Rai Valley Cottage

Opouri Road, Carluke, Rai Valley

  • Rai Valley Cottage. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/10/2014.
  • Rai Valley Cotage. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/10/2014.
  • Rai Valley Cottage. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/10/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 329 Date Entered 28th June 1990

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 4745 (CT MB3B/673), Marlborough Land District and the building known as Rai Valley Pioneer Cottage thereon, and its fittings and fixtures (Refer to Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 for further information).

City/District Council

Marlborough District

Region

Marlborough Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4745 (CT MB3B/673), Marlborough Land District

Location description

The cottage is situated in a paddock adjacent to number 41 Opouri Road, Carluke.

Summaryopen/close

The Rai Valley Cottage, situated in Carluke, Marlborough, was built in 1881 by the first people to settle in the isolated, bush-clad Rai Valley. Charles and Matilda Turner and their family lived in the cottage for over ten years before other people settled in the area, and today the Totara-slab cottage stands as a memorial to these pioneer founders of the community and a reminder of the lifestyle of colonists who opened up the bush-clad areas of New Zealand.

Charles Turner, born in 1839, immigrated to New Zealand from London with his family in 1861. After initially settling with the family on a farm in Maraetai (near Auckland), Charles moved south to the Pelorus Valley in Marlborough in 1867, and carved out a living as a bushman. Matilda, whom he had met in Maraetai, eventually joined him and the couple were married in 1870. When the Rai Valley was subdivided and offered for sale in 1881, Charles purchased Section 74 for £151 10s, and with his brother Arthur, set to work clearing the bush and constructing the simple gabled cottage with lean-to out of hand-split Totara slabs and pit sawn timber framing. The roof was shingled (presumably also with Totara), and a corrugated-iron chimney was constructed from river stones and exterior timber framing. By early May the house had been completed and Matilda and the children came up from the Pelorus Valley.

Life was initially difficult. The Rai Valley was a comparatively isolated district, and the Turner family were the sole occupants of this area for over ten years. Charles had to continue working as a bushman which necessitated a weekly trek to Pelorus Valley. During the week Matilda and the children cleared undergrowth to prepare for Charles' bush felling in the weekends. However, the family managed to establish a successful cattle farm on their land, and were also extraordinarily hospitable: daughter Jane Turner's diary records that in 1894 alone they hosted over 500 visitors. During this period, Jane's diary also mentions various alterations and additions to the original gabled cottage with lean-to: a cookhouse and bread oven to the northwest of the cottage, and an extra slab room that Charles had built as a quiet room in which to play his violin. A dairy and milking shed were also on the property by the mid 1890s.

By 1902 rapid social and environmental change had come to the Rai Valley in the form of improved access and development. The locality was named Carluke and a township with a school developed to accommodate the 100 or so employees of Brownlee's local sawmill. In 1909 Charles and Matilda's son Tim persuaded his parents to sell the Rai Valley Cottage and farm to Thomas and Catherine Blanchett and move away. Charles Turner died in Nelson in 1912, and Matilda died in 1928. By the time Catherine Blanchett sold the property to Malvina Simpson in January 1928, the original slab cottage had various additions and although still sound the Simpsons built a more modern weatherboard bungalow next door in 1930.They also introduced sheep to the property and the old cottage became a shearing shed and children's playhouse. Simpson sold to Woodrow Wilson in September 1937, who in turn converted the old cottage to a fowl house.

In 1965 Woodrow Wilson set aside the cottage on a small piece of land as a private historic reserve, and the building was restored by a group of Turner family descendants and other local enthusiasts in order to commemorate the early Rai Valley pioneering families. This project aimed to restore the building to its original configuration, which involved some reconstruction. From 1966-1969 the Rai Valley Pioneer Home Committee removed and replaced much of the original cladding with slabs from an old Totara slab barn and the roof (which at some point had been clad with corrugated iron) was repaired with new shingles. The fireplace was rebuilt and viewing bays installed, and original Turner furniture and ornaments along with many other period pieces from local people were returned to the cottage, and its interior was set up as a period museum. The restored cottage was opened with considerable ceremony and celebration in 1969. Over 300 people attended the opening ceremony, many of whom were descendants of the original settler families.

In December 1979 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was granted control and management of the reserve which in turn was transferred in to public ownership as a Historic Reserve on 30 April 1980. The cottage has since remained open to the public, with a steady stream of international and New Zealand visitors each year. Although much of the original fabric has been replaced (repair work has been regularly carried out, including reshingling the roof, rebuilding the chimney and repairing wall-cladding) these have retained the authentic characteristics of the original building. It is the oldest surviving building in the Rai Valley area and its historic value is made more significant by the fact it was also the home of the area's first European settlers. It has very high social and commemorative value as a designated memorial to the pioneer founders of the community and as an illustration of their lifestyle. As one of the most publicly-accessible examples of a slab cottage the building possesses outstanding potential for public education, and this significance is enhanced by the wealth of contextual information available in the form of published historical research and the existence of the diary of original occupant Jane Turner.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

The Rai Valley Cottage is the earliest surviving European structure in the Rai Valley and its historical significance is enhanced by the fact it was also the home of the first settlement family, who founded the Rai Valley community. The Turners endured the typical hardships of pioneer life and lived in the house for ten years in comparative isolation, and their descendants are still prominent in the area. Although the construction date of the cottage is comparatively later than other slab houses typical of this design, the design of the Rai Valley Cottage results from the relative inaccessibility and isolation of its location. This cottage is therefore still significant for its illustration of pioneer life and settlement in bush-clad areas of New Zealand, and is one of the few available for the public to visit (other registered examples are on private land).

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

The gabled rectangular form of the Rai Valley Pioneer Cottage is an example of a once common kind of cottage constructed by settlers in forested areas throughout New Zealand. It illustrates the practice of adapting the dwelling to suit the materials and limited technology available. The pit sawn framing, fireplace of river boulders, and split Totara-slab technique are all good examples of features adopted by pioneer settlers. Although much of the original fabric has been replaced the hand-made aesthetic and integrity of the original cottage has been retained. The restoration has been faithful to the original characteristics of the building and is largely responsible for the continued existence and preservation of the structure. The low ceiling height and narrow room-width strongly communicates the confined living conditions of early settlers.

SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

The Rai Valley Cottage has considerable social significance to the local community. As a designated memorial to the pioneer settlers of the district, the cottage relates directly through family ties to many members of the local community. Its high social value is evident in the initiation of the restoration project and substantial efforts by the Rai Valley Pioneer Home Valley Committee, many of whom donated months of their time as well as treasured heirlooms for the interior furnishings, with the specific aim of sharing this aspect of their heritage. The strong esteem that the cottage is held in was demonstrated by the high attendance numbers at the opening ceremony (over 300 people), as well as by the continued interest of visitors from all over the world (approximately 600 people visit per year).

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

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

The Rai Valley Cottage is a representative example of a method of construction commonly used by early settlers in New Zealand. Its Totara-slab construction technique illustrates early settlers' typical adaptation to local conditions, using the abundance of available materials (timber) and a technique suitable to the relative isolation and inaccessibility of much of New Zealand's landscape.

(e) The community association with or public esteem for the place:

The cottage is held in very high regard by the local community, demonstrated by its donation as a historic reserve by Woodrow Wilson, the considerable effort the Rai Valley Pioneer Home Committee undertook to restore the building in the 1960s, and the high attendance numbers at the opening ceremony. The continued public esteem of the place is demonstrated by the steady number of visitors to the cottage, who travel from all over the world to visit this relatively out-of-the-way location. The community association with the building is also evidential in the activities of NZHPT Marlborough Branch Committee members, who voluntarily carry out some maintenance on the building and provide the funding for an honorary caretaker for the cottage.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

The Rai Valley Cottage is the only registered example of its kind that is owned by the NZHPT and is open to the public (other slab cottages are on private land). The viewing bays provide ready access enabling visitors to view the interior of the cottage as well as the exterior, and there is a wealth of supporting contextual information available in the form of the diary of former occupant Jane Turner and additional published research. Therefore the place has strong potential for public education.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

The cottage has significant symbolic or commemorative value as it was restored by members of the local community with the specific intention to act as a memorial, not only to the original inhabitants but also the other early pioneer families who founded the close-knit Rai Valley community. Many of the community members are descendants of these early families, and donated family heirlooms to furnish the interior of the cottage.

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

The Rai Valley Cottage is the oldest surviving building in the Rai Valley area, and is also the first building that was built in the area. It has significant value as an extant reminder of the settlers who founded the Rai Valley community and the lifestyle of early New Zealand colonists.

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

The Rai Valley Cottage is one of a handful of comparative slab cottages left in New Zealand, and is a rare surviving example of a once-common dwelling-type of the pioneer settlers. Although much of the original fabric has been replaced the restoration and reconstruction are faithful to the original technique and materials, and are responsible for the continued existence of the structure. It contains sufficient characteristic features to demonstrate it is an authentic representative of the pioneer settler period. The cottage is the earliest surviving building in the Rai Valley area.

SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUES:

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, f, h, i, j.

CONCLUSION:

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

The Rai Valley Cottage has significant value as a memorial to the lifestyle of colonists who opened up the bush-clad areas of New Zealand, and of the founders of the Rai Valley community. It is the oldest surviving building in the Rai Valley area, and was also the first to be built there. Architecturally, it is a representative example of a method of construction commonly used by early settlers in New Zealand. Its Totara-slab construction technique illustrates colonists' typical adaptation to local conditions, using the abundance of available materials and a technique suitable to the relative isolation and inaccessibility of much of New Zealand's landscape. Although most of the original fabric has been replaced the reconstruction and repairs have remained faithful to the original characteristics of the building and are responsible for the survival of the structure, and are of a comparative extent to that of other registered slab cottages. As one of the most publicly-accessible examples of a slab-cottage the building possesses outstanding potential for public education, and this significance is enhanced by the wealth of contextual information available in the form of published historical research and the existence of the diary of original occupant Jane Turner, and other family letters further illustrating the lifestyle of those who lived in the cottage. The Rai Valley Cottage has very high symbolic and commemorative value as a designated memorial to the founding families of the Rai Valley community. The very high public esteem the place is held in is demonstrated by the extensive efforts of the Rai Valley Pioneer Committee in their restoration of the building with the specific aim of sharing this aspect of their heritage, and the continued steady stream of visitors from all over the world.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turner, Charles

Builder of Rai Valley Cottage, Carluke, Marlborough

Turner, Arthur

Builder of Rai Valley Cottage, Carluke, Marlborough.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Rai Valley Pioneer Cottage is of a simple, rectangular form with a single gable roof and a skillion lean-to section on the south side. The house is situated on a very small flat site, back from the road, and is approached from the rear via a path. The house sits close to the ground.

The moderately pitched roof rises to a ridge about four metres above the ground and is clad with timber shingles with very short eaves. A timber capping runs along the length of the ridge. At the eastern end of the gable is a corrugated-iron clad timber-framed chimney. Zinc-coated spouting and PVC downpipes have been fitted. The exterior walls are clad in split Totara slabs of varying width and thickness. These are fixed vertically, many with hand-forged iron nails.

The floor area is approximately 48m2, divided into three rooms which are adequately lit by small, top-hung, irregularly placed windows. One central vertical board-and-batten door on the north side of the cottage leads directly into one of the rooms, a living room. A timber surround and mantel are at the east end. The fireplace is made of river boulders with clay pointing. At the west end of the room, doors lead to the lean-to room and the third room, a bedroom.

The gable interior is lined beneath rafters and beneath collar ties with sawn boards, plaster and wallpaper. The lean-to is lined with boards only. The flooring is of timber. Notwithstanding its crude appearance, the cottage is well-designed and constructed to keep out the weather.

In 1966, major restoration of the building by local residents began, following several decades of neglect. Much of the cottage was dismantled and rebuilt, reusing the original materials where possible. Some timber piles were replaced with brick and the bearers and joists were renewed. Wall slabs were replaced with slabs from a nearby old Totara slab barn (built 1900). Corrugated iron roofing was removed and Totara shingles were reinstated. Viewing bays were constructed inside the two main doors.

Notable Features

Pit sawn timber frame and split Totara slab sheathing.

Construction Dates

Other
1881 -
February, Charles buys section 74 at the Rai Valley of 50 acres.

Modification
1966 - 1969
Lean-to on south wall rebuilt, wall slabs replaced, corrugated iron removed from roof and replaced with totara shingles, fireplace rebuilt, linoleum laid, viewing-bays and wallpaper installed

Other
1981 -
Chimney rebuilt after collapsing

Modification
1986 -
Roof reshingled for second time

Other
1993 - 1994
Roof shingles repaired, ridge capping board replaced

Other
1996 -
Chimney repaired using existing corrugated iron and new treated timber

Other
1999 -
Repair of chimney by Bernie Hadfield

Other
2004 -
Boards and battens on doors and cladding repaired using store of old totara slabs, gutter re-hung, galvanised flashings installed around all windows, some new window facings installed using store of old totara slabs.

Original Construction
1881 -
May 5th, cottage complete and Turner family move in.

Modification
1902 -
Cottage reshingled

Addition
-
Additions, including gabled lean-to on south wall

Modification
-
Roof shingles replaced with corrugated iron

Modification
-
Lean-to on south wall demolished

Modification
1966 - 1969
1966-1969 Restoration of cottage (which had been used as a shearing shed, playhouse and fowl house), and conversion to a period museum.

Completion Date

5th June 2008

Report Written By

Blyss Wagstaff and Steve Bagley

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

Rai Valley Pioneer Home Committee: newspaper articles about the restoration of settler's cottage at Carluke: Marlborough Express and Nelson Evening Mail, 1967-1979

Leov, 1970

L C F Leov, As the Years Went By Between Greville and the Rai. Blenheim: Express Printing Works, 1970

Neal, nd

Pearl Neal. From London to Lonely Rai, Nelson: RW Stiles and Co Ltd, undated.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

12013-263 Rai Valley Cottage, vols 1-3; 13002-149 Rai Valley Cottage Interpretation, Marketing & Promotion; 13002-150 Rai Valley Cottage - Repairs & Maintenance.

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

Volume XXVI, Issue 1920, 21 June 1978, p.2, 'Blenheim'

Philipson, 1995

G A Philipson, The Northern South Island, Wellington: Waitangi Tribunal, 1995

Salmond, 1986

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

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Ian Bowman and NZHPT. Rai Valley Cottage Conservation Plan (Draft), Wellington: NZHPT, 2003

Other Information

A fully referenced registration 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.