This fine nineteenth century house dominates the streetscape of this side of Exeter Street. It is a corner house with its entrance up steps on the Oxford Street corner. It is a landmark building situated on a terrace, with solid red stone retaining walls, elevated above street level (the walls were built by the Heavy Lift Gang from the gaol).
On 1st July 1851 the property on Town Sections 165 &166 (now 68 Oxford Street) were conveyed from the Canterbury Association to John Josling of Rangiora; (LINZ archives Vol. 3D p.141). He actually owned T.S. 163-166, plus T.S.168 which was the whole block of land bounded by Exeter Street, Oxford Street, Ripon Street and St. David’s Street.
On 23rd April 1862 Josling leased part of his land to Edward Morey, a builder who then took out a mortgage on 18th May 1862 to build a cottage that still exists today at 2 Exeter Street, originally part T.S. 168.
The first Certificate of Title was issued to John Josling on 8th June 1880. On 11th October 1886 the freehold went to his widow Mary Ann Josling, a James Oliver; a farmer at Pleasant Point and a James Withers a builder at Southbrook.
By 1870 William Wales leased the land and built the house at 68 Oxford Street. William Wales had fought in the Crimean War (1854-56). He came out to New Zealand when he was paid off; and established a successful business as a carter based at the stables behind the old Albion Hotel on the corner of London and Canterbury Street. Wales is listed as a carter in the 1870 rates records; he paid £25 rates for his house, stables and gardens on TS 165-6. William Wales also built (by 1872) the large corner house on the corner section at 48 Canterbury Street (corner of Exeter Street) and a house and gardens at TS 139 on Ripon Street, where he was living in 1877.
His son, also William Wales, known as ‘Billy’ Wales, continued the family carrier business; many senior residents remember him at the family home 27 Ripon Street (TS 143. also built by William Wales c1900.) William Wales junior, a tobacconist, built 24 Winchester Street in 1901 (house and stables TS 70).
In 1877 John Josling, gardener, is the occupier and owner, of 68 Oxford Street. It is not clear if he is John Josling of Rangiora or his son.
By 1878 H.G. Rogers (listed as a clerk) and Mr Alfred William Rouse (of H.M. Customs) were renting a double house. Lyttelton has very few double houses left, most were adapted into one large house or demolished and rebuilt as a detached house or the land subdivided and two smaller houses built. (Old Lyttelton photographs show some along London Street and Dublin Street, and up until relatively recently double houses still existed on Dublin Street where Stark’s engineering extended their premises.)
Alfred William Rouse who lived in one of the double houses was listed in the 1870 rates records as a Tidewaiter, this term applied to those who worked for H.M Customs who, prior to the large wharves being built and dredging of the harbour taking place, literally waited for high tide so the ships could berth and be inspected. He had previously lived at TS 137 at the cottage further up Oxford Street.
By 1888 the rates records list TS 165-6 as being a part of Josling’s estate; this was transferred to William Cook, a Lyttelton Butcher on January 11th. (William Cook sold part of the TS 165 &166 to Alexander Rhind on 25th October 1888, and by 1897 Thomas Richard Brooke was the leasehold owner/occupier of this property.
The house at 68 Oxford Street is known by some senior citizens of Lyttelton as ‘The Cook House’, after the Cook family who lived here for many years. In 1890 William Cook, butcher, and his wife Annie are recorded as living here. Their son, Arthur Leonard Cook died tragically at age 18. By 1901 the house is recorded in Annie Cook’s name.
In 1907 William Cook owned the Freehold of part TS 165-6, he is recorded as a timber merchant. The 1910 rates records also lists William Cook, a timber merchant, as resident owner/ occupier with a timber yard at T.S. 13 and 14 on Norwich Quay. William Cook died in 1917. (It is unclear if William Cook, butcher, is the same person as William Cook, timber merchant or if the timber merchant is the son of the butcher.)
On 26th September 1935 the house was transferred to William James Cook of Lyttelton after the death of his mother Annie; then on 3rd March 1955 to his widow Esther Isabel Cook.
Colin Cook, was Mayor of Lyttelton between the years of 1908-10, and according to the rates records he owned several properties on Exeter and Winchester Street and Sumner Road. Colin Cook was also on the 1912 Harbour Board Committee. He died in 1913, age 55. An interesting story that would need to be verified/researched further is that when Colin Cook was Mayor of Lyttelton, and Captain Robert Falcon Scott was in Lyttelton at that time preparing for his Polar expeditions; Scott apparently came to this house for tea with Mayor Cook.
The house left the Cook family in 1955 when the house was transferred to Halisi Bob Pakau, a Lyttelton watersider and his wife Rena Violet Pakau.
In 1985 Jonathan McGregor Smith and Jennifer Oakley bought the house.
Old Lyttelton photographs of 1890, 1910 and 1922 and also the position and type of chimneys strongly suggests that the original 1870 house was upgraded rather than demolished and rebuilt.
This large family home is built with weatherboard and the roof has two large double gables with central valley, plus the original brick chimneys all being very much an integral part of the house shape. The decorative but very solid gable brackets, are very similar to the ones seen on Havelock at 90 Cressy Terrace. The north side has a very substantial brick chimney where the kitchen coal range is situated; it is an early exterior chimneystack, which gives a good indication that it is part of the early house mentioned in the rates records of 1870 and identical to the one seen in the 1890 photograph of the house at the top of Oxford Street.
The attractive original bay window is south facing with three double hung sashes at the front of the house. The original solidly built steps lead up to the original front door surround and the attractive front door makes a grand entrance to the house. Originally the house would have had a frontage in the bay-veranda style, the veranda being on the opposite side of the door from the bay window. The veranda was adapted into a front room extension/ sunroom; a solidly built front porch now enhances the original entrance features.
The rooms in the house originally had extremely high studs (15 feet) these high ceilings have been lowered with false ceilings, but the originals can be viewed from the loft ladder showing a large cavity space between the ground floor and the attic room where the original wall linings and beautifully grooved matchwood ceilings are still in perfect condition.
There is a sympathetic west facing extension to the typically small original kitchen. From the kitchen exit the back door leads to an original brick path with a wall containing the old food safe and further along this path is the site of the original stables where there is now a garage. The attic rooms have new stairs accessing them. The attic has been gib- lined and adapted into a spacious penthouse study bedroom with skylights and a south facing picture window.
Liza Rossie. 2007