Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002
A History of 19 Shelbourne Street, Nelson
The Town Acres and Reserves on Lower Shelbourne Street
The New Zealand Company surveyors divided the land in the town of Nelson into numbered one acre sections. The cottage at 19 Shelbourne Street is on Town Acre 485, which lies between Shelbourne and Collingwood Streets. It is bounded on the north by Acre 488 and on the south by Acre 484, beyond which is the Hallowell Cemetery. In addition to the cemetery reserve on the original plan, there were reserve areas for a gaol, and the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches. These adjoined Acre 484 to the west. The Nelson Gaol was built in 1850 and occupied the site until 1901.
Town Acre 485 and the First Cottage
Town Acre 485 was granted to George Stansfield, who was probably an absentee owner, on 1 June, 1854. He sold it to George Coward, who is listed in various records as a printer, on 8 December 1854. According to the rate records of the Nelson Board of Works, Coward built a five roomed wooden cottage on the acre during 1856.
A cottage can be seen on the acre in a photograph from around 1859 taken from a hill at the western end of Halifax Street. It is on the southwest corner of the acre, near the Shelbourne Street boundary, facing north. The roof ridge runs east-west and there are verandas on the western, and northern sides. Another, taken about 1860 from above the eastern end of Bridge Street, shows a lean-to addition on the south side. The southern end of the veranda to the east has also been enclosed.
An inspection of the present cottage reveals that the floor of a one-roomed cottage was separately constructed, and a room added later to the south. Likewise, the enclosed veranda room was a separate addition on an outside wall which originally had weather boards on it. A doorway was cut through, which still provides access between the front and back parts of the cottage. The enclosed veranda addition is the site of the present bathroom. The front room fireplace, which corresponds with the position of the original chimney, has a very simply constructed surround and mantelpiece which may be original.page 62
Owners and Occupiers of Town Acre 485
George Coward owned the entire acre, and its sole cottage, until 1867. He was listed in rate records as the occupier until 1860, when it was let to Thomas Sullivan, whose occupancy ended with his death in 1865 at the age of 67. He was buried in Hallowell Cemetery, on the hill above the cottage. Sullivan and his wife had arrived in Nelson on the Martha Ridgway on 7 April 1842, and he had been very active in the Institute of Oddfellows Lodge.
James Watkins, a bank manager, purchased Town Acre 485 on 31 August 1867, apparently in a business arrangement with HE and O Curtis of Curtis Brothers, merchants. The cottage was occupied at the time, but the occupant's name is not recorded, and it is recorded as unoccupied from 1868 to 1874. William Wylie, a lithographer, is listed in Shelbourne Street from 1873 to 1877 and he must have been living in the cottage as it was the only dwelling there.
Watkins and Curtis remortgaged the property with Charles Bigg-Wither in January 1877 and Watkins conveyed his share to HE Curtis in June of that year. According to the rate records for 1878, acre 485 had been subdivided into several sections. There were four on Collingwood Street, two owned by Curtis Brothers, one by William Bethwaite, a builder, and one by William Brent, an undertaker. Curtis Brothers still owned all the Shelbourne Street side, with the cottage let to George Garrett, a gas fitter.
Garrett is still listed there in the Post Office Directory of 1890/91, but the 1892/93 listing shows Edwin Hardy Barker, whose wife and daughter bought 19 Shelbourne Street in 1896. Unfortunately, the rate records from 1879 to 1910 are lost, which makes it difficult to accurately determine the occupancy of the cottage during that period.
It has not been possible to determine when the cottage was remodelled to its present form. When it was originally altered, the walls of the first two rooms were extended upwards, gable ends were added on the north and south ends and the roof ridge was converted to north-south, with a full lean-to added across the back on the eastern side. There were verandas around all sides.
Part of a panorama showing the cottage below the Gaol about 1860. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, 182181/3.
On 1 September 1896 Oswald Curtis sold 19 Shelbourne Street to Sarah Barker, wife of Edwin Hardy Barker, clerk, and Mary Emma Barker, her daughter. It may have been around this time that the cottage was again remodelled, as it lost its view to the north when the large, two-story house was built at number 17.
There is a long-standing story that 19 Shelbourne Street was once a gaoler's cottage, but plans of the gaol in 1865 show that there were four bedrooms for staff within it, and all known occupants of the cottage had other occupations. While it is possible that a gaoler was a tenant in 1866/67, or perhaps in 1891, it seems likely the cottage has been confused with the one nearby, in the corner of the Gaol Reserve.
The Certificate of Title in the Twentieth Century
Edwin Barker died at his residence, Shelbourne Street, on 25 July 1902 at the age of 70. The Certificate of Title, created under the Land Transfer Act of 1924 and dated 24 December 1926, shows Sarah Barker and Mary Emma Barker of Nelson as owners of 19 Shelbourne Street. Sarah Barker had died on 29 March 1912. Mary Emma, the sixth child of Edwin and Sarah Barker, had been born in Wellington in 1865 and died on 30 October 1958. Ownership had remained with the Barker family for 62 years.
Title was transmitted to the Public Trustee on 9 December 1958, and then transferred to Evelyn Ward of Wellington, Spinster, on 3 June 1959.
On 3 November 1972 it was transmitted to Richard Rainey and Richard Siddells, solicitors of Nelson, as executors, and then transferred to Francine Hunia of Nelson, school teacher, and then to Nellie Charlton of Nelson, widow, on 19 December 1972.
The title was transmitted to Camilla Bull of Wellington as executrix on 19 September 1977 and immediately transferred to Mavis Raywell Overton of Nelson, catering assistant. Mavis (Betty) Overton sold the property on 16 July 1999 and title was transferred to Andrew Robert Ewan and Karen Miles, who then sold it to Deborah Margaret Knapp and Michael Bryan Murphy on 8 February, 2001.
Nelson Provincial Museum:
Nelson Board of Works Rating Records, 1857–1874.
Nelson Census Records, 1845 & 1849.
Nelson City Council Rating Records, 1875–1878.
Nelson Jury Lists, 1843–1861.
New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1853–1896.
New Zealand Post Office Directories, 1887/88, 1890/91, 1902.
Stone's Directory, 1899.
Wise's Directory, 1894/95.
Wise's Directory, 1892/93 (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Stoke).