24 Ngatitama Street

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Sunley House, 24 Ngatitama Street is a two storey Victorian Villa, built approximately 1890. It has a Heritage Category B listing.

About the Area

Situated on the corner of Hampden Street East and Ngatitama Street, Sunley House was originally part of Town Acres 1039 and 1041 of the City of Nelson.

24 Ngatitama st cropped

24 Ngatitama Street. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

On early maps, the street name was sometimes spelt Ngati Tuma, but is now spelt Ngatitama. Today the street runs between Hampden Street and the end of Rutherford Street, but it originally continued on along the back of Nelson College, finishing at the town boundary. The southern end of the street is known today as Brunner Street.

History of the House

Built for teacher Miss G. F. Sunley, Sunley House as it is now known has housed many students and families over the years.

Miss Georgiana F. Sunley
Miss Sunley was head teacher at Hampden Street School c1890 although she did not live there herself, but rented it to others. Miss Sunley started teaching at Hampden Street School in March 1879 as second assistant on a salary of £54 a year. Her father, Mr R. M. Sunley had been the master at Hampden Street School since 1871. Miss Sunley and a probationer called Miss Marris took over classes for the infant division. Miss Sunley later became assistant teacher then took up the role of head teacher in 1893, a position she held until the end of 1909.

24 Ngatitama Georgiana Sunley

Georgiana Sunley. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

Miss Sunley is described in the Hampden Street School Reunion booklet of 1980 as “a kindly person, much loved to children.” She died in January of 1910 following a serious
operation and children from the school lined the road to pay their last respects during her funeral procession.

Following her death the Sunley family offered her piano to the school and soon afterwards, the school started the Sunley Memorial Prize, a tradition that continued at Hampden Street School for over fifty years.

James Wyllie
Another notable resident of 24 Ngatitama Street was James Wyllie, who lived in the house from the 1940s to the 1960s. James Wyllie was born in Blackbyre, Fenwick, Ayrshire in southern Scotland. He trained as an engineer at the Kilmarnoch Academy and came to New Zealand in 1911 at the age of 28 to take up a position on the Waihi gold-field.

James Wyllie served in the First World War as an engineer and was seriously injured by
an exploding shell in Flanders, Belgium. The injuries caused him to lose a leg and damaged his right shoulder. He spent about a year in hospital in England before returning to New Zealand. During his long spell in hospital, James Wyllie used his engineering knowledge to build himself an artificial limb and also made them for other amputees.

In about 1925 James Wyllie started a bacon factory at Appleby which he named after his
parents’ home at Blackbyre. Although the factory closed during the Great Depression, that part of Appleby still bears this title and a road by the same name. Mr Wyllie worked at, and later owned Kershaw’s engineering works in Rutherford Street which he operated until 1941.

Other owners have included the founders of the ABC Bookstore which later became Page & Blackmore.

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2019.

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