21 Seymour Avenue


This home is a transitional villa, with a category B Heritage listing, built approximately 1913. 

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.

Seymour Avenue became a heritage precinct in 1995. Avenues are typically tree-lined streets, so the street plantings are an important part of the precinct’s character.

21 Seymour st

21 Seymour Avenue. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

The Sunnyside Estate was subdivided in 1911 and was a reflection of the growing 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 World War 1, 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 & Seymour set up as merchants and later as land agents and land speculators.

Together they purchased 20 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 St. 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

An advertisement in the Colonist in 1912 shows 30 sections in Sunnyside Estate up for sale at a price of three pounds per foot ,“undoubtedly the cheapest sections on the market” and with the added advantage of an “unusually good selection of mixed fruit trees”.

21 Seymour Avenue view

Early photo looking south along Seymour Ave. Nelson Museum Misc Collection 9853

By August of 1913, residents in Seymour Avenue included HE Parmenter, Elizabeth Parker, Arthur Rowe, Ellen Hayward and Mary Bromell. By February of 1919, twenty-six houses had been built in the avenue.

The initial development was principally along the eastern side and at the southern end where it connects to Brook Street. Transitional villas were the first to populate the newly formed street, moving to California bungalows later.

Rowling family

The first owners of the house are not known. William (Bill) and Jeanette (Jean) Rowling were long-term residents of 21 Seymour Avenue, purchasing the property in the 1970s and living there until 2015.

Bill and Jean had previously been living at 56 Seymour Avenue which was demolished when Seymour Avenue became a two-way street. Before Bill and Jean purchased 21 Seymour Avenue it was part of a larger section with fruit trees and a garage. The Rowlings bought the house and the rest of the large section was subdivided.

Bill Rowling, who passed away in 2015, was born in Motueka and was a cousin of Sir Wallace Edward (Bill) Rowling, Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1974 to 1975. Bill and Jean raised their four children in Seymour Avenue.

Jean can still recall the Brook Stream flood of 1970, when the family was living at 56 Seymour Avenue:

“We were terrified all night. We’d just bought a new bedroom suite and we left a candle burning in a saucer because the power was out and my husband was up and down checking the water levels. He had pulled the barge boards off the house so that the water would be able to run through if it flooded and we had towels at the back door which we had to keep replacing as they were getting soaked through. The water didn’t actually come through our house but the candle burned a patch into our beautiful new bedroom suite!”

Style and Construction

Transitional villas were built roughly between 1908 and 1918 and as the name suggests, in a transitional period between the early Victorian villa and the new California bungalow.

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. Inside, transitional villas are more open than older villas, with a broader, shorter central hall, and larger rooms.

The current owner has painted the exterior of the house and also installed a hot water system.

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2019 (updated 2021)

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Further sources - 21 Seymour Avenue


  • Salmond, J. (1966). Old New Zealand Houses. Auckland: Reed Methuen Publishers Ltd.



  • Macalpine, personal communication, March 2019
  • J. Rowling, personal communication, March 2019
  • Seymour Street Heritage Precinct History Board
  • Nelson Heritage Assessment – Seymour Avenue. Nelson City Council

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