Curator's House

7 Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch

  • Curator's House, Christchurch Botanic Garden. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Chris Botman - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: cbotman. Date: 18/12/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1863 Date Entered 26th November 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Res 25 (NZ Gazette 1990, p. 828, CT 668229), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Curator’s House thereon. The extent is the 1920 building and does not include later extensions.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Res 25 (NZ Gazette 1990, p. 828, CT 668229), Canterbury Land District

Location description

Christchurch City Council have the primary address as 7 Riccarton Avenue, with 8 Riccarton Avenue and 5 Rolleston Avenue as other addresses.


The Curator’s House, built in 1920 at 7 Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch, has historical significance for its association with the development of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, social significance for the role it played in the life of the Botanic Garden curators and their families who lived there, and architectural significance as an English Domestic Revival design by Christchurch architects, Collins and Harman. It also has aesthetic value, especially in its setting as part of the Botanic Gardens and adjacent to the Avon River.

Following the convention of having a curator live at or near the entrance to the botanic gardens, the first curator’s residence, a single-storey timber building, was constructed in 1872 at the Christchurch Domain. By 1919, that building was in poor condition and, following a request from curator James Young, the 1872 cottage was taken off site and a new Curator’s House was built in its place in 1920.

Set at the south east corner of a broadly triangular area at Botanic Gardens beside the Avon River, the 1920 Curator’s House forms an immediate group with the entrance gates set within the Rolleston Avenue boundary and Canterbury Museum, with which it is axially aligned. The Curator’s House is a two storeyed building with a modified T-shaped footprint and multiple steeply pitched gable roof forms. The building’s English Domestic Revival style combines Arts and Crafts influences and Tudor Revival features reminiscent of timber-framed houses of medieval Europe, with the first floor slightly overhanging the ground floor. On the exterior, the ground floor comprises random rubble basalt and the first floor is clad in roughcast with decorative half-timbering. Most of the windows are casement with patterned leadlight glazing.

The Curator’s House is one of many notable examples of the work of the architectural firm Collins and Harman. Other nearby buildings designed by the firm include the Christchurch Press Building (demolished), the former Canterbury College Students Union (List No. 4907), the Nurses’ Memorial Chapel (List No. 1851) and the Botanic Garden’s Cuningham House (List No. 1862).

In 1946 the Christchurch Domains Board was disbanded by an Act of Parliament and the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park came under the control of the Christchurch City Council. Successive curators continued to reside in the house until 1983, when a new curator elected to live elsewhere. The house was let as private accommodation until 1999 when it was converted to a restaurant but still called the ‘Curator’s House’. Alterations in 1999 and 2000 included the addition of a kitchen wing to the south and new doors providing access to the verandah on the north front.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Collins & Harman

One of the two oldest architectural firms in New Zealand, Armson, Collins and Harman was established by William Barnett Armson in 1870. After serving his articles with Armson, John James Collins (1855-1933) bought the practice after the former's death in 1883 and subsequently took Richard Dacre Harman (1859-1927) into partnership four years later. Collins' son, John Goddard Collins (1886-1973), joined the firm in 1903. Armson, Collins and Harman was one of Christchurch's leading architectural practices in the early years of this century.

Notable examples of the firm's work include the Christchurch Press Building (1909), Nazareth House (1909), the former Canterbury College Students Union (1927), the Nurses Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Public Hospital (1927) and the Sign of the Takahe (1936). Their domestic work includes Blue Cliffs Station Homestead (1889) and Meadowbank Homestead, Irwell. In 1928 the firm's name was simplified to Collins and Harman and the firm continues today as Collins Architects Ltd.

With a versatility and competence that betrayed the practice's debt to Armson's skill and professionalism, Collins and Harman designed a wide variety of building types in a range of styles.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1920 -

Conversion to Restaurant and single storey wing attached at rear

Completion Date

12th October 2016

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Christchurch City Council

Christchurch City Council

Christchurch City Council, The Christchurch Botanic Gardens Management Plan, 1989, URL:

Beaumont & Mosley, 2013

Beaumont, Louise, Dave Pearson Architects Ltd and Bridget Mosley, A Conservation Plan for Hagely Park and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, September 2013, URL:

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.