasting solution. The lamp was also replaced as the original had been destroyed by vandals, and a solar powered LED light installed to reflect the original function. The restoration ended up costing $61,500.
The restored fountain was back in its place on the walkway by late July 2007, and the Mayor and councillors again gathered for its official unveiling on 7 August, nearly one hundred years after the original event. The structure was unveiled by Alice Brown Honeyfield’s great great great great nephew Levi Honeyfield, and the crowd included other members of the Honeyfield family, who represented descendants from as far away as England who had been ‘following the restoration with great interest.’ The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain continues to be a valued amenity, and public interest in Alice’s legacy still endures thanks to the research of former councillor Mike Merrick.
The Honeyfield Drinking Fountain is located directly on New Plymouth’s waterfront, with a clear outlook to the Tasman Sea. Sited at a point in the Coastal Walkway where Regina Place meets the corner of Dawson and Hine Streets, the fountain sits between the urban landscape of New Plymouth and the windswept, rocky shore. A large commercial building neighbours the fountain to the east, while to the south are the residential locales of Dawson and Hine Streets. The asphalted path of the Coastal Walkway stretches away from the fountain to the west towards Kawaroa Baths, which can be seen on a promontory in the distance, and to the east towards Puke Ariki landing and the CBD. To the north, a railway line lies between the fountain and the rocky beach, and is shielded from view by a fence and row of flax and plantings along the edge of the Coastal Walkway path.
Honeyfield Drinking Fountain
The fountain is an essentially squared structure, with each face roughly oriented to a compass point. It sits on a plinth consisting of two squared layers of concrete of diminishing size, topped by a third layer of stone, possibly andesite. Together these three layers form a series of shallow steps leading up to the level of the fountain.
A squared block of sandstone forms the masonry pedestal of the fountain structure. The western face of this block includes a small hemispherical indentation which houses a projecting metal plate, designed as a boot-scrape.
The base supports a column at each of the four corners, which in turn support a heavy, carved hooded canopy. The columns are of polished grey granite, with sandstone bases and Corinthian capitals which show evidence of the restoration efforts in the form of fissures and restored fragments of stone. The canopy is also of sandstone, with an arched opening on each face forming a slightly vaulted space beneath, which is lined with stone of a different grain. Each elevation of the canopy is decorated by a curved pedimental moulding above the arch, the shape of which shows influences of the Spanish Mission architectural style. The northern, sea-facing elevation of the canopy contains the chiselled inscription ‘1907, The gift of Alice Brown Honeyfield’. The canopy is capped by a squared layer of stone, from which rises a tapering cast iron lamp post with ornate ladder bar. This is topped by a replica Victorian hexagonal street lantern.
The canopy shelters the basin and water spouts of the fountain structure. The basin is of polished grey marble, with water continuously gushing from two curved stainless steel spouts. The basin sits on a pedestal comprised of a polished red granite column on a circular base of the same grey marble as the basin.
Vandalism of lamp; lamp removed
2006 - 2007
Fountain dismantled and conserved; damaged sandstone replaced, lamp replaced, water spouts replaced, stone pinned and cleaned
Fountain reinstalled on original site
Fountain and lamp-stand constructed and installed
10th March 2011
Report Written By
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908
G & R Lambert. An Illustrated History of Taranaki, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1983.
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Nigel Prickett, Historic Taranaki: An Archaeological Guide, GP Books, Wellington, 1990
Wells, 1878 (1976)
B Wells, The History of Taranaki, Edmonson & Avery 'Taranaki News Office', New Plymouth, 1878. Reprinted by Capper Press, Christchurch, 1976
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.