Collett House

36 Riddlers Crescent, Petone, Lower Hutt

  • Collett House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: R O'Brien . Date: 1/12/2003.
  • Collett House. View of farm showing buildings and machinery taken on the day the first train ran between Wellington, Petone and the Hutt Valley. The owner was Henry Colett, a wheelwright..
    Copyright: Collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Taken By: James Bragge.
  • Collett House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: R O'Brien. Date: 1/12/2003.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7479 Date Entered 8th December 2000

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Hutt City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 10877 (CT WN447/96), Wellington Land District

Location description

There is access to the Hutt Road from the property but it is not situated on the corner of Riddlers Crescent and Hutt Road.

Summaryopen/close

In 1848 a small worker's dwelling was constructed near the first New Zealand Company settlement in Petone (Pito-one). Now know as 'Collett House', the structure has become a symbol of Pakeha settlement in the Wellington region.

Petone was the site initially chosen for the settlement of Wellington by New Zealand Company surveyor William Mein Smith (1799-1869). Smith's employer, Colonel William Hayward Wakefield (1801-1848), landed in Petone in 1839 and began negotiating with Maori to obtain land for British settlers. However, shortly after the first six ships filled with British emigrants arrived in 1840, the exposed nature of the Petone site prompted the removal of the settlement to Thorndon.

Petone was the first New Zealand Company settlement in New Zealand and Collett House is Petone's oldest identified residential building. The dwelling was named after, and constructed by English settlers Henry and Eliza Collett. The Colletts arrived in Wellington on the ship London in 1841. After setting up a carpentry business in Te Aro, the couple moved to Petone in 1847. Henry Collett established himself as a wheelwright, servicing carts and coaches travelling on the main road leading north from Wellington. By 1848 the Colletts had constructed a simple four roomed, two-storey dwelling from pitsawn weatherboards on land adjacent to the road. In the garden around the house they planted two roses brought from England, 'Captain Blood', and 'Devon Cream'.

By 1852, the Colletts were one of just six settler families living in Petone. They received an official Crown Grant for their land in 1853. They raised their ten children in the small timber dwelling and at some stage extended the verandah and added two large rooms to the ground floor of the original cottage. From 1887 Henry Collett began sub-dividing sections of the land around the cottage for his children. Eight years later, in 1895, the cottage was transferred to Collett's unmarried daughter Mary Jane Collett, who remained in the house until her death in 1917. The house was transferred to Mabel Jane Evans (nee Collett) who had celebrated her wedding in the house in 1901.

In 1945 the original floorboards of the cottage were replaced when guests celebrating the end of the Second World War at a victory party danced right through the floor. Mabel Evans remained in the house until 1948 when she moved into a small, self-contained flat on the property that had originally served as a garage. Doris and Robert Leslie, who were friends of the Colletts, moved into Collett House in the same year and added a then fashionable bungalow style roof to the cottage. Mabel Evans (nee Collett) moved into the Leslie's self-contained flat at number 34 Riddler's Crescent. The Leslies remained owners of the cottage until 1996, when the house was placed on the open market for the first time. The house has since been inhabited by a number of owners who have re-piled and renovated the cottage and the remnants of the original garden that remain around Collett House.

Collett House is historically significant as the oldest identified residential property in Petone. Constructed in the town selected as the site of the first New Zealand Company settlement, the cottage provides insight into early Pakeha settlement in New Zealand. The house retains some of its original character and is physically significant for the insight it provides into early colonial building techniques. The additions made to the building represent the changes prompted by the development Pakeha settlement and enhance its symbolic value. Collett House is in good condition and is held in high esteem by the local community.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

The original building was constructed in the same period as the Taylor Stace Cottage (Category I), Pauatahanui, rear portion (c.1848), front portion (c.1855); the Nairn Street Cottage, Wellington (Category I), (c.1858); and Spinks Cottage, Dixon St Wellington, (Category I), (c.1854). It differs from these properties in its form as a simple farmhouse which later became a worker's home, The Collett's together with the

Bassetts and the Riddlers, were amongst the very first settlers to arrive at Petone between 1840 and 1843. These settler families were the first Europeans to farm the area, and are widely recognised for their historic associations with the founding and early growth of Petone.

The original farm was a subdivision of a 100-acre block, Block 4, of the first Petone survey. Parts of this block were purchased by Sellar, Riddler, Collett, Bassett and Percy. The Colletts got 9.5 acres and moved from Thorndon to live on their land in 1847. Henry Collett was a wheelwright and carpenter, as well as a small landholder. He eventually

divided the property amongst his ten children leaving the house on its odd-shaped section. Some Collett family members remained living in the immediate area until 1989.

As time went by, the open farmland on which the original house was situated gradually became covered by residential housing. Despite this, quite a large early-style garden was maintained and vestiges of this are still present, with some very old trees and near the property, old roses in the garden, some fencing, the gate and sheds. These are unusual features in both a local and regional context, as only the Nairn Street Cottage has a garden feature and most of that is recreated.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic:

While the house has changed from its original "green field" location to one bounded by residential housing, the two roses of the first garden are visible in the gate and part of the fence and some trees are of considerable age. Overall, the house, garden, vegetation and sheds have considerable charm and are an obvious reminder of the past.

Architectural:

Collett House is a rare surviving example of an early settler's house, the only one left at Petone, near the site of the New Zealand Company's settlement of 1840. The original house was a small 4 roomed, 2 storey building facing east, made from pit-sawn weatherboards to a simple Georgian design, Available evidence indicates a construction date in the early 1850s or the late 1840s, Windows are multi-paned double hung sashes with very thin glazing bars, Additions, in three stages, represent changing family needs and responses to changes in the locality, as farmland became a township.

The first addition was of two large rooms at ground level, using rusticated weather boards, together with a verandah, probably in the 1890s. A bungalow-style roof was added over the verandah and much of the house, probably in the 1940's. Significant parts of the original dwelling are still visible, both externally and internally. The workshop in the garden is considered to be an original feature, although the roof has been replaced in the last ten years.

Historical Significance

23(2)(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The settlement of Petone by the New Zealand Company in 1840 was of crucial importance in New Zealand's history. The core of the Collett House is the only surviving building from this early period in Petone's history. It represents the first phase of settlement in the Hutt Valley, that of the farming community, from which all later developments stemmed. The gradual additions to the house represent later phases of New Zealand history housing types associated with the industrialisation of the late nineteenth and mid twentieth centuries.

23(2)(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Events: None, other than the usual events associated with family life

Persons: Henry and Elizabeth Collett and family came to New Zealand from Britain on the ship London arriving in Pito-one in 1841. The Collett family remained living in properties divided from the original 9.5 acres at 28 and 34 Riddlers Crescent until 1989. From 1933 Doris and Robert Leslie, who were friends of the Collett family, came to Riddlers Crescent and first lived in a self-contained flat on the property. Later they moved into a cottage and in 1935 resided at 34 Riddlers Crescent.

In 1948 they purchased the homestead at number 36 and Mabel Collett moved into number 34. The fence was removed and furniture exchanged between the houses. This home has held many weddings, family gatherings and had children playing in the attics and garden. Riverstones were sieved through a wire mattress to provide a cottage flower-garden and vegetable garden. On the trellis are roses 'Captain Blood' and 'Devon Cream' brought from England by the Colletts. Doris Leslie lived at Riddlers Crescent for 63 years. She died in Auckland in 1996 aged 90.

23(2)(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The methods of construction, timbers and other materials used, site chosen to locate the house, trees, and plants selected for the garden, all tell us about the thinking associated with setting up home in New Zealand by the earliest European settlers.

23(2)(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

This house was built in the first ten years of European settlement in New Zealand close to one of the first New Zealand Company landing sites at Petone. It is now the only surviving early settlers' house in Petone and one of the very few in the Wellington region. All the characteristic parts of the original remaining indicate the earliest forms of construction used by the settlers in New Zealand, and, the garden surroundings capture something of the ambience of those early days.

Physical Significance

23(2)(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The original design was a simple Georgian box cottage, now rare in New Zealand. Of significant value are the original pit-sawn weatherboards, visible particularly on the west elevation. The corners of the building feature corner stops, against which the weatherboards are butted. Inside the house, the downstairs ceiling is partly comprised of exposed chamfered floor joists of the rooms above. Steep, winding stairs lead to two small bedrooms. The first additions of two large rooms to the east were provided with French doors to the exterior, and a verandah was built round the north, east and south sides. This was obscured in the 1940s by the addition of the bungalow-style roof, giving the appearance visible today. Thus, the total house represents in one place a series of the technical changes usually only seen in individual representative buildings.

23(2)(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

This house is rare in that few comparable houses exist which show clear transitional adaptations to different phases in building and social history. Although the original, simple cottage is partially obscured from the exterior, it can be easily identified internally. Historic photographs from 1874, the turn of the century, 1925 and 1973, document the additions and changes to the house, which are also reflected in the construction methods used.

23(2)(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape.

Although there are no houses in Petone now comparable in age to the original part of this house, the Riddlers Crescent area does still contain a substantial number of relatively un-modified houses dating from the late 1890s and early 1900s. This was the period when the first major additions were made to Collett House. In 1925, when viewed externally from the north, the house bore a marked resemblance to some of the bay villas which still exist in the area today. The form of bungalow it became in 1940s is common in other parts of Petone, but not in the immediate area.

23(2)(m) Such additional criteria not inconsistent with those in paragraphs (a) to (k).

There are some 211 cottages of various types on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust's national register including a number of cob cottages built by early settlers in Canterbury, Marlborough and Tasman District. Registered comparative examples of pioneer worker cottages with pit-sawn timber weatherboards and sash window construction include the 1855 Kawana Mill Cottage (Category I), located at Matahiwi, on the Whanganui River. This was a two room cottage built for the first flour miller in the area. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust maintains this cottage and it has been substantially restored over the years. Similarly, the Trust maintains the Rai Valley Pioneer Cottage (Category I), which was constructed in 1881 at Carluke, Rai Valley, Marlborough. The cottage has four rooms and was built by the first European settler in the area, Charles Turner. The early timber workers' cottages in Tonks Avenue, off Cuba Street, date from 1880. Numbers 1 and 3 Tonks Avenue are registered as Category II buildings.

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Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Pit-sawn weatherboards

Windows in the original portion of the cottage are the twelve-paned, double hung sashes that were transported from England by settlers until the 1850s, when larger panes of glass allowed the development of the four-pane window.

The 'Captain Blood' and 'Devon Cream' roses that continue to grow in the garden. These are thought to have been transported by the Colletts from Gravesend, England.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1848 -

Modification
1874 - 1890
Verandah extended and two rooms added to ground floor

Modification
1945 -
Floorboards replaced

Modification
1948 -
Bungalow style roof added

Modification
2002 -
Building repiled, exterior refurbished, walls enclosing part of the verandah removed

Construction Details

Constructed around a timber frame, the house is clad in weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

1st May 2003

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien; Geoff Mew

Information Sources

Burns, 1940

J. Burns, 'Petone's First Hundred Years; A Historical Record of Petone's Progress', Petone, 1940

Butterworth, 1988

Susan Butterworth, 'Petone, A history', Auckland, 1988

McLean, 2000

G. McLean, Wellington; The First Years of European Settlement, 1840-1850, Auckland, 2000

Salmond, 1986

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

Ward, 1928

L. Ward, Early Wellington, Wellington, 1928

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the Central Region Office, New Zealand Historic Places Trust

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.