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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002

Owners and Occupiers of Town Acre 485

page 63

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.

It conformed to a very common cottage plan of the period, with a walkthrough parlour, a bedroom to the front and a kitchen behind the parlour with a shared, double chimney between. There was another bedroom in the remainder of the lean-to and a sleeping loft upstairs. A former page 64
Part of a panorama showing the cottage below the Gaol about 1860. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, 182181/3.

Part of a panorama showing the cottage below the Gaol about 1860. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, 182181/3.

page 65neighbour reported the existence of a ladder and hatch entrance to the sleeping loft.

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.