Phyllis Brown, Jill Johnson, Casey Brown and Thomas Logan-Brown celebrate five generations of the Stoke Plunket Rooms. Photo: Kate Russell.

One Plunket, five generations


In 1964, Phyllis Brown watched her mother open the Stoke Plunket rooms. Fifty-four years on and she is now proudly watching her great-grandson attend the exact same rooms.

Five generations of the Brown family have been involved with the Stoke Plunket rooms, located on Main Rd Stoke.

Phyllis’s mother, Lady Frances Whitehead (who passed away in 1997) was the wife of Stan Whitehead – the local Member of Parliament at the time, and was asked to officially open the rooms when they were built.

At the time, Phyllis was 28-years-old, a local midwife and also on the fundraising committee for the building project.

Lady Frances Whitehead opens the Stoke Plunket rooms in 1964.
Lady Frances Whitehead opens the Stoke Plunket rooms in 1964.

Her daughter Jill was one of the first babies to attend the new Stoke Plunket rooms, and years later, in 1982, Jill starting bringing her daughter Casey to the very same spot.

Now, Casey is bringing her eight-month-old son Thomas to Stoke Plunket.

Phyllis, who’s had six children go through the rooms, says the building was constructed with mostly volunteer labour and the entire cost of the build was fundraised.

“We had bake sales, sausage sizzles, concerts – things like that to raise the money. It was quite an achievement when it was finished and it was a lovely day when it opened.”

She says the trip into the Nelson Plunket rooms was too hard for many Stoke mums, and while Plunket did get use of the Stoke Hall, it “wasn’t satisfactory” for the nurse.

“Stoke was very quiet in those days so it was a big thing for the area back then. I’ve lived in Stoke all my life, in the same house. Same husband, too.”

After it opened, Phyllis says they had to continue fundraising for the upkeep of the building, and to pay the nurse’s wages.

“There was one Plunket nurse stationed there most of the day. You’d go there and take your book, they would do the weigh in and give talks on child rearing, feeding and what not – similar to what they still do now.

“And it still looks the same now as it did when it opened.”

There was also a retired doctor who was based there doing pre-school checks.

Jill says still she remembers walking Casey down to the rooms in the pram.

“I remember it being important to me – a wealth of support and a huge safety net. It was very familiar as a new mum and it was great to be part of,” she says.

Casey now feels a huge sense of pride being able to bring Thomas to the same place that has nurtured so many of her family, and hopes that one day he might even bring his children here.

“I think it’s quite rare and special, and to still be providing a service to the community after all this time is pretty cool,” she says. “I think my great-grandmother would be so pleased to know her great-great grandson is attending the rooms she helped to establish.”