Historical Significance or Value
House, Ruby Bay has considerable local historical significance because of its links to prominent and influential early European settler families in the Nelson region. Constructed in 1867, it is one of the earliest remnants of the spread of settlement into the Moutere region. Although relatively close to the nucleus of settlement, due to inadequate early road infrastructure the area was most efficiently accessed by boat. This proximity and solitude was one of its attractions for the Buxton family who constructed their holiday home upon the retirement of Edmund Buxton from his successful Nelson merchant business, E. Buxton and Company. This building also has historical importance locally because it was subsequently inhabited for a long period by members of the Stafford family, another prominent local early European family. William Stafford is credited with recognising and first exploiting the export fruit growing potential of the district, which previously had been dominated by sheep farming, and his wife is also credited with the naming of Ruby Bay.
Architectural Significance or Value
House, Ruby Bay has architectural significance because it is a distinctive and rare example of a Dutch and Belgian Gothic inspired domestic building dating from the early period of settlement in its district and Nelson province in general.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The location and time period in which House, Ruby Bay was constructed is typical of early European settlement patterns in New Zealand which focused on firmly establishing a nucleus and then gradually expanding into isolated areas. The holiday home purpose of the building represents the prosperity that some early European settlers were able to amass within the first few decades of their immigration, and is a physical remnant of the leisure and way of life this afforded them.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
House, Ruby Bay has local and regional importance because its two early inhabitant families were of note in Nelson. The Buxton's were a wealthy merchant family and the construction of their distinctive holiday home at Ruby Bay is indicative of this.
The residence also has an important association with the Stafford family. William Howard Stafford was the nephew of Sir Edward W. Stafford who had been Superintendant of the province and a Premier of New Zealand. More particularly, William is credited with first realising the fruit growing potential of the Moutere area, which became a major local industry, and his wife is said to have named Ruby Bay.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
House, Ruby Bay is an integral part of a larger historical landscape that documents the prominence of one of Nelson's prominent early European settler families. House, Ruby Bay is connected with the Buxton family's estate, Broadgreen, on the outskirts of Nelson and these two places are indicative of the wealth generated, and the lifestyle of, that family by the late 1860s.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b and k.
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, which had travelled from Hawaiki and landed at the Boulder Bank, near what would become Nelson city, circa 850. 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.'
A European association with the Nelson 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 by Captain James Cook, 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, 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 Affray' 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. By the 1850s all of the major Christian denominations could also boast of clergy and associated buildings in and around Nelson. Between 1853 and 1858 the European population of the district had risen from 4587 to over 7000 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 area's produce.
The extension of settlement beyond Nelson town and the establishment of farms was a recognised necessity in order for the town to progress. However, this was problematic because much of the surrounding district was mountainous, densely forested, or was covered in fern or swamp, and of inconsistent levels of fertility. The expansion of settlement into the Upper Moutere, and the Ruby Bay area in particular, was hampered by its geography. Therefore, when the prominent Buxton family of Nelson built a holiday house in the area access to it and the other residences was by boat from Nelson rather than road. The coastline around Mapua had attracted pleasure cruisers from as early as the 1850s and people began to settle in the area to a greater extent in the 1860s.
The Buxton family holiday house was built in 1867 and coincided with Edmund Buxton's (1805-1882) retirement. Edmund and his wife Martha immigrated in 1851 and between then and 1867 Edmund built-up a prominent merchant company in Nelson, E. Buxton and Company. The success of this business was indicated by Buxton being able to spend his retirement as a gentleman farmer at his impressive property close to Nelson, called Broadgreen. The house in Ruby Bay served as a summer residence for Buxton and his family which consisted of six daughters, one of whom was married to Henry Buckeridge who took over the management of E. Buxton and Company when Buxton retired.
The Buxton's holiday home has been described as a 'distinctive Dutch-colonial style house.' The size and flamboyant style of the house is reflective of the stature of the Buxton family. Most of the construction materials would have been shipped to the location using small crafts, however, the roofing slates are known to have been carted from Nelson. This mode of transport took over one day to get to Ruby Bay from Nelson, which is indicative of the rudimentary state of the roads and tracks.
The relatively isolated beach and bay must have been a delightful holiday spot, but it seems to have been irrevocably tainted for the Buxton family by a traumatic event that occurred in January 1881. While spending the summer at the house and having a family picnic, Buckeridge's 13 year old son took a dinghy out into the bay and got into strife after a strong gust of wind blew it out further. Buckeridge tried to swim to his son's rescue but this attempt ended in his own death by drowning. His son survived and was picked up by a passing steamer some hours later. This was a heavy loss for the family and also to the Nelson business community.
This family tragedy was the catalyst for the Buxton family's removal from their holiday house. William Howard Stafford leased the property after this event, and eventually bought it in 1887, after Buxton's death two years earlier, to use as a family home. Stafford was the nephew of prominent Nelsonian, Sir Edward W. Stafford (1819-1901) who had been Superintendant of Nelson, as well as the Premier of New Zealand three times. The purchase of this property and its location was opportune for the Stafford's and their young family because the section adjoined the properties of both Mrs Stafford's father, John Oldam, and Fred Oldham who was her brother. The Oldams owned a significant portion of the land in the area.
Stafford is said to have been 'the first person to bring a boat-load of fruit trees to the locality, where he planted 10 acres in apples and apricots.' Stafford was not the only person to recognise the potential of the area for horticulture. In fact Edmund Buxton had commented that while Moutere area was not to his mind suitable for sheep-runs, he thought that the land closer to the sea could be a good place to grow fruit. Stafford soon extended the orchard around the house, and others began planting the area in apple trees, therefore by the early twentieth century it was contributing a considerable amount to the local export fruit trade.
The Staffords lived in the house until 1919 and they left their mark on it and the area in several ways besides being instrumental in the establishment of the fruit production of area. By 1907 they erected the verandah on the front façade of the house and established wisteria over it. Their family legacy can also be seen in the naming of the coastal road that runs past their former house. Mrs Stafford is also credited with naming Ruby Bay. As one of the Stafford children was named Ruby there has been speculation that it was named after their daughter. However, being the couple's youngest child, the Staffords had lived in what would become Ruby Bay for many years before she was born. One of the other children has recorded that the name for the bay came from the fact that Mrs Stafford, and others subsequently, found tiny rubies washed up on the beach.
After the Stafford's sold the property it was purchased by Mr Wratt. He operated the local sawmill, and he sold the house on to George Boyce in 1935. In 1953 it was acquired by Phyllis and Eric Tyndale-Biscoe. The Tyndale-Biscoes bought the house upon Eric's retirement and called it Holton House after Eric's home village in Oxfordshire, England. During his career Eric had spent many years in Kashmir as a missionary teacher, like his father before him, and his affection and esteem for the area is demonstrated at the house through the pebble pavement at its entrance, which depicts a map of India with Kashmir picked out, an imported carved walnut fireplace in the study, and the planting of several exotic Indian species in the garden.
The property was sold again in 1989, after Eric's death the previous year, and a major renovation project was launched by the new owners Hilary Blundell and Lynda Mabin. During the early part of the 1990s the couple ran a successful bed and breakfast business at the house. The house is now owned by Hilary Blundell's Holton Estates Limited family trust.
The House is located on the Mapua coastline on a gently elevated site, back across the road from the rocky shore. A long concealed drive south off Stafford Drive leads to the house through mature trees and shrubs. South of the house by a few kilometers is the township of Mapua. Northwards, Ruby Bay continues, and stretching out behind the house and grounds are the vineyards and orchards of the Tasman area.
House, Ruby Bay is sited in the middle of the large sloping section, a two storey timber-framed and stucco-finished house of elegant but modest rectangular proportions. The gables give an impression of size. However, structurally, the house is not large - a ground floor with an extended steep roof into which the generous gables are mounted to create the space inside. The house is aligned with its long walls facing north and south. The most impressive elevation of the house, facing north, shows a symmetry of gabled dormers over a verandahed ground floor. A steep slate roof, timber finials and trim accentuate the decorative roofline. The walls are stucco finished and joinery is timber.
The house is built following the style of modest country houses in Nelson. However it is the gables of the north view that sets this house apart. The central dormer gable particularly remembers the Gothic-inspired stepped gables of traditional houses in sixteenth and seventeenth century Netherlands and Belgium, and nineteenth century Stellenbosch, South Africa. Centred in each gable is a two-sash timber casement window, hooded above. Below the timber verandah, heavily draped with climber, runs the length of the house and has been enclosed at the east end to form a conservatory living room. Simple square posts support the verandah. A few steps lead up to the doorway and a verandah floor that is laid out with mosaic pebbles.
On the opposite south side of the house, the long wall of the gabled structure is extended by an original lean-to which has subsequently been added to, creating a long and broad lean-to. Above a single, undecorated small gable is centrally place in the roof. Either side are the flues from the fireplaces beneath, which have replaced original chimneys. A solar panel unit is mounted on the lean-to roof.
The east and west elevations of the house are gabled ends with lean-to extensions. The gables have decorative barge boards and finials. A centrally mounted window matches those on the north. Beneath doors leas out: on the east are original French doors beneath a bracketed overhang; on the west the lean-to addition provides and extended glazed opening.
Behind the house, extensions, porches, new building, outbuildings and a swimming pool have extended the complex significantly. The house is surrounded by a collection of mature and younger trees.
The floor layout of the house is simple: two rooms either side of a hall downstairs; two rooms either side of a hall upstairs; and lean-tos or verandah attached to the main structure on three sides.
At the formal main entrance, French doors open onto a hall. Either side are large living rooms of similar size: the Dining Room to the left (east) and the Living Room to the right (west). Each has a decorative fireplace and surround. The carving to the Living Room fireplace is intricately detailed. Each room has an extension into a lean-to: the Dining Room extends into the 'built-in' verandah while the Living Room extends into an addition on the west side. Rather than windows, the rooms have French doors. These match the front entrance doors - long and slender timber frames, glazed, with a low timber panel. Ceilings are plastered and of moderate height. Architraves and other trim timbers have been modified however original timbers still in place show a modest level of decorative molding. Internal doors are timber with four panels.
In the hall between, a simple stairway rises to a mid-landing within the south dormer with timber treads with rounded nosings and tread returns, simple open square-dressed balusters, terminated in an elaborate curtail and the ground floor and at newels with timber spheres on the upper level. Linings and a post are recent changes to the stairway.
From the hall and beyond is the access into the lean-to at the rear (south) of the house which accommodates the kitchen and laundry. These rooms show a level of rebuilding, new joinery and new fittings and have been introduced over a number of years.
From the mid-landing the stair turns and rises into an upper hall which takes in the full width of the main gable. To the north the view extends into Tasman Bay. To the south, the dormer is marked by a small but attractive modern stained glass window. The symmetry that is apparent both from the exterior and in the ground floor plan is repeated.
Either side of the upper hall are two bedrooms of similar size, proportions and appointment. Each has two windows - one facing north towards the bay, and one facing out from the main gable. Each room has ensuite tucked into a corner. Both rooms and the upper hall show the complexity of shapes that the dormered roof produces. Angled roof sections drop deeply into each corner. Linings and collar ties have been renewed. Walls are plastered with corners trimmed.
Corner porch enclosed
Renovation project and rear two-storey wing constructed
Timber (rimu, totara, matai), slate, concrete, corrugated iron, glass, remnant brick foundations
22nd March 2010
Report Written By
Karen Astwood & Alison Dangerfield
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906
Lash, Max D., Nelson Notables 1840-1940: A Dictionary of Regional Biography, Nelson, 1992
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
A. Wells, Nelson's Historic Country Churches, Nelson, 2003
B Wells, The Fruits of Labour: A history of the Moutere Hills area served by the port of Mapua, Nelson, 1990
J N W Newport, Footprints, The Story of the Settlement and Development of the Nelson Back Country District, Whitcomb and Tombs Ltd, 1962
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.