46 Shelbourne Street
Marama, 46 Shelbourne Street, was built in the Carpenter Gothic style in approximately 1851. It has a Category B heritage listing.
About the area
Although the house cannot now be seen from the road, in old photos it was clearly a landmark. Shelbourne Street is named after the Earl of Shelburne (with no ‘o’), Prime Minister of England in 1782 to 1783.
Shelbourne Street is also the site of Nelson’s old Gaol as well as one of Nelson’s oldest burial grounds, Hallowell Cemetery (1842 to 1885), also known as The Old Burying Ground and Shelbourne Street Cemetery. A display board at the site reveals the names of some of the people originally buried there. The infamous Maungatapu murderers were buried there too, but outside the consecrated ground as their crimes were considered so heinous.
History of the house
In old records, the house is referred to as Marama of Trafalgar Street rather than Shelbourne Street.
The house has been a much loved family home since being built almost 170 years ago and many families have owned it and passed through its doors, including several notable figures.
Joseph was the first owner of town acre 475. He arrived in Nelson in 1842 on board the Prince of Wales. His occupation is listed as ‘gentleman’. Early records show there was a house on the site by 1851.
Reverend Samuel Ironside
One of the earliest and most fascinating owners was the Reverend Samuel Ironside, a Wesleyan missionary. Ironside is listed as a joint-owner of the property between 1851 and 1853. Born in England in 1814, Ironside married Sarah Eades in 1838 and the couple had seven children. Ironside was ordained and set apart for missionary work in 1838 in London and left England for New Zealand on the James on 20 September 1838, arriving at Hokianga in 1839. In five months he became reasonably fluent in Māori and witnessed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi. On 20
In December 1840, Samuel and Sarah Ironside landed on the beach of Kakapo Bay, a whaling station in the Marlborough Sounds. Ironside was the first European missionary to take up residence in the Top of the South. They selected nearby Ngakuta Bay as the site for their mission station which they named Pisgah Vale. The mission station thrived and Ironside established a friendship with several Māori leaders which placed him in a unique position to mediate between Māori and the settlers. Sarah Ironside also played a significant role in the mission work, maintaining the station and its activities and setting up a school for Māori women teaching reading, writing and sewing.
Following the Wairau Incident on 17 June 1843 in which 22 Europeans and four Māori were killed when an armed party of New Zealand Company settlers clashed with Ngāti Toa over the purchase of land in the Wairau Valley, the Ironsides returned to their station at Ngakuta Bay to find it deserted. The Ironsides left for Wellington soon afterwards. From 1849 to 1855, Ironside was stationed at Nelson where he played an active role in community affairs and encouraged education among both Māori and settlers and opposed the secularisation of schools. The Ironsides later moved to New Plymouth before transferring to Australia in 1858. Samuel Ironside died at Hobart on 24 April 1897.
Captain William Robert Nicholson
Captain Nicholson is listed as the owner of the property in 1857 and 1858. Captain Nicholson arrived in Nelson on his own ship, the Woodstock in 1848 and built a cob house in Stoke. Rates records from this time show the property was valued at £1400. William Nicholson sold to John Sharp in 1858.
The property’s next owner was John Sharp, who lived in the house until 1879. John Sharp was an early European colonist who later went on to build Fellworth House. He arrived in New Zealand in 1843 on the Ursula and initially worked as a clerk to New Zealand Company agent Francis Dillon Bell.
By the 1850s, he had become the resident magistrate and was Nelson’s sheriff at the time of the Maungatapu Murders. John Sharp married Emma Bonnington in 1853 and they had four sons and two daughters. Emma died in 1886 after being thrown from her carriage and he later remarried Ivy Ann Hyde Walmsley. In 1871 John Sharp resigned from his official roles and began trading in real estate, through the company Sharp & Sons. The following year he bought into the Kent Brewery. After retiring from business, Sharp took on many civic duties, representing Nelson on the Provincial Council from 1874 to 1876 and serving as MP for Nelson city from 1875 to 1879. He also served as mayor of Nelson from 1888 to 1890. He was a fine cricketer in his youth and served with the Nelson Volunteer Fire Brigade and the Nelson Volunteer Rifles. He passed away in 1919 at the age of 90.
Style and Construction
Marama is one of the earliest homes of its type remaining in New Zealand and represents the style of home of a settler of some means in early Nelson. Although modified, the house is a good example of the timber Carpenter Gothic style of architecture. Carpenter Gothic features an eclectic and naïve use of the most obvious motifs of Gothic decoration – turrets, spires and pointed arches. Early photographs of the house show a third gable in the centre upstairs but this had been removed by the 1950s. The name of the architect/builder is not known, but the owners have come across a signature on some of the original internal framing while renovating.
Today the house has six bedrooms, two bathrooms and lots of little ‘nooks and crannies’. A stone/brick chimney was taken down following the Christchurch earthquakes. The current owners completed 18 months of restoration work as most of the weatherboards, finials and other parts of the house were rotten and the veranda had been lost over the years.
Using an original photograph, Palmer and Palmer architects were able to draw and recreate the house as it was. The front lawn has been levelled, stone work and a veranda added and the large wash house converted into a single bedroom. Other renovations have included adding an ensuite to the master bedroom and converting the old toilet room into a shower. The owners have also redeveloped the garden and made the section more ‘user friendly’. They have tried to develop an old English style garden, to complement the house, using both native and exotic plants.
- The servery window
- Distinctive patterned ceiling panels which may have been made by a Nelson firm
- A cellar in the kitchen where the original roof tiles are now being stored.
- Stone foundations, originally used as ballast on the early settler ships
- The replica Wendy house in the garden
This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2019 (updated 2021)
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Further sources - 46 Shelbourne Street
- Wilson, J. (2011). Thematic Historical Overview of Nelson City. Nelson.
- Lash, M. D. (1992). Nelson Notables 1840 – 1940 A Dictionary of Regional Biography. Nelson, New Zealand: Stiles Printing Ltd
- Mitchell, H & J. (2004). Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough Volume II: Te Ara Hou – The New Society. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.
- Nelson Historical Society. (1966). The Nelson Names. Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1966. Retrieved from:
- Historic Homes. Photo News, Volume 77, 1 April 1967. Retrieved from:
- Trengrove, D, personal communication, February 2019
- W. A. Chambers. ‘Ironside, Samuel’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
https://teara. govt.nz/en/biographies/1i3/ironside-samuel (accessed 18 February 2019)
- The Wairau incident’, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-Oct-2014: