1057- 1075 State Highway 60 (Takaka Valley Highway), Uruwhenua, Takaka

  • Hillcrest.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Robert McClean. Date: 1/01/2005.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1627 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 349248 (CT 201969), part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 34923 (CT 201970), and part of the land described as Lot 3 DP 349243 (CT 201971), Nelson Land District, and the building known as Hillcrest thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 8 June 2017.

City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Lots 1-3 DP 349248 (CTs 201969, 201970, 201971), Nelson Land District


Sparrow House is an integral part of the historical farming landscape of the Takaka Valley. George Sparrow (the South Island's first veterinarian) arrived in Nelson from England in February 1857 with his wife Harriet and three sons and Eric, Frederick, and Arthur. The Sparrow family moved to the Takaka Valley after George purchased a substantial parcel of land there at an auction. By June 1857 the first Sparrow family home had been constructed. Named 'Whareplank', it was a pit sawn timber house with a shingle roof. The family then set to work clearing the native bush to farmland. It was during this backbreaking period that Arthur was tragically killed when he was thrown from a bullock dray as it hit a rut and the wheel ran over his head.

In early 1868 Eric Sparrow started to build a house on an area of the farm known as Hillcrest, in preparation for his marriage to Lucy Hailes later that year. This home, known as Hillcrest or Sparrow House, was named after the farm and became home to Eric, Lucy, and their eight children. Eric's brother Frederick married Charlotte Barnett in 1881 and went to live next door to Eric, building an almost identical house known as Fairleigh on the bend in the road above Hillcrest. Following the death of Harriet Sparrow in 1890, Whareplank was moved across the road and attached to Fairleigh, to better accommodate Frederick and Charlotte's six sons.

Hillcrest was built in three parts - each part no doubt being added to accommodate Eric and Lucy's growing family. The order of construction has not been determined but it appears that the smaller box cottage may have been built first, followed by the rectangular box cottage with its more elaborate verandah. A second storey was then added to this section at a later date. Fairleigh also had a second storey added at a later stage, built in an almost identical fashion to the top storey of Hillcrest. The overall style of Hillcrest is typical of the Colonial period but there are also Gothic influences as seen with the gable roofing and tall narrow windows. Other features of historical interest on the Hillcrest property include the woolshed, old dipping yards, gum trees and the remains of the Sparrow marble quarry and associated marble works junk.

Eric's primary task during his time at Hillcrest was the running of the farm. However, he and Frederick also established a timber mill and were major shareholders in the Takaka Tramway Company that was formed in 1882 to transport timber and marble out of the Takaka Valley. Lucy Sparrow grew a variety of fruit including raspberries, pears and grapes, which she sold for profit. In 1917 formal measures were taken to exploit the large outcrops of marble on the property.

This marble was used in the construction of a number of buildings including the new Takaka Catholic Church that was completed in 1918. Eric and his wife Lucy were active members of the Catholic Church in West Takaka where Eric was a trustee and visiting Nelson priests wrote of making regular stops at Hillcrest during their trips to Golden Bay in order to hear the children's catechism. Archbishop Redwood even stayed overnight at Hillcrest during his first trip to Takaka in March 1876 to issue the Sacrament of Confirmation. Little is known about the occupation of Hillcrest following the death of Eric in 1937, but family descendent Jane McDonald states that the house remained in the Sparrow family until the 1950's (Jane McDonald, pers. comm.).

Hillcrest is a colonial style farmhouse that has historical significance because of its association with the pioneering Sparrow family who arrived in New Zealand in 1857. It is situated within a much wider historical landscape that originally contained the four Sparrow family farms known as Kemps, Whareplank, Hillcrest and Fairleigh. Fairleigh is still situated on the bend above Hillcrest on State Highway 60 with the original cottage of George and Harriet Sparrow (Whareplank) still attached to it. Other historical and archaeological remains within this landscape include farm buildings, historic trees, a marble quarry and marble work junks, and a nineteenth century grave.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Hillcrest has historic and cultural significance through its association with the pioneering Sparrow family. It was the home of Eric and Lucy Sparrow and their eight children. Eric Sparrow was the youngest son of George and Harriet Sparrow who arrived in the Nelson region in 1856 aboard the John Masterman, which set sail from the East India Docks. George Sparrow was the South Island's first veterinarian (and New Zealand's second) and a highly respected member of the community.

The Hillcrest property is of archaeological and technological significance as it is the site of an historic marble quarry, the remnants of which can be seen today. Eric and his brother Frederick used the marble from this quarry for their fireplaces when building their homes in the 1860s and 1880s respectively but it was not until 1917 that formal measures were taken to exploit the vast outcrops of marble on the property. A diamond saw was used to cut the marble which was then polished and packed into sacks or crates. Marble from the Sparrow quarry is dark grey with black streaks and was used alongside marble from other Takaka quarries in the construction of various public buildings such as Takaka Church, Nelson Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and St Paul's Church, Dunedin. It can also be found at the East Takaka cemetery where it was used for the headstone of Frederick's grandson Stuart who died in 1989. The Takaka quarries are the only known archaeological examples of marble quarries in New Zealand. The Hillcrest property has further archaeological significance because of the nineteenth century grave of quarry worker John Page who was killed in 1895.

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

The Hillcrest property contains the remains of a marble quarry and marble works junk that reflect the historic Takaka marble industry. Marble from the Sparrow quarry can be found in a number of public buildings throughout New Zealand.

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

Hillcrest was the home of Eric Sparrow, son of pioneers George and Harriet Sparrow who emigrated to Nelson in 1857, moving to Takaka Valley shortly thereafter. George and Harriet Sparrow were prominent figures in the Nelson region; George was the South Island's first veterinarian and was heavily involved with the Anglican Church. He also held various community posts such as the District of Takaka representative for the Nelson Provincial Council and Chairman of the Takaka Road Board.

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

In 1857 George Sparrow purchased 1400 acres of Takaka Valley land at auction and built Whareplank - the Sparrow family's first home . Sons Eric, Frederick and Arthur worked to develop this land which was divided into four areas: Kemps, Whareplank, Hillcrest and Fairleigh. Sparrow House and the marble quarry are clearly part of a much wider historical farming landscape associated with the Sparrow family for nearly a century.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Built in 1868, Hillcrest is a fine example of a colonial cottage with Gothic influences. It has a 'T plan' design with a 2 storey rectangular box cottage at the front and a single storey box cottage with built in lean-to at the rear. A covered walkway joins the rear section to one of the outbuildings.

The 2 storey section of Hillcrest has a gable roof with finials at each end and a gabled dormer window with a finial at the top. There are casement windows and a straight roofed verandah attached well below the eaves with decorative elements such as cross-bracing balusters.

The single storey section of Hillcrest has a gable roof with built-in lean to, double-hung sash windows and a small wooden floor verandah supported by four square posts. This verandah is a continuation of the main roofline rather than a separate unit like the front verandah. This section currently houses the kitchen and a lounge with a marble fireplace crafted by Eric himself using marble from the property's quarry.

In addition to the house itself and associated outbuildings such as the woolshed, other significant notable features on the property include the remains of an old marble quarry, the 1895 grave of quarry worker John Page and historic gum trees.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1868 -

Construction Details

Originally a single storey dwelling built in three parts, Hillcrest was converted into a 2 storey weatherboard home. It is not known when the second storey was added. Hillcrest has two wooden-floor verandahs, two brick chimneys and a concrete and aluminium chimney, which is clearly a more recent addition. The house and associated outbuildings are roofed with corrugated iron and it appears that the house has been re-roofed since the time of original construction as the corrugated iron is in much better condition than that of the outbuilding attached at the rear.

Completion Date

15th February 2005

Report Written By

J. Wylie

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.