The Colonial Cottage Museum

The Colonial Cottage
The Cottage on Nairn Street
General information
Architectural style Late Georgian style
Location Nairn Street, Wellington, New Zealand

41°17′57″S 174°46′12″E / 41.2993°S 174.7699°E / -41.2993; 174.7699

Current tenants The Colonial Cottage Museum
Completed 1858
Owner Wellington City Council

The Colonial Cottage Museum is the oldest building in Wellington City, New Zealand. It's classified as a "Category I" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.[1]

The cottage was built in 1858 and is located on Nairn Street in the suburb of Mount Cook, Wellington. The Cottage was built in a late Georgian style and is similar to other houses built from that time through to about 1870. The Cottage was built by William Wallis who arrived in New Zealand in September 1857 with his wife Catherine.

The articles within the cottage, with some exceptions, all date from between 1850 to 1880. Several items belonged to the family, others were donated from other settler families and others have been loaned or purchased.

The Wallis family

William and Catherine were newlyweds who undertook an arduous seventeen week journey by ship to arrive in New Zealand. Like many immigrants they came in search of a better life. Unlike many immigrants, Wallis purchased the Nairn Street site only after he viewed it. He chose the location specifically because there was a stream at the bottom of his town-acre site. Wallis was aware of the necessity of a safe water supply after the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake had created tidal waves that swamped Wellington town's water supply leading to several deaths from typhoid.

William had been apprenticed as a carpenter on The Crystal Palace in London. He also built hospitals in the Crimean War, which allowed him the skills and capital necessary to emigrate to the comparatively new colony. The cottage is almost entirely built of native New Zealand timber and was built by hand. His original tool chest remains in the cottage collection.

The Wallis family had 10 children altogether, but after their seventh child the family relocated to a larger house, which William also built, next door. Their descendants remained in the cottage until the late seventies when the Wellington City Council earmarked the cottage for demolition so that council flats could be built in its place. Only the tenacity of Winifred Turner, a granddaughter of William and Catherine and the last person to live in the cottage, saved the cottage and its historical value was finally recognised.


The museum is open from 12-4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays until 23 December 2012. From 5 January to 3 March 2013 the Museum is expected to open every day from 12-4 pm.

External links

  • The Colonial Cottage Museum


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