Cotons' Cottage

Cotons Road, HORORATA

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Originally built after 1864 by Bentley Coton for himself and his wife Sarah Jane, the Cotons’ Cottage is a cob house museum in a rural setting at Cotons Road in Hororata that tells a story of nineteenth century small-holding in Canterbury. In 1977-8 the cottage was rebuilt using the original clay and was again rebuilt using the same clay in 2013-14 following severe damage from the Darfield earthquake of 4 September 2010. The building has social, historical, aesthetic and architectural value and is held in high public esteem by the local community. Labourer, Bentley Coton and his wife, Sarah Jane, arrived in Lyttelton in the ship Mystery in 1859. In 1864 Coton purchased 50 acres of land at Hororata on the Canterbury Plains and went in for mixed farming. He built a small cob cottage using clay from his own farm. The exact date of construction in the 1860s is not known. The cottage consisted of five rooms: an attic bedroom upstairs, downstairs a bedroom and a living room with an open fireplace for cooking, and at the back were a general store room and a dairy. Water supply came from a well near the back door. Constructed largely of unfired earth known as cob, the 10 metre by 8 metre building sits on concrete and rammed earth foundations, has weatherboard timbers in the gable ends and a shingle roof. The walls utilise the original clay, and now have steel rods and plastic horizontal reinforcing. Plywood diaphragms are in the ceiling. The front (north) elevation has a central door flanked by casement windows and at the rear is a lean-to, with a door on the east elevation. The gable ends are timber, and the chimney breast dominates the east elevation, with the chimney itself on the eastern end interior. Early small-holders in the district, the Cotons had horses, cattle, pigs and hens. They sold butter, made from the milk of their cows, and potatoes. For a period, Anglican services were regularly held in the house prior to the construction of the timber St John’s Church in Hororata in 1875. Those known to have attended the house services include Samuel Bealey of Haldon, John Hall of Rakaia Terrace Station, and John Cordy of the Hororata Run. After Bentley Coton died in 1913, his widow moved to Christchurch and remained there until her death in 1919. After brief ownership by Jonathan Rudd (1913) and then David Bruce (1913-27), in 1927 the property was bought by Herbert Oliver and it remained in the Oliver family until the 1970s. The cottage was uninhabited from 1927 and a report in 1939 stated it was used as a barn. By this time, the building had a corrugated iron roof and its walls and chimney breast were deteriorating. In the early 1970s the then owner of the property, Raymond Oliver, offered the cottage and a quarter of an acre of surrounding land to the Department of Lands and Survey as a reserve, providing a site for a local museum and paving the way to address issues of the deteriorating cob cottage. Three years later the cottage and land were gazetted as an historic reserve and passed into the control of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga). The day-to-day management of the reserve was transferred to the Hororata Historic Society Incorporated, who, with staunch volunteer effort using plans from the Ministry of Works and support from the Historic Places Trust, rebuilt the house in 1977-78. The clay from the original cottage was used in this rebuild, as was approximately one third of the original timber A-frame roof. In 1989 a second building (formerly the Hororata Racecourse totalisator building) was moved onto the property to serve as the local museum. Cotons’ Cottage was badly damaged in the Darfield earthquake of 4 September 2010. It was rebuilt in 2013-14 using as much of the earlier materials (including the clay) as possible and new shingles were added to the roof. Despite two rebuilds, Cotons’ Cottage looks as it did before, on exactly the same spot, largely using the same materials and it is once again open to the public.

Cotons’ Cottage, Hororata | Paul McGahan | 15/03/2014 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
Cotons’ Cottage, Hororata | P McGahan | 02/01/2014 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
Cotons' Cottage, Hororata. Image included in Field Record Form Collection | Jim Espie | 24/02/1992 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 1983

Date of Effect

6th June 1983

City/District Council

Selwyn District


Canterbury Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 33673 (RT CB13B/1126, NZ Gazette 1980 p. 2412), Canterbury Land District and the building known Cotons' Cottage thereon.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 33673 (RT CB13B/1126, NZ Gazette 1980 p. 2412), Canterbury Land District

Location Description

The cottage is open to the public on Sunday afternoons (from Mar 15 2014)

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