The displays and exhibits in the museum are the work of the Matamata Historical Society. There are five interconnected themes.
Homestead and Tower
The museum occupies the site of the headquarters of the Matamata Estate - 56.000 acres.
The estate was established by Auckland entrepreneur Josiah Clifton Firth. The present homestead (1902) replaces the old station homestead (1879) that was razed by fire. In 1904 the estate was divided into 117 farms and the then manager, John McCaw gained the Tower Farm.
The front rooms of the house and the kitchen, dairy and laundry, have been furnished in the style of the late 1880’s when the McCaws began their residence.
Firth built the tower on this site in 1882. The tower is 16 metres high and is one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings in New Zealand. The tower was refurbished as the centrepiece of the museum in 1978. The lookout was rebuilt in 1990 by Stanley Construction.
Memorial Cairn of Wiremu Tamihana Rangatira of Ngati Haua, “The Kingmaker”
Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa is famous in New Zealand history not only as a statesman but as ‘The Kingmaker.’ A devout Christian, he worked to achieve peace.
He died on 27th December 1866, 100 metres west of here. Firth erected a monument there that was later destroyed. The permanent memorial you see today was erected in 1966 on the same spot as the original, but was moved here in 1978 to protect it from vandalism.
Firth Tower Church: (the old Matamata Methodist Church)
The church retains the calm and serenity of its previous life. It is available for hire for weddings, funerals and christenings. It was built in 1914 in Broadway, Matamata; closed in 1972 and moved here in 1978.
Okoroire Post Office:
This was brought from Okoroire and contains post office equipment spanning 100 years of communications development. Situated in the back of the old Post Office you will find our pre-loved books-shop. Another function of a Post Office in days gone by.
The school opened in 1893 and has had a varied history, having both name change and change of location before being brought here in the early 1980’s. The school is often opened for 1900’s school lessons.
This jail was built in 1892 in Karangahake and moved to Matamata in 1920 where it served until 1950.
Moved from ‘behind the butchers shop’ in Waharoa, this cottage is funished as a workman’s home of the 1900’s.
Here you will find exhibits of the “drowned” Hora Hora Dam, Matamata’s doctors, dentists and hospitals, the history of movie going in Matamata and Waharoa, the Kaimai NAC disaster and late 19th and 20th century wars. There are interesting displays of horse transport, and delivery and passenger vehicles.
Farm, Factory and Community
The John McCaw Woolshed:
Mark Madill Shed:
Joan and David Stanley Shed:
The Old Red Stable:
The Potager Garden & Orchard:
The Heritage Centre:
This is housed in one of a pair of railway goods wagons. Via photographs and models one wagon shows the history of the excavation of the tunnel and of the men who worked on it.
In the other goods wagon there are two model railway layouts owned and displayed by the Matamata Railway Modellers Club. MRMC hold open days on the 4th Sunday of each month. Everyone is welcome to come and see the model trains run - entry free. If you have trains and nowhere to run them, bring them along and use our tracks. MRMC now completed a new diorama of the Kaimai Tunnel and approaches with working trains.
Matamata Historical Society hold a significant number of historical documents and photographs. The archives section is open to the public by appointment. To view or research, please contact us