In 1866, Andrew Burn Suter had just started his 25 year tenure as Bishop of Nelson. The Collingwood gold rush was in full swing and Nelson was in thrall to the scandalous Maungatapu Murders.
The same year, William Collins built five houses and a church along the eastern side of Milton Street. Only two of these remain – Strupak Cottage at number 149 and its two-storey neighbour at 147.
Photos from the early 20th century show the cottage in amongst the glass houses on the flat fertile land of The Wood, as this area had become known.
Current owner Roz Spiers bought the house in 2008 as a do-up project.
The original house had two bedrooms and an outside washroom and toilet housed in a lean-to. At some point, the bathroom had been moved indoors, replacing the second bedroom, and a wood burning stove had been removed to increase the living space.
“The décor was circa 1970 green-and-orange with patterned wall paper,” Roz says. “The old lady who lived here was legally blind and it badly needed renovating. I think about 10 people looked through it but most were put off by the state of the place.”
It wasn’t always named Strupak – that came from the previous owner, and is the Gaelic word for tea, scones and hospitality, which is appropriate as Roz hails from Glasgow and still speaks with a soft Scottish accent.
The one-bedroom kauri cottage today is testament to the hard work Roz put into renovating it. She has retained its heritage character while turning it into a warm, comfortable, cosy house. She stripped back the timber window frames in the main bedroom and living room to show the unusual carved architraves and installed antique rimu doors – hard to source because of their unusual narrow width – and heavy curtains.
Paintings by Scottish artist Brent Miller are a link to Roz’s homeland, and the furnishings are a charming mix of old and new. Roz has kept the original kitchen cupboards, done away with the 70s colour scheme and replaced the bench top to give a surprisingly spacious contemporary kitchen for such a small house.
The exterior is traditional weatherboard and photos show that the house looks the same now as when it was built, with an iron roof, gables front and back and gingerbread fretwork on the verandah supports.
The original cottage garden has been enhanced with plantings of lavender, roses and succulents. Roz is still working on the rear garden, which is very private and has rural views to the Botanical Gardens that runs along to the east of Milton Street.
There’s a friendly local boutique brewery pub just across the road and Founders Heritage Park is within easy walking distance.
A painted picket gate remains as the link between a piece of Nelson’s history and its modern charms.