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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 5, October 1985

The Cob House — Spring Grove

page 22

The Cob House — Spring Grove

(This house, a familiar landmark on Highway 6. has received attention lately and it is hoped that it may be restored to look as it did in the early years of our history. Interested in the project are the Nelson Historical Society, the owners, H. Baigent & Sons, the Historic Places Trust, and a Wakefield Craft Group. The Historical Society was able to arrange for an expert in the restoration of cob buildings to report on the feasibility of restoration, and at present their main aim is to compile a history of the property. Research has been done by Dawn Smith of the Provincial Museum Library and Steven Bagley.)

The Location: The building is situated on part of the New Zealand Company's Accommodation Section 65 of 50 acres at Waimea South. The Crown Grant shows this land was originally purchased by Joseph Bennett, a surgeon, of Wakefield, England. There is no evidence that Bennett ever occupied the land or even visited New Zealand.

According to the census made by the New Zealand Company in 1845 there were four people occupying Section 65. They were Samuel Tilly, William Higgins, William Kew and William Eves. According to early Deed Records at the Lands and Deeds Bennett transferred Section 65 in two parts to William Higgins and William Eves on the 29 September 1858. Subsequently Higgins subdivided his land. He sold a portion on his northern boundary to his son-in-law, John Taylor (31/8/1861) and on his southern boundary to William Hodgson (7/9/1861). After Higgins' death in 1891 the property was sold to Gordon Ingram (27/8/1891). There were a number of subsequent owners until H. Baigent & Sons bought it in 1965.

The House: The 1845 census refers to buildings on Section 65. Higgins and Kew had houses of wood, Eves' house was of raupo and Tilly had an earth house. As he also occupied part of Section 63 it is not clear where his house was. The 1849 census shows Higgins in an earth house with a thatched roof. It seems very probable that this is the house owned by Baigents today. A previous claim that the house dates from 1843 seems unlikely unless Tilley's house was on Section 65 and was subsequently occupied by Higgins. A building date between 1845 and 1849 is clearly indicated.

The cob house immediately to the north of the Baigent house is also believed to have been built by Higgins or his son-in-law John Taylor around the time this piece of land was subdivided in 1861.

The Waimea County Council has no records or plans that can help in defining the age of the house more accurately. Nevertheless a building date of 1849 at the latest places this house as one of the oldest structures surviving in the Nelson district.

William Higgins: With his wife, Mary and two small children, William Higgins came to New Zealand in the ship Clifford, arriving in Nelson in May 1842. They came from Bristol, Gloucester. Mary was the widow of John White. They were not related to the other Higgins family who have many descendants in the area. Although William and Mary had several children the only one to survive and marry was the eldest daughter, Mary, who was Mrs Higgins' daughter by her previous marriage, Mary took the name of Higgins. She married John Taylor, they had a large family and lived in the cob house to the north of Higgins.

Any further information would be welcome.