Arcadia the house that was built from a broken heart

When Joseph Fenn’s fiancee was stolen away by his own father in the early 1900’s, he fled to New Zealand to escape his pain, where he was once again to find himself unlucky in love.

Fenn was a young wealthy Englishman, champion oarsman and Cambridge university graduate. Devastated and humiliated by his father’s actions, he left his friends and family behind. He settled and isolated himself, ironically in a place called ‘Paradise’ – about an hour’s drive from Queenstown New Zealand.

He arrived in New Zealand with enough money to buy land and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Though many letters arrived for him from England it is said that he never opened any of them. He bought a plot of land and lived in a small hut close to the Jordan River.

Just along the road from him was Paradise House – guest accommodation run by the Aitken family. Fenn reportedly fell in love with the Aitken’s daughter Isabella, nicknamed Poppy. When Poppy turned down the advances of her would-be suitor he reacted by building Arcadia – an incredible guest house built using local Red Beech timber. Fenn poured his money into the project, lavishly creating 12 bedrooms, a vast staircase, a library and smoking room, several lounge and dining rooms, tiled bathrooms, and oriental styled wallpapers.

It was widely thought that Fenn had built Arcadia to show Poppy what she had missed out on. He never lived in it. Employing managers to run Arcadia, Fenn stayed in his humble cottage and became even more of a recluse. Dubbed ‘The Hermit of Paradise,’ all that remains of his cottage today is a broken chimney.

For more stories and legends from the Paradise/Glenorchy District, come out on tour with us, we’d love to show you around 🙂

Posted in: Pure Glenorchy Blog