Truby King Mausoleum
Manchester Terrace, Melrose, Wellington
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
15th February 1990
Date of Effect
15th February 1990
Pt Lot 2 DP 12692 (RT WN47B/601), Wellington Land District
In October 1941 the Truby King Mausoleum was unveiled by the Governor Sir Cyril Newall as a national monument to the founder of the Plunket Society, Frederic Truby King [1838-1938]. Born and raised in New Plymouth, King trained as a doctor in Edinburgh, Scotland. While in Scotland, he married Isabella Cockburn Millar. The Kings moved to New Zealand in 1887 and together established the Plunket Society in 1907. Named after its patron, Lady Victoria Plunket, wife of the then Governor-General, the society aimed to reduce the high infant mortality rate through the promotion of breastfeeding, domestic hygiene and strict adherence to routine. Plunket clinics and 'Karitane' hospitals were opened throughout the country and by 1930, 65 per cent of all non-Maori infants were under the care of trained Plunket nurses. By 1947 this figure had risen to 85 per cent. Truby King was awarded a Companion of St Michael and St George in 1917 and was knighted for his services to health in 1925.
Between 1923 and 1932 Truby and Isabella King lived on the top of a hilly section at Mount Melrose in a house designed by well-known Wellington architect William Gray Young (1885-1962). In 1924 they commissioned Young to erect a Karitane Hospital down the hill on the site of their former tennis court. Their four hectare [10 acre] section was developed into a blossoming garden with brick paths and pergolas to 'provide an intangible sense of refreshment, regeneration and recreation' for the mothers staying in the hospital. In 1932 King donated the property to the Plunket Society. When King died in 1938, he was buried in the Melrose garden on an elevated section that had originally featured a pergola. On the suggestion of the then Minister of Health Peter Fraser, he was honoured with a state funeral, the first private citizen in New Zealand to receive such a tribute. Isabella King, the mainstay behind King's work, had died in 1927 and her remains were transferred to the Melrose site from their original resting-place in a cemetery in Porirua.
Shortly after King's death the Plunket Society launched a national appeal for funds to erect a memorial to King over his grave. Assisted by the government, the Society completed the memorial in 1941. Made of dark grey concrete, the memorial consists of a flat stone base with a rectangular concrete backing. The path and steps leading up to the Memorial were originally built to allow access to the pergola but give the building prominence in the garden. The memorial bears an octagonal metal medallion with a depiction of King in relief above an inscription commemorating him and his wife. The geometric balustrading enclosing two sides of the memorial is Art Deco in character. Featured on each balustrade is the Karitane emblem of a mother and her child, together with the motto of the Society "To help the mothers and save the babies". The memorial, now known as the Truby King Mausoleum, was sold by the Plunket Society to the Wellington City Council in 1990, together with approximately two hectares of the original property. Following the completion of conservation and management plans, the entire area was named Truby King Park and is now open to the public as a permanent tribute to King.
The Truby King Mausoleum is of great cultural significance as the national memorial to Frederic Truby King, a man recognised in New Zealand and overseas for his contribution towards the welfare of mothers and infants. It is also significant as a memorial to his wife, Isabella King, who was also instrumental in the development of the Plunket Society. From its highly visible location in the Kings' garden, the Memorial plays an important role as a permanent reminder of the work of the Kings in establishing Plunket Society. The separately registered factory, house and garden that surround the Mausoleum add to the educational value of the monument by providing insight into the contribution of the Kings to New Zealand. As their final resting-place the monument also has considerable spiritual significance.
Made of dark grey concrete, the memorial consists of a flat stone base with a rectangular concrete backing. The path and steps leading up to the Memorial were originally built to allow access to the pergola but give the building prominence in the garden. The memorial bears an octagonal metal medallion with a depiction of King in relief above an inscription commemorating him and his wife. The geometric balustrading enclosing two sides of the memorial is Art Deco in character. Featured on each balustrade is the Karitane emblem of a mother and her child, together with the motto of the Society 'To help the mothers and save the babies'.
The emblem of the Plunket Society is incorporated into the railings of the monument.
5th December 2002
Report Written By
Mary King, Truby King the Man: A Biography, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1948
Boffa Miskell Partners, 'Truby King Park Conservation Plan', Wellington, 1993
A fully referenced version of this 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.