Howell's Cottage

22 Napier Street, Riverton / Aparima

  • Howell's Cottage, Riverton / Aparima.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 7/03/2018.
  • Howell's Cottage, Riverton / Aparima.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 7/03/2018.
  • Howell's Cottage, Riverton / Aparima.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2540 Date Entered 20th February 1992


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 3 DP 4512 (CT SLB1/711), shown as A on DP 12788, Southland Land District and the building known as Howell's Cottage thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 4512 (CT SLB1/711), Southland Land District


Howell's Cottage or Te Whare Kohikohi began life as a small four-roomed cottage built in timber. It was erected (for/by) Captain John Howell [1810?-1874], who ran away to sea at around 12 years of age and worked as a whaler in Australia until he was 18. He then moved to Kapiti Island around [1827-1828] and then worked for whaler Johnny Jones at Waikouaiti. Jones sent Howell to establish another whaling station in Fouveaux Strait around 1834.

The first shore whaling station in Southland was established in Fiordland in 1829. Others followed around the coast during the 1830s. Howell decided the most suitable site was by the Aparima River (Jacobs River) at what became Riverton. The date Howell established a station here varies - oral traditions say it was 1834 but other sources suggest it was in 1836-1837.

Like many whalers Howell developed friendly relationships with local Maori, in this case Ngati Mamoe and settled nearby an existing settlement. It is said, however, that his initial refusal to take a Maori wife, was received as a insult by the local people and after some 'difficulty?' Howell married Kohikohi, daughter of Horomona Patu, from Centre Island. She brought as a dowry a large area of land between Waimatuku Stream and Jacobs River. They built this cottage in the middle of what was the local kaik. The cottage is now the sole remaining structure that marks the site of the kaik.

It is said that the timber for the cottage was Australian hardwood. Simple four-roomed cottage, two bedrooms, a parlour and a kitchen Hipped roof over the front two rooms and a lean-to roof covering the other two. originally covered in shingles and a verandah running across the front with concave rafters which give the verandah roof a flared appearance. The couple had two children, George (1838) and Sarah Ann (1840).

As manager and later owner of the whaling station (he bought out Jones in ???) Howell was an important figure in the growing Pakeha settlement. Noted for his parties at which he fiddled he also ensured the Sabbath was observed and created a settlement which early visitors described as orderly, and 'pretty'. He gave the largest contribution to a fund established to petition the government for Southland to be declared a separate province from Otago, which occurred in 1861 and was elected onto the newly established Southland Provincial Council in 1862.

Kohikohi had died in 1842?1841 and was buried on Centre Island. In 1843 Howell brought his step-brother, William Stevens, and his half-sisters over from Australia. Stevens managed the farm developing on Howell's land holdings from Kohikohi. Howell remarried in 1845, to a part- Maori woman, Caroline Brown (?-1899), also known as Koronaki, from Codfish Island, and they had 17 children. He built a new house for Caroline in what became Riverton's main street.

The downturn in whaling, which affected all whaling operations in New Zealand, led to the closure of the station in 1850.or 1858??? Howell began to develop a port in the area and established himself with a 130 ton ship, the 'Amazon', which traded between New Zealand, Tahiti and California. Howell and his crew apparently spent time successfully at the California gold-diggings in 1850. He is noted for importing the first sheep to Southland, in 1853 and, less productively, rabbits. He became one of the major pastoralists in Southland and in the Wakatipu, where he eventually owned 1,000 acres and leased 100,000. Around 1853 he had built a house, Eastbourne, on his land and moved there from Riverton.

Tired of struggling with the Southland Provincial Council Howell resigned and moved with his family to Garston in 1869.His homestead on Fairlight Station at Garston, near Kingston in the Wakatipu is also registered with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

The cottage at Riverton remained in Howell's ownership until his death in Sydney in 1874, although he did not live there. It then passed to his eldest son George and from George to his son? (or Howell's from second marriage?) Edmund in 1938 (6?). From 1952 the house passed out of Howell family ownership until 19?? when Eva Wilson (great grand-daughter of John Howell) purchased the property in 1972. house museum The cottage then passed to her son in 1991. Corrugated iron now covers the shingles and a further lean-to has been added to the south side off the kitchen which houses the toilet and bathroom and a wall which once divided the pantry from the second bedroom has been removed. Most of the windows have been replaced and a concrete slab has replaced the original wooden floor of the verandah.

Howell's Cottage is particularly significant as one of the few New Zealand buildings still extant that pre-date 1840. A simple cottage, typical of many built during New Zealand's colonial period, it reminds us of the early beginnings of Southland.

"A neighbouring Maori settlement, known as the Kaike, was originally the home of about 300 natives; and though this number has been considerably reduced, there are still in the district some well-to-do natives, who engage in fishing, seal-hunting, and mutton-birding in their seasons." (1905 Cyc of NZ)

"Howell, John, d. 25 May 1874 Sydney, NSW, Australia, age: 64yr, Sacred to the Memory of Capt. John Howell who landed at Jacob's River in the year 1837 Died at Sydney. May 25th 1874 Aged 64yr, [PA:]

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Howell's Cottage was built for Captain John Howell, the "founder" of Riverton (1835) and a member of the Southland Provincial Council (1862-69). The cottage has remained in the ownership of Howell and his descendants other than for a period of 20 years (1952-72) since its construction.


With its hipped roof and verandah, Howell's Cottage is representative of a style of cottage built early in New Zealand's European history. Dating from 1837-38, it retains much of its original character. It is thought to have been the first house erected at Riverton, and one of New Zealand's few buildings dating from before 1840.


The cottage makes a singular contribution to the Napier Street streetscape.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


Howell's Cottage was built for Captain John Howell [1810?-74] about 1837-38. Howell was born at Eastbourne, Sussex, and at an early age ran away to sea. He went first to France and then smuggled on board a ship to Australia. He remained there, working as a whaler until he came to New Zealand at the age of eighteen.

In Sydney he had known John Jones, the Waikouaiti pioneer, and in 1834 Jones sent him south to find a suitable whaling site near Foveaux Strait. Howell chose Jacobs River and the following year returned with a gang of 60 Europeans. This settlement became known as Riverton, and was proclaimed a township in 1858.

Howell married Kohikohi, the daughter of Patu, the Ngatimamoe chief of Centre Island. He received a large "dowry" in the form of land which extended from Waimatuku to Jacobs River. He built the house now known as Howell's Cottage for Kohikohi in the middle of what was then the local Maori kaik (village). Kohikohi died in 1841 and Howell remarried in 1845. His second wife was Caroline, daughter of Captain Robert Brown and Wharerimu, for whom he built another house. Howell's Cottage remained in his ownership until his death in 1874 although he was not living there.

Howell was known as a "sea captain, headman of the Jacobs River shore whaling station, shipman, gold digger, cattleman and runholder", and had substantial land holdings in the province including Fairlight Station. In addition he was a member of the Southland Provincial Council for Riverton (1862-69).

On Howell's death the cottage passed to his eldest son from his first marriage, George (1838-1938), and following the death of the latter it passed to Howell's son by his second marriage, Edmund. It passed out of the family in 1952. In 1972 it was purchased by Eva Wilson. Mrs Wilson is the great grand-daughter of Captain John Howell and the grand-daughter of George Howell.

Physical Description


This single storey, Colonial Georgian cottage has a hipped roof and the street facade is symmetrical about the entrance. This facade has a verandah supported on four square posts with simply moulded brackets. The verandah roof has concave rafters, resulting in a flared appearance, fixed below the eaves of the main hipped roof. On either side of the central panelled door is a single double-hung sash window, each sash with one light.

Beneath the corrugated iron cladding of the hipped roof portion is the original shingled roof. This section contains the front bedroom and parlour. A lean-to at the rear houses a second bedroom and kitchen and a further lean-to off the kitchen houses the bathroom. The windows towards the rear of the house are original.


Dates not known:

Bathroom lean-to added off the kitchen.

Wall between pantry and second bedroom removed.

Windows on front elevation replaced.

Corrugated iron laid over original shingled roof.

Wooden verandah floor replaced with concrete slab.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1837 - 1838

Rear lean-to added for bathroom/toilet

1984 - 1989
Verandah reconstructed

Construction Details

Timber, probably Australian hardwood, clad with shiplap weatherboards. Roof clad with corrugated iron.

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Eva Wilson, 'Howell, John 1810?-1874', Volume One (1769-1869), Wellington, 1990

Scholefield, 1940

G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

pp.241-243; 253-255

Wilson, 1976 (2)

E Wilson, The Story of Captain Howell and His Family, Times Printing Service, Invercargill, 1976

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.