Deans Cottage

Built in 1843 for Scottish settlers, John and William Deans, the house known as Deans Cottage is the oldest surviving building on the Canterbury Plains.

Dean's Cottage on the grounds of Riccarton House, Kahu Road
Dean's Cottage on the grounds of Riccarton House, Kahu Road. Creator (cre): Rosemary Spiewak, Contributor (ctb): Rosemary Spiewak.

In 1843, after having been given permission to squat on the Port Cooper plains by Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland, John and William Deans selected an isolated forest area, Pūtaringamotu, as a suitable location to establish a farm. Although the area surrounding Pūtaringamotu was uninhabited at the time, Ngāi Tahu still held rights to the land and the Deans brothers entered into agreement with them to establish grazing rights.

Accompanying the brothers was a carpenter, Samuel Manson, who built the first house at the settlement (a cottage consisting of three rooms and a loft). Later in that year he built a separate house for the Deans brothers. Originally situated near what is now the bridge on Kahu Road, the house was crafted from local timber (totara, matai and kahikatea) which was pit sawn into boards.

Built in the manner of a colonial box cottage, the house consisted of a ground floor and a loft. On the ground floor were two bedrooms and a sitting room, while the loft was accessed via a staircase.

Following the death of William in 1851, John and his new wife, Jane, lived in the house until John died from tuberculosis in 1854. After his death, Jane and her son, John, continued to live in the house until the first stage of their new house (Riccarton House) was completed in March 1856. Out of respect for the memories the house held, it remained standing, and in 1889 the house was given a new roof and the wooden piles were replaced with concrete ones.

After the death of John Deans (junior) in 1902, and Jane Deans in 1911, the wife of John, Edith, remained living at Riccarton House until her own death in 1937. In 1947 the Christchurch City Council purchased Riccarton House and the grounds.

In that same year the 1843 house was relocated via a traction engine to a new site north of Riccarton House. While in this location it was restored by the Christchurch Rotary Club. In 1970 the house was relocated to its present site. The interior of the cottage was furnished with items on loan from the Canterbury Museum. The Riccarton Bush Trust (established 1914) manages the house which is open to the public on a daily basis.

The house suffered damage during the 2010-2011 earthquakes. The chimney, which wasn’t the original, was damaged and replaced with a reconstruction which is closer to the original design.