Daniel House

85 Palmerston Street (State Highway 99), Riverton / Aparima

  • Daniel House.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 11/10/2012.
  • Daniel House. Northeast elevation.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 15/07/2011.
  • Daniel House. 1989. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alana M Reid.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2535 Date Entered 15th December 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 2551 (CT SL132/138), Southland Land District, and the building known as Daniel House thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 2551 (CT SL132/138), Southland Land District

Location description

Daniel House is on the southeast side of the main road through Riverton, one property north of the intersection of Palmerston Street and Green Lane.


Constructed in the 1850s, Daniel House is an important Riverton building dating from early in the European settlement of Southland. Located on the town’s main street, this weatherboard clad, two storey, Georgian style house, was built for the Daniel family, who are of local historical significance.

Daniel House was constructed for relatives of John Howell (1810?-1874), the founder of Riverton. After coming to the region as a whaler, Theophilus Daniel (1817-1893) married Howell’s step-sister, Elizabeth (1832-1892) in 1853. The couple were important as early Southland settlers and longstanding residents of Riverton. They cemented this status through operating a local shop and, later, Theophilus had a successful political career. Daniel House’s original owners also seem to have enjoyed socialising and providing hospitality, which meant that Daniel House became well-known locally. After several decades of residence, Daniel House was sold to long-time Wallace County Council Clerk and Treasurer, James Fullarton (1828-1917), before having a number of owners throughout the twentieth century. By the 1980s the building was showing signs of age and neglect, which spurred descendants of the original owners to purchase the property and restore it.

Georgian style features of Daniel House include an original rectangular footprint, symmetrical placement of windows, verandas, and a hipped roof. An extension on the southwest side was added in the late nineteenth century and little alteration to the form of the building has occurred subsequently. However, because of the state of decay the building was in prior to the restoration work of the last 20 years, much of the cladding and lining fabric of the building has needed to be replaced. This has been done in a sympathetic manner which has meant that the early colonial aesthetic of Daniel House is retained.

Daniel House is significant because it dates from the earliest period of European settlement in Southland. The heritage value of this place is also derived from its connection with Elizabeth Daniel, one of the first female European immigrants to settle in Southland, and also her husband, Theophilus, a noteworthy politician. Aside from its historical importance, Daniel House is of architectural value as a rare example of the type of house popular in the early colonial period.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The house was built for Theophilus Daniel, a high profile provincial politician and Member of Parliament, who was related through marriage to the founder of Riverton, John Howell. Subsequently the property attracted other owners who were important local citizens, such as the notably longstanding Wallace County Council Clerk and Treasure, James Fullarton.

Architectural Significance or Value:

Daniel House has architectural significance as an example of a vernacular timber Georgian influenced, English Colonial style residence dating from the early period of earnest European settlement in New Zealand. Characteristic features found at Daniel House include the symmetry of its features, the form of is windows, the presence of verandahs, and its hipped roof. Two-storeyed examples of English Colonial houses are reasonably rare, and therefore Daniel House has architectural importance.

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

As a building dating from the earliest stages of earnest European settlement in Southland, Daniel House is reflective of the desire of early European immigrants to establish a permanent place for themselves in New Zealand. The scale of Daniel House, makes it a definite statement of that family’s intent to remain in Riverton.

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

Theophilus Daniel was a longstanding and prominent politician in Otago and Southland, as well as being a Member of Parliament on two occasions. It was in this capacity that he became friends with high profile people, such as Governor George Grey, who was hosted at Daniel House. The Daniel family connection has been re-affirmed in the last 20 years through Daniel House being owned and restored by Daniel family descendants.

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

Daniel House dates from the period when the Murihiku Block was purchased, and therefore it is associated with early European settlement and the development of Southland.

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

While Georgian style houses were prevalent in the early colonial period, the longevity of Daniel House, as well as its two-storey form, mean that it is now a rare example of this type of building.

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

Daniel House and the three roughly contemporary cottages opposite form a group of early Riverton residential buildings.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, i, j, and k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Ancient stories tell the origins of southern Maori, with the waka of Aoraki becoming Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island), and its sternpost, Te Taurapa a Te Waka o Aoraki becoming Bluff Hill (also known as Motupohue). The Maui traditions are also told in the south, with Maui arriving in his waka Maahunui, and throwing out the anchor Te Puka o Te Waka a Maui (Rakiura). Maui’s achievements are recognised in place names in the south, including Omaui near Bluff, and Te Tapuwae o Maui and Te Rereka o Maui in Fiordland (Maui’s footstep and Maui’s leap).

The early generations learnt about the land and its resources: stone sources were found, and stone (especially pounamu) became an important trading item. Whanau moved throughout the southern area to take advantage of seasonal resources and trade, and also for reasons of intermarriage and war. Kaika were established close to resources. Rights and resources and places were established, and traditions established which protected the manawhenua.

According to the Ngai Tahu Statutory acknowledgments in the settlement important villages along the south coast included: ‘Te Wae Wae (Waiau), Taunoa (Orepuki), Kawakaputaputa (Wakapatu), Oraka (Colac bay), Aparima (Riverton named Aparima after the daughter of the noted southern rangatira Hekeia, to whom he bequeathed all of the land which his eye could see as he stood on a spot at Otaitai, just north of Riverton), Turangiteuaru, Awarua (Bluff), Te Whera, Toe Toe (mouth of the Mataura River) and Waikawa.’

In the 1830s shore based whaling was established, including a station at Aparima (Riverton). Tuhawaiki established his own whaling station. Strategic intermarriage of Maori women to whalers strengthened relationships. Flax and timber as well as other commodities were traded.

1853 saw the Murihiku purchase which left Maori south of the Waitaki (excluding the Otakou Block) with only 4,630 acres, the start of a long quest by southern Maori for justice questioning the legality of the purchase as well as the inadequacy of the land reserved. The major settlements on the southern coast near modern day Riverton in the mid nineteenth century included Pahia, Ngawhakaputaputa, Oraka and Aparima (established probably in the 1820s), although the largest settlement was on Ruapuke Island.

A reserve was set aside at Aparima (Riverton) but was inadequate. A 200 acre reserve promised at Waimatuku was not allocated. The Aparima reserve was the site of the main kaika and included an urupa and a tauranga waka. The majority of the reserve was later taken by the Public Works Act for a secondary school, with only the tauranga waka remaining as reserve, a source of continued grievance. The area of North Beach from Otaitai to the mouth of the Aparima River, inland and back to Otaitaia Stream is considered a traditional strong hold of Ngai Tahu as a site of the kaika and urupa.

Riverton is the site of the oldest permanent European settlement in Southland, but the town was only surveyed in 1858. The sections occupied by Daniel House were defined through this process. It is unclear when the house was constructed. It may date from around 1858-59 when the area was surveyed, however, some sources believe it was constructed as early as 1851. From the available records it is difficult to pinpoint an accurate date, but its architectural features suggest it could have been constructed in the 1850s. From physical evidence it appears that the orientation of the building was initially to the north-east as there are, what appear to be, original French doors in the upper level, as well as an entrance door on this side. This could be another indicator that it was constructed before the completion of the town survey. This supposition is strengthened by Daniel House being located within what was referred to as the ‘Old Settlement.’ As such, the inference is that the house was built for the family of Theophilus Alfred James (1817-1893) and Elizabeth (1832-1892) Daniel in the 1850s. The Daniels appear to have been based in this area of Riverton even prior to obtaining the Deed for the land in April 1865. The building is thought to have been constructed by a shipwright due to the fact that cedar cladding was used and there is evidence of caulking between upper level weatherboards.

Daniel House dates from a seminal period in Riverton, and wider Southland, history. Several years later, in 1864, a settlement south of the Jacobs River estuary became known as ‘Village of South Riverton.’ Riverton was constituted as a Borough in 1871 and the settlements either side of the estuary only then became collectively known as Riverton. Theophilus was mayor of the district on two occasions; in 1879 followed by another short term between 1880 and 1881. It was in his first term that Theophilus oversaw the fresh constitution of the Borough, which incorporated a substantially larger district and remained the scope of the Borough well into the twentieth century.

Theophilus’ role in Riverton began humbly, with him squatting and running a drapers shop in Riverton from 1851. This had followed a period of whaling around the Otago and Southland coasts in the late 1830s and working in Australia in the 1840s. Later, Theophilus went onto become a member of the Southland Provincial Council from 1862, as well as the Otago Provincial Council when the two provinces re-amalgamated. After the centralised system of government was instigated Theophilus was the Member of Parliament for Wallace on two occasions: 1876-79 and 1882-84. By the end of his life he had also accumulated considerable property holdings in an around Riverton.

Elizabeth Daniels (nee Stevens), who Theophilus married in 1853, was also notable in Riverton history because she was related to John Howell (1810?-1874), regarded as the founder of Riverton. Howell, a whaler, set up a station in the Riverton area in the mid to late 1830s, and soon after built a cottage. By 1843 Howell’s mother and step-siblings, Elizabeth among them, had moved from England to Australia. Howell convinced the family to move to Riverton after his mother’s death. This meant that Elizabeth and her married sister were the first European women to settle in Southland. Elizabeth is said to have been well-known locally for her knowledge of medicinal foods. Later she developed fluency in Maori, which became an advantage in the family commercial enterprises.

Because of their association with the development of Riverton, their status as an early European Southland settler family, and Theophilus’ public profile, the Daniels were a prominent local family. Correspondingly, their residence seems to have been the site of many social gatherings. Theophilus in particular is said to have been very fond of entertaining, and the family are thought to have hosted Governor George Grey (1812-1898) at the house. Theophilus and Governor Grey had met by 1867 and reportedly became friends. It is perhaps not surprising that the house was used for such events because it must have been one of, if not the, largest dwelling in the town at the time.

Following the example of Howell, in the 1850s and 1860s the whaler settlers of Riverton began to diversify into farming, sawmilling, and other industries. The town continued to grow and it was in this period that the first formal school lessons were given. In the late 1860s James Fullarton (1828-1917), who owned Daniel House from 1890, was the first teacher at Gummies Bush School. However, Fullarton had a career shift in the late 1870s upon moving into Riverton, although he remained interested in education, being a member of the Riverton School Committee in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Fullarton seems to have been quite community minded, and because he had been trained for the Presbyterian ministry, he understandably was also a committed member of the local church.

By the time that Fullarton took up residence at Daniel House he was employed as the Wallace County Council Clerk and Treasurer. He retained this position for 34 years, until his retirement in 1915, at which time a large portrait of Fullarton was hung in Council Chamber in recognition of his great contribution to the county. He seems to have been very committed to his job, becoming ‘a byword for his meticulous attention to detail,’ and when the County offices were moved from Riverton to Otautau in the closing years of the nineteenth century, he went with them. As such, the Fullarton family resided at Daniel House for less than a decade, although they seem to have retained the property into the twentieth century. It is likely, given the time period, that the Art Nouveau inspired fretwork on the upper balcony was added during the residence of the Fullartons.

Daniel House then became the retirement residence of Thomas Helm (1860-1924). Helm had previously farmed at Grove Bush and Glencoe before ill-health prompted him and his wife to move to Riverton. Helm’s obituary describes him as having ‘a very quiet and retiring disposition, and [being] a man of the highest integrity.’ Soon after his death it seems that his wife, Annie Elizabeth (nee Miller, d.1947), moved elsewhere because the property changed hands. Incidentally, one of the couple’s grandsons, Arthur Stanley Helm (b.1914), later made a name for himself through publishing several books. He was also heavily involved with the New Zealand Antarctic Society, working closely with Sir Edmund Hilary (1919-2008). Helm Point, and Helm Glacier, on that continent are named after Arthur. Arthur was born, and grew up, in Riverton, so it is highly probable that he had a close association with Daniel House in his youth.

Through the middle of the twentieth century Daniel House had a succession of owners, and interestingly many seem to have been widows. However, amongst the owners were also men whose listed occupations show they were involved in some of the key local industries in this period, including farming and sawmilling. In 1962 the property was owned by Mary Dickson, who is listed as the wife of a farmer. The house remained in her possession until 1988, when a trio of Daniel family descendants purchased it in order to save it from degrading further.

The new owners were Marie Stewart Daniel-Mannan, Christine Ellen Daniel-Henderson, and John William Daniel. The plan of this group, the closest of who lived in Invercargill, seems to have been to work on the restoration of the property during weekends and holiday periods. By the mid 1990s this process had progressed to the point where the house was weather-tight. The degree of work which was required on the run-down building is perhaps best shown by the fact that before the family could restore the street front veranda; it fell down in a storm due to its dilapidated state.

The reconstruction of this late nineteenth century feature would have to wait until the property was taken on by yet another Daniel descendant, Brent McFelin, and his family at the beginning of the twenty-first century. With this change of ownership, a more concerted restoration effort was instigated in order for the building to be habitable and become the family residence. As such, one of the first projects was to reline much of the interior because the timber was riddled by borer, which made many areas of the floor unsafe to walk to on. This restoration process has been gradual but most of the larger scale projects have now been completed.

Physical Description

Daniel House is set within a large residential section adjoining the main street of Riverton. Set well back from the street behind a long picket fence, with an empty lot to the rear, the house has retained an air of distinction despite the gradual build up of surrounding residential buildings over the last century and a half. Many of the neighbouring properties appear to date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. However, the row of three cottages immediately opposite Daniel House are roughly contemporary with it, and form a grouping with Daniel House that illustrates the different strata of houses common in mid nineteenth century New Zealand.

Daniel House appears to have been constructed in the 1850s and is generally comparable in form to Bell House/Restaurant in Auckland, originally constructed in 1851. Both of these houses are timber framed and clad two-storey structures of a similar scale, which had their ground floors extended around the 1890s through an addition along the rear, long side, of the house. These houses reflect the Georgian influence popular in New Zealand English Colonial style buildings. Georgian characteristics include: a rectangular footprint, hipped roof, and symmetrical placements of windows and doors. These buildings typically have clean lines and features such as verandahs do not sport elaborate ornamentation. An earlier example of this style of building is Kerikeri Mission House (1821). Single, or one and a half, storey Georgian influenced English Colonial houses include: Te Waimate Mission House (1832), The Elms, Tauranga (1838-47), and The Retreat in Northland (1850-52)

Given the construction period for Daniel House most of the materials and fittings would have been imported, most likely from Australia. The upper level weatherboards, protected by the verandah and therefore likely to be original, seem to confirm this as they are cedar. The caulking which is packed into the crevices of the weatherboards to stop the penetration of moisture through the joins, is an unusual feature of the cladding in this area. The size of Daniel House suggests that it would have been relatively expensive to build. Therefore, given what is known about Theophilus’ humble beginnings in Riverton it does not seem likely that he brought the materials with him when he immigrated in 1851, unless he had a large sum of capital available at the time which has not been disclosed in the available sources.

The main part of Daniel House is thought to have been built in the 1850s features of the building substantiate this. The majority of the windows in the main section of the house are consistent with this time period being double-hung sash windows which on the ground level have been segmented by timber mullions into twelve lights, and four lights on the upper storey. Some of the fenestrations in the southwest extension match the other ground floor windows and may have been recycled using those which would have been removed as a result of repositioning the exterior wall. French doors, like the two sets leading onto the upper floor balcony, were also common in kit-set houses from this period.

The placement of the windows suggests that, before the extension of the ground level on the southwest side, the floorplan of the lower level was similar to that of a typical double-box cottage. This was a common layout at the time and is known for the symmetry of its four connecting rooms. This format generally consisted of a living room with fireplace, which was replicated in an adjoining kitchen, and two bedrooms. The upper level probably a repetition of this layout, and the southeast room (now a bathroom) would have been reduced through the repositioning of the staircase when the south west extension was created in the late nineteenth century. It seems plausible that it was when this addition was completed that the four original rooms on the ground floor were opened up to create the current form of two large spaces.

Since the late twentieth century the degraded state of the building has been remedied through a significant restoration effort. In the late 1980s and 1990s this included the replacement of external cladding, some window sashes, installing new north veranda posts (four out of the five were replaced), as well as re-piling. The chimney is recorded as being replaced in 1993. This probably consisted of replacing the brickwork above and immediately below the roofline, and may have coincided with the re-cladding of the roof, which had been completed by mid 1994.

It was common for Georgian influenced houses to have verandas wrapping around the building. The street facing and southeast side verandas at Daniel House, may have been additions contemporary with the extension of the building, or were original features lengthened at this time. These verandas were still in place in the 1970s but have subsequently been removed, and the front façade veranda reconstructed. By the late nineteenth century the lower, side, verandas had matching plain scalloped fretwork, similar to that present at the cottage opposite, 84 Palmerston Street. When the front veranda was reinstated in the early 2000s, this scalloping was recreated based on a circa 1895 image of the house. Similarly, new Art Nouveau inspired fretwork has been added to the upper level veranda. This upper veranda has been recently squared on the east corner to try and further protect the decking from the elements.

It seems that the only significant change to the overall form of the building which has taken place since the southwest extension in the late nineteenth century was a garage and spa room in 2002. This leads off of the earlier extension, at the rear of the house.


It seems that when the building was extended in the late nineteenth century that the main entrance was also relocated to the street facing elevation and a corresponding corridor created. The northeast wall of the corridor was previously the exterior wall of the original building, and therefore is deeper than one might usually expect an interior wall to be. The stairwell is tucked in behind this wall at the southern end of the passage. The hallway, as in other ground floor areas, had its floorboards and some of its linings replaced over the last decade to make the borer riddled building safe to live in.

The corridor provides access to the front living room, the workroom on the east corner of the house (probably the former dinning room), and nearby staircase, as well as the rooms of the late nineteenth century extension to the southwest, which include a bedroom, and the kitchen/dining area. A bathroom is located at the end of the corridor.

Features of note in these ground floor rooms include the back to back fireplaces in the living and work rooms. These have embossed tiles set into them and ample, simple, painted timber fireplace surrounds. The work room also has one of a few decorative flourishes in the building, possibly dating from the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, in its small ceiling rose. In the kitchen the range is set within a substantial brick surround and appears to be contemporary with the building of the extension, as is the matchlined ceiling in the dining area. The pressed metal features on the kitchen cabinetry, as well as that of downstairs bathroom’s ceiling, have been recycled from other buildings. The stair banister is also a recent addition.

The upper level of Daniel House contains four rooms stemming from a small stairwell landing, all of which have had their ceilings re-lined. Parallel to the staircase is a bathroom. The original room would have been reduced in size and made into the current reverse L shape when the staircase was installed. Adjoining the upstairs bathroom, on the upper east corner of Daniel House, is the master bedroom, featuring access to the balcony through French doors, and a connecting door to the second bedroom. The space is dominated by the substantial unadorned brickwork of the house’s main chimney. On the north corner of the upper level is the second bedroom, in which the stretcher bond of the chimney brickwork is also exposed. However, unlike the master bedroom, this room does not have a fireplace. Lastly, there is a smaller bedroom on the west corner.

Construction Dates

Lean-to added to southwest side of house

Recladding areas of exterior, replacement of some sashes, re-roofing and re-piling

Front verandah reconstructed

Original Construction
1851 - 1859

Construction Details

Brick, corrugated iron, glass, timber

Completion Date

4th August 2011

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Andersen, 1998

A Anderson, The Welcome of Strangers: an ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1998.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Sorrell, 2006

P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006

Thomson, 1998

Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.