Pilot's Cottage (Former)

229 Marine Parade, Seatoun, Wellington

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List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1416 Date Entered 30th June 2006


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes the Pilot's Cottage, its fittings and fixtures, and the land comprised in Certificate of Title WND1/614, but excludes other buildings on the land.

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 15 DP 2851 (CT WND1/614), Wellington Land District


The Pilot's Cottage at Worser Bay dates back to the early settlement of Wellington and was originally part of a Pilot Station built by the Wellington Provincial Government in 1866.

As shipping increased during the 1840s, the New Zealand Company became aware of the need for skilled pilots to help guide vessels into Wellington harbour. The original Pilot's Service operated from Tarakena Bay and was relocated to Worser Bay in 1866. The new site was less exposed to Cook Strait, providing a sheltered launch site and increasing the effectiveness of the Pilot Service.

It was the responsibility of the local pilot, with the permission of the Captain, to board ships arriving at the mouth of the harbour and guide them safely through the Heads and into Port Nicholson.

The simple timber Cottage housed seamen of the pilot service from 1866 to 1894. In 1915 the Wellington Harbour Board subdivided the Station land and leased the separate blocks. Since 1917 the Pilot's Cottage has since been used as a private residence.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Historical Significance

The Pilot's Cottage has historical significance for its connection to early maritime activity and settlement in Wellington. Built in 1866, the Cottage was part of the second Pilot Service Station of Nicholson Harbour. The Service provided pilots to incoming vessels to guide them into safe harbour. It was a crucial part of the development of Wellington at a time when isolation was broken largely by marine transport that connected Wellington with the other provinces of New Zealand and the outside world. The Station, known as 'Pilot Town', included a cottage for the pilot and his family, the coxswain's cottage, the boat's crew cottage, cottages at the signal stations, and a boatshed. The Pilot's Cottage was one of the central buildings in Pilot Town and is now its sole remaining structure. The Pilot's Cottage is also one of the few remaining public works to be constructed by the Wellington Provincial Council, a political body which administered the Wellington region from 1853 to 1876. It was constructed for the Council by W. Carter & Co in 1866.

Technological Significance

The Pilot's Cottage is of technological significance. It is now one of the oldest dwellings in Wellington and represents the earliest phase of Pakeha settlement in the isolated Seatoun area. Built on the rear of a large quarter acre section, the Cottage is typical of the simple and adaptable dwellings built during this period. The basic design consisted of a ground floor of three rooms and kitchen, with a 'lean-to' at the rear and a second storey with two further bedrooms. The Cottage retains a number of original features, including the verandah, the central front doorway, corrugated iron cladding and the double-hung, twelve paned windows. The corrugated iron cladding is believed to be the oldest such iron still in existence in Wellington. The Cottage has been used as a private residence since 1915 and remained largely unchanged until 1979. Since 1980 it has undergone numerous changes, both internal and external. Renovations include the addition of roof skylights, remodelling of the interior, and an extension of the roof level on the upper floor. Although the interior of the Cottage has lost much of it former layout, the exterior remains in close to its original form.

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

The Pilot's Cottage was associated with the pilots of the Pilot Service, who were housed there between 1866 and 1894. The Service was on call twenty-four hours a day for assistance of incoming and outgoing ships. Equipped only with whaleboats and oars, the pilots helped keep Wellington connected to the outside world. A pilot of particular note was James Heberley, whose nickname 'Worser' is associated with the naming of Worser Bay.

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

The Pilot's Cottage was built in 1866, just over 25 years after the establishment of Wellington by the New Zealand Company, as part of the second Pilot Service's Station of Nicholson Harbour. It housed the pilots, who were involved in many maritime events of note during this period, and their families from 1866 to 1894.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

The Pilot's Cottage is one of the few remaining public works to be constructed by the Wellington Provincial Council and is now the sole remaining structure associated with the former Pilot Station that operated from Worser Bay between 1866 and 1894.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

In the early nineteenth century the Pilot's Cottage site was part of a Ngati Ira pa site. There were six principal Maori settlements existing in outlying parts of the harbour and this pa, Kakariki Hutia, was close to the freshwater springs of Te Puna a Tara and Te Puna a Tinirau. The settlement was still occupied when James Heberley served a Pilot in the early years of the station.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

W. Carter & Co

For the Wellington Provincial Council

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

The Pilot Station at Worser Bay was built to replace the old Pilot Station, which had operated in Tarakena Bay near Palmer Head. As shipping increased during the 1840s, the New Zealand Company became aware of the need to get a skilled pilot on board foreign vessels upon entering the harbour. The Tarakena Bay Pilot's Service was established in 1842. Turbulent Cook Strait weather made launching the pilot's boat from the exposed station extremely hazardous, yet it was not until 1865, that the suitability of the exposed Tarakena Bay station was questioned. Correspondence between the Harbour Master Captain James Holliday and the Harbour Office in early 1865, indicate that plans to relocate the Pilot Station were prompted by the risk surrounding the launching of the pilot's boat, from the exposed coastline at the entrance to Port Nicholson. The cottage at Tarakena Bay was also in a state of disrepair which, in the end, contributed to the decision to remove the station. In a letter to the Harbour Office in February 1865, Captain Holliday noted 'it is impossible to get the Boat off when blowing fresh from southwards and this is the times when a stranger making port to leeward would be most anxious to get a pilot, and I may have mentioned that the Pilot has repeatedly all but lost the Boat in attempting to board vessels.' Conditions for the relocation of the station to Worser Bay included a clause to construct a signal station at Beacon Hill and a repeater station on Mount Victoria, so signals could be seen from all parts of town and give notice on vessels arriving to port.

The recommendations were accepted and the Pilot Station Removal Act was passed by the Wellington Provincial Council on 16 August 1865. This piece of legislation authorised the superintendent to sell the land near Palmer Head and buy other, more suitably located property. Local landowner James Crawford was approached about acquiring the Worser Bay land and on 6 January 1866 he proposed an exchange of the seven acres required for the station, for 28 acres surrounding the old Tarakena Pilot Station. Nothing came of this however and, as Crawford had the land under mortgage, it was leased until it could be purchased. W. Carter & Co began construction of the Pilot's Cottage and other associated buildings in 1866. Carter and Co's tender of £1136 was accepted for the building of the Pilot Cottage, coxswain's cottage, boat's crew cottage, cottages at the signal stations, and a boatshed. The transfer of the land from James Crawford to the Provincial Council was not concluded until 1874. A deed of conveyance was issued on 14 April 1874, with ownership changing hands at valuation. For a few years after the dissolution of the provinces in 1875, the Pilot Station was administered by the central government until the Wellington Harbour Board Act of 1879, which conveyed the title of the land to the Wellington Harbour Board in 1880.

Although the relocation of the Pilot's Station to Worser Bay from Tarakena Bay was a relative improvement, the site was still a bleak and isolated spot, with only the Pilot, crew and a few Maori families on the peninsula. The Worser Bay Pilot Station had formerly been a Ngati Ira pa. In the early nineteenth century there were six principal Maori settlements existing in outlying parts of the harbour. The pa Kakariki Hutia was close to the freshwater springs of Te Puna a Tara and Te Puna a Tinirau. Thomas Shepherd, an early explorer of the region noted in his journal and charts that there was a Maori settlement at the North end of Worser Bay in 1826.

James Heberley and Dicky Barrett were important figures in the early days of pilotage in Port Nicholson. Heberley had spent most of his life at sea, becoming a cabin boy when he was just 11 years old. By 1830 he had become an accomplished whaler, with his trade taking him to Queen Charlotte Sound, where he made his living from season to season. In the summer of 1830 Heberley 'took' Te Wai [also known as Maata Te Naihi], a daughter of [Aperahama Manukonga], for his wife. In his reminiscences, Heberley claims that he was Wellington's first pilot owing to his efforts in piloting Colonel Wakefield and the Tory into Port Nicholson in 1839. 'I acted as pilot and Barrett interpreter'. Other sources place Dicky Barrett, Heberley's companion, and another colourful early Wellington character, at the helm of the Tory. Whether or not Heberley was the one who guided the Tory into Port Nicholson, his importance and connection to the Pilot's Cottage lies more in the naming of the bay where the pilot station was situated from 1865.

Worser Bay had originally been called Young's Bay, after George Young the whaler who had sailed thereabouts in 1834-5. It is not clear when it became Worser Bay, but it certainly was known by that name when the Pilot Station moved there in 1866. Heberley's personal reminiscences document that he was given the bay by two 'natives' who were grandfather and uncle to his wife and who lent Heberley a hand to build a new house there. This point further verifies the view that Worser Bay was occupied by Maori before it became the Pilot Station. Other accounts suggest that the place was named Worser Bay after Heberley's nickname 'Old Worser'. Heberley explains in his reminiscences, that while he was staying in one of the 'Native's' houses he was called one morning to get up. The girl did not know his name so she sang out 'Ai tongeter water Harami mou kike', then the natives burst out laughing. They called Heberley Tongeter Water, which Heberley claims stuck, and from this Pakeha called him Worser. The Marlborough Provincial History of 1940 explains that Heberley's Maori properly reads: 'Ai, tangata whata, haeremai mou te kai' or 'Oh man of the food house come to breakfast'.' Maori then called him 'Tangata whata or 'Whata' for short.

Heberley's grandson Thomas Heberley maintains that 'Worser' comes from Heberley predicting that 'worser' weather was on its way. 'One time he was ordered to bring a party ashore from a man-o-war and by the time they had disembarked a north-westerly breeze had increased to a gale which prevented him from landing on the Western side. He went down to the entrance saying that the weather was getting 'worser' and 'worser' and finally beaching his boats in Worser Bay'. Therefore 'Worser' was the nickname he eventually assumed and from that day the bay has also been known as Worser Bay. The Pilot Station at Worser Bay was equipped with a crude telephone (more often used as a telegraph) and formed part of the flag system chain by which Pencarrow Light House, the Pilot Station and Beacon Hill could communicate with the Harbour Master at Queen's Wharf, via Mount Victoria Repeating Station. The man who stood at Beacon Hill in all weathers and upon sighting a ship lit a fire. This was spotted by the lookout man below in Worser Bay and he alerted the pilot crew by pulling on warning bells. Once the pilot got to the ship, he might be stuck for more than a week before the weather was suitable to work the ship into port. Then he had to get back to the station, across an often flooded Miramar. Work at the station ranged from the tedium of keeping watch and routine maintenance, to extreme hardship, and moments of danger when on call providing round the clock pilotage services for ships entering and leaving the harbour. The Pilot's Cottage housed the chief pilot and his family, and without a doubt there would have been some anxious times for the pilot's wife and children, watching their loved one heading out in the pilot boat into perilous waters. Another of the pilot's duties was running a ferry service to and from Pencarrow Lighthouse and fetching stores for the Lighthouse from Newtown.

By the 1880s technology had come to the aid of the courageous pilots who had so often rowed out into the treacherous waters of Port Nicholson with only their strength, skill, and faith between them and death by drowning. By this time steam powered vessels had become more common and the need for an outer Pilot Station waned. Steam ships could navigate the perilous waters of Port Nicholson without great difficulty and small steam tugs could reliably bring a pilot out from town in answer to the signals of vessels waiting in Cook Strait. A fatal accident in 1889 in which a pilot and some of his crew were drowned prompted a review of the need for the expensive outstation. J. H Williams, owner of the tugs Mana and Duco approached the Harbour Board with a view to arranging terms by which the pilot service could be merged with the tug service. An agreement was entered into on 1 July 1894 and the Pilots were withdrawn from the station, leaving the pilot service to operate solely from town under Williams' tugs. On 1 July 1894 a caretaker was placed in charge of the pilot station.

Around 1915 the original seven acres were subdivided into sections, that of the Pilot's Cottage being 38.7 perches, and they were leased by the Harbour Board on long term leases with perpetual rights of renewal. The cottage has been privately owned from 1915 and remained largely unchanged until 1979. Since 1980 it has undergone numerous changes, both internal and external. Renovations include the addition of roof skylights, remodelling of the interior and extension of the roof level on the upper floor.

Physical Description

The Pilot's Cottage is located on Marine Parade, a winding coastal road flanked with domestic dwellings, in Worser Bay, Seatoun. The Cottage is located at the rear of a large, sloping quarter-acre section that faces seaward toward the Heads and beyond to Cook Strait. The front of the section features a modern, single storey 'bach'. Hedge fences surround the property and a lush garden.

The Pilot's Cottage is a small, symmetrical two-storey building with a first floor built into the gable of the roof. It is a simple colonial cottage with a verandah dominating the front (east) façade of the building, and a lean-to located at the rear (west). The simple hipped verandah is enclosed by weatherboards at either end and fits neatly under the eaves of the cottage. The roof and sides of the building are clad with corrugated iron. On either side of the main, central door are double-paned, double-doors that open out onto the verandah. Symmetrically arranged on the south and north sides of the cottage are the original double-hung, twelve-paned windows. The rear washhouse now has a series of large, single-pane windows and a multi pane double-door. The first floor includes a single four-paned window in the central front dormer with two recently added 'skylight' windows on its left and right, and two original double-hung twelve-pane windows on the north and south sides. The extensions to the upper rooms have new and large rectangular four-paned windows facing the rear, and a skylight has been added to the kitchen.

The front door leads directly into a small hallway dominated by the original, centrally located staircase, which runs up the left-hand-side wall. After the staircase, the hall opens into the large 'open' living area. This area includes a renovated kitchen that now faces the rear with the washhouse, which now forms a dining area. The kitchen and dining area joins the lounge, which opens onto the verandah via double-doors. A small passage leads from the kitchen to the master bedroom and bathroom located on the opposite side of the hall to the living room. The master bedroom also opens onto the verandah. The upstairs consists of a small study, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Situated at the top of the stairs, the study fits neatly into the small vestibule created by the dormer. The study is flanked by the bedrooms on its left and right. The bathroom is positioned to the right-hand-side (when going up the stairs) and creates a small passage through to the bedroom, which is consequently smaller in size than it's opposite.

Notable Features

Original corrugated iron cladding; original double hung, twelve-paned windows; original staircase.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1866 -

1980 -
Structural and plumbing renovations

1999 -
Skylights, upstairs bedroom extensions and bathroom added.

Construction Details

Timber framing sheathed with corrugated iron on roof and sides.

Completion Date

17th July 2006

Report Written By

Jonathan Sarich with Paulette Wallace

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT File 12013-215

Other Information

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

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.