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James Walter Chapman-Taylor
Chapman-Taylor’s father immigrated to New Zealand from England in 1879, purchasing land in Stratford, Taranaki, and becoming a dairy farmer. His family, included son James, arrived the following year. Deciding against a career as a farmer, the young James served his apprenticeship as a builder before studying architecture and design by correspondence. Moving to Wellington, he began a career as an architect, as well as a builder/craftsman. He subsequently lived in many parts of the country in the pursuit of work, settling in Silverstream in the 1930s. He designed a number of houses in the Upper Hutt area, many of which still exist. He also installed a darkroom at his Chatsworth Road home from where embarked on a parallel career as professional photographer. As well as portrait photography, he took numerous landscape pictures of the surrounding region and experimented with artistic techniques.
As an architect Chapman-Taylor is strongly associated with the ideas of the English Arts and Craft movement, which advocated a return to a classic architectural style based on the traditional English cottage. Chapman-Taylor spent time in England studying examples of such work. While his early New Zealand houses made much use of the Australian hardwood jarrah, he subsequently worked extensively with concrete.
Over his lifetime, he built 70 houses.
Typically, he is said to have provided each client with a booklet of photos and a plan, with comments or description; Recollect has the contents of one for 'Wood Hill', 71 Chatsworth Road built for R Barkley-Smith in 1933; the photographs include two of sunbeams in Chatsworth Road, and one of a friendly possum.
Chapman-Taylor was also influenced by the philosophical beliefs of the Arts and Craft movement and became much interested in the relationship between the material and the spiritual. In later life he became an advocate of astrology and worked professionally as a reader of horoscopes in the 1940s and 1950s.
For at least some of his photographs he must have used something like a Leica 35 mm camera, as he quotes apertures of f/2; the larger Rolleiflex was limited to f/2.8.
Photographs are signed with either 'J. W. Chapman-Taylor' or a monogram; a capital T in which the right end of the top line turns and drops and then continues as an equally-wide shallow C.
His obituary in the Evening Post after his death in 1958 described him as a 'creative artist whose life was an inspiration to hundreds of New Zealanders in many walks of life'.
He was survived by his fourth wife and six children.
The February 14, 1994 'Leader' mentions that he designed a spinning wheel for the Governor-General's wife, Lady Liverpool, in 1915, so that thick socks could be made for the troops; 12 had been hand-made.
House, Chatsworth Road; No. 71, 'Woodhill'; western end and garden (north) front, looking south-west.
Old house; Barton homestead album 10; 'The Manor House', Trentham; the Silver Stream, in Barton's Bush.