33 Seymour Avenue
33 Seymour Avenue is in one of Nelson's Heritage precincts. It is a transitional California bungalow, built in the 1920s.
About the area
Seymour Avenue is a great example of well-preserved 20th century architecture. The houses in the street represent the transition from the villa-style homes of the early 1900s through to the American-inspired bungalow that dominated the 1930s – and everything in between. Seymour Avenue became a heritage precinct in 1995.
The Seymour Avenue subdivision of 1911 was a reflection of the increasing population of Nelson city at the time, with a growing number of trade and service industry professionals. These were people who were looking for a modestly-sized, conveniently located section on which to build a family home. Early residents included ex-servicemen from the First World War, who were settling back into family life.
Seymour Avenue is named after Henry Seymour’s daughter, Fanny. Henry Seymour arrived in Nelson in 1842 with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Fanny. Alfred Fell, another New Zealand Company settler had arrived months earlier. Together Fell and Seymour set up as merchants and later as land agents and land speculators. They purchased twenty acres of land on the upper slopes of the city. This estate was bordered by the Brook Stream to the east, the Seymour Oak and Bronte Street to the north and back up the Brook Valley and a significant part of the northern Grampians. The same year Fell married Fanny Seymour (Henry's daughter). The two men also owned the land on which Blenheim was later built.
History of the House
George and Violet Clements were early long-term residents of 33 Seymour Avenue. Their son Lionel Clements (now aged ninety) was told that he was born in the house in 1927. Lionel had an older brother, Harold and a younger sister, Maeva. George Clements was a bus driver for Newmans Transport.
Lionel Clements has many fond memories of growing up in Seymour Avenue, including making dams in the Brook Stream which runs along the back of the property. “We used to block it up ‘til we got a pool big enough to swim in – it would stay like that for half the summer until there was a big rain,” he says. Lionel also recalls getting shouted at as a child for playing on the property belonging to “Old Rout” – lawyer William Rout who at that time owned nearby Warwick House. Lionel grew up to be a builder/joiner and completed some renovation work on 33 Seymour Avenue for his parents.
Violet Clements lived in the house right up until her death in 1966. George Clements had passed away a few years earlier.
In later years the section was subdivided and the house has since changed hands several times, most recently in 2017.
Style and Construction
This plain, square bungalow style house is part of a group of similar houses in a street setting of houses from the early 20th century.
‘California bungalow’ is a style of residential architecture that was popular across the United States, and to varying extents elsewhere, from around 1910 to 1939. 33 Seymour Avenue is a great example of a “transitional” house which is villa in substance but bungalow in manner. By about 1918 in New Zealand, the villa style was out of fashion and many builders were working from imported plan books from America which buyers could select their preferred house designs from.
Transitional houses were still planned as villas and clad in weatherboard or brick, but the rooves were flatter and boxed eaves gave way to exposed rafter ends without fascia boards. Although the bungalow style used plain and simple finishes, there was still a surprising amount of decoration, including features such as the scalloped ends of barge boards, rows of projecting blocks and gable walls - often shingled.
This house is a typical California bungalow with a low pitched roof, large overhangs, exposed rafter ends and casement windows.
This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2018 (updated 2021)
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Further sources - 33 Seymour Avenue
- Salmond, J. (1966). Old New Zealand Houses. Auckland: Reed Methuen Publishers Ltd.
- F. & D. Land Agents [Advertisement]. (1919, 11 February). Nelson Evening Mail, Issue 35, Volume LIII, Retrieved from
- Interviews with Clements family
- Nelson City Council Dress Circle Walk brochure
- Seymour Street Heritage Precinct History Board