Crofton

21 Kenya Street, Ngaio, Wellington

  • Crofton.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Vivienne Morrell. Date: 18/06/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1363 Date Entered 2nd May 2013

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Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 2-4 DP 9845 (CT WN572/176), Wellington Land District and the building known as Crofton thereon and its fixtures and fittings. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Lots 2-4 DP 9845 (CT WN572/176), Wellington Land District.

Location description

GPS reading from driveway in front of the house: E1748532, N5431641 +/- 3m

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Built in 1857, Crofton is of special significance as one of the oldest surviving houses in Wellington and is a relatively rare remaining example of a house dating from the 1850s in New Zealand. It has a direct connection to Sir William Fox (1812?-1893). Four times Premier of New Zealand, Fox built the house as his Wellington country house early in his political career. It remained in his ownership when he became Premier in 1861 Crofton remains representative of an early colonial country house, and retains evidence of its early construction methods. It is an important link with Wellington’s colonial history.

In the year Crofton was built Fox stood for the Wellington Provincial Council and was Chief Land Commissioner for Wellington. He had bought the 14 acres of land in 1848, which he called Crofton after his mother’s maiden name. Crofton also became the original name of the suburb, subsequently renamed Ngaio.

Crofton is a two-storeyed building capped by a steep single gable over a projecting bay on the front façade, with the rest of the front at right angles (a T plan). It is built in a simple Gothic Revival style. The original ‘U’-shaped, open-well staircase is the most noticeable feature on entering the house. Large living spaces are located on the ground floor and four bedrooms are upstairs. When renovations were done in the early 1980s it was found that the two-storey building of ‘balloon’ frame construction was of larger than usual timber, tenoned together and pegged. Houses from this time and of this size are now rare in Wellington.

Fox did not live at Crofton for long as the property was advertised for sale in 1858, although it did not sell until 1862. In August 1862 Fox’s government was defeated and he was back in opposition until he returned to office in May 1863. His reasons for selling Crofton are unknown, but his loyalties may have been with the Rangitikei area where he owned 3,639 acres of land and represented Wanganui or Rangitikei as an MP. Crofton was bought by Bishop Charles Abraham (1814–1903), the first Bishop of Wellington, who opened the Church of England Grammar School in it in 1863. Also known as Crofton College, Kaiwarra, it educated many of the sons of leading Anglican families and was one of Wellington’s early secondary schools. When the school closed around 1875 (probably due to falling rolls as other secondary schools opened), Crofton became a residence once again. Dormer windows were added to the first floor, sometime after 1895. The decorative barge boards on the front gable are no longer there, and the shingled roof is now corrugated iron. In the 1920s, the property was converted into flats, but was restored to a single house in 1980. Crofton remains a private family residence.

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Historical Significance or Value

Crofton was built for former Premier Sir William Fox as his Wellington country house early in his political career. He had no children at this time, but in keeping with his status and means, the house had a large drawing room, guest bedrooms, and rooms for servants. In the year Crofton was built Fox stood for the Wellington Provincial Council and was Chief Land Commissioner for Wellington. He named it Crofton after his mother’s maiden name and Crofton also became the original name of the suburb, subsequently renamed Ngaio in 1908. It was in his ownership when he became Premier in 1861. Although Fox did not own it for long, Crofton’s historical significance is strengthened by its next use as one of Wellington’s early boarding schools, which it became in 1863. It was a private Anglican boys’ school at first owned by the first bishop of Wellington, Bishop Charles Abraham, who later sold it to the school headmaster, Reverend Woodford St Hill. After the school closed in 1875, it was used as a family residence by a number of different owners (some prominent in Onslow Borough politics) later as flats, and more recently as a family residence once more. Its historical significance is recognised by the several articles that have appeared in the local historical society journal and its inclusion in the Wellington City Council’s northern heritage trail brochures. Crofton is the oldest surviving house in Ngaio and among the oldest in Wellington. The suburb grew only slowly until the first decades of the twentieth century, making Crofton a significant remnant of its early settlement.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Crofton is located on a section that is large by city suburb standards, but is a remnant of the former 14 country acres bought by Sir William Fox. The house is approached via a winding driveway, passing the lawn and cottage garden, with the house located at the top of a rise. The external appearance of the cottage, viewed from the front, is now similar to how it was in Sir William Fox’s day, although it has been slightly altered over the ensuing 155 years. The ‘Carpenter Gothic’ style of the building and the interaction of the building with the surroundings are key contributors to its aesthetic appeal.

Architectural Significance or Value

Crofton, when built, was an early colonial house with various outbuildings appropriate to its time and country location; these were noted in the 1895 advertisement for sale and some remained until the early 1980s. It was a good example of the popular Carpenter Gothic style; however, over time it was altered, being converted to flats at one time. Since its renovation in the early 1980s it is now once again a single residence, and the front (north) façade is close to its original appearance. The original, striking staircase has also been retained as have some other features such as some of the doors and windows. During the 1980s restoration when the verandah walls were removed part of the original verandah posts and brackets had remained, allowing accurate copies to be made. It was found that the two-storey building of balloon frame construction was of larger than usual timber, tenoned together and pegged, thus showing the building’s early form of construction. Crofton is significant for the quantity of existing evidence (documentary and physical) about its early construction history.

Social Significance or Value

Crofton has social significance from its use as a boarding school, where many of the sons of leading Anglican families were educated in the 1860s and 70s. Two owners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were mayors of Onslow borough at various times. The house has had Anglican services held in it (when it was a school), Presbyterian services when it was owned by Wilson Littlejohn and Methodist services when it was owned by John Holmes. Used as flats for a few decades in the mid-twentieth century, and now a family home again, it shows the different social uses the building has had in its 155 year life.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

Crofton is representative of an early colonial country house turned to other uses, including a boarding school. Once considered isolated, it became easier to access once the railway went through the area in the 1880s, although too late to improve access to the school, which had closed in 1875. With the city encroaching, and being a fairly large house with outbuildings, it was converted to flats in the 1940s. It is now family accommodation again. It represents an important link with Wellington’s colonial history, but is also a good example of a wooden building that has been added to and changed several times over its long life to meet changing functions and circumstances. Only a few houses are still extant from this period of Wellington’s European colonisation. As a large house it has also been used for religious services before local churches existed and thus represents the importance of religion in nineteenth-century life.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Crofton was first owned by, and built for, a person of national significance: Sir William Fox (1812?–1893). For over thirty years, from the later 1850s to the 1880s, Fox influenced New Zealand political life. During his varied public career he held the positions of Colonial Secretary, Attorney General, and was four times the Premier. In later life he was Commissioner of Land Claims arising from the confiscation of Maori lands on the west coast of Taranaki. Fox was also a talented painter, explorer, and keen advocate for the temperance movement. He was knighted in 1879. Crofton is also associated with the first Anglican Bishop of Wellington, Bishop Charles Abraham (1814–1903), who was its second owner and used it as an Anglican boarding school. There is also an association with people of local significance as subsequent owners: Wilson Littlejohn (first mayor of Onslow Borough); and John Holmes (also a mayor of Onslow). Crofton’s association with Sir William Fox and Bishop Charles Abraham gives it special historical significance.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

Crofton is associated with the early period of European settlement in Wellington and therefore the site has the potential to provide further knowledge of this period, through archaeological methods. The section has potential to contain archaeological deposits associated with this period, including evidence of early domestic and garden structures, as well as household refuse. The building itself has the potential to provide information about nineteenth century construction techniques.

g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

When the house was renovated in the 1980s, it was found that the two-storey building of ‘balloon’ frame construction was of larger than usual timber (studs 150mm x 75mm or 6 inches x 3 inches; bottom plates 150 x 100 or 6 x 4), tenoned together and pegged. Conservation architect Chris Cochran notes that mid-nineteenth century pegged mortise and tenon joints are now quite rare. Thus it still retains evidence of its early construction methods.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

Dating from 1857, Crofton is among the oldest surviving buildings in Wellington and its age, size and usage make it of special significance. Only a few remaining houses are known to have been built around the same time or earlier than Crofton and the house is one of a very small number of remaining examples of a Carpenter Gothic residence from this period in Wellington. It is also a relatively rare remaining example of a house dating from the 1850s in New Zealand. Built for a wealthy middle class couple, Crofton is larger than the surviving cottages from the same era. Its size meant the subsequent uses of it as a boarding school and conversion into flats were feasible.

Summary of Significance or Values

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place. Crofton is one of the oldest surviving houses in Wellington and is a relatively rare remaining example of a house dating from the 1850s in New Zealand. It was built for Sir William Fox, who served several times as Premier of New Zealand. Crofton is of historical significance for its direct connection to Fox, who built it as his Wellington country residence early in his political career. It remained in his ownership when he became Premier in 1861. Fox is also known for his watercolour paintings capturing scenes of early European settlement and several of his paintings feature the area around Crofton in 1857 when the house was built. Crofton has social significance for its subsequent use as an Anglican college and as an early private boarding school in Wellington. It hosted various religious services in the nineteenth century before local churches were built. Crofton is of special architectural and historical significance as one of the oldest residences remaining in Wellington and is of particular importance as one of the largest examples from this period and as one of the very first in the Carpenter Gothic style. It retains a high proportion of its nineteenth-century external appearance and fabric including evidence of its early ‘balloon’ frame construction, rare mid-nineteenth century pegged mortise and tenon joints, and important internal features including the original staircase. Crofton represents a significant link with Wellington’s colonial history.

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Historical Narrative

Before the arrival of Maori from Taranaki in the 1820s, the Wellington area was populated primarily by people of Kurahaupo waka descent, including Ngai Tara, Rangitane, Muaupoko, Ngati Apa and Ngati Ira. The Waitangi Tribunal referred to these as ‘Whatonga-descent peoples’ since all claimed descent from Whatonga, an early Maori explorer, who named the harbour Te Whanganui a Tara, for his son Tara. The people from the Taranaki region were often given the common name of ‘Ngati Awa’ (and later Te Atiawa) by outsiders, but they comprised a number of tribes. These ‘incoming tribes’ included Ngati Toa (also known as Ngati Toa Rangatira), Ngati Rangatahi, Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Taranaki, and Ngati Ruanui.

By the 1820s, Europeans were arriving at Port Nicholson (as it came to be known, after John Nicholson, the Sydney harbourmaster). In May 1839 the New Zealand Company advertised in London 990 lots of Port Nicholson land for sale. Each lot was to consist of 101 acres – comprising 100 rural acres and one urban acre – at a cost of £1 per acre. All 990 lots were sold by July 1839 and in August 1839 Colonel William Wakefield arrived and began negotiating with Maori to purchase land. The first immigrants began arriving in January 1840.

Sir William Fox (1812?–1893), and his wife Sarah, arrived in New Zealand in 1842. In 1843 Fox, who had trained as a lawyer in England, was appointed the New Zealand Company Agent to Nelson and, in 1848, Principal Agent for the company. However, the company was in decline and Fox spent a lot of his time travelling around the company settlements tidying up loose ends of land distribution and negotiating compensation with disappointed purchasers.

In March 1843, Captain Edward Daniell chose the adjoining country sections Kaiwarra 4 and 5, comprising the greater part of the present Wellington suburb of Ngaio. He lived there for three years, and in 1848, when moving to the Hutt, sold a block of 14 acres to William Fox. There was a sawmill in the area – near the present day corner of Kenya Street and Crofton Road – and the area was described as a thickly wooded valley in the early 1840s. When Fox bought the land for £100 he had to provide a right of way along the ‘sawmillers road’ (later to develop into Crofton Road) for the sawmillers, and for Daniell to his adjoining land. In January 1851, the land (‘partly cleared and laid down in grass’) was advertised to let, as was Fox’s residence in Wellington city. In that year he and Sarah returned to England and did not arrive back in New Zealand until 1854. In June 1854 he won a seat on the Wellington Provincial Council and in 1855 was elected to represent Wanganui in the House of Representatives. His first term as Premier, in 1856, lasted only a fortnight. In the year Crofton was built he stood for the Wellington Provincial Council and was Chief Land Commissioner for Wellington.

Crofton was built in 1857. Nothing is known of any architect or builder and no original plans are known to exist. However, it may have been based on plans available in pattern books, such as the American A J Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses 1850, which could be adapted and built by a carpenter. Hence the style is sometimes called ‘Carpenter Gothic’ – being built in a simple Gothic Revival style. There were also other country houses with some similarities around Wellington that could have provided a model, such as Alfred Ludlam’s circa 1850 house in the Hutt, and Justice Chapman’s late 1840s house (‘Homewood’, Register no. 1368, Category 1) in Karori. Although Crofton is sometimes said to have been built around an earlier house, the advertisement letting the land in 1851 did not mention a house.

Fox’s address was listed in the newspaper in December 1857 as ‘Crofton, near Wellington’ when he took five shares in a company to promote steam ship navigation for Wellington. However he also signed a ‘letter to the electors of Wellington’ as ‘William Fox, Rangitikei’ in October 1857, saying he would try to meet with them after his return from the country. The Carter family were guests at Crofton for a time when they first arrived in Wellington in 1858 as settlers. Fox named the house Crofton after his mother’s maiden name. This was also the name of the suburb until 1908 when it was changed to Ngaio (due to Fox naming another place Crofton, near Marton). The adjacent suburb of Crofton Downs, developed in the 1960s, retains the historical link in its naming.

In 1858 Fox obtained a Crown grant for the Crofton property. A few of his watercolour paintings depict the area, including ‘My Bath, Crofton’ which shows a stream; but none are known to show his house. He may not have lived at Crofton often, and he certainly did not live there for long as it was advertised for sale in 1858, when it was described as being located on the Porirua Road, and containing a double drawing room, dining room, three good bedrooms, servants’ bedrooms, kitchen and scullery, storerooms, pantries, harness room, ‘etc’. It is unlikely that it was intended as a working farm, but more a gentleman’s country residence (the advertisement for sale said it had three fenced and grassed paddocks and many fruit trees). Fox had no children at this time, but in keeping with his status and means, the house was large enough for entertaining and for servants. His reasons for selling are unknown, but his loyalties may have been more with the Rangitikei area where he owned 3,639 acres and represented Wanganui or Rangitikei as an MP. He purchased the Rangitikei land in 1849 (later to become Westoe, Register no. 156, Category 1).

Crofton continued to be regularly advertised for sale throughout 1858 and into 1859. In 1860 Fox became unofficial leader of the opposition to the Stafford government, and in 1861 he became Premier for a second time. In August 1862 Fox’s government was defeated and he was back in opposition until he returned to office in May 1863, but this government lasted only a year.

For over thirty years Fox influenced New Zealand political life. During his varied public career Fox was to hold the position of Colonial Secretary, Attorney General, and was four times the Premier. In later life Fox was to hold the position of the Commissioner of Land Claims arising from the confiscation of Maori lands on the west coast of Taranaki. Fox was also a talented painter, explorer, and keen advocate for the temperance movement which aimed to reduce alcohol consumption. He was knighted in 1879. He is said to have been more impressive in opposition than in government – ‘He was not a great leader…, but few New Zealand leaders have made a mark in so many areas – constitutional development, politics, social reform, painting and exploration.’ The town of Foxton, and a glacier in the South Island is named after him.

In 1862, Fox finally sold the house to Bishop Charles Abraham (1814–1903), the first Bishop of Wellington, who opened the Church of England Grammar School in it the following year. Abraham was Bishop of Wellington from 1858 to 1870, although he returned to England in 1868, and was an advocate for education, being particularly critical of the Church Missionary Society’s failure to establish an ‘adequate network of schools for Maori throughout the country.’ At the time of sale it was found that the house was actually built on Daniell’s adjoining land, but an accommodation was reached with two acres being exchanged between Fox and Daniell and two days later the land was conveyed to Bishop Abraham. The sale was reported in the Otago Daily Times: ‘it comprises a large house, built some years ago…at a cost of nearly £1200, and stands on 14 acres of freehold ground (sown grass and park like bush)… The selling price was £700… It had stood empty for the last three years’. The report went on to note that prices were depressed due to the uncertainty ‘engendered by the Maori troubles of the past two years having exercised a most depressing effect on real property’.

Known as Crofton College, Kaiwarra or the Church of England Grammar School at Crofton, the school educated many of the sons of leading Anglican families. It was one of Wellington’s early colleges; although by no means the first. There were ‘grammar’ schools in Wellington in the 1850s, usually providing education for boys of all ages – Reverend Edward Wheeler’s Te Aro Grammar School, which had about a dozen boarders, is thought to be the first to offer some secondary level education. There were also numerous (but often short lived) boarding and day schools for girls, usually operated from the teacher’s homes. Crofton’s first principal was Walter Martin (‘late of Her Majesty’s 15th Regiment’); its fees were £15 for tuition and £50 for board per year. Martin left at the end of 1864. In 1866 the property was sold to the school’s principal, the Reverend H. Woodford St Hill for £1300. The second master was a Mr Chepnell, and some of the family surnames of pupils include Bidwell, Hadfield, Johnston, Fitzherbert, Beetham, France and Barton. Access to the school was still via Sawmill (later Crofton) Road, with a drive through what would become No. 8 Holmes (later Orari) Street. There were few other houses in the area.

The school most likely closed in 1875 when St Hill paid off two mortgages in full and appointed trustees to hold the land in trust for his wife and children. It is thought that falling rolls due to other secondary schools opening may have caused the closure, and St Hill accepted the vicarate of Havelock North and Clive. However the plan for building the railway line in 1879 still referred to the nearby ‘property known as Crofton College’.

Mr William Berry, accountant, leased the property from December 1877, as noted at a meeting of his creditors in 1880 after he filed for bankruptcy. The terms were for seven years at £85 per annum, with a purchasing clause at £1300 within the term of the lease. It was put up for sale in 1882 and 1884; the 1884 advertisement noted that it was at present occupied by Mrs Berry. Elsdon Best’s mother and sister were said to have visited Mrs Berry at Crofton and commented upon the ‘style in which they carried off their poverty’. A photograph of the house taken by William Berry in the 1880s shows the verandah had been enclosed by this time. A letter in 1883 from St Hill to John Chew asked if the coming railway may make it possible to sell Crofton. The railway made the area more accessible, however by 1896 there were still only 18 houses at Crofton.

Mr and Mrs Berry’s daughter Jeannie was married ‘at Crofton House’ in December 1885; however by then the house was the residence of the bridegroom’s father, Mr Littlejohn. Wilson Littlejohn was the first mayor of the Borough of Onslow (proclaimed a borough on 13 March 1890). He was a watchmaker and jeweller with a business in Lambton Quay and he held Presbyterian services and a Sunday school in the kitchen at Crofton. For six years this was the only place holding religious services in the area. Littlejohn subdivided Crofton in 1895 and the plan shows a drawing of Crofton as ‘the family residence on section no. 17’. The advertisement for sale noted he was selling it due to his increasing weak health; the house was described thus: ‘The family residence of two stories contains a hall 12ft 9in x 12ft 3in [3.8m x 3.7m], Drawing room, 18ft x 14ft [5.5m x 4.3m], with large square bay window and folding doors leading into Breakfast-room, 14ft x 10ft [4.3m x 3m], Dining-room 16ft x 14ft [4.9m x 4.3m], six Bedrooms, Kitchen, Scullery, Bath-room, Wash-house, Verandah, and Conservatory. It is built of heart totara and is in first-class condition.’

Two acres of land and several out-buildings were also included (a coach house, stables, dairy, cow-house, granary, coal-house, tool-house, photographic dark-room, fowl-house, etc). William Berry had been a keen amateur photographer, which no doubt accounts for the dark room. John Holmes, a Kaiwharawhara tanner, bought Crofton in 1895. A photograph of the Holmes’s at Crofton, circa 1900, shows the verandah has been partially opened again.

John Holmes was an early Wellington settler, arriving on the Oriental in January 1840 and, like Littlejohn, he had a long association with the Onslow borough, being a councillor and mayor for four consecutive years. He was also a strong supporter of the Methodist Church, holding services at Crofton and later donating part of the Crofton property to build a local church. After the first service at the new church on 11 December 1904 the congregation went to Crofton for refreshments. By 1916, the Ngaio suburb’s population was 1906. After John died in 1923, his family continued to own Crofton until about 1929. The land was subdivided in 1907 and again in 1929. The 1929 plan shows A B Tracey as the owner; this family retained the property until 1979. Arthur Tracey was a tailor and at some time is thought to have had a workshop upstairs at Crofton. However, in the late 1930s and during World War Two he had a workshop in Wellington city (at 96 Courtenay Place in the 1940s). In 1941 Tracey and Sons, on behalf of the eldest son Brian, appealed his call up for overseas service; however, this appeal failed and Brian Tracey was killed in action in 1943.

The Traceys may have converted the house to flats soon after purchasing it as in September 1929 a fire destroyed part of the house and the newspaper reported that it was a 15-room building used as an ‘apartment house’ owned by Arthur Tracey. Two rooms on the ground floor occupied by Owen Casey were damaged by fire and water and a kitchen and passage received some damage. This part was replaced by a single-storeyed Californian bungalow style building on the south-west elevation. In 1947 Mrs Tracey applied for a licence to keep the premises as a boarding house. The assessment of the property by the City Engineer’s Department said the house was divided into four flats and listed the 14 occupants as Mr and Mrs Tracey and three sons, Mr and Mrs Lieven and one child, Mr and Mrs Pailthorpe and two sons, and Mr and Mrs Mark. The premises needed further work to bring them up to an acceptable standard for a boarding house ‘or alternatively that plans be submitted for the conversion of the building into self-contained flats’. No further correspondence exists on the file.

Dormer windows have been added to the first floor at some time after 1895. Nineteenth-century photos show decorative barge boards on the front gable, which are no longer there, as well as a shingled roof, which is now corrugated iron. When the current owners bought the house in 1979 it was in a poor state, with rotten piles, uneven floors, etc. However, they bought it with the intention of restoring it to a single home, which has since been done.

In the early 1980s, the current owners restored the main two-storey part more to its original design, including opening the front verandah. When the verandah walls were removed part of the original verandah posts and brackets had remained, allowing accurate copies to be made. As it had been in flats, a number of walls needed removing. It was also repiled. It was found that the two-storey building of ‘balloon’ frame construction was of larger than usual timber (studs 150mm x 75mm or 6 inches x 3 inches; bottom plates 150 x 100 or 6 x 4), tenoned together and pegged. Conservation architect Chris Cochran notes that mid-nineteenth century pegged mortise and tenon joints are now quite rare. The 1920s bungalow addition was largely rebuilt. There was a minimum of change upstairs, although the dormer windows which did not exist in Fox’s time were retained, but their roof was ‘gabled’ to match the main roof pitch. The old farm outbuildings were demolished in 1981. The original staircase, front door ‘of generous size and weight’ with its lock and handle and also the French doors which had given access to the verandah were retained, but no original fireplaces or over mantels, or panelled or plastered ceilings remained. Other original or early features include the cupboard under the stairs, a beam and window in the kitchen, post and rail on the verandah and the verandah ceiling, skirting boards under the lounge window, windows in two bedrooms, and bedroom doors with their locks and handles. In 2006 a new conservatory and toilet were added to the rear (south) of the building.

There have been a number of articles about Crofton in the local Onslow Historical Society magazine, and it is included in the Wellington City Council’s northern heritage trail brochures.

Physical Description

Current Description

Crofton is located in the Wellington northern suburb of Ngaio. It is built on a slight rise above Kenya Street and is one of the few houses in the street that faces north – most face the street, which is oriented north-east/south-west. Crofton is approached by a winding driveway up to the house, surrounded by a ‘cottage’ garden and there is a tennis court at the back. At the start of the path to the front door, you pass under a small gabled entrance-way similar in style to a lychgate (added by the current owners).

The building is two-storeyed. It is capped by a steep gable over a projecting bay on the front façade, with the rest of the front at right angles, also capped by a gable roof (a ‘T’ plan). One dormer window projects on the first floor of the north elevation and one on the west elevation. The 1895 advertisement for the house said it was constructed of heart totara. The architect or builder is unknown.

On entering the front door, there is a small hall with the staircase to the upper floor straight in front, a door to the lounge on the right, a door to the dining room on the left and a hall to the rear of the building at the back left. The ‘U’ shaped, open well staircase is the most noticeable feature on entering the house. Made from native timber, the stairs are enclosed by an elegant balustrade with decoratively turned newell posts. In the entrance hall is a Broadwood & Sons upright piano that was donated to the current owners, and is believed to have been once owned by William Fox. The piano (possibly dating from the 1840s) and a cheque signed by Fox (dating from the 1850s) were donated by the family of a woman in Mangaweka – it is not known how she acquired them.

On entering the dining room from the entry hall, there are two original French doors opening to the verandah on the left, and another door opposite. This door leads into a small sunroom, which in turn has a door leading to the kitchen, located behind the dining room. The kitchen can also be accessed from the hall. The kitchen has polished wooden floors. It became evident during restoration that this south-east wing was not constructed at the same time as the two-storey main house and was probably later. The conservatory behind the kitchen, on the south elevation, was built in 2006.

To the right of the entry hall is a large lounge, facing north and west, with bay windows on both the north (front) and west elevations. The west-facing bay window was remodelled in the 1980s renovation and is larger than the north-facing – it has three six-paned windows on the front wall. The north-facing bay has one eight-paned window in the middle, flanked by two narrow four-paned windows. There is a fireplace in the lounge on the west wall; its brick chimney making a prominent feature on the west elevation.

Behind the stairs on the ground floor is another hall which leads to a toilet and bathroom area, and to a family room. The family room is at a lower level than the rest of the ground floor and has a step down to it. The family room has French doors leading to a verandah that extends around the west and south corner.

The staircase leads from the entrance hall to the upstairs storey of the house, in which bedrooms and a bathroom are located beneath the sloping ceiling. At the top of the stairs on the first floor landing two bedrooms lead off on the west side. The front bedroom (north facing) has windows in the north wall. The second bedroom faces west with a dormer window for light. On the other side of the landing, on the east side is a bedroom, with a dormer window facing north and another window on the east wall. At the back of the landing there are three steps down to a lower level, which contains a bathroom, toilet and another bedroom. There is another step up between the bathroom and toilet/ fourth bedroom. As can be seen, parts of the house are on slightly different levels, reflecting the fact that different parts have been added or rebuilt at different times.

Comparative Analysis

European settlement in Wellington began in the 1840s. Of the early houses remaining, only a few are known to have been built around the same time or earlier than Crofton. Three cottages in the greater Wellington area are thought to be older. In Tawa, Harrison’s Cottage is thought to date from 1855; Collett House, Lower Hutt was originally constructed in the late 1840s (Register no. 7479, Category 1); The Glebe in Lower Hutt was built circa 1856 (Register no. 4144, Category 1) and in Pauatahanui part of the Taylor-Stace cottage dates from 1847 (Register no. 4018, Category 1).

In Wellington City, Homewood, Karori (Register no. 1368, Category 1) has an L-shaped wing at the south west of the house which is believed to be part of the original 1847 Homewood cottage. Spinks Cottage (Register no. 4704, Category 1) is thought to date from the mid-1850s – although described as a cottage, it is a large one. Interestingly, two daughters of William Spinks used it as a school about the same time as Crofton College was in existence. Daisy Hill Farm House (Register no. 4110, Category 1), 1857, is a two-storey weatherboard structure with a steep-pitched hipped roof and a verandah on three sides. Nairn Street Cottage (Register no. 1444, Category 1), circa 1858, is smaller than Crofton, as is Sexton’s Cottage, Bolton Street, built in 1857 (Register no. 1427, Category 1). Glendaruel (Register no. 1365, Category 2), is an early cottage in Karori but the construction date is unknown.

Crofton is therefore among the earliest houses surviving in Wellington, and thought to be the earliest in the suburb of Ngaio. It is also significant in that it is a larger-sized residence than the other early remaining residences discussed above. The closest comparisons, although Crofton is bigger than both, are Daisy Hill Farm House and Spinks Cottage. Spinks Cottage is similar in style to Crofton. Daisy Hill Farm House was also a country house – in fact it was the house for a working farm of about 150 acres, but its Georgian style is quite different than Crofton’s Carpenter Gothic. Like Crofton, it was in serious need of restoration when it was bought in 1984 by an owner with the intention of restoring it. Chew House (Register no. 1348, Category 1) is the other important early house in Ngaio. It was built in c. 1865 for businessman John Chew and is considered to be one of the few remaining colonial dwellings around Wellington in near original condition.

Houses of this age in New Zealand are relatively rare. The Kerikeri Mission House (Register no. 2, Category 1) is New Zealand's oldest standing building, and an important remnant of early contact between Maori and Pakeha. Also known as 'Kemp House', it was erected in 1821-22. Of over 1500 houses included on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register in 2013, less than 50 houses date from 1849 or earlier, and less than 80 additional registrations are for houses constructed in the 1850s, when Crofton was constructed.

Another property linked with Sir William Fox is Westoe, near Marton (Register no. 156, Category 1). Westoe was designed by Charles Tringham and built in 1874, replacing an earlier house. Westoe is much grander than Crofton. It is said that Tringham was inspired by Osborne House, the home of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wright, and parallels can be seen with the Italianate tower which is a central feature of the house. Fox sold Westoe in June 1885 while overseas, and the furnishings in December 1885. He later moved to Auckland.

Construction Dates

Addition
-
Decorative barge boards removed from front gable; shingled roof replaced with corrugated iron, dormer windows added

Modification
-
Converted into four flats. Fire damaged part of the house

Addition
1930 - 1939
California bungalow style wing added on south-west to replace fire-damaged section of the house

Modification
1980 -
Restored and returned to use as a single house: verandah opened, dormers ‘gabled’, new kitchen, south-west wing (the bungalow addition) largely rebuilt

Addition
2006 -
Conservatory and toilet added on the south (rear)

Original Construction
1857 -

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron roof

Public NZAA Number

R27/465

Completion Date

16th April 2013

Report Written By

Vivienne Morrell

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Sinclair, Keith and Raewyn Dalziel, 'Fox, William – Biography', Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-10 http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1f15/1

Evening Post

Evening Post

‘The Wellington and West Coast Railway Plan’, 16 August 1879, p. 2;

‘Meetings of Creditors’, 17 March 1880, p. 2; 19 July 1882, p. 3; 3 December 1884, p. 4; 5 April 1890, p. 4; ‘Crofton’, 23 April 1895, p. 3;

‘Ngaio’s early days’, 18 Feb 1929, p. 8; ‘Fire in Ngaio’, 13 September 1929, p. 11; ‘Ngaio efforts’, 28 June 1930, p. 10.; 25 May 1937, p. 3; 4 April 1941, p. 3; 5 June 1941, p. 5; 16 Dec 1943, p. 1

Onslow Historian

Onslow Historian

Bailey, C L ‘Crofton College – 1863-1875’, 5(3), 1975, pp. 10–12;

Bentall, Jim, ‘Restoration of Crofton’, 16 (4) 1986, pp. 1–10; Holmes, Stan, ‘John Holmes’, 9 (2) 1979, pp. 16–17; Maxwell, D H, ‘William Berry of Crofton’, 10(2), 1980, p. 27; Moffat, Ann and Judy Siers, ‘Crofton House and John Holmes’, 27(1) 1997, pp. 1–3; ‘The death of John Holmes’ [by S. J. W.], 27 (1) 1997, pp.6–7; ‘Fox’s Crofton’, 9 (2), 1979: pp. 3–6; Parr, Norah, ’The Crofton Estate and its Land Transactions’, 5(3), 1975, pp. 4–6; Parr, Norah ‘Crofton College’, 5(3), 1975, pp. 7–9

Wellington Independent

Wellington Independent

22 January 1851, p. 1; 31 October 1857, p. 6; 19 December 1857, p. 6; 13 March 1858, p. 6; ‘Family Residence’, 7 April 1858, p. 3; 4 September 1858, p 6; 13 Mar 1866, p. 5 (death notice of St Hill’s son); 24 Feb 1871, p. 3 (report on school cricket match)

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the Central Region Office of the NZHPT.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.