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491 Ferguson Street

491-Fergusson -Street

Building Details

Address: 491 Ferguson Street, House
Construction date: 1876
Architect/designer: Unknown
Architectural style: Box cottage
District Plan Category: 1
Building number: 26
Heritage NZ Category: N

Physical and Social History 

The Wellington Provincial Government Gazette 1876: p40 records that B Newcombe had bought Town section 887, Palmerston between the 1 and 29 February 1876. The section consisted of 1 acre and 1 road, and he had paid £25 for it.

Unlike many sections bought around that time, he had not paid with scrip - certificates entitling the holders to land that had been handed out instead of cash around that time to those settlers who had fought in the New Zealand Wars. Many of these former fighters sold their scrip to speculators, who then bought Crown land as an investment. The timing of the Crown land sales in Palmerston North in the early1870s, meant the town proved a popular place at which to deal with scrip matters.

The neighbouring Section 885 was a small piece of a 70-acre investment (totalling £849, and did not involve scrip) made by prominent businessman Jacob Joseph in April 1874. Meanwhile Section 886 over the back fence (along with its neighbour Sec 888 - totalling 2a 2r 0p) had been bought using £60 of scrip by DS McLellan and another' in August 1874. Then in January 1876, Shetland immigrant James Laurensen bought the remaining neighbouring section, No 889, which was the same size and price as Newcombe's.[1]

CT WN10/246, dated 5 February 1876, was issued to Bernard Newcombe, who was described as a Palmerston North settler. It is assumed that he then built this house. The CT records that in September 1876 he mortgaged the property to the Manawatu Permanent Equitable Building & Investment Society. Possibly that covered the construction of the house.

Two further mortgages were added in 1877 and 1878, and then all three were discharged in August 1879 when the property was transferred to prominent local businessman, James Linton, a land and commission agent who also served as mayor between 1879-1882 and 1884-1885. It is likely that Newcombe had fallen behind on his mortgage repayments and that Linton had bought the property as a rental. He owned the property until 1886.

Subsequent owners were:
1886? - John Blundell, of 'Nullaglen', printer & newspaper proprietor
1886? - Patrick McNeil Hanna, ironmonger, of PN
1889 - Elizabeth Smith, wife of William Smith, brickmaker of PN
1901 - Transmission from E Smith (died 14/01/1901, aged 64) to William Smith, brickmaker
1903 - Transmission from W Smith (died 04/05/1903, aged 63) to Harry Smith, brickmaker, and Elizabeth Belfit, married woman, both of PN

The Smiths appear likely to have used this house as a rental or perhaps to house other family members. The family had arrived in New Zealand on the Woodlark bound for the Manchester Block and Feilding in 1874. By 1878 William Smith owned land in Wood Street, Palmerston North, and in 1881 he was advertising bricks for sale from his property in Rangitikei Street. The 1897-8 Rate Book shows William paying rates on Sections 884, 885, 886 and 887 (about four acres) at that time. These were a block stretching between Ferguson and Church Street, and bordered on the western side by Alexandra Street (now Victoria Avenue). The Smith family home appears to have been on Section 884 (cnr Church and Alexandra Streets), Section 886 in Church Street appears to have been bare land, and Sections 885 (cnr Alexandra and Ferguson Streets) and 887 (facing Ferguson Street) were required to pay sanitation rates (for the night cart?), but did not have receive the council water supply. Clearly both 886 and 887 had a house, one of which (887) is the house under study here. Elizabeth Smith was also paying rates on Section 251, a 40-acre property on the corner of Vogel Street and Tremaine Ave, which is now covered in State houses. This property adjoins most of the city's best-known former clay pits, and a cottage at 64 Vogel Street, that is possibly Roslyn's oldest, appears to stand on this land.

William's obituary records that he had lived in Palmerston North for some thirty years by the time of his death in 1903, after a lengthy illness. At the time he was living in Church Street, which supports the information in the aforementioned rate book. One of the couple's sons formed a carrier business and this survives today as the firm William L Smith Ltd.[2]

The next owner 
1903 - Ellen O'Connor, wife of Michael O'Connor, settler of PN. The same year part was transferred to John Donald Manson. The balance (1 rood, 16 perches, or 1416 square metres), containing the house, was as follows:
CT140/170 was issued in 1905 to Ellen O'Connor, wife of Michael O'Connor, settler, of Palmerston North.

Subsequent owners 
1905 - John William Bragg, settler of PN
1906 - Mary Hodgins, spinster, of PN, part was sold from the back of the property in 1938(?) and the balance was sold as follows:
1938 - Roy Russell

CT WN466/167 was issued in 1938 to Roy Russell, a bushman of Palmerston North. Possibly he was the same Roy Russell, by then referred to as a NZ. Railways employee aged 66 years, who died on 18 April 1973. His address was given in the Kelvin Grove Cemetery records as 492 Ferguson Street, which is across the road from this house.

1953 - Albert William Coventry, caretaker, & his wife Violet Mabel Hazel Coventry, of PN
1954 - Edward Joseph Taylor, greenkeeper of PN.
1959 - Elizabeth Swanson Crawford, spinster of PN.
1965 - Percy Stanley Wright, machinist, & his wife Florence Ellen Elizabeth, of PN

On 12 June 1968, Mrs FE Wright wrote a letter that is preserved in the Building Permit records. She complains about weeds and overgrowth on the PNCC's right-of-way adjoining her property. She said that as a result, her garden had become infested with rabbits - including four at the same time.

PS Wright, described as a caretaker, died on 19 December 1977, aged 76 years, and in 1980 the property was transmitted to Mrs FEE Wright as survivor. On the same date it was transferred to Susan Jane Opie, a schoolteacher of Palmerston North, and then in 1985 to Susan Frances Evans, and EDP Officer of Palmerston North. Mrs Wright, meanwhile, appears to have subsequently moved to the Awapuni home for the elderly. She died at the Awapuni Ward on 16 February 1991, aged 93 years.

In 1990, the name of Michael Langley Allen Puklowski, a caneworker of Palmerston North, was added to that of the aforementioned SF Evans under the Joint Family Homes Act 1964. However, Puklowski's name had appeared as the owner on a 1985 building permit application, when the couple sought to repile the house.

Subsequent owners
1990 - Vern Maurice Jansen, a fitter & turner, & Rachel Megan Campbell, cashier, of PN.
1997 - Tristan Alan Marshall & Gayle Bernice Spiller.
2001 - Current Owners

Architectural Design 

Because of the age of the house, no original drawings exist in the PNCC archives and no changes since are recorded in the archives.  The floor plan of the house is likely to follow a usual design with central corridor and rooms either side, with kitchen, laundry and toilet at the rear. 

The form of the house is a Saltbox cottage.  The main characteristic of these cottages is the gable roof with an uneven pitch where the roof to front of the ridge is greater than that behind the ridge.  Usually there is an uneven length of roofing either side of the ridge.  This cottage is single storey but they were often one and a half storeys with the attic space used for bedrooms.  Saltbox cottages often had verandahs at the front, a precedence, which this cottage follows.

The house is symmetrical about the centre of the front elevation, with central front door and single window either side.  This follows the simplified version of Georgian seen in many colonial cottages in early settlements, such as  Arrowtown.

The house and verandah are timber framed with timber weatherboards.  The level of authenticity of the exterior of the building appears to be high, but the interior authenticity cannot be confirmed.

Statement of Significance 

The house has regional and local significance for its historical and design values, its rare building form and high level of external  authenticity.

This house has considerable historic significance due to it age and the distinct lack of other houses of this vintage still existing in Palmerston North. Its links to early settlers such as the Smith family and other local pioneering families add to its historic value.

The saltbox cottage design, based on the Georgian cottage style is rare in Palmerston North and is representative of the early period of house construction and design in New Zealand.

Additional References
Certificates of Title: WN466/167 (1938), prior WN140/170 (1905), WN10/246 (1876)

[1]Wellington Provincial Government Gazette 1874: pp109, 146; 1876: p14

[2] Jim Lundy, Nine thousand bricks a day: The Hoffman kiln and the brickworks of Palmerston North (PN, 2005) p16