aka Dalton, Randall,  Hall, and Director' s House, Annex

The Director's Residence replaced the above building, and was erected on the site of the first cottage in the Botanic Garden and so links the building to the very early days of the Botanic Garden reserve.

I have never paid much attention to the building behind the Treehouse, which houses the library, once offices, but now also meeting and storage rooms, plus a flat. Recently I come across information giving the history of this building and was surprised to find that it is over 100 years old. True, it has been altered and renovated a number of times, but the basic structure remains. Often referred to as the Directors House, every Keeper/Curator/Director of the Wellington Botanic Garden from 1904 to 1989 has lived there, and it is now often referred to as the Annex. However a building on this site go back to the early days of this city, and there is quite a story there.


Between 1856 and 1860 at the time of Barraud's painting, John Dutton, gardener to Mr Harry St Hill, rented four acres of bush and scrub land, now part of the Botanic Garden.

Between 1856 and 1860 at the time of Barraud's painting, John Dutton, gardener to Mr Harry St Hill, rented four acres of bush and scrub land, now part of the Botanic Garden. In 1852 he built a one roomed lean-to "on the hill ridge overlooking a deep gully of bush dense with noble tree ferns” on what was then the Wesleyan Reserve. Dutton was recorded as being resident of the cottage or lean-to in the 1856 electoral roll and 1859 jury list.

The cottage was built of rimu and kahikatea available from trees milled in the Wesleyan Reserve. In 1860 the cottage was bought by William Randall. The land was bought back by the Crown in 1865, and the cottage was then sold to Mr. David Hall for £25 in 1868. Hall offered himself as keeper of the Garden in 1869, the year following the establishment of the garden in 1868, and worked as such until William Bramley was hired.

Letters from Mr Hall provide interesting insights into conditions of the Reserve in 1869. when Hall offered his services as keeper.

"My object in writing to you is to obtain permission from the Board of Directors to act as Keeper of the Reserve. From all I know I am convinced that I should be of the utmost utility in keeping those persons away who come for the purpose of destroying the fence on the one hand and the trees or shrubs on the other and also in preventing cattle or horses being driven by their owners into the Reserve. I would suggest that the slip rails be made secure and that a lock with two keys secure the gate, that I may have one for my private convenience.

I should have no objection to keep in repair the fence or erect any that may have fallen or have been knocked down.

If the Board should be pleased to appoint me I will do my utmost to serve them


faithfully."

The Board drew up a set of conditions and confirmed his appointment, but reserved the right to rescind the agreement at any time.
The conditions were:

  • 1. Remove all animals trespassing on the land, and if necessary lay information against the owners. The Police would help in carrying out this task.

  • 2. Prevent persons cutting wood or damaging the shrubs.

  • 3. Report any trespasses which may be noticed after the erection of Boundary
    fences.


The Board then repurchased the cottage for £45 from Hall in 1870, indicating that the ground around it was eminently suitable for the future nursery for the garden. In reply to the Board's approach Hall wrote to Dr Hector:

'Botanic Reserve
Sept 3, 1870

Sir

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 29 August, and beg to say, that I claim for improvements

1st the Cottage consisting of 4 rooms, faithfully built, of red pine, with two chimneys. The two front rooms are well lined, and recently papered. There has also been a new mantlepiece and inner door erected. The back part of the roof has been newly shingled and a drain has been dug round the back so that we have been quite free from water.

2nd Two out buildings one of which is perfectly sound having been built of red pine, the other is not so good and requires shingling.

3rd Six apple trees of 9 years growth in a healthy condition which yields every season an abundance of splendid fruit of various descriptions. Twelve peach trees some of which are of the finest sort, which form an amazing crop, last season. Also innumerable black and red currants and other trees too numerous to mention. I have gone carefully through the items and claim (£50) fifty pounds which certainly would be of more value to me if the land was my own, or I could procure a lease of it.

I have therefore to say, that I shall be able to place the Botanic Garden Board in the property on the receipt of the above sum viz £50.


The final price agreed was £45 ($90). Bramley and his family moved in and the cottage became known as the Keeper’s Cottage.


Keepers House 1890 with then Keeper George Gibbs.  left
Replacement Director's House built 1892  -  modern renovated view  right

The 'new'  keeper's house enlargement from photo taken around 1905
from post card posted 1908
Postcard from Mira Parsons collection

In 1880, Bramley reported that the roof was leaking badly and that he needed another room to be added because of his growing family. Further repairs were undertaken in 1889, when the new Head Gardener, George Gibb, came to live there.

The details of the new keepers/directors house  has been subject to much conjecture. Unfortunately the original council files have been lost, and therefore there are gaps in the available information.


According to Shepherd and Cook, the cottage was demolished in 1892. A four-roomed bungalow with a veranda was built 1892 to replace the Keeper’s Cottage until the Director’s Residence was built. George Gibb lived in the Director’s Residence until 1901, when he lost both his legs in an accident, and retired as Keeper. George Glen took over as Keeper.

The details of the 1892 house are noted on a council file. It confirms a house was built in 1892, a 'new cottage built for the caretaker or custodian or head gardener' replacing the original cottage built in the 1860's. In June of that year a tender of S. Williams was accepted for the building at a cost of £316.10.00.  There appears to be no record of a later Director's house, but the same notes state that part of the original house is embedded into the extensions and additions to the structure which took place over the years. The comment is also made that "most of the repairs do not indicate age and dilapidation, rather the desperate need for more room because of the large families of the respective directors trying to fit into what was originally a four roomed home".

The suggestion has been made that this house was replaced some 10 years later for the use of the directors.  Knowing the general lack of finance for the garden, this action does not appear logical,  and I suspect that the 1892 property is probably the one actually occupied by later directors.

The Director's Residence was modified in 1929 when a new chimney was added the kitchen extended and a bay window added. The new kitchen floor and outside wall were to be of matai with totara piles, rimu sleepers and rimu picture rails. The work was done by H Sanford at a cost of £221 6 8.    The bathroom and hall of the Director's Residence was renovated in 1941 at a cost of about £112.

In October 1941 the then director Mac MacKenzie came under severe criticism from the Reserves Committee for allegedly taking liberties with regards to renovating his house against the City Engineers estimated cost of £80.0.0, for restoring the house, a sum of £200.0.0. was expended without the Reserves Committees approval.

In his defence, October 8, 1941, Mackenzie stated that the only alterations he authorised without the Reserves Committee approval was tiling the bathroom instead of lining it with hardboard – the cost of which could be met by credits for the old bath and taps and a spare basin that was not in use. The reason for the large difference in the estimated cost and the actual cost in renovation stemmed from the number of jobs done which were not properly quoted e.g. the painting work not only covered the house but included the gardens generally:- gates, seats, bridges, palings, mens messroom, manure shed, store room, machines room, tool shed, motor and cart sheds, glasshouse and frames, potting sheds, pavilion (children's play area) ladies restrooms) and a number of other areas. During the private alterations to the residence Mac. reported the boiler burst in the roof and water came through the kitchen ceiling, this has not been repaired nor the new piping painted. I considered enough was spent and asked for it to be left as it was... 

Director MacKenzie reported..." twenty-three years ago I cane to Wellington - the house was an old house then". Small alterations were suggested and approved on the house e.g. a new door, and lining the hall, with wallboard and paper same, supply of a new bath and relining of the bathroom. He went on to say "I am in charge of twelve residences - the reserves outside the one I occupy in the Gardens, My own is the oldest but it has received no special attention." He strongly refuted any allegation that he abused his position as Director of Parks by wrongful or extravagant expenditure on house­hold alterations and his case was supported by the City Engineer who agreed that the costings were "on the low side". In his defence MacKenzie. brought attention to the age of his residence -describing it as being the oldest of the twelve residences on all the reserves in Wellington.  Unfortunately the Reserve Committee did not approve of his actions however, and reduced his salary to £650 pa as well as warning him to cooperate with the committee in the future. This did not stay the case for long, however, when re retired in 1942 his salary was £820 .

When Edward Hutt became Director of the Garden in 1946 more work was done. This included both structural and interior renovations such as new linings, wallpaper etc. It was hoped that this would bring the building up to a reasonably modern standard.

Iain Galloway was the last Director of the Botanic Garden to live in the Director's Residence,  and in 1991 the conversion into its current configuration into the flat, office and library was completed.

A 1910 photograph shows a quite large building comprising the keepers house. 


Note the quite extensive nursery behind the building, in the area of the proposed Children's Teaching Garden.


The current roof line of the Annex (2009) - the old Directors House

It appears that on one of the subsequent renovations quite a lot of the building may have been removed, but I have found no documentary evidence of this in the City Archives. The following aerial photograph  seems to show that by that time quite a lot of the building had been already removed.   Richard Nanson, a former Director,  has suggested that 'some rumpty old rooms at the back were demolished at some stage,' but it is not known when. This is another one of the mysteries of the garden. 

View (below) 2009 Directors House (Annex)  with dark roof
(Old nursery before redevelopment)
 

The Director's Residence was built on the site of the first cottage in the Botanic Garden and so links the building to the very early days of the Botanic Garden reserve. The building has been in continuous use since then and has been home to most of the Directors of the Botanic Garden. One cannot be absolutely certain about the history of this building, but on the evidence available, the above  appears to be its story.  Lets hope the original files may be discovered some day!