Palmerston Street Cottages Historic Area

82, 84, 86 Palmerston Street (State Highway 99), Riverton / Aparima

  • Palmerston Street Cottages Historic Area.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 11/10/2012.
  • Palmerston Street Cottages Historic Area. No. 84.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 11/10/2012.
  • Palmerston Street Cottages Historic Area. No. 82.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 11/10/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7818 Date Entered 15th December 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 1776 (CT SL106/299); Lot 1 DP 1776 (CT SL8D/649); Pt Sec 7-8 Blk VIII Town of Riverton / Aparima (CT SL6/217), Southland Land District, and the following historic places: Houses, 82, 84, and 86 Palmerston Street. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 1776 (CT SL106/299); Lot 1 DP 1776 (CT SL8D/649); Pt Sec 7-8 Blk VIII Town of Riverton / Aparima (CT SL6/217), Southland Land District

Location description

The row of cottages is on the northwest side of the main road through Riverton / Aparima, in the northern half of the block located between Delhi and Princess Streets.


Dating from the 1870s, this neat row of three cottages on Riverton / Aparima’s main street forms a notable local landmark and is a representative collection of the typical New Zealand ‘box cottage’ that was popular from the mid to the late nineteenth century.

Riverton / Aparima is the oldest permanent European settlement in Southland. After it was surveyed in 1858, prominent local citizen Theophilus Daniel (1817-1893) obtained the land on which the Palmerston Street Cottages were to stand. The 1870s were a period of development in Riverton / Aparima that saw the diversification of local industries, and the construction of its first schools and churches. The cottages are thought to have been constructed by Daniel for sale in 1875 but were definitely in use in the 1870s. After the sale, two of the cottages were used for housing and one may have been used as a shop until the 1920s. The cottages continue to be used as private residences.

These simple houses are typical of the basic housing style popular in New Zealand in the second half of the nineteenth century and, from the street front, they form a tightly grouped homogenous collection. These simple box cottages feature a central door that lead directly into the main living space and windows on either side of the door and a gable roof. It was anticipated that from these humble beginnings, owners could expand from this basic form over time, and this has been the case with the Palmerston Street Cottages. They are distinguished from each other by individual verandah and fenestration styles. Although much of the original fabric of these buildings has been gradually replaced, their on-going fidelity to the general precepts and form of the basic box cottage is of architectural value.

The three cottages are attractively simple in design and the grouping is of aesthetic value in the streetscape. They are of architectural importance as representative examples of the once typical New Zealand ‘box cottage’ and of the housing style in use in the period when Riverton / Aparima was developing into an established town.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Palmerston Street Cottages have local historical value as a group of cottages dating from Riverton / Aparima’s development period in the 1870s. During this period the local economy was expanding to include industries and services common in established New Zealand towns. The owners of the various cottages are representative of this, there being among them a blacksmith and bootmakers. The growth in the population during this period is also manifest in the close positioning of the buildings, and to maximise the use of the land which was initially owned by Theophilus Daniel.

Daniel was an important local personality, married to the half sister of Riverton / Aparima’s founder, and also a leading politician in his own right. Therefore, the Palmerston Street Cottages have local historical value for their association with the Daniels, but also other well-known and longstanding Riverton / Aparima citizens of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as the Hancock family.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

As a homogeneous group of buildings, the Palmerston Street Cottages are notable within their streetscape. Built to a similar design, the houses are almost identical in appearance from the street front, which makes them a striking group. Sitting closely together in a neat formal row, these three small houses are easily identified by passers-by as dating from an early period in Riverton / Aparima’s history.

Architectural Significance or Value:

These cottages are representative of a type of building that became a vernacular New Zealand form from the mid to late nineteenth century. All three houses are box cottages, with lateral front gables and verandahs. The basic nature this type of building was developed for people of limited means, or as a first residence, and had provision for the addition of rooms as required, as well as a certain flexibility of function. This is reflected in each building being individualised through various forms of rear addition, the simplicity of their form, as well as one or two of the buildings initially being used for commercial purposes. As such, this group of cottages has architectural significance as a characteristic grouping of mid to late nineteenth century New Zealand box cottages.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Ancient stories tell the origins of southern Maori, with the waka of Aoraki becoming Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island), and its sternpost, Te Taurapa a Te Waka o Aoraki becoming Bluff Hill (also known as Motupohue). The Maui traditions are also told in the south, with Maui arriving in his waka Maahunui, and throwing out the anchor Te Puka o Te Waka a Maui (Rakiura). Maui’s achievements are recognised in place names in the south, including Omaui near Bluff, and Te Tapuwae o Maui and Te Rereka o Maui in Fiordland (Maui’s footstep and Maui’s leap).

The early generations learnt about the land and its resources: stone sources were found, and stone (especially pounamu) became an important trading item. Whanau moved throughout the southern area to take advantage of seasonal resources and trade, and also for reasons of intermarriage and war. Kaika were established close to resources. Rights and resources and places were established, and traditions established which protected the manawhenua.

According to the Ngai Tahu Statutory acknowledgments in the settlement important villages along the south coast included: ‘Te Wae Wae (Waiau), Taunoa (Orepuki), Kawakaputaputa (Wakapatu), Oraka (Colac bay), Aparima (Riverton / Aparima named Aparima after the daughter of the noted southern rangatira Hekeia, to whom he bequeathed all of the land which his eye could see as he stood on a spot at Otaitai, just north of Riverton / Aparima), Turangiteuaru, Awarua (Bluff), Te Whera, Toe Toe (mouth of the Mataura River) and Waikawa.’

In the 1830s shore based whaling was established, including a station at Aparima (Riverton / Aparima). Tuhawaiki established his own whaling station. Strategic intermarriage of Maori women to whalers strengthened relationships. Flax and timber as well as other commodities were traded.

1853 saw the Murihiku purchase which left Maori south of the Waitaki (excluding the Otakou Block) with only 4,630 acres, the start of a long quest by southern Maori for justice questioning the legality of the purchase as well as the inadequacy of the land reserved. The major settlements on the southern coast near modern day Riverton / Aparima in the mid nineteenth century included Pahia, Ngawhakaputaputa, Oraka and Aparima (established probably in the 1820s), although the largest settlement was on Ruapuke Island.

A reserve was set aside at Aparima (Riverton / Aparima) but was inadequate. A 200 acre reserve promised at Waimatuku was not allocated. The Aparima reserve was the site of the main kaika and included an urupa and a tauranga waka. The majority of the reserve was later taken by the Public Works Act for a secondary school, with only the tauranga waka remaining as reserve, a source of continued grievance. The area of North Beach from Otaitai to the mouth of the Aparima River, inland and back to Otaitaia Stream is considered a traditional strong hold of Ngai Tahu as a site of the kaika and urupa.

Riverton / Aparima is the site of the oldest permanent European settlement in Southland, but the town was only surveyed in 1858. The two sections which the three Palmerston Street cottages were positioned on was the cusp of the ‘Old Settlement.’ These sections were initially owned by Theophilus Alfred James Daniel (1817-1893). Daniel’s role in Riverton / Aparima began humbly, with him squatting and running a draper’s shop from 1851. This had followed a period of whaling around the Otago and Southland coasts in the late 1830s and working in Australia in the 1840s. In 1853, Daniels married Elizabeth Stevens (1832-1892). Elizabeth Daniels was related to John Howell (1810?-1874), the ‘founder’ of Riverton / Aparima. Howell, a whaler, had set up a station in the Riverton / Aparima area in the mid to late 1830s, and soon after built a cottage. By 1843 Howell’s mother and step-siblings, Elizabeth among them, had moved from England to Australia. Howell convinced the family to move to Riverton / Aparima after his mother’s death. This meant that Elizabeth and her married sister were the first European women to settle in Southland. From 1862, Daniel went onto become a member of the Southland Provincial Council from 1862, as well as the Otago Provincial Council when the two provinces re-amalgamated. After the centralised system of government was instigated, Daniel served as the Member of Parliament for Wallace on two occasions: 1876-79 and 1882-84. By the end of his life he had also accumulated considerable property holdings in and around Riverton / Aparima.

There are differing accounts of when and for whom the cottages were built. One suggestion is that the cottages were built by and for the family and close relatives of Daniel and Elizabeth in the 1850s. The Daniels appear to have been based in the ‘Old Settlement’ area of Riverton / Aparima even prior to obtaining the titles for their land either side of Palmerston Street in April 1865. According to family accounts, the Daniels lived in the middle cottage, with Elizabeth’s sister’s family next door in 86 Palmerston Street. It has also been suggested that 86 Palmerston Street was built for an early local whaler. After apparently residing in the cottage, the Daniels are said to have built Daniel House directly across the road in the 1850s. However, a pre-survey date for the cottages seems unlikely because the three buildings fit snugly in a defined area. If they were constructed in the earliest period of settlement in Riverton / Aparima there would have been no need to position them in such close proximity.

It is more likely that the cottages date from the development period of Riverton / Aparima. Following the example of Howell, by the 1860s the whaler settlers of Riverton / Aparima had begun to diversify into farming, sawmilling, and other industries. The town’s economy and population continued to grow and it was in the 1860s that and churches and schools first were built. In 1864, a settlement south of the Jacobs River estuary became known as ‘Village of South Riverton / Aparima.’ Riverton / Aparima was constituted as a Borough in 1871 and the settlements either side of the estuary only then became collectively known as Riverton / Aparima. With Riverton / Aparima becoming a firmly established town in the 1860s and 1870s it would have been practical to begin maximising the use of land in central Riverton / Aparima for residential properties. In 1875 the parcels of land opposite the Daniel’s large house were sold by Theophilus. At this time the southern parcel became a separate title. These two parcels corresponded to the sizes of the cottages, with a small curtilage allowance between them. Therefore, it is suggested that the land was either divided to reflect the area occupied by the recently built cottages, or in anticipation of their construction.

Whichever circumstance occurred, the cottages are known to have been used in the 1870s and in the rates information from this time they are grouped together. Indeed, their convenient location on the main road in the heart of the township must have made them attractive as residential properties for workers, but also as small commercial premises. It seems that up to two of the buildings were used as shops until the end of the nineteenth century. Section 8, which was the site for 82 and 84 Palmerston Street, was owned by Benjamin Edwards in 1878 and the buildings described as a ‘comfortable 4 roomed cottage’ (probably the middle building) and ‘Blacksmith’s and Wheelwright’s shops erected thereon.’ In fact, these northern two buildings seem to have been owned as a couple until after World War One when the section was subdivided. Both buildings were once again owned by one person, Doreen Pemberton (d.2011), in the 1960s and 1970s.

From the mid twentieth century to the present the majority of the owners of the three cottages have been women. There are some exceptions to this, including in the early 1980s when 86 Palmerston Street was purchased by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in order to promote its restoration and retention on its site. In 1980 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was approached about potentially purchasing two Riverton / Aparima houses, including 86 Palmerston Street, with the express design of ‘restoration for possible resale.’ The cottage was part of the estate of A. V. Cox and the trustee felt that since the building had a negligible sale value due to its dilapidated state, and that it would be better to relocate or demolish the house and sell the empty property. After careful consideration the NZHPT decided to purchase the property in order to retain its association with its original site and its place within the trio of like houses on Palmerston Street. After a nationwide advertising campaign in 1983 a buyer willing to take on the property and make it habitable was found in Napier resident Bob White, and later sold. In 2011 the three cottages are private homes.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:


Physical Description and Analysis:

Visually these houses form a neat set of early Riverton / Aparima buildings, despite each being individualised in some way, and are well-known locally for this reason. The buildings follow a basic cottage formula:

‘a cottage suitable for a person with a small family and limited means. It can be built as a two-roomed cottage at first, and the two back rooms added subsequently whenever required. Inside furnishings and verandah may be done when convenient.’

This type of building was common by the time it was described in Brett’s Colonists’ Guide of 1883.

All of the cottages seem to have been built to this same basic layout. The front lateral gable of each building contains the two rooms described in the Guide, with each cottage having a different version of a rear extension to subsequently create extra rooms. From the cottage at the north to the cottage at the south these are as follows: a lean-to, a couple of longitudinal gables and lean-to, a second lateral gable and a lean-to. The cottages all have a centrally placed main entrance leading directly into a living space, whose width is over half that of the building. The rest of the front space is occupied by a room, usually functioning as a bedroom. This coupling of spaces is then generally replicated going back through the building.

From the street front the only aspects which individualise the cottages are their verandahs, and the different window and door treatments - and even these are of a similar scale and position. Each of the flanking buildings have straight roofed verandahs. The northern house has plain verandah posts typical of its construction period, and the verandah is also enclosed on the southern side. The verandah posts of the southern cottage feature trellising. The current posts are a late 1980s replication of earlier posts, and were installed when the cottage was remodelled. The mock French doors on either side of the entrance appear to pre-date this work. This house is slightly set back from the line of the other cottages.

The middle building is primarily distinguished from its counterparts by its concave verandah. This verandah has a plain scalloped edging beneath the roof, while the other cottages have no fretwork. To have an absence of verandah decoration, or very simple touches, is consistent with the status of the cottages.

Land included in the Registration:

The land included in registration is comprised of the three, narrow, flat, parcels of land corresponding with each of the house sites. They are located on the northwest side of Palmerston Street in Riverton / Aparima, in the block between Delhi and Princess Streets.

Historic Places on Land included in the Registration:

The Historic Places within the Registration are the three cottages:

House, 82 Palmerston Street (Record no.2537), Appendix 5, page 31

House, 84 Palmerston Street (Record no.2536), Appendix 5, page 35

House, 86 Palmerston Street (Record no.2534), Appendix 5, page 38

Relationship between Historic Places:

It seems that these houses are closely contemporary with one another, and were built to a similar initial plan, meaning that there is a close relationship between these three houses. Indeed a strong visual relationship is apparent when the houses are viewed from the street front, being almost identical, with the only immediately noticeable variety being the different style of verandah of the middle cottage. This visual uniformity means that the cottages have a strong aesthetic value due to their homogeneity of form.

Key Elements of the Historic Area:

The three houses in this Historic Area form a closely spaced row, with the similarity in street front form of the houses creating a notable element of the streetscape. All the houses are modest dwellings, of a similar scale, whose verandahs extend the buildings forward, bringing them close to the footpath and street. As such this group of houses presents an area which is immediately recognisable as being historic to passers-by.

Construction Dates

House, 86 Palmerston Street is remodelled and extended

Rear additions added to 82 and 84 Palmerston Street

1980 -
Rear additions added to 82 Palmerston Street

Construction Details

Brick, concrete, corrugated iron, glass, timber

Completion Date

5th August 2011

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Anderson, 1998

Atholl Anderson, The Welcome of Strangers: An ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850, Otago University Press in association with the Dunedin City Council, Dunedin, 1998

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

1896-97, Dunedin, 1897

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Otago/Southland Area Office, Dunedin:

Daniels House NZHPT File 12013-069

House, 86 Palmerston Street NZHPT File 12013-251 Vols.1-3

House, 84 Palmerston Street NZHPT File 12013-1366

House, 82 Palmerston Street NZHPT File 12013-1367

Salmond, 1986

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

Sorrell, 2006

P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006

Southland District Council

Southland District Council

Building File 1808 82, 82 Palmerston Street, Riverton / Aparima

Southland Times

Southland Times

8 June 1878

Thomson, 1998

Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.

Leys, 1883

Thomson W Leys, Brett's Colonists' Guide and Cyclopedia of Useful Knowledge, Auckland, 1883

Garven, 1997

P. Garven, M. Nepia and H. Ashwell, Te Whakatau Kaupapa o Murihiku: Ngai Tahu Resource Management Strategy for the Southland Region, Aoraki Press, 1997

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.

Historic Area Place Name