Sugar Tree Cottage 14 South Street

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Sugartree Cottage sits in the South Street, Heritage Precinct of Nelson. It is a Colonial cottage, built in approximately 1864. 

South Street

South Street was originally known as Town Acre 456 and many of the houses date back to the 1860s. These humble cottages, likely rented to workers and widows from the local port and tannery, tell the story of the ordinary folk of the colony.

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14 South Street, Nelson. Photo supplied by the Nelson Cancer Society

As a group, South Street is unique in Nelson with a typical colonial character, notable for the closeness of the buildings to the street and each other, the narrowness of the street and the early colonial style of townhouses of the period. 

Over the years, some of the cottages became run down and, in 1981, a few were threatened with demolition to make way for a motel. However South Street residents campaigned to keep the street intact and in 1983 it was recognised and protected as a Heritage Precinct by Nelson City Council.

To help enhance the character of the street, cobblestone footpaths were laid, overhead wires removed and placed underground, and lantern style street lights were added. South Street is now known as New Zealand’s oldest fully preserved street.   

History of the house

The Honourable Constantine Augustus Dillon

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Constantine Augustus Dillon – the first owner of Town Acre 456 (The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Collection, T-69659-3)

The first owner of South Street (then known as Town Acre 456) was the Honourable Constantine Augustus Dillon who bought the land from the New Zealand Company in 1851. The younger son of the 13th Viscount Dillon of Ditchley, Oxfordshire, Constantine Dillon served in the Royal Navy, working as aide-de-camp to key military figures. He was supported in all of his endeavours by his beautiful, distinguished and intelligent wife, Frances Dorothy (known as Fanny), whom he married in 1842. The Dillons sailed for New Zealand on the George Fyffe, arriving in Nelson on December 12, 1842. Although they were the first owners of the land, the Dillons never lived there themselves. On 16 April 1853, Dillon was returning from inspecting his Delta Dairy in the Waihopai and drowned as the party crossed the Wairau River. He was buried in the graveyard at St Michael’s Church in Waimea West. On his death, the property was passed to his widow. Heartbroken, Fanny and the children returned to Oxfordshire and the land was later sold to builder William Rout. 

George Haydon

In 1864 a wooden four roomed house (now No. 14 South Street) was built and occupied by a George Haydon, but whether it was erected by him or Rout is uncertain. The value was seventy pounds with a capital value of one hundred and thirty pounds, which by 1866 had increased to one hundred and sixty pounds. 

Haydon was born in Hampshire, England, c 1815–1817. In 1857 he married a Susan Scutter at his Hardy Street residence. They had three children together before moving to South Street in 1863-64 and stayed until at least 1878. George Haydon and William Rout were both builders and Haydon may have rented the house from Rout.

The cottage at No. 14 has had many owners since, including a builder, baker, grocer, Nelson College governors, master mariner, art dealer, cabinet maker, potter and the Dominion Hotel.   Former owners Justin and Lorraine Gardener did much to encourage the concept of the street as a conservation area.

Style and construction

Often admired for their unadorned simplicity, the little wooden cottage of one or two rooms, with a central door and a window either side, remained the basic unit of ordinary house design throughout the 19th century.   When the cottages were built, the bathrooms and toilets would have been out-buildings and kitchens would have been at the back - sometimes adjoining a scullery – often a converted veranda. The kitchen is now at the front to catch morning sun and the old kitchen block was demolished and a new extension of two rooms was added at the south side of the back of the house,with a veranda along the west and north walls.

The South Street cottages are simple buildings clad with timber weatherboards and either corrugated iron or timber shingle roofing. The joinery is timber with simple clean detailing. Owners have added window boxes which are an attractive addition. 

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2018.

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