Registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as having ‘outstanding significance,’ Nairn Street Cottage was built by William Wallis in the 1850s as a home for his family.


In September 1857, William Wallis and his wife Catherine arrived in Wellington as a young, newly married couple fresh from England. Their story is similar to that of all new immigrants as they sought to use their skills to achieve what would not have been possible in their home country. William Wallis was a carpenter – a sought-after trade in the young colony – and quickly established himself in Wellington. He began building Nairn Street Cottage shortly after the couple’s arrival and completed it just before the birth of his first child. Catherine was pregnant with her first child when she arrived in Wellington and went on to have nine more children. By the early 1870’s, William Wallis had built a new home to accommodate his growing family. Situated adjacent to the original Cottage, ‘Royston House’ (named after the village he came from) occupied the site on which the Cottage Visitor Centre now stands. Nairn Street Cottage itself was to remain in family ownership for 127 years, but unfortunately Royston House would not. Over the years it became derelict and was demolished shortly before the Cottage was opened as a Museum in 1980.


Built on an 1840 New Zealand Company ‘Town Acre’, Nairn Street Cottage is central Wellington’s oldest identified building. Completed in 1858, its construction is of the elegant late-Georgian style and is similar to many houses built in Wellington through to about 1870. Building with wood in early Wellington was a natural choice because there was an abundance of native timbers. Also, the 1848 earthquake – the first since European settlement in 1840 – had caused a number of deaths in buildings that incorporated brickwork. The local newspaper, the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, reported in its November 8 1848 issue that the consensus was to build well-constructed wooden buildings and preferably no more than one storey. Fire, however, remained a danger, especially when fanned by Wellington’s winds. This led to the destruction of many early buildings constructed prior to the Cottage.



Open: Tours at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm daily until 14 March 2016.


Adults: $8 Children: $4 (4 – 16 years)

Bookings are essential for all schools and tour groups.


The Museum is located at 68 Nairn Street, at the top of Willis Street.

T: +64 4 472 8904

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