If you enjoy trees, gardens and parks, the Matamata Heritage Trail will introduce you to the magnificent horticultural heritage planted and cared for by past and present residents.
Most of the buildings and gardens are private property and the owner’s privacy should be respected.
For this trail of 5.3km, it is estimated that the walking time for the full length will be 1 hour and 40 minutes. An alternative is to drive this trail or walk parts of it. The trail starts at the Matamata Information Centre. Scroll through to read about all the sites on the trail.
Behind the Information Centre
After the opening in 1855 of the Thames Valley Railway line, which passed through Matamata, a plantation of deciduous trees (oak, larch, chestnut and ash) was planted near the railway station. This was to provide a shelter belt and wooden sleepers for use in the future railway line. Plantations were established near other railway stations but Matamata’s is the sole survivor in this area. Some of the trees in the railway plantation have been removed over the years; those that remain provide a magnificent backdrop for the town and are registered in Council’s District Plan.
Return to the Information Centre turn right into Broadway
In 1928 central grass plots were formed from the railway line to Meura Street with a metalled and later sealed roadway on each side. At this time it was called Tower Road. A Beautifying Society, formed in 1929, planted weeping elms, oaks, limes and chestnuts on the grass plots and changed the name to Broadway. Later, trees were planted at the sides of the roadway beyond Meura Street to the Crossroads corner. In the 1960s central plots were continued and the trees transplanted there.
Walk along Broadway and turn right into Arawa Street
An agency of the Bank of New Zealand first came to Matamata in 1906. An independent branch opened in 1919 when a neoclassical building was erected at a cost of nearly 20,000 pounds. Extensive alterations were made in 1951 and in 1966, including converting the upstairs living quarters for the manager into office space. In 1975 further alternations and refurbishment took place. It was probably at this time that the main entrance was changed from a central position to the eastern side of the front of the building.
In 1997 the Bank of New Zealand building was sold. Interior alterations were carried out and it opened as a restaurant. The former bank is registered as a Category 2 building by Historic Places Trust and it is on Schedule 1 of the Historic Sites on the Matamata-Piako District Plan.
Continue along Arawa Street, cross it to the other side. Continue until you reach Bedford Park.
Early in 1931, brothers A and E Bowler, pioneer farmers of the district, donated seven acres of land for use as a rugby and cricket ground to be named Bedford Park in honour of their birthplace in England. Control was vested in representatives of the cricket club and rugby union.
In 1953 four more acres were added on the southern boundary. In 1984 the Matamata Cricket Association moved to Pohlen Park and the Rugby Union has been the sole user. London plane trees in the park are listed in the Council’s district plan.
Turn back and enter Centennial Drive at the Tainui Street Entrance
In 1961 a 13 ton rock of Ongatiti Ignimbrite, or Hinuera Stone (age 1 million years), was brought from Taotaoroa (in the Hinurea Valley) to the entrance of the Drive. A lily pond was constructed around this central feature. A plaque commemorating the Maori, missionaries and early settlers of the Matamata District was unveiled in December 1964. In 1985 a fountain was installed in the pool to mark the fiftieth jubilee of the Matamata Borough Council.
A plantation reserve was first surveyed in 1904. In 1939 and 1940 trees were planted to mark the centenary of New Zealand, but the area was neglected during WW II. In 1956 the Centennial Drive Development Society was formed to develop the area into a park with the assistance of local voluntary groups. It was transformed into a botanical park with an extensive collection of trees, many of them labeled with their names. The Drive contains several rocks representing the district’s geology. Regular planting, pruning and maintenance is continued with the co-operation of the Matamata Piako District Council.
Progress through drive
In 1993, Women’s Suffrage Year, this magnolia grove was planted to honour Viola Bell, MBE, BA. and her contribution to educational, cultural and sporting life of the Matamata district. Vi Bell had lived in Matamata from 1925 until 1984, first as a senior teacher at Matamata College and secondly as a leader in the community in the Basketball (later Netball) Association, the Dramatic Society, the Matamata Public Library and the Matamata Centennial Drive Society. She had planted in this area a Magnolia Campbellii “Charles Raffill” before she left Matamata, so it was felt to be a fitting place to develop a project in her honour. A plaque was unveiled on a rock of Waiteariki Ignimbrite from the Kaimai Range (age 2 million years).
The pergola and a memorial seat for the Crabb Family was completed in 1974 together with a sundial commemorating the Rose Society silver jubilee. Two years later the waterfall feature was built and a rose garden planted in 1978. The rocks here are of greywacke, a marine sedimentary rock from Taotaoroa Road (ago 140 million years).
New Zealand native trees have been planted in this block since 1939 including kauri, rimu, totara and golden kowhai. The fernery was started 1957 and was enlarged and improved in 1997. There is a walkway through the fernery and a wide variety of ferns can be seen here. This area has been renamed The John McCaw Native Blcok to commemorate an early settler and leader in Matamata District, 1895-1917. A plaque is attached to a cairn of rocks made of Kiwitahi Andesite (age 5 million years) from a farm owned by a McCaw descendant.
This totara was planted in August 1939 by Rangi Thompson in memory of his great great grandfather Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, a chief of the Ngati haua.
E C (Ned) Firth planted a Sequoiadendron giganteum near the Scout Hall in August 1939 in memory of his father Josiah Clifton Firth, the first European landowner of the Matamata Estate. In 1977 after the removal of the Sequoia because of disease the memorial stone was repositioned near the oak and plane trees behind the Catholic Church. These two trees are thought to have been planted by Firth’s employees in the 1880s.
The first small Church of the Holy Angels was built in 1909. It was enlarged in 1924 and in 1951, and from 1981 until 1983 it was extensively remodeled and enlarged. A feature of the church is the large Memorial Window, which is made up of stained glass windows from the old church. These were carefully removed and reassembled and the accompanying plaques were attached to an adjacent brick pier.
Another plaque commemorating the visit to the Matamata District of Bishop Pompallier in 1840 can be seen in the garden in front of the church.
The first All Saints Church was built in 1908 on the site of the present church. In 1957 it was moved to its present location adjacent to Centennial Drive and served as the parish church until the dedication of the new, brick, All Saints Church in 1962. The entrance and bell tower were removed and the old church became a church lounge.
This is situated between the scout/Guide Hall and All Saints Anglican Church. The entry feature incorporates a group of three large Ahuroa Ignimbrite rocks from the Hinuera Valley (age 0.9 million years). A plaque commemorates a hundred years since the Matamata Settlement Subdivision when this Plantation Reserve was first surveyed in 1904. A carved sign has been placed in front of the rocks.
Turn left at Broadway; go past the church and cross Hohaia Street.
This school is the oldest public building still standing in Matamata. From 1900 primary school classes were held in makeshift accommodation elsewhere in the town until a school room was built in 1905 on this site. Another room was added in 1907. H J Moore-Jones was the first headmaster until 1925. The two rooms with an interconnecting porch are still used today although they have been added to and extensively remodelled. Oak, totara, plane and chestnut trees are registered on the district plan.
Cross Broadway, turn right and enter Price Terrace.
This villa style house was built by Joseph Price and his wife Mary in 1906. Joe Price was a blacksmith who came to the district in 1893 and set up business opposite the Matamata Primary School in 1904. The house originally had a long drive from Broadway. Joe Price served as chairman of the first Matamata Town Board 16917-1922. He was a member of the Thames Valley Power Board for 27 years (Chairman for 14 years) and of the Waikato Hospital Board for 22 years (Chairman 1945-1946). Price house is listed on the District Plan.
Turn right into Rawhiti Avenue and left into the entrance of Centennial Drive North.
The Matamata Centennial Drive Extension was set aside as a reserve when the adjacent residential area was subdivided. The initial planting included three totara in memory of Prime Minister Norman Kirk who died in 1974. The Matamata Borough Council called on the community to form a committee (first elected in 1983) to work with Council in accordance with the redevelopment plan. Work commenced at the Rawhiti Avenue and the Tawari Street entrances and the drive was not opened for its full length. Service clubs assisted with works which include a barbecue area, the children’s playground and scented garden. In 1985 the area was renamed Centennial Drive North. By 1997 the whole area was opened up to link the two ends.
Turn left at the end of this drive into Tawari Street and proceed to the end.
A Founders’ Park Committee was elected at a public meeting convened by the Matamata Rotary Club on 20th June 1962. Founders’ Memorial Park was dedicated on 15th December 1965 as a memorial to Wiremu Tamihana, Rev. Alfred Brown, and Josiah Firth, all connected with the early history of Matamata. A tree and brass plaque opposite the Matamata RSA commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Matamata Country Women’s Institute. Nearby is the Kate Sheppard Camellia Garden containing a rock with a plaque celebrating the 1993 centenary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. An entrance to the park has been redeveloped opposite Arawa Street North. There is a plaque here which commemorates the three early leaders in the Matamata District.
Walk through the park and turn right into Rawhiti Avenue. Opposite Jim Gardiner Grove turn right into Gordon Terrace to view the Rawhiti Rest Home at the end of the Street.
This was originally built in 1917 by JF (Fred) Vosper and his family as a farm homestead. It is a corner angle bay villa with elaborate fretwork and three verandahs. Attractive trees and gardens planted by the Vosper family made this a pleasant setting where garden parties were held buy the Methodist Women’s fellowship. The entry was through a long tree-lined drive from Waharoa Road East.
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Grant bought the house in 1948 and sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Digger Robertson in 1955. The entry was changed to Gordon Terrace. In 1961 a fire burnt half the house, which was restored as closely as possible to the original. In 1984 Rawhiti was purchased for a private rest home.
Extensions carried out since have retained the character of the original house. Rawhiti has been registered as a Category 2 building under the Historic Places Act and registered in council’s District Plan along with an oak tree (Quercus Robur) in the grounds.
Return along Gordon Terrace and turn right into Rawhiti Avenue.
In 1989 the Matamata Borough Council named this reserve in honour of Jim Gardiner, a well known horticulturist, to recognize his contribution to the community. He was awarded a QSM in 1983.
Turn left into Waharoa Road East and then left into Broadway and back to the Information Centre.