135 Tasman Street


135 Tasman Street is a Colonial cottage, built approximately 1864, with a category 2 Heritage listing.

The area

Tasman Street is named for the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman. This street now includes what was once called Grattan Street on the early maps, like Hobhouse's map of 1859.  Tasman Street at that time ran only to Bridge Street, while Grattan Street ran from the river to the sea.  

135 Tasman St photo

135 Tasman Street. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

History of the house

The cottage at 135 Tasman Street was originally part of Town Acre 415. On the 1842 Town Plan of Nelson it is shown as a company reserve. When people purchased a land package in England from the New Zealand Company for £300, it included town, suburban and rural land. Each purchaser was assigned three numbers for the ballot and the numbers assigned determined the order in which settlers could select their sections for each land type. The balloting for the order of choice was done in London, however the actual choice was carried out on the ground in Nelson after land surveys had been completed. The New Zealand Company also participated in the ballot procedure, drawing numbers on behalf of its unsold sections so it could retain them for future sales. These became the company reserves. By the 1850s, the New Zealand Company was in financial trouble and surrendered property and other assets to the Crown. 

In 1855, Town Acre 415 was advertised for sale in the Nelson Examiner & New Zealand Chronicle in ‘allotments of 30 feet frontage leaving a depth of 70 feet. This acre is well adapted for cottages and must, before long, become a very valuable corner.’  Another advertisement from 1858 offers ‘all the unsold parts of Town Acre No 415.’ 

Julian Family

Information supplied to one of the cottage’s previous owners suggests that some of the earliest residents of the cottage may have been a soldier’s family of nine who came to Nelson from the Taranaki region in the 1860s. In a letter, the correspondent (a Julian family descendant) writes:

“All Julian women and children went to Nelson between August 1860 and March 1863 – there were 244 families on the list… as they were the largest family they were assigned one of the few available cottages while the others lived in tents on Church Hill where the cathedral now stands until houses could be provided.”

Nessie Scholfield

Vanessa (Nessie) Scholfield was a long-term resident of the cottage, moving in with her mother, an invalid, soon after the Murchison earthquake of 1929 and spending the next 60 years there, only leaving it to move into care. 

Sarah Smale

Former owner Sarah Smale, who purchased the cottage in 2001, is credited with restoring it from an extremely run-down state.  “I bought it by tender – nobody wanted it but I loved it straight away,” she recalls. Back then, the garden was almost up to the roof, there was a dirt floor in the bathroom and piping running across the ground, rats had taken over the bedroom and the place was riddled with borer. Plastic bags had been stuffed into numerous crevices in the walls as insulation and several bales of plastic bags and old newspapers had to be removed. Over a period of about a year, the cottage was restored to a standard approved by the Historic Places Trust. “My husband was away in Germany for nine months, and I needed a project while he was away!” Sarah says.

The renovations included dismantling the existing bathroom, laundry and wood stove at the rear of the cottage, alterations to the existing kitchen at the rear of the cottage including an extension to provide laundry facilities. A new gabled roof and new windows and glazed double doors were added and the existing fireplace and chimney were removed. The dining room was converted to a bathroom and the shingle roof was reinstated after being hidden underneath corrugated steel roofing. New windows were also added on the north to match the western façade. 

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. Cottages were not always made of weatherboard – they were also made of brick, cob or stone. The kitchen was originally separate – it would have been built of sods or cob and banished from the house due to the risk of fire. The veranda was a classical colonial feature that came to Britain from the colonies in Jamaica and India and had the advantage of sheltering walls from weather and providing extra living space at a small cost.

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2018 (updated 2021)

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Further sources - 135 Tasman Street


  • Mitchell, H & J. (2004). Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough Volume 1: Te Tangata me te Whenua – The People and the Land. Wellington: Huia Publishers.
  • Lash, M. D. (1992). Nelson Notables 1840 – 1940 A Dictionary of Regional Biography.  Nelson: Stiles Printing Ltd.
  • Salmond, J. (1966). Old New Zealand Houses 1800 – 1940.  Auckland: Reed Methuen Publishers Ltd.



  • Interview with S. Smale

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