Militiaman Cottage (Former)

156 Nixon Street, Hamilton East, Hamilton

  • The Militiaman Cottage.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: L Williams. Date: 4/10/2010.
  • The Cottage in circa 1970s - 80s.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2700 Date Entered 15th December 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DPS 68819 (CT SA55A/979), South Auckland Land District and part of the building known as Militiaman Cottage (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures, excluding the 1993 and 1999 additions. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information.)

City/District Council

Hamilton City


Waikato Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DPS 68819 (CT SA55A/979), South Auckland Land District


Militiaman Cottage (Former) was built in the late 1860s to mid-1870s making it one of only two extant cottage survivors from this early period of European settlement in Hamilton. It was built on land that was part of 1.4 million hectares confiscated from Tainui after the 1863 and 1864 conflicts, and was one of the many one acre allotments surveyed and distributed to militiamen subsequent to the confiscation. Hence, the first owner of the property was a member of the Fourth Waikato Regiment, Felix Nickisson; the second owner, George Allen, was the son of a member of the Regiment. The architect and builder of the house are not known. The house was built in a symmetrical style as a simple two roomed, gabled cottage with a central hall, with a verandah across the front and a lean at the rear.

The house has been in continuous use, around 140 years, as a residence, occupied variously by owners or tenants. This early Hamilton house has survived as others of the period have not because it was built using Kauri, rather than the softer kahikatea usually used for buildings in Hamilton during that period. Although such small cottages were common in the area at the time it was built, it is now a rare example in Hamilton. Beale Cottage, which dates from 1872, is the only other cottage, known to survive.

From 1907 until 1971 Militiaman Cottage was owned by John Vickery Bryant and then his son Daniel Vickery Bryant, men who made significant contributions to the Waikato in farming developments, investment and charitable aid.

Militiaman Cottage (Former) has historical significance as a rare and tangible reminder of Hamilton’s settler history and is set in an urban landscape based on a grid system. This reflects the area’s initial subdivision into one acre allotments as grants for militiamen settlers of the Fourth Waikato Regiment. The twentieth century ownership of the cottage also gives it historical significance because of its association to the development of farming in the Waikato.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Militiaman Cottage (Former) has historical importance as one of only two surviving cottages of its period and as a tangible link to the militiamen settlers recruited in 1863 to 1864 to establish a government friendly community in the Waikato, an area identified as having rich potential for agricultural development. The house is set in an urban landscape based on a grid system suiting the flat land, but also its initial subdivision into one acre allotments as grants for the militiamen settlers of the Fourth Waikato Regiment.

Historical importance is added to by later owners, John Vickery Bryant and then his son Daniel Vickery Bryant, who owned the house for over 60 years and made significant contributions to farming development and charitable aid in the Waikato.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The Militiaman Cottage (Former) has architectural significance as a very rare survivor of the simpler nineteenth century dwelling, once common in Hamilton, as one of only two extant examples known.

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

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is a representative example of the once common house style in Hamilton in the early days of colonial settlement; this settlement having been established by the placement of militiamen selected for the purpose on lands confiscated from Tainui in 1863 to 1864.

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

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is associated with the settlement of the Waikato by the Government after its confiscation of land from Tainui, a major phase in the history of the Waikato that has had important consequences in interracial relationships.

The cottage was owned for over 60 years by John Vickery Bryant and his son Daniel Vickery Bryant, two men who made significant contributions to the Waikato in farming developments, investment and charitable aid.

(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is believed to have importance to Tangata Whenua as the land was part of 1.4 million hectares confiscated from Tainui in 1864.

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

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is a rare type of historic place in Hamilton with only one other similar dwelling known to have survived. Its simple style is indicative of the housing occupied by the working class of the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

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

Militiaman Cottage (Former) forms a distinctive part of the wider historical landscape within Hamilton East, recently recognised through a Plan Change to the Hamilton District Plan identifying a historic precinct in the suburb. Other buildings in the vicinity dating from the earlier decades of Hamilton’s development as a European settlement include: Beale Cottage, the Hamilton East Police Station and Lock up, Buffalo Hall, Greenslade House, the Masonic lodge in Grey Street and Steele Park with its historic commemorative trees and the rectangular layout of the streets.

Summary of Significance or Values

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


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


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori settlements were established on both sides of the Waikato River, along much of its length. Kirikiriroa Pa was situated on the west side (between today's London and Bryce Streets) and on the eastern bank there were major Pa sites at Te Nihinihi (near Cobham Bridge) and at Opoia (near eastern side of Claudelands Bridge). The river terraces were cultivated by Ngati Wairere, a sub tribe of Tainui, who utilised the river as both a food source and a means of transport.

The former Militiaman Cottage dates from the late 1860s to the mid-1870s, and is one of only two extant cottages from this period, the other being Beale Cottage. It dates from the settlement by Europeans after the 1864 confiscations of Tainui land in which 1.4 million hectares of land was confiscated after a series of conflicts involving Waikato Maori and European militia between 1863 and 1864. Hamilton East was surveyed in August/September 1864 into one acre allotments for militiamen settlers, who were recruited by the government with the intention of settling the Waikato with Europeans. Militiamen were promised one acre (0.4 hectares) of town land and 50 acres (20.2 hectares) or more of rural land. The house sits on part of the original Allotment 59 on the corner of Wellington and Nixon Streets, with the long side of the allotment facing Wellington Street. Allotment 59 was granted to Felix Nickisson, of Number 4 Company of the Fourth Regiment of Waikato Militia.

On leaving the militia on 6 January 1866, Felix Richard Nickisson was placed in possession of his lands. In 1868 he married Ada Ann Allen daughter of another member of the Fourth Waikato Regiment, George Ward Allen. By 1878 Nickisson had shifted to Churchill, near Rangiriri. He is recorded as being variously a labourer, farmer and flax bailer at Churchill, but in 1892 as a flax miller at Kirikiriroa (which was the northern part of Hamilton East), and also of the Horsham Downs area. In 1908 he is recorded as flax miller at Waihi which is where he died in November 1910.

Divided by the Waikato River, Hamilton East developed as a separate settlement to Hamilton West which was where most of the commercial development took place, however some businesses were established in Hamilton East’s Grey Street during the late 1860s to 1870s. The houses were spread out with each on a one acre section and many sections remaining unoccupied. In 1874 the population of Hamilton East was 300, living in 53 wood and iron dwellings and two sod huts; the majority of dwellings had less than five rooms. A large proportion of the original militiamen settlers left because of the lack of government support and employment opportunities. Many of the first houses were built with kahikatea supplied by the government and did not survive.

As Nickisson is not listed on the electoral rolls in 1871, 1875 and 1878, his place of abode has not been established, but it is probable he built the house at the time of his marriage in 1868 or for the birth of one of his children (1869, 1870, and 1874). The house was built on the north western corner of the property, facing Nixon Street. The simple style of a two roomed gabled cottage with central hall and a rear lean-to is consistent with a residence built for working class owners in the late 1860s to 1870s. The house is clad in kauri weatherboards with a corrugated iron roof. The original designer and builder have not been traced. It is very similar in style and materials to Temple Cottage, Kihikihi. The other known 1870s house in Hamilton East, Beale Cottage, is also modest, but is larger with four main rooms, having been built for the militia doctor, Charles Beale.

Nickisson’s Crown Grant was not entered until June 1880. According to the land records, in December 1885 Nickisson sold the western half of the property to his brother- in- law George Fowler Allen, boot maker of Hamilton East. George Fowler Allen was George Ward Allen’s son and a shoemaker who married Alice Winter in 1882; they had three children. George F. Allen died at his residence in Hamilton East on 1 March 1886 after ‘a long and painful illness’, aged 32. Six weeks later his widow moved into a larger cottage, later relocating to Thames and finally by 1890 was back in Hamilton living with her parents. Her straitened circumstances led her to place the children in an orphanage, asking the Waikato Hospital and Charitable Aid Board for financial assistance. A report by the Board stated she owned half an acre of land at Hamilton East with a two roomed home on it, ‘mortgaged for £50, about its full value’. It has not been established who occupied the house after Alice Allen vacated it. Alice Allen married again in 1893 and in 1904 as Alice Tiplady she and Nickisson sold the whole acre. In 1906 it was subdivided into four equal sections fronting onto Wellington Street and the western quarter, on which the house sat, was sold in 1907 to John Vickery Bryant.

John Vickery Bryant was a judicious farmer who expanded his farm and made other financial investments in Hamilton land including the purchase of the Militiaman Cottage which he did not live in. During his ownership in the early twentieth century changes were made to the house: an additional lean-to was added across two thirds of the rear of the original lean-to. A new rear door was protected by a small porch which faced a large outbuilding close to the main building; this had a chimney and probably contained the laundry, coal and wood sheds, and toilet.

In 1920 Bryant sold off the Wellington Street corner half of the section and retained the northern half, making the section associated with the house its current size. From at least 1930 the Cottage was occupied by working class tenants, including labourers Hector Twidle (1930) and Stan Walter (1932), driver John Campbell (at least 1939-1946) and plasterer J. Duncan (1953). This block of Nixon Street, as with many other streets in Hamilton East, was subdivided again and again and new houses built; this is reflected in the variable architecture and house styles in the streetscape.

Bryant’s son Daniel (Dan) Vickery Bryant (1882-1962) inherited the property in 1944. Dan Bryant, a farmer, labourer, land owner and creamery manager, was also known for his hard work and investments. More particularly, he is known for his philanthropic trusts and the humanitarian aid given to causes in the Waikato, especially the establishment of the Bryant House Trust which established the Bryant Convalescent Home for children at Raglan in 1924 and the Bryant Women’s Rest Home, also in Raglan. Dan Bryant’s wife Mary Bryant was similarly dedicated to philanthropic causes. Dan Bryant’s name has been given to a street, a park, a retirement village, a university student accommodation hall and a subdivision in the Te Rapa suburb of Hamilton, where he once had a farm.

The cottage was owned by the Salvation Army Property Trust Board from 1971, however no records pertaining to their ownership and use of the building have been found. Tom Smith, local architect and Hamilton Salvation Army property officer in the early 1970s, recalls visiting the house soon after the Army acquired it, finding the house in poor condition, with an outhouse still in use. Smith recollects the facilities were improved for the tenants at this time which included installing a toilet in the bathroom.

In 1972, Ken Gorbey, then Waikato Art Museum Director, included the house in a list of historical buildings in Hamilton and erroneously called it Hawkins House, the first known use of the name and thereby associating it with the Hawkins family. Thomas Henry Hawkins and his wife Olive Rennie lived next door in number 154 (formerly numbered 72), from the 1920s. From 1972 the name Hawkins House has been incorrectly perpetuated in publications and in New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) records. Gorbey suggested the date of construction as circa 1876, but did not substantiate this; this date has also been cited repeatedly.

In 1991 owner Philip Hempstead was issued a permit to reroof and repile using tanalised piles with concrete footings. In 1993 the owners Jane Gilbert and Johanne McComish applied unsuccessfully for funding assistance from NZHPT for improvements. At that stage the windows, chimneys, floors and front verandah floor needed substantial maintenance. Several alterations were made to the rear of the building in 1993 and 1999. Ownership of the property has changed four times since 1993 and it is again leased as a residential property.

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is listed by Hamilton City Council on its Heritage Items Schedule with an A ranking after being identified by Dinah Holman as highly significant. The house is noted in a historical guide to the Waikato as being one of Hamilton’s notable older buildings. It is included as one of 36 of the city's most significant heritage properties featured in a recent publication; however, the text relating to the house erroneously describes the Hawkins family history. It is also noted in a thesis on Hamilton East housing, as being a ‘modest’ and ‘single relict element’ of the earlier period of European settlement.

Physical Description

Militiaman Cottage (Former) is in a residential area of Hamilton where the flat landscape has allowed a layout of parallel straight roads intersecting at right angles. Nixon Street runs approximately north to south and the house is near the corner of Nixon Street and Wellington Street, on the east side of the street. The surrounding houses are of different periods showing the gradual subdivision and infilling with new houses. The house to the south of the Cottage is a modified hip roof cottage probably dating to the late nineteenth century, and further along Nixon Street are three other similar hip roofed cottages.

The cottage sits behind a white picket fence in a typical suburban garden of shrubs and garden beds. The house faces west to the street, such that the gables on the side elevations face south and north.

The former Militiaman Cottage forms a distinctive part of the wider historical landscape within Hamilton East, recently recognised through a Plan Change to the Hamilton District Plan identifying a historic precinct in the suburb. Other buildings in the vicinity dating from the earlier decades of Hamilton’s development as a European settlement include: Beale Cottage (Record no. 769, Category I historic place), the Hamilton East Police Station and Lock up (Record no. 4196, Category II historic place), Buffalo Hall (Record no. 4456, Category II historic place), Greenslade House (Record no. 4163, Category I historic place), the Masonic lodge in Grey Street and Steele Park with its historic commemorative trees and the rectangular layout of the streets.

The cottage is a simple two roomed cottage with a steep gabled roof and a two roomed lean-to at the rear that has been partly opened into a new lean-to with a butterfly roof. On the south side of the new lean-to is an addition that extends away to the rear (east) of the property so that the whole structure has a zigzag footprint, of which the original cottage is the dominant part. From the street only the narrow west elevation of the addition is seen, behind a car port.

The front elevation, which is seven metres wide, has a central door with a double hung sash window on each side. The windows are two lights per sash.

The door is panelled with moulded beading around the two glazed (upper) and two wooden (lower) panels. The architraves around the door are plain boards with one beaded edge; however those around the windows are moulded. Metal letters ‘74’ are above the door. The house is timber framed with weatherboard cladding of boards 182 to 190 millimetres wide. On both the north and south elevations, the weatherboards are not continuous from the gabled walls to the lean-to walls, their ends being covered by a vertical plank. The weatherboards on the 1993 and 1999 additions have been matched in size and style with the originals.

There are two chimneys on the north elevation, made of plastered brick. The rear chimney, which served the kitchen fireplace or oven, is 1.4 metres wide at the base then narrows at a height of 1.88 metres. It is wider at the base than the front chimney which served the original parlour or main bedroom. The rear chimney has been truncated. The front chimney has four courses of unpainted bricks. The roof is corrugated iron.

The front of the original house has a verandah across the full width, its roof supported on timber posts, one at each corner and two in the middle framing the steps leading up from the front path. The posts are square in section with bevelled edges and are capped with a plain moulding. The verandah has a solid timber balustrade. Below the verandah is a skirt (footing) of vertical boards. The wooden decorative elements around the edge of the verandah roof, convex ended planks forming a scalloped appearance, are probably not original. The house is otherwise undecorated. The verandah roof slopes at a much shallower pitch than the main roof.

At the front of the house two rooms of equal size open either side of a central hall. The rooms are each lit by a double hung sash window, two over two lights. The northern room has a fireplace with a cast iron hearth and a wooden (probably kauri) fire surround and mantel; this has either been reinstalled or is not original. The ceilings are large rectangular panels separated by plain beading, possibly 1920s or 1930s; there are no cornices apart from the beading which is against the ceiling. The skirtings and architraves in the rooms and hall are plain wide planks. The window architraves are moulded, with a bull nosed sill. The hall is 3.6 metres long and 1.07 metres wide. It opens at the east end into the kitchen within the original lean-to. A raised wooden sill 14 centimetres wide is in each of the three doorways; the doors are panelled wood.

Alterations took place in 1993, the design, by Treadwell Associates, Grey Street, Onehunga, was modified to have less impact on the original structure, but nonetheless the second lean-to was removed along with most of the original rear wall, the structure being supported by a beam. A butterfly roof addition was built across the rear of the house and a stand-alone studio built to the southeast. The bathroom remained intact, with its original rear wall, but the kitchen became one space with the new addition. In 1999 the studio was connected to the house by the addition of a bedroom and bathroom to the south end of the 1993 addition, but not impacting on the original structure.

In the north end of the lean-to is the kitchen. A 0.925 metre wide open brick lined fireplace is at the north end; the sides of the fireplace have two iron suspension hooks, a heavy bolt and a hole where a fourth has been. A bench height modern oven has been inserted in the space. The ceiling slopes down to the east (rear), and consists of tongue and groove match lining. A skylight has been inserted into the ceiling. The kitchen is partly separated from the new lean-to by an island bench unit, with a wide beam in the roof replacing the original wall. The new lean-to is almost entirely glazed on its east wall, with an additional window on the north wall. The roof slopes up towards the rear (i.e. butterfly roof) and has exposed wooden beams. At the south end of the new lean-to a pair of French doors opens into the newer addition of bathroom and bedroom, with the 1993 studio to the east of these.

In the south end of the original lean-to is the bathroom, with apparently original cladding on its east side, which would have been the rear wall of the original cottage. The bathroom has one double hung sash window, two over two lights, in its south wall; the window is shorter than the front windows but the same width and has similar mouldings to the front windows. The ceiling is similar to the kitchen, also with a skylight. The skirtings are also plain. The floor boards are exposed and are 135 millimetre wide tongue and groove running north to south. There are no cupboards. The door is kauri tongue and groove with bead, with a similar door sill to those in the hallway.

The floors are mostly carpeted or tiled, but examination under the house showed the floor boards run north to south i.e. across the width of the house.

Construction Dates

additional lean-to added to the lean-to

1993 -
Lean-to removed and addition with butterfly roof at rear; half of original rear wall removed

1999 -
addition on the south side of the new lean-to

Original Construction
1868 - 1875

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron, brick chimneys

Completion Date

14th September 2011

Report Written By

Lynette Williams; Gail Henry; Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory, Auckland

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

Norris, 1963

H.C.M Norris, Armed Settlers 1864 -1874, Hamilton,1963

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern 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.