Historical Significance or Value
This assessment was prepared on 11 September 2006 with reference to the criteria of the Historic Places Act 1993.
Rutherglen is an outstanding example of a Victorian era villa. Its siting, scale, and the decorative features of its facade reflect the status of its original owner, Alexander Irvine Brown, a long-serving director of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company; a significant coastal shipping and industrial enterprise that has a long historical connection with Nelson's port and with the Brown family.
This assessment was prepared on 11 September 2006 with reference to the criteria of the Historic Places Act 1993.
Category of historic place (section 23(2)): This place was assigned a category status having regard to the following criteria: a, b, c, e, h and k.
Category: Category II
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history;
Rutherglen reflects the social and economic patterns of its time and place, as well as the social and economic status of its first owner, Alexander Irvine Brown. The commanding position over the port entrance, the decorative, almost flamboyant, north façade and the provision of a maid's quarters indicate the growing wealth and late Victorian optimism of those commanding shipping and industrial interests in the expanding Nelson economy.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
Through its first owner, Alexander Irvine Brown, Rutherglen reflects the long association of the Brown family with the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company, which features strongly in the industrial and maritime history of Nelson, from the 1870s to the 1980s. Brown's father, also Alexander, was one of the founders of Anchor Foundry in the 1860s, and became the “ruling power” in Anchor Shipping and Foundry until his death in 1913. After the death of Alexander Irvine Brown in 1962, his sons, Alex and Noel, continued as senior managers. Rutherglen is also associated with Punawai, an adjacent 'Tenths' Native Reserve occupied by Nelson Maori and set aside for them as part of the acquisition of land for settlement in the Nelson district from 1839-1845.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:
Rutherglen illustrates several historical themes, particularly when considered within the context of adjacent land and houses. Through its first owner, Rutherglen is linked to the maritime and industrial development of Nelson and the role played by the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company in that development. The exterior and interior of Rutherglen are also illustrative of the social and economic context in which it was built, reflecting the rising economic power and social status of shipping and industrial interests in the late Victorian era. There are also less direct links back to the land's first occupants and owners, Nelson Maori, whose Punawai reserve (Native Reserve Town Section No. 5) abuts Rutherglen to the north. Part of Punawai was, for a time, leased by the Native (Maori) Trustee to the owners of Rutherglen, providing them with a tennis court.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
Rutherglen has always been a private dwelling so community association does not feature in its history. The high heritage status of the building in Nelson City Council's district plan and recent debate over the future of Rutherglen indicate the esteem in which it is held by some Nelsonians.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:
Rutherglen symbolises the optimism and culture of its time and place, as well as that of its first owners (1904-1969), who in turn represent an important part of Nelson's maritime and industrial heritage.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
Rutherglen's links to the port are apparent not just in its first owner but also in its siting; near the ridgeline directly above 'The Cut' (the Nelson harbour entrance). It is clearly visible by shipping entering the harbour as well as from the Rocks Road below the house. Rutherglen is situated amongst other land and buildings that form a significant historical and cultural landscape. Diagonally across the intersection of Richardson Street and Whitby Road from Rutherglen, at 15 Richardson Street, is Delta Cottage, the home of Alexander Brown (father of Alexander Irvine Brown and a founder and key figure in the history of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company). There are several other 19th century houses adjacent to Rutherglen in Richardson Street and Whitby Road. While they differ significantly in style from Rutherglen (as does the more modest Delta Cottage) they share similarities in scale and materials. This makes for an impressive setting. Another historical and cultural context is provided by the adjacent portion of what was formerly the Punawai Maori reserve, an area occupied by Maori prior to Pakeha settlement in the 1840s and set aside for them as a reserve. A part of Punawai was leased by Alexander Irvine Brown and formed part of Rutherglen's grounds in the mid-twentieth century but has since been separated from it and a house built on the site.
Alexander Brown was an influential figure in the maritime and industrial history of Nelson. His story is quite well known, being detailed in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and in Allan Kirk's history of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company. He arrived in Wellington on board the paddle steamer Lyttelton in 1861 after an epic and much-interrupted voyage of 462 days from Scotland. After serving for a time on the Lyttelton as chief engineer for Nathaniel Edwards & Co., he took a shore appointment with them, supervising repairs and engineering operations in the company foundry at Auckland Point, Nelson in 1866.
In 1880, Alexander Brown was a member of the partnership that purchased the shipping and foundry assets of Nathaniel Edwards & Co., forming the Anchor Steam Shipping Company and the Anchor Foundry. The Anchor Foundry had been established at Auckland Point in 1863 and expanded into larger premises at Wakefield Quay in 1873. Brown's focus was the foundry, which he managed until 1901, when the two businesses were merged as the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company. Brown was appointed director and consulting engineer of the new company. He built the foundry up into a large modern works that was the most prominent business in the nation's busiest provincial port in the late 19th century. It did not become an export port until the harbour entrance was improved by the making of 'The Cut' through the southern tip of the Boulder Bank in 1906.
Alexander Irvine Brown, Alexander Brown's third and youngest son, was born in 1876. Like his elder siblings, Brown served his marine engineer's apprenticeship with the family firm. Along with his father and brothers, Brown was a founding shareholder of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company in 1901.
In 1904, Alexander Irvine Brown commissioned the construction of a family home, that would become known as 'Rutherglen', in anticipation of his wedding to Annie Elizabeth. The date of construction is assumed to be the same year in which the title to the property was created and vested in Alexander Irvine Brown. No other construction details, such as the architect or builder, have been located in research to date. Brown named Rutherglen after the name for the burgh (or borough) of the same name in Lanarkshire, Scotland, near the settlement where his father had been born in 1830. After a death in the family, Brown's wedding was deferred for a year and Rutherglen was not occupied until 1905.
Brown's Rutherglen was built on a section of 2,125m2 (just over half an acre) that is made up of part of Section 4 City of Nelson and part of a section of land granted to Thomas Fagan. This section was one of the original 'town acres' sold by the New Zealand Company as part of its plan of colonisation for the Nelson district. The site lay on the south side of what was then Mary Ann Street, the property extending south up the hill about half way to Britannia Heights (the street above). Mary Ann Street was named for one of the first immigrant ships to bring New Zealand Company settlers to Nelson but the street was subsequently renamed Whitby Road in the early twentieth century. Rutherglen is prominently sited near the corner of Whitby Road and Richardson Street, the latter being the original road from the southern port over the hill into Nelson city.
The adjacent properties to the east, at 20 and 22 Richardson Street, were formerly 'Tenths' land, originally being part of Nelson City Section 5 Native Reserve; a 'town acre' reserved for Nelson Maori as part of the New Zealand Company's colonisation plans for the Nelson district (whereby every tenth section selected by ballot would be reserved as an endowment for Maori purposes). The Crown modified the Tenths scheme as part of the 1845 settlement of the New Zealand Company's invalid Nelson land claims of 1839, with the result that Maori were to receive 'occupation reserves' in addition to the Tenths (occupation reserves being land occupied by Maori, such as pa, cultivations, or wahi tapu). Historians have found that Section 5 should have been reserved as an occupation reserve, not as Tenths land, as it was land occupied by Maori and known as Punawai. Punawai, as surveyed by the New Zealand Company, extended in a long strip from the Rocks Road to up the hill just beyond Richardson Street. Further research is required to establish what use Maori made of Punawai and if this use related to the portion beside Rutherglen, or extended into the Rutherglen site. The portion of Punawai beside Rutherglen (Lot 2 DP 1470) was vested in the Native Trustee, who later leased it to the owner of Rutherglen, Alexander Irvine Brown, from 1943. Family members recall that this flat section beside the house was used as a tennis court from the 1940s to about the 1960s. The area was later subdivided into two house sections and is now built on.
Rutherglen reflected the rising wealth of the Brown family and the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company. Brown's father, Alexander Brown, lived in a fairly modest home at 15 Richardson Street (across and below the road from his son) built in 1868 and long known as Delta Cottage. Another of Alexander's sons, Thomas Brown, lived in Delta Cottage after his father's death. By contrast, Rutherglen is a grand house that sits well above the road overlooking the old harbour entrance and the new harbour entrance; completed in 1906. It included a maid's quarters, and featured flamboyant exterior decoration. Rutherglen is also said to have had one of Nelson's first fridges, although it came from a ship and was said to be “more motor than fridge.”
Four of Brown's children were born in the house, three of whom survived their father, and one of whom, Phyllis Addis, is still alive and living in Nelson.
In 1908, Brown returned to the family's roots in the shipbuilding centre of Glasgow to supervise the building of the company's new ships. He returned as chief engineer on one of the new ships, Nikau, and served on the ship on the Nelson-Motueka-Wellington ferry service for many years, becoming well-known and popular with passengers.
In 1913, Alexander Brown died but, under the management of Alexander Irvine Brown and his brothers, the good fortunes of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company were maintained. Brown returned to Scotland (to Leith) in 1938 to supervise the building of another ship, Puriri, named and launched by his wife, Annie Elizabeth Brown. The launching of the Puriri marked the peak of the Anchor fleet. However, in October 1940 she was commandeered by the New Zealand Government for the war effort, being converted to a minesweeper. She was sunk in May 1941 after hitting mines laid in the Hauraki Gulf by the German raider Orion. This was a blow to the company and the second Puriri could not be built until 1948, and at a much greater cost.
In 1953, the Anchor line's Nelson-Wellington ferry service ended, being unable to complete with air travel. A regular freight service was maintained, but the introduction of the Cook Strait rail ferries in 1962, and the growth of containerisation for export, was the beginning of the end for Anchor Shipping, which wound up in the early 1970s. The foundry remained a bastion for the company through occasional periods of anxiety and it established a national reputation for good workmanship. It was absorbed by the Union Steam Shipping Company in 1974, becoming the larger firm's engineering branch. In the 1980s, when that shipping company also wound up, the Anchor Foundry was taken over by Dorman, a Taranaki-based company whose growth was fuelled by the 'Think Big' programme of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Anchor-Dorman Foundry finally closed its doors in 1986.
Alexander Irvine Brown continued to live at Rutherglen until his death in 1962. After his death his widow, Annie Elizabeth Brown, remained in residence until 1969, when it was sold out of the family's ownership in 1969. Mrs Brown died shortly afterwards in 1970. A surviving daughter, Phyllis Addis, and granddaughter, Jeanette Lash, still live in Nelson and have many memories of Rutherglen in its heyday.
Rutherglen is situated at 5 Whitby Road, Nelson, on a building platform that is elevated well above the road, high on the steep hill above the Rocks Road opposite the entrance of Nelson harbour. It is visible from the harbour entrance and from Rocks Road, and is sited near a prominent street corner. It sits near the front of a 2,125m2 section that slopes back behind the house. A dilapidated garage sits below the house on the northwestern corner of the property.
The house is a large two-storeyed late Victorian villa of timber construction that presents an ornate façade to the street to the north and some decorative features on the east façade. The north façade features an ornate central Italianate pillared front porch on the ground level and a slightly smaller Italianate pillared balcony on the first floor. On either side of the porch and balcony are large bay windows, featuring tall elegantly proportioned sash windows, arched at the top. The gable ends above the bay windows feature fretwork and are topped with turned finials. The east side features a ground floor porch that is partially glazed and partially enclosed, somewhat like a sun room, with doors leading out into it from what was the drawing room on the northeastern corner of the house, and also doors leading into the sun room from what was the dining room.
The north, east, and west sides are clad in weatherboarding, but the south side was not able to be viewed during the restricted site visit. The roof is of corrugated iron. Two main chimneys (one for fireplaces in the drawing and dining rooms in the eastern side of the house, and one for fireplaces in the living room and kitchen in the west) still stand, although the original pots are no longer present. Another smaller chimney services the old scullery at the rear of the house.
The upstairs bathroom features the original pink porcelain, and much of the original panelling and wall coverings still remain, as does some original carpet (in what was the drawing room).
The exterior paintwork is peeling in many places. The house is said to be generally sound, but some leaks have developed in the roof and the timbers of the upper balcony are said to be suffering some water damage.
Site acquired and house constructed
1970 - 1980
Internal alterations to cloakroom and maid's bedroom to form new bathroom on northeast of ground floor
Timber-frame, weatherboard cladding, corrugated iron roof
11th September 2006
Report Written By
Ruth Allan, The History of Port Nelson, Whitcombe and Tombes, Wellington, 1954
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Lash, Jeanette. 'Brown Alexander 1830-1913', updated 7 April 2006 URL: http://wwwdnzb.govt.nz
A A Kirk, Anchor ships and Anchor men, Reed, Wellington, 1967
Lash, Max D., Nelson Notables 1840-1940: A Dictionary of Regional Biography, Nelson, 1992
Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997
Nelson Evening Mail
Nelson Evening Mail
Alexander Brown obituary, 25 January 1913.
A fully referenced information upgrade 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.