Legal history of the land
1851, October 18th – the Canterbury Association sold a ¼ acre allotment to Captain John Parsons of Camberwell, Surrey, for ₤29. This land was town section 277.
1853 – The Lyttelton jury list records John Parsons, ‘harbourmaster’, living on Brittan Terrace.
1860 – John Parsons dies and leaves town section (T.S.) 277 (and T.S.273 and 275) to his wife.
1868 – The Rates Roll lists Louisa Parsons as residing at town sections 275-277, with a house and garden.
1869, May 29th – Louisa sells sections 275 and 277 to Thomas McClatchie, a master mariner of Lyttelton. The price is ₤475, which suggests a house had been built.
Louisa Parsons retains town section 273 until 1874; when she sells. The deed records her as being ‘of Christchurch’.
1892, October – McClatchie sells the two sections to Mrs Annie Galbraith, for ₤700.
1893 – Annie Galbraith sells section 275 to Ellen Leslie Ferguson for ₤200. The Galbraith’s remain living on section 277, and are recorded there in the 1890 rates roll.
1903, February – Annie Galbraith sells part of section 277 (39 perches) to Malcolm James Miller, a shipwright, for ₤560.
1911 – The remainder of town section 277 is sold to Donald Hastings Cambridge, a master mariner, for ₤535.
1927 – 3 Brittan Terrace was sold to Joseph Henry Flynn, a tally clerk, and his wife Melanie Jane Flynn.
1935 – they sell the section to Howard Kippenburger.
The next owner of 3 Brittan Terrace was James Walter Brassell, who lived here until 1946, when he sold it to Stanley H. Bowden, a watersider.
Phyllis Bowden inherited the land (Lot 1) on the 5th June 1979 after her husband died. On the same day Lot 2 was transferred to Gavin J.J. Rusbatch (Foreman Stevedore) and Marie Jeanette Rusbatch.
Mr and Mrs Rusbatch, found a piece of an early newspaper, under the bricks of the fireplace, dated 25th December 1852. The date of the newspaper suggests that Parsons built the house at this time, as his family were soon to arrive in New Zealand (which they did in February 1853).
Owners and occupiers
John Parsons (1803 – 1860) resided at Brittan Terrace 1853-1860. He was captain of the Lady Nugent when the Godleys came out in her in 1850, and they became much attached to him.
“A cheery active sailor-like looking man, with fresh sun-browned face, blue eyes and curly hair.” Godley appointed him harbourmaster of Lyttelton in September 1851. He was to take the Lady Nugent on to Nelson where the charter of the vessel by the Canterbury Association ended; leave the ship there and return to Lyttelton and write home for his wife and family to come out.
When Parsons returned to Lyttelton he stayed with the Godley's and was up early every morning to water the garden, sometimes carrying as many as 70 buckets of water into the garden. His son John (called ‘Jack’), who was with him at this time and aged 18, was to go back to England on the Lady Nugent on her return journey and bring out Mrs Parsons and the rest of the family. While moored in Nelson, preparing for the return trip to England, the Lady Nugent’s crew deserted to go to the gold fields.
Parsons raised a crew of 12 mariners from Lyttelton and sent them to Nelson; Jack was to be the first mate. While preparing the Lady Nugent to depart, Jack and the ships 4th officer were drowned when their small boat overturned on their final trip into Nelson. When the news reached Parsons in Lyttelton, Charlotte Godley wrote ‘ I cannot attempt to describe his distress when the news arrived, he was very fond of that boy, as indeed he is of his family’
Parsons was asked to captain the Lady Nugent back to England, and still intending to bring his wife and remaining family to New Zealand he agreed; resigned as harbourmaster, and set off for Nelson. On arriving in Nelson, he found that a Captain had been appointed and the Lady Nugent had already departed, so he returned to Lyttelton.
His harbourmaster job had been offered to a Captain Greaves, but Parsons was re-instated.
In February 1853 his wife and 5 children arrived on the Minerva, and they lived for several years in Dampiers Bay.
He remained Harbourmaster until 1857; during his tenure in the job writing frequently to the provincial government complaining at the low wages paid to his boatmen, only 3/-6d a day. They refused to continue for those wages.
Lyttelton had three Harbourmasters in its Provincial years until the Lyttelton Harbour board was formed in 1877; Captain J. Parsons 1851-1857, Captain A. Sproul 1857-1867 and Captain F.D. Gibson 1867-1877. Captain Sproul replaced Captain John Parsons in 1857 when this poor gentleman was diagnosed as insane. Sproul had the unenviable task of sorting out the muddles and lack of disciplined routine that the Port had developed during Captain Parson’s illness.
Captain Parsons House was named ‘Tui’s Nest’ as the Tui was also known as the Parsons Bird. When the Parsons family lived at Dampiers Bay the only other residents there were C.E. Dampier and W.J. Hamilton, and soon afterwards H.J. Le Cren as well.
Captain Parsons died at Dampiers Bay in 1860, aged 57. His wife Louisa died in Timaru in 1889, aged 79, and is buried in Lyttelton cemetery.
Their daughter Louisa married Frederick Noble Campbell on the 24th February 1855; daughter Annie Elizabeth married Charles Edward Cooper on the 30th August 1859; daughter Emily Susannah married John Albert Morgan (of Miles and Co.) on the 20th April 1863, and daughter Henrietta married William Nicholl McBeth (also of Miles and Co.) on the 27th February 1863. These four daughters reunited on the 3rd February 1916 to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of their arrival in Canterbury.
Captain John Galbraith (1833 – 1903)
Born in Tambash, Scotland, he went to sea aged 14 in the ship James Pain. In 1857 and 1858 he was in command of a ship trading between Singapore and the Malaccas. He came to New Zealand in 1860, and in 1863 he commanded a quarantine vessel at Camp Bay, Lyttelton. He went to sea again in 1868 and commanded the Dream Wave, Dance Wave and the Johba , all owned by Wood and Cunningham. In 1874 he was appointed piermaster and acting deputy harbourmaster. In 1876, he took charge of the dredge, and in 1877 he was appointed 1st pilot stationed at Port Cooper by the newly elected harbour board. In 1886 he was made head pilot and master of the tug in Lyttelton.
He married in 1859, and had 3 daughters and 2 sons. He died in January 1903, aged 69.
Captain Thomas McClatchie (Born 1833)
McClatchie resided at Dampiers Bay from 1869 to 1892. He was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1833, and went to sea as a young man in the East India trade. He came to New Zealand in 1851, aged 18, as third officer in the ship Isabella Hercus.
He married in 1851, and had 2 sons and 2 daughters. For many years he was engaged in the coastal trade and was master and part owner of the steamer ‘Avon’; he is also recorded as going to the Australian goldfields in 1853-54. In 1863 he was in Taranaki at the time of the massacre at the Sugar loaves and afterwards carried dispatches from Sir George Grey to Wellington. Settling in Lyttelton, he built wools sheds at the port and commenced business in a stevedore company, called Talbot and McClatchie. He retired from his business in 1886.
Constructed in wide pit sawn timber (clap board). See the original structure from the early sketch in The Lyttelton Times of January 15th 1944, and also in Scotters ‘History Of Port Lyttelton’ plate no. 13. The sketch shows there is no gable on the right hand end, which has a bay window with a curving hood; these are from a later era. The return veranda, with its straight roof, is an early feature as are the dormer windows protruding from the roof. The roof shape is steep and forms the square shape with 4 equal facets meeting at a central point. The weatherboards on the gable are laid in the rusticated fashion, and the bargeboard is pierced. The veranda posts have caps. This lower storey features a French door. On the north side a small narrow window with 10 small panes about 12” by 12” is another early feature, although now it has been blocked up.
Underneath the present iron roof, shingles were once the roofing material. The exterior and interior have both been modified. It would still be possible, if the owner was approached and welcomed the assistance, to restore the exterior of this most historic house. Because of its history it would be worth applying for a grant to help with this work