Claverton at 30 Royal Terrace was most likely built in 1877 by local politician and businessman Richard H. Leary (1840-1895), but is most significant for its association with the Hodgkins’ family, New Zealand art pioneers.
In February 1877 Section 31 was purchased by Richard Henry Leary, an accountant. Leary entered local politics in 1875 as a City Councillor, and in July 1877 was elected Mayor. Resigning three months later over the Council’s accountancy practices, he was re-elected in November. During this political fracas Leary was also building a new house in Royal Terrace.
In August 1877 the City Council granted Leary permission to lay drain pipes out to Royal Terrace. Laying drains would coincide with the erection of a new home’s foundations. Presumably the house was completed by November when Leary gives his address as Royal Terrace.
Claverton was probably architecturally designed and a survey of advertised tenders indicates one propsect. In June 1877 Maxwell Bury (1825-1912), architect, advertised for tenders for the erection of a house in Royal Terrace of wood. If the house was indeed designed by Bury, it was his first architectural appointment in Dunedin. The design was a two storeyed single bay villa. It was a simple design with Classical proportions. The principal decorations were timber quoins. The front porch was set back behind the bay and had lozenge-form fretwork.
In March 1878, Leary sold Claverton to William Mathew Hodgkins (1833-1898). Hodgkins’ daughter, Frances (1869–1947), became an ‘outstanding artist of her generation’.
By profession a lawyer; by instinct, Hodgkins was an artist. His involvement in ‘Dunedin artistic circles was well established by the time the Hodgkins family moved to Claverton House’. Claverton household, where Frances spent her formative years, was dedicated to an almost professional attitude towards painting and exhibiting as a normal part of family life - ‘the arts, particularly painting, were given a high place at Claverton House’. It was the meeting place for early Otago Art Society meetings and Hodgkins’ Art Club, which included the leading lights of Dunedin’s artistic community.
Hodgkins was bankrupted in 1888 and Claverton was sold in 1889.It underwent later modifications including a second bay, replicating the original, and an enclosed sun room over the entrance porch. The sun porch enclosure was removed some time in the 1990s, returning to the original veranda.
Claverton sits with modest elegance in a street of some of Dunedin’s most impressive houses, yet it is historically and socially significant for its association with prominent local politician and businessman Richard H. Leary and as the home of one of New Zealand’s most prominent artistic families; the Hodgkins.
Maxwell Bury (1825-1912) was born at East Retford, Nottinghamshire and was the son of an Anglican minister. He had training in architecture, civil and steam engineering and ship design, and it appears that some of his training was undertaken at Butterley Ironworks. He subsequently went to sea as an engineer officer. In 1853 he married Eleanor Sarah Deighton (known as Ellen) and the following year they travelled to Australia. They found, when they arrived, that Melbourne was suffering from a post-goldrush depression, and consequently the Burys moved to New Zealand. They arrived in Lyttelton in 1854 from Melbourne and settled in Nelson soon after. Bury established himself as an engineer, and became the chairman of the first Nelson Board of Works. He also became involved in various mining ventures and was churchwarden. By 1858 Bury decided to change professions, and took up architecture again. He was responsible for the first Masonic Hall in Nelson, the 1858 enlargement of Frederick Thatcher's Christ Church, and the Nelson Institute. His design for the Nelson Provincial Buildings did not win the 1858 competition but was successful none the less, as his was the only design that could be built for the specified price. None of these timber buildings now survive.
The area's wealth, which enabled Bury to gain these commissions, was based on mining. When this boom slackened, the Burys moved, arriving in Christchurch in 1863. Their involvement in the church led to further commissions for Bury, including an orphanage in Addington, the Riccarton Parsonage and the Church of St John the Baptist in Latimer Square.
He entered into partnership with Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898) in 1864. The partnership only lasted two years, but in that time Mountfort and Bury were responsible for a number of churches: St James-on-the-Cust, St Mark's at Opawa, St Joseph's at Lyttelton and St Patrick's at Akaroa and a few houses including Risingholme and Chippenham Lodge.
Bury and his family then left for London in 1866. Although it seems he intended to return to New Zealand, various problems delayed this. His marriage appears to have broken up and family tradition has it that Bury went back to sea. Around 1870 Bury did make it back to New Zealand, settling by himself in Nelson. He designed the Chapel of the Holy Evangelists for Bishopdale in Nelson (1875-1876) By 1876 Bury was based in Dunedin and won the competition for the design of Otago University, Dunedin, in 1877. Unfortunately costs on this building overran to such an extent that a Commission of Enquiry into the matter was held in 1879. Thereafter Bury found his commissions dropping off. He did undertake further work for the University from 1883-1885. Some time after 1885 he returned to Nelson, and then to Sydney, where he set up office as a civil engineer in 1890. He retired in Sydney six years later, and in 1908 finally returned to England where he died in 1912.
(Anne Marchant, 'Maxwell Bury of 'Bury and Mountfort', in Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, 19, 1998, pp.3-15)
Richard Henry Leary
Section 31 Block XIX, on which Claverton stands, was originally part of a larger block purchased by John Logan (1819-1895) in 1855. In February 1877 Section 31 was purchased by Richard Henry Leary (1840-1895). Born in Southall, Middlesex, Leary immigrated to the Victorian gold fields in 1854 and to Otago in 1861. He worked first as a manager for R. Wilson & Co., and then as accountant for Driver, MacLean & Co. When the firm failed Leary opened his own accountancy and estate agent firm. For many years he also served as provisional trustee in bankruptcy cases. Leary entered local politics in 1875 as a City Councillor, and in July 1877 was elected Mayor. Resigning three months later over the Council’s accountancy practices, he was re-elected in November. During this political fracas Leary was also building a new house in Royal Terrace.
The exact date of the erection of Claverton House is unknown, but may be surmised from a survey of newspaper extracts. Section 31 was empty when Leary purchased the land in Ferbuary 1877. In March Leary sold his residence in London Street, releasing funds for a new build. In August 1877 the City Council granted Leary permission to lay drain pipes out to Royal Terrace. Laying drains would coincide with the erection of a home’s foundations. Presumably the house was completed by November when Leary writes to the newspaper giving his address as Royal Terrace.
In all probability Claverton was architecturally designed, given Leary’s professional and political communnity standing and the quality of the home. A survey of advertised tenders indicates only one likely propsect. In June 1877 Maxwell Bury (1825-1912), architect, advertised for tenders for the erection of a house in Royal Terrace of wood. Unlike other contemporary tender advertisments, it did not provide the client’s name. Perhaps, as would-be Mayor, Leary preferred not to advertise his upcoming expenditure. If the house was indeed designed by Bury, it was his first architectural appointment in Dunedin.
Trained as an engineer, Bury emigrated to Nelson in 1854. His first design is thought to have been erected in 1859. In 1863 he moved to Christchurch and designed a number of buildings there. In 1877, Bury won the competition to design the new University of Otago buildings and by June had offices in the Octagon. Perhaps Leary, in his position as Mayor, was on the Special Committee charged with selecting the winning University design and admired Bury’s skills sufficiently to hire him as the architect for his new residence.
Claverton House was a two storeyed single bay villa. It was a simple design with Classical proportions. The principal decorations were timber quoins flanking the bay. The bay was heavily corniced, the lower one with a dentil course under the cornice and the upper with elaborate brackets repeated under the eaves of the gables. The double hung windows were square-headed and single paned. The front porch was set back behind the bay and had a lozenge-form fretwork. The entrance door was surrounded by narrow panelled side and top lights. A simple lean-to conservatory of narrow glass panes was on the north wall. The conservatory linked to the substantial kitchen on the ground floor. This floor included multiple living areas and the house accommodated five bedrooms. Although lacking architectural pretension Claverton was nevertheless a fine two storeyed villa of a type common in Dunedin. It was large and well proportioned.
In March 1878, Leary sold Claverton House. The new owners were William Mathew Hodgkins (1833-1898), his wife, four sons and two daughters, Isabel and eleven year old Frances (1869 - 1947). Frances became an ‘outstanding artist of her generation, with a professional life that spanned 56 years and earned her a secure place among the English avant-garde of the 1930s and 1940s: the first New Zealand-born artist to achieve such stature.’ Claverton played its own part in shaping New Zealand’s best expatriate painter.
Baptised in Liverpool in 1833, Hodgkins was the son of a brush maker. He became a law clerk but by 1857 was also a student of Turner's paintings and those of other artists at Hampton Court and the National Gallery. In 1859 he worked at the National Portrait Gallery. In 1859 Hodgkins followed his family, immigrating to Melbourne, but was in Dunedin by 1862. In 1868 he was admitted to the Bar and entered into the legal partnership of Howorth and Hodgkins. His change of addresses over the following years indicates a pattern of upward social mobility. From an address at 32 Royal Terrace where Frances was born, the family moved to ‘Northcote’ in Cumberland Street which was home for nine years. By 1878 the burgeoning family had outgrown Northcote and in February Hodgkins sold the home. In May 1878 he purchased Claverton House. The imposing two-storied edifice, at the fashionable end of Royal Terrace, ‘offered dramatic views of the harbour and was within walking distance of [Braemar House] school’ - the private school where Frances and Isabel were enrolled. Claverton House is the only Hodgkins’ family home still extant.
By profession a lawyer; by instinct, Hodgkins was an artist. His involvement in ‘Dunedin artistic circles was well established by the time the Hodgkins family moved to Claverton House’. Claverton household, where Frances spent her formative years, was dedicated to an almost professional attitude towards painting and exhibiting as a normal part of family life - ‘the arts, particularly painting, were given a high place at Claverton House’. Both Isabel and Frances were to develop as artists under their father’s influence.
It is unclear when Hodgkins started painting but his earliest known work dates from 1862. In 1865 he took charge of the photographic department at the New Zealand Exhibition. In 1869 Hodgkins organised a fine arts exhibition with the specific aim of starting a permanent art gallery. The art gallery campaign took a step forward in 1875 with the foundation of the Otago Art Society. Hodgkins was vice-president and Claverton was probably the meeting place of early Art Society meetings. However it was not until 1880, when he became President, that the Society was persuaded to begin a 'national collection of works of art'. A resolution in October 1884 effectively founded the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the first such institution in New Zealand. It was a personal victory for Hodgkins, as vindicated by the Mayor in 1890 when the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society was founded. The Mayor confessed ‘he had thrown cold water on Mr Hodgkins’ scheme’ but was now a supporter.
Hodgkins’ efforts were not solely focused on promoting the arts; he was also a practitioner of watercolour painting in the tradition of Turner. A painting room was set aside at Claverton as his studio. To further develop his skills Hodgkins founded the Art Club ‘the inner sanctum of Dunedin painting at the time’. Members were the leading lights of the Otago Art Society including Dr John Halliday Scott, Dr W.S. Roberts, Miss Katharine Holmes, Miss Fanny Wimperis and Bishop Nevill. In summer the Club went on painting excursions; in winter they visited each other’s homes in turn to produce sketches on some prescribed theme. Claverton was a regular meeting place for such artistic endeavours -
‘[t]he sisters would have witnessed, probably with some fascination, Art Club meetings at their house on winter nights when it was their father’s turn to host. From the late 1870s on, the family’s cluttered colonial Victorian parlour - with its swirling floral wall paper, crowded postage-stamp hanging of pictures, stiff furniture and heavy patterned brocade and velvet sashes - was transformed into an art room.’
During the period of his residence at Claverton, Hodgkins was ‘emerging as the clearly dominant figure in the Dunedin art scene’. By 1882, however, financial resources were becoming strained. Hodgkins raised a mortgage on Claverton in 1882 and again in 1884. His legal partnership then dissolved. The family had to ‘retrench by moving from their much-loved Claverton House to Waira, a cheaper residence in the less illustrious area of Ravensbourne’. The move occurred sometime between September 1884 and September 1885, by which time Claverton was leased to William Lees, Manager of the Union Bank. In 1888 Hodgkins was declared bankrupt. In March 1889 the family moved into the rented Cranmore Lodge bordering Melrose and Wallace Streets (since demolished). Henceforth the family would ‘live in a state of genteel penury’. Nevertheless, Hodgkins’ ‘sociability and cheerfulness, his love of family, and a generosity of spirit’ remained undaunted. To recoup its loan, the National Bank sold Claverton to Mary Charlotte Davidson in May 1889.
Hodgkins died in 1898. His contemporaries wrote ‘in addition to being probably the best judge of a picture in New Zealand he was also the finest living exponent of the art of water-colour painting in the colony...’ In 1913, on a visit to New Zealand, Frances said of her father’s art that she ‘was glad to feel, on returning to New Zealand, that his work had a breadth and value which, coming with educated eyes, I was scarcely prepared to find.’ Peter Entwisle, art historian, assessed Hodgkin’s contribution:
‘In his chosen mode, watercolour landscape painting in the manner of Turner, Hodgkins, at his best, had no equal in New Zealand. Partly because of his efforts, the kind of painting became the mainstream of New Zealand art for ten years, and was important both before and after that time...By so doing he added an appreciable measure to the body of serious painting in this country. His contribution to the establishment of effective art organisation in New Zealand has already been referred to, as has his influence in ushering in a new kind of painting in the 1890s. His part in the making of his daughter’s career has often been remarked. Any one of these achievement would have earned him a place in New Zealand’s art history. When they are considered together, his contribution is seen to be a notable one.’
Under new owners Claverton House underwent significant alterations. A second double height bay was added on the right side of the front facade, carefully mimicking the original bay. In the twentieth century, the porch above the entrance way was enclosed to form a small sunroom. The sun porch enclosure was removed some time in the 1990s, returning to the original veranda.
By 2007 Claverton had undergone thorough but thoughtful improvements. The existing lean-to and conservatory were extended. The exterior was lined with timber weatherboard to match the original. New double glazed aluminium joinery was added to the existing conservatory structure. The roof was colour steel and three skylights were added. In the interior the existing lean-to bathroom was moved into the main structure of the dwelling, and a laundry was added to the extended space. Claverton retained numerous living areas designed to provide formal and family living. The kitchen was upgraded sympathetically, retaining the original fireplace mantel. There were five bedrooms and two bathrooms. Heating was provided by a new diesel central heating system and original open fires.
ARCHITECT/ENGINEER OR DESIGNER:
ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION (STYLE):
The house is now a two storeyed two bay villa, but originally had only a single bay. It is a simple design with Classical proportions. The principal decoration are the timber quoins flanking each bay.
The double hung windows are square-headed and single paned. The bays are heavily corniced, the lower one with a dentil course under the cornice and the upper with elaborate brackets which are repeated under the eaves of the gables. The front porch set back between the two bays has lozenge-form fretwork and the door is surrounded by narrow panel side and top lights. There is a simple lean-to conservatory of narrow glass panes on the north wall. The garden is appropriately designed with a screen of native trees behind a holly hedge, small lawns and a low box hedge lining the path to the front door.
The addition of a double height bay on the right side of the front facade, and a small sunroom above the front door.
Its historic association with Frances Hodgkins.
1990 - 1999
Wall removed returning porch above entrance way to original
2005 - 2007
Lean to and conservatory enlarged. Renovations completed, including relocating of bathroom.
Second bay added to front elevation
Porch above entrance way enclosed
Timber-framed, clad with timber weatherboards; the roof is slate.
7th May 2012
Report Written By
Joanne Drayton, Frances Hodgkins: a private viewing, Auckland, Godwit, 2005.
Peter Entwisle, William Mathew Hodgkins & his circle: an exhibition to mark the centennial of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, October 1984, Dunedin, The Gallery, 1984.
Letters of Frances Hodgkins / edited by Linda Gill, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1993.
Eric H. McCormick, Portrait of Frances Hodgkins, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1990.
A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the Otago/Southland Area office of NZHPT.
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
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.