Haven Road and Fountain Place


For many decades Haven Road had a distinct estuary character. At low tide the mudflats and changing channels of the Maitai River were exposed, while full tide inspired picture-postcard views.

A horse drawn carriage, known as the Dun Mountain Railway Omnibus and later the City Bus, utilised the Dun Mountain line  between the city and the port. The bus service was available from 1862 until 1901 and was especially enjoyed by those who liked to ride the knifeboard seat on the roof.

A wooden seawall was replaced by a stone seawall when the Nelson Railway line was extended to the port in 1880. This left the Dun Mountain Line in its original position, now inland from the wall.

Houses and businesses pressed against the pavement on the opposite side of Haven Road alongside one of Nelson's waterfront landmarks, the gas works. Over the years more and more land was reclaimed for port-related industry and Haven Road took on its current landlocked style.

Fountain Place
16 Fountain PlaceAtkinson House [16 Fountain Place]. Tyree Studio Collection. Nelson Provincial Museum. Click image to enlarge

Number 16 (left) still stands today. The Tyree Studio has it labelled ‘Atkinson House'. The shingled roof of neighbouring no.14 is just visible amongst the trees. 

Whether or not the children in the photograph of no.16 are Atkinson's is debatable, as are the old stories about which gang was supreme; Beachville youngsters teamed up with Russell Street as ‘the Port rats' and fought fierce battles with ‘the Wood' gang. Sometimes these battles were fought from dinghies launched, depending upon the tide, off the seawall at the bottom of the streets. 

McLauchlan House [21 Fountain Place] Tyree Studio Collection. Nelson Provincial Museum. Click image to enlarge

It is unknown how many temporary dwellings were erected in Fountain Place but the oldest building today is the central part of no.21 (left) built in 1862. Here it is about 1886, ‘McLauchlan House', photographed by the Tyree Studio. The McLauchlan family added to the house over the next 100 years. The last remaining family member died, aged well over 90 years, in 1983; it is possible the small girl in the photograph is her.

The house behind, no. 23, is known today as ‘The Pilot's Cottage', possibly referring to Master Mariner F. Hill who is thought to have built it in 1869. A marine pilot, Captain Crapper, lived here from 1927 - 1937. The house has a Historic Places Trust ‘C' rating.

Within the changing character of the Haven Road locality, Fountain Place has retained an historic atmosphere through the preservation of its architecture and an expression of the local vernacular in its modern dwellings. The street was awarded Residential Heritage Precinct status by the Nelson City Council in 1996. Design guidelines have been created to help conserve this very special place.

For many years Fountain Place was named Beachville Avenue and confused with encircling Beachville Crescent.

Local residents looked back to history for a 1986 street renaming. Fountain Place refers to Fountain Square, the area of land within the locality known as Beachville where a fresh water spring was located at the top of the street. The water was favoured for many years by early seamen to stock their supplies before setting out from the wharf; it was said to be a very fine flavour. No doubt this water was appreciated by even earlier inhabitants: the Maori, who settled around Powhai (the land facing the Haven between Matangi Awhio and Russell Street).

There were six recorded pathways from Fountain Place on early plans, their use dependent upon whether one needed to get on foot to the port, Trafalgar Street or Nelson south via Washington Valley.

Beachville Estate

Fountain Place was originally part of a 21 acre block sold to George William Schroder in 1851 granted by the New Zealand Company. Default on his mortgage resulted in a resale; 12 acres was sold around 1861 to John Lewthwaite who created a residential subdivision called ‘Beachville Estate'. On the various land titles, rights of way were granted over the roads and six footpaths intersecting the estate, as were rights to draw water from the well.

This text was written for a Nelson Heritage Trust panel situated in Fountain Place in 2004.

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