Plas Mawr

26 Standish Street And Wallace Place, New Plymouth

  • Plas Mawr, New Plymouth.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 2/11/2002.
  • Plas Mawr, New Plymouth. Interior.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 2/11/2002.
  • Plas Mawr, New Plymouth. Interior.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 2/11/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 146 Date Entered 16th November 1989 Date of Effect 16th November 1989


City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 2940 (RT TN169/77), Taranaki Land District


Plas Mawr is an English Arts and Crafts style cottage designed and built by distinguished New Zealand architect and builder James Walter Chapman-Taylor [1878-1958] in 1913.

Best known for his domestic architecture, Chapman-Taylor was committed to the principles promoted by the Arts and Crafts movement. A reaction against industrialisation, this movement attempted to reunite the craftsman with the creative process. It thrived from the late nineteenth century to the beginning of the First World War. Chapman-Taylor studied buildings erected according to Arts and Crafts principles on a trip to England in 1909 and, on returning to New Zealand, adapted the style to suit local conditions. Over his 50 year career Chapman-Taylor erected numerous high-quality, hand-crafted homes in the English cottage style throughout New Zealand.

Plas Mawr is a two-storey cottage that was commissioned by Anne Burgess, wife of the former mayor of New Plymouth, Charles H. Burgess. For two years Mrs Burgess had been unable to find an architect who would design a house suitable for her small, triangular section. The section inspired Chapman-Taylor to develop his 'sun-trap' plan, a design he subsequently used for other houses. Described by Chapman-Taylor as a butterfly with two splayed wings, the open 'L' shaped house fitted neatly into a corner of the property, leaving the rest free for a garden. The house is built of brick covered with white, trowel-stroked plaster and has a roof of slate tiles. On completing Plas Mawr, Chapman-Taylor commented that although house building is generally a 'trade', it can and should be an 'art'.

Inside, the exposed timber beams of darkened jarrah were intended to contrast strongly with the white, plastered walls. The wood surfaces were hand-adzed to give them an interest and beauty that Chapman-Taylor considered was totally lost in smooth, machine made finishes. The ceilings were plastered between the beams and the surface worked to a suitable texture with a brush while still wet. The house still features the hand-crafted, built-in timber shelves and seats characteristic of most Chapman-Taylor homes. The floor was made of concrete flagstones enlivened with small red tiles. The iron door hinges and window latches were forged by hand. The house was given the Welsh name 'Plas Mawr' or 'My Place' by Chapman-Taylor, and was designed to house two elderly people in comfort.

The house remained in the hands of the Burgess family for almost 42 years. Since then it has had a number of owners, the majority of whom have been retired couples. It has been the subject of a numerous articles, both in New Zealand and America, and is a recognised part of New Plymouth's architectural heritage. Only a few, minor modifications have been made to the house, and it remains in excellent condition.

Plas Mawr has national architectural significance as the work of one of New Zealand's renowned architects of the twentieth century, James Chapman-Taylor. It is a typical example of a Chapman-Taylor home and includes features such as the adzed jarrah timber and built-in furniture that characterise his work. The commission to design the house inspired the development of the sun-trap plan and the house has architectural significance as the first use of this plan by the architect. The house is also the first example in which Chapman-Taylor used hand-adzed wood as a building finish, although he had used it in earlier commissions on furniture. The hand-adzed wood and furniture and the hand-forged ironwork give the house technological significance. The house has historical significance as one of a number of houses built between 1909 and 1913 that mark the development of the architect's principles on building design. It also has national and international significance as a fine example of the principles promoted by the Arts and Crafts movement as applied to building construction.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Since this house was built in 1913 there have been twelve different owners.

The house was designed by one of New Zealand's most accomplished architects.


Plas Mawr is one of the earliest examples of Chapman-Taylor's work in New Zealand after his return from studying in the United Kingdom. It is both traditional and innovative in design. Chapman-Taylor's familiarity with the fashionable Arts and Crafts style and modern methods of construction were most amply and attractively demonstrated with this house. He displayed considerable skill in making the most efficient use of a small triangular section. His 'sun-trap' plan left a single open piece of land for garden and lawns.


The enclosing well-planted garden minimises the streetscape impact.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Chapman-Taylor, James Walter

Chapman-Taylor (1878-1958) was born in London and his family came to New Zealand in 1880. He was apprenticed to a builder in Stratford, and there he studied architecture by correspondence.

In 1909 Chapman-Taylor went on a voyage to England where he acquainted himself with the English vernacular and the Arts and Crafts movement. This trip had a profound effect on Chapman-Taylor's future work as he followed the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, a movement with origins in the English Gothic Revival. Chapman-Taylor adhered to the Arts and Crafts principles of permanence, honesty, simplicity and beauty as espoused by architects C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), Baillie Scott, Parker and Unwin whom he met on this trip to England. He adapted the English movement to local conditions. His is an honest architecture which remained popular despite changing fashions. Chapman-Taylor adhered to Arts and Crafts principles over the 50 years of his career and showed a keen awareness of local forms and materials. He designed the furniture and fittings for many of his houses, including details such as wrought iron door and window fittings.

As an architect and a craftsman, Chapman-Taylor designed and then built his houses himself - approximately 80 of them dated between 1904 and 1953. While most of these houses are situated in Wellington and Heretaunga, there are others throughout the North Island and one in the South Island.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The design follows the general pattern of an English cottage, however, Chapman Taylor uses his characteristic butterfly or sun-trap plan - two splayed wings. The materials and finishes all show the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement e.g. bricks are finished externally with trowell-stroked plaster and white washed. Inside the wall surfaces are pointed flush and painted. All exposed timber is hand adzed and dark stained. Furniture and fittings are treated likewise, much of it built by the architect. Windows are leaded and set in adzed frames. Window hardware, spouting brackets, door hinges and such like are all hand-made. Furniture except chairs and tables is built-in.


The garage has been extended.

Notable Features

Hand-adzed wood surfaces

Built-in timber furniture

Concrete slab floor

Heating ducts

Hand-forged iron work (Design & Manufacture of wrought iron fittings - door & window furniture)

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1913 -

Construction Details

Solid brick external walls, partitions, single brick. Floor, concrete slabs, to match external pavers of similar size. Ceiling, timber frame with expanded metal lathe and plaster. Roof frame, trusses and rafters, timber, adzed where exposed. Roof covering, slates on sarking.

Completion Date

5th December 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

J. Siers, 'Chapman-Taylor, James Walter 1879-1958', updated 30 September 2002, URL:



J. Chapman-Taylor, 'Plas Mawr', February 1914

Stacpoole, 1972

John Stacpoole and Peter Beaven, 'Architecture 1820-1970', Wellington, 1972

McAllister, 1976

Campbell McAllister. Old Taranaki and Its Mountain, Wellington, 1976

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.