Rise Cottage and Garden

10 Westenra Terrace, CHRISTCHURCH

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Rise Cottage and Garden in Christchurch’s Cashmere Hills was the home of noted poet Ursula Bethell (1874-1945) and Effie Pollen (1879-1934) from 1924 to 1934. It has historical significance for its close connection to Bethell, whose literary work reflects the beginnings of modern poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand. Christchurch and environs have a long history of Māori occupation. The forests and wetlands of Kā Pakihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha (Canterbury Plains) were rich in birds, fish and plants. Ngāi Tahu established pā and kāinga throughout the plains and utilised mahinga kai sites on a seasonal basis. The two main kāinga in what is now Christchurch were Ōtautahi and Puari. From 1849-1850 the Canterbury Association oversaw the systematic Pākehā settlement of Canterbury and surveyed the town of Christchurch and rural sections outside of the town boundary. The development of Cashmere Hills, a suburb at the foot of the Port Hills, began in the 1890s and was accelerated by the extension of a tramline to the Sign of the Takahe rest house in 1912. The suburb had a ‘bohemian reputation’ based on its popularity with members of arts and academic circles. One of its residents was Ursula Bethell, a woman of independent means with a strong social conscience informed by deep religious faith. Between 1895 and 1919 she divided her time between New Zealand and England and immersed herself in voluntary social work. In 1924 Ursula purchased a new bungalow at 10 Westenra Terrace which she christened Rise Cottage and set up home with Effie Pollen, whom she first met in London in 1905. Her creation of a garden on the property’s steep slope was a labour of love and she began to write poetry at Rise Cottage. ‘As she gardened, verses ‘bubbled up’ in which she recorded the day-to-day incidents of her life’. All the poetry published in her lifetime was written at Rise Cottage and the title of her first anthology, From a Garden in the Antipodes (1929), symbolises the importance of the place to her poetic output. The precise nature of Ursula and Effie’s relationship has been debated, with some scholars arguing that it can be construed as a lesbian relationship irrespective of whether it was sexual. All agree it was the most profound personal relationship of Ursula’s life and she was devastated when Effie died suddenly in 1934. She described her passing as ‘a complete shattering of my life; from her I have had love, tenderness, and understanding for thirty years, and close and happy companionship…in this house for ten years. I shall not want another home on this planet’. From this time Ursula seldom wrote poetry, apart from six memorial poems composed around the anniversary of Effie’s death between 1935 and 1940. Ursula left Rise Cottage after Effie’s death and the house was sold following Ursula’s death in 1945. In 1938 her close friend, the artist Toss Wollaston, stayed there and sent her flowers from the garden on the anniversary of Effie’s death. Subsequent owners made alterations, including the addition of a room, window changes and renovations to the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom. The house was damaged in the 2010/11 Canterbury earthquakes and the chimneys, fireplace surrounds, and chimney breasts were removed. Ursula’s poem ‘Time’ (1929) imagines the house and garden in the distant future: ‘Planned. Planted. Established. Then neglected / Till at last the loiterer by the gate will wonder / At the old, old cottage, the old wooden cottage / And say ‘One might build here, the view is glorious / This must have been a pretty garden once.’

Rise Cottage & Garden, Christchurch | D Cosgrove | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

11th November 1981

Date of Effect

11th November 1981

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 36 DP 4030 (RT CB315/156), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Rise Cottage and Garden thereon.

Legal description

Lot 36 DP 4030 (RT CB315/156), Canterbury Land District.

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