Cob House, constructed in 1863, in the Nelson settlement of Hope is a modest rural cob and timber, two storey, homestead on the junction of State Highway 6 and Aniseed Valley Road. The house is set amid a large property which contains an apple orchard, and despite its long history has only been in the ownership of two families.
After the New Zealand Company established its Nelson settlement in 1841, areas close to this nucleus began to develop due to settlers being allocated large tracks of land to farm, and this in turn led to the creation of settlements such as Hope. By the late 1860s Hope was becoming a well-established community, characterised by the German descent of most of its residents, whose economy was based on agricultural and horticultural activities. It was early in the 1860s that Christina Berkertt (nee Busch) and her husband William, established their farm in Hope and subsequently built their homestead that would eventually house their nine children. This family continued to reside in Cob House until well into the twentieth century through the ownership of the Busch family. By the mid twentieth century the apple and other horticultural industries had established themselves as key contributors within the Nelson economy. As such when the property passed into Hoddy family ownership during this period it is not surprising that they established an apple orchard there, which the Hoddys have continued to develop.
Despite the use of the surrounding property changing, Cob House has remained relatively the same, maintaining its function as a rural residence and predominantly keeping its original form. The cob of the lower level as well as timber of the upper storey and in other components was the subject of a repair and replacement project in the late twentieth century. Notable original features of the structure include the numerous dormer windows with decorative bargeboards which punctuate the hipped roof, the expansive verandah, and the cellar.
Cob House is primarily significant because its construction in the 1860s and the use of cob mean that it is a characteristic, and now relatively rare, example of what was a prevalent form and mode of rural dwelling in the Nelson region in its early period of European settlement. The construction of the house and the long ownership of the Berkett/Busch family who were of German descent has imbued the structure with further historical value because this family is typical of those who established and developed the rural settlement of Hope. The change of function of the property in the mid to late twentieth century, and occupation of Cob House, by the Hoddy family is also important because it is reflective of the strengthening of the apple industry within the local economy at that time.
Historical Significance or Value
The construction of Cob House in the early 1860s is significant because it was symptomatic of the expansion of Nelson's New Zealand Company settlement out from its nucleus and the creation of rural settlements that could support the province and become the backbone of Nelson's economy. Hope was one such community and by the 1860s it had been established and populated with a people predominantly of German descent. The family who built Cob House on their newly acquired land were typical of this and the dwelling therefore has local historical importance.
In the post World War Two era the horticultural industries, which had always been a feature of Nelson's economy, blossomed further. This increase in importance was most notable in the apple industry and the conversion of the Cob House property into an apple orchard by the Hoddy family in the mid to late twentieth century is accordingly of historical value. The Hoddy family have retained the house and developed the orchard which, in conjunction with the Berkett/Busch family before them, means that Cob House has local historical significance because of its close connection with two of the most prominent and longstanding families of the Hope area.
Architectural Significance or Value:
Cob House is a rare remaining example of a modest sized house constructed predominantly of cob, which was one of the most popular construction materials used in the upper South Island in the early period of European settlement. This early rural homestead is also typical of this period in form and its decorative features. It is these few instances of ornament that add a touch of elegance to this unpretentious structure. Therefore, Cob House has considerable architectural value as a characteristic medium sized rural residence from the 1860s.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The dominance of agricultural and horticultural industries within the national and regional economies of New Zealand has been a characteristic since the early period of European settlement. Cob House is contemporary with the early rural growth of the Nelson province, and its change to being the homestead of an expansive apple orchard in the mid to late twentieth century is also reflective of the strengthening of this sector at that time.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:
Cob construction was a characteristic form in several regions of New Zealand in the early period of planned European settlement and was particularly prevalent in the Nelson region. However, cob dwellings are now comparatively rare and while there are several examples from the Nelson district of this form of residence on the NZHPT Register, Cob House is the only representative modestly sized rural homestead among them.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The settlement of the Nelson region is said to have begun with the landing of the prominent early iwi, Waitaha, in the waka Uruao. This travelled from Hawaiki and the voyagers made landfall on the Boulder Bank circa 850, near what would become Nelson city. From there scouting parties set out to explore the interior while others continued their sea journey down the east coast of the South Island. The settlement of the Nelson region then ensued and was driven by the fact that the area was found to be rich in resources, such as minerals for fashioning tradable items like adzes. Food, in the form of seal, moa and shellfish, was plentiful too and the district also had large tracts of land with fertile soil, or soil whose fertility could be manipulated, suitable for growing kumara and other garden produce. It was because of this abundance of resources that the district is said to have been 'one of the most fought over in New Zealand.'
European association with the area was first established in 1642 when Abel Tasman anchored in what was to be called Murderer's, then Massacre, and now Golden Bay. The result of this first visit was a lethal exchange between the Dutch sailors and Ngati Tumatakokiri. It was centuries after this initial encounter that European interest in the area began in earnest with explorative visits from Captain James Cook and Dumont D'Urville and a few others. Then in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century flax traders and sealers began to frequent the coast around Nelson. However, because there were few whaling stations in the immediate area there was no substantive European settlement until the New Zealand Company's establishment and settlement of Nelson from 1841.
The company explored the potential of several sites for its settlement but Nelson was chosen as the nucleus, despite the generally swampy nature of the low lying areas, because of its harbour and the plentiful supplies of game and fish. It was then a matter of Captain Arthur Wakefield meeting with the various iwi of the region to persuade them to agree to the proposed settlement. This was essentially a confirmation and extension of a land sale organised by the Tory expedition in 1839. The meeting took place at Kaiteriteri and Wakefield eventually negotiated a deal with those in attendance. However, subsequent events demonstrate that in regard to this and some later transactions there were discrepancies in what each party believed they had agreed to. This led to several instances of conflict in the Nelson region during the 1840s, in particular. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence was the 'Wairau Affrray' in 1843.
It was not until the 1850s that the Nelson community and other towns in the area began to coalesce. Provincial government was established in 1853, and most of the farm land from Wakapuaka to Brightwater was occupied by this date. Nelson became a thriving mercantile centre and port city by the late 1850s. Because of its proximity to the best farmlands and roads, Richmond soon became the second town in the province. In turn Hope, which is close to Richmond and was originally a German settlement, benefitted especially when it was connected to Nelson by rail. Between 1853 and 1858 the European population of the province had risen from 4,587 to over 7,000 and continued to grow and prosper into the 1860s and 1870s with the aid of the local gold rushes and the nationwide demand for the areas produce. Built in 1863 Cob House dates from this period when the consolidated settlement experienced a period of growth.
Cob House was built for William and Christina Berkett on the farm they had established after purchasing the land in 1861.This rural house was constructed by James Hartford to a design suggested to have been William Beatson's. The Berkett family, which consisted of nine surviving children, farmed the land until it was sold to Percy F Busch in the early twentieth century. It is said that the money that William and Christina used to originally purchase the land and build the house had come from Christina's father, Hans Busch. Only Christina's name appears on the land titles. Christina was of German descent which was typical of many settlers around Hope. The later Busch family member who purchased the land was a nephew of Christina's, and therefore the farm and homestead were in her family's possession for almost one hundred years by the time Busch sold the property in 1964.
After 1945 horticultural industries grew rapidly and cemented their position as key contributors to the economy of the Nelson region. The apple industry was particularly strong in this respect and greatly benefitted from the port at Nelson reprising its direct export port status in 1951. It was soon after this that the Hoddy family purchased the section from the Busch family in 1964 and then proceeded to clear the land in order to plant their new orchard. Previously the Buschs had used the land for tomato and pea cultivation, as well as breeding Clydesdale horses, and it took about two years for the property to reach the point where the Hoddys were able to plant it in apple trees.
A project to renovate Cob House was also undertaken soon after the property's purchase because the building was in dire need of repair. The cob was in particularly bad condition and much of the external plastering had crumbled because of a lack of maintenance, as well as being adversely effected by moisture created from irrigation systems that had been installed close to the house. This work saved the building from looming demolition and enabled the family to live at their orchard. Since this time the Hoddy family have owned and developed the property, and inhabited the house.
Cob House is situated just south of the Nelson township of Hope, a relatively flat area which is characterised by horticultural industries, on a large apple orchard that occupies a section of land bounded on two sides by State Highway 6 and Aniseed Valley Road. The house is enclosed by rows of apple trees to its north and southeast, and the orchard's large packing and other sheds to the west. The close proximity of these industrial structures dwarf the house somewhat, however, from within the boundary of the residence they are screen from view by mature trees. The residential section on the land is further defined by plantings of mature trees which screen the house from view from Aniseed Valley Road, and a visitor parking area, which are to its east. This creates a certain amount of privacy for the house within a large and busy orchard operation.
The house itself is a double storey abode predominantly constructed from cob. In the early period of European settlement cob was a popular building fabric particularly in Taranaki, Marlborough, Nelson, and Canterbury. This is thought to be because of the prevalence and accessibility of the required components used for cob, such as clay, chopped straw, and cow dung. Because of this cob was a relatively inexpensive construction material, and was also popular because it was actively promoted by colonist handbooks at the time, and many of the settlers who used it came from areas in England where it was common. The walls of Cob House would have been formed in layers, without any moulding, and, as is typical of this form of building, are wider at the base. Once the walls were formed a layer of exterior plaster was generally added, which acted as a weathercoat. By the building's centenary much of the exterior plaster at Cob House was severely degraded and subsequently repaired or replaced, as was some of the borer riddled rimu and white pine timber framing, lining and cladding.
There are a variety of cob residences currently on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) register of historic places whose locations are indicative of the main areas where the material was used. However, despite the popularity of this mode of building during the early period of European settlement in the Nelson area, there are only five examples of cob houses in the Nelson and Tasman regions on the NZHPT Register; three of which are Category II historic places (Record Numbers 2990, 5163 and 5153) , and Broadgreen (Record Number 252)and William Higgins Gallery (Record Number 1632) are registered as a Category I historic places. Out of these examples most are large houses or cottages.
The cob exterior walls of the house terminate at the roofline of the hipped roof, extending just above the corrugated iron roofed verandah that wraps around the north, west and east sides of the house. The sills of the dormer windows that punctuate the corrugated iron steeply pitched roof, and provide light to the bedrooms, extend below the eaves and into the cob. The timber construction of the upper storey of the house is exposed in the dormers, three of which are positioned on the entrance/north side of the house, and two each on the west and east sides. As well as breaking up the expanse of corrugated iron of these three elevations, the windows also feature decorate scalloped bargeboards which add a touch of elegance to this otherwise modest residence, and like the scalloping under the eaves of the verandah, appears to be an original, or at least late nineteenth century, aspect of the building. The absence of dormers on the south side indicates it was designed as the utility area of the building, which is further indicated by a lean-to section which spans this side of the house and is also constructed from cob.
The glazing in the building is predominantly multi-paned, with that of the dormers being double-hung sash windows, and the lower level windows feature double casement windows, each of which has an awning window also contained within the frame. The exception to this is the triple window of the kitchen which appears to be a late twentieth century addition. The main entranceway, which has narrow French doors, is similarly glazed on its upper portion. A larger set of counterpart doors have been installed in the lean-to section, presumably at a later date, as has a section of polycarbonate roof cladding installed to provide more light into this bathroom and laundry section of the house which otherwise would be dark because of the relatively uninterrupted walls. This roof cladding has also been repeated in two sections of the east verandah corresponding to the kitchen area windows. These, and the other windows on the north and west facades, are tall windows, and on the north and east sides they have window boxes that were added since the 1970s. The original chimney was replaced with a steel equivalent around the same time.
The interior of the house has three levels. The ground and upper floors are the main living spaces, but there is also a small cellar that is accessed by a doorway under the main staircase. It has been suggested that the cellar was not only created for use as a cool storage area, but for the purpose of obtaining material from which to construct some of the cob walls. The timber cellar stairs are steep and narrow and lead into this earth floor area, the walls of which were constructed by packing riverstones into the earth.
On the ground floor the main entranceway leads directly into a modestly sized living room. All of the rooms in the building are of unpretentious dimensions, which was a key reason for the removal of one of the kitchen walls in the late twentieth century. This has created a double sized, long, open plan area that stretches the length of the east side of the main body of the building. The creation of this space has subsequently provided more light and warmth into the kitchen area. The timber staircase to the upper floor is almost central in the building and situated within a hall that adjoins the living room and kitchen area and creates a site line through to the central French doors of the lean-to section. The hall's lining features stained timber dado which continues on a diagonal, corresponding to the angle of the stairs, on the stairwell wall. The staircase itself is quite steep which is typical of this era of house. The main and two subsidiary bedrooms of the upper storey are accessed via this staircase and extra space within the hipped roof is provided by the presence of the dormer windows.
Restoration project. Kitchen window enlarged
Cob, corrugated iron, glass, polycarbonate sheeting, riverstones, timber
28th July 2009
Report Written By
Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
J N W Newport, A short history of the Nelson Province, RW Stiles ad Co Ltd, Nelson, 1966
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office.
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.