Proposed repairs to Penfold's historic sod and cob cottage

Christchurch City Council sought feedback on plans to stabilise and repair James Penfold's c.1870 cottage on Scott Park, near Ferrymead Bridge. This followed drainage works to stop further moisture damage to the historic cottage.

Project status: Decision made
Open for feedback: 12th July 2017 - 14th August 2017

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Project update - 8 July 2020

Following delays to this project, the contract is now being finalised and the successful contractor is expected to be on site within the next four weeks.

Project update - 14 August 2019

Penfold's Cottage

Work on Penfold’s Cottage is expected to start in October 2019. Detailed design is almost complete and the resource consent process is underway.

After public consultation the Council supported the proposed retention of the existing sod and cob material, together with stabilization works and the installation of a glass enclosure. This will allow people to view the cob structure and building as a whole.

These two recent images represent the intended works showing the retained cob and new glazed enclosure. 

Project Update - 25 January 2019

An engineer and conservation architect are now working on detailed design for Penfold's Cob Cottage. Once resource consent and an archaeological authority are received, work is expected to start in about August.

The Council's Heritage Team will begin liaising with the community on interpretation for the cottage this year.

Update 11 April 2018

At its meeting on Thursday 5 April 2018 the City Council approved the proposed repairs to Penfold's Cottage.

Council Resolved CNCL/2018/00040

 That the Council:

1.         Approve Option 1 to stabilise and repair the remaining heritage fabric of Penfold’s Cob Cottage and glaze lost areas.

a.         Work with Ferrymead Park Limited to develop a cob trail and cob events to link the Cottage with Ferrymead Park.

b.         Work with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the community to develop innovative interpretation to promote the Cottage.

2.         Approve the Penfold’s Cob Cottage planned works to commence as soon as possible, owing to the ongoing deterioration to the heritage fibre of the cottage.

Councillor Johanson/Councillor Templeton         Carried

Construction will follow the detailed design and consenting phases.

Update 2 March 2018

The Penfold’s cob cottage project is now progressing and a staff report will be considered at the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board meeting at 10am on Wednesday 14 March 2018. The project was put on hold in October 2017 while staff collated funding information relating to earthquake repairs to heritage buildings across the city for the Council’s draft 2018-2028 Long term Plan.

 The report recommends that the Community Board:

  1. Approve Option 1 to stabilise and repair the remaining heritage fabric of the cottage and glaze lost areas.

             a)  Work with Ferrymead Park Limited to develop a cob trail and cob events to link the Cottage with Ferrymead Park.

             b)  Work with Ngāi Tahu and the community to develop innovative interpretation to promote the Cottage.

Penfold's Cob Cottage consultation summary [PDF, 10 KB]

Comments and responses.  [PDF, 83 KB]

The agenda for this meeting, including the report and any additional information, can be viewed online from Friday 9 March 2018 on link).

The report is expected to be considered by the Council at its meeting on Thursday 5 April 2018.

Update - 1 November 2017

The Council's project team received 40 submissions during the consultation phase in July and August 2017. Of these, 32 submitters supported the stabilise and repair option proposed by the project team.

Comments and responses.  [PDF, 83 KB]

 The Council has asked that funding for a number of earthquake repairs to heritage buildings (including Penfold’s Cottage) be put on hold while staff collate funding information relating to earthquake repairs to heritage buildings across the city for the next Long Term Plan.

 At the moment staff don’t have any further information about when the report on Penfold’s Cottage will go to the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board but we will update submitters as soon as we have further details. 


Cottage pre-earthquake

Cottage pre-earthquake

Cottage post earthquake

Cottage post earthquake

Innovative plans for earthquake-damaged cob cottage

Originally constructed of sod blocks, the cottage was badly damaged in the earthquakes. A proposal to stabilise and repair the two-room building will preserve the familiar landmark and provide a unique insight into early earth-building techniques.

The largely intact walls facing Main Road and Ferrymead Bridge will be repaired and will retain the historic street view of the cottage. Remaining walls that are too badly damaged to repair will be enclosed with glass, allowing visitors to see how the cottage was constructed and repaired, and how it was affected by the earthquakes.

Artist impressions of the proposed option are shown below.

Why the cottage is significant

Penfold's Cottage, 1911

Penfold's Cottage, 1911. Photo: Christchurch City Libraries

For 600 years Ngāi Tahu (and their predecessors Ngāti Māmoe and Waitaha) used the present Main Road as a travelling route, a place of settlement and as a significant mahinga kai (resource and food gathering) area.

It became a key thoroughfare for European settlers in the mid-19th century. James Penfold leased the land in 1870 and built the cottage using sod blocks. The former captain of the vessel Excelsior, and then labourer on the new railway, lived there with his family until about 1878. They then they moved to Southbridge.

Between 1940–44 the cottage was largely rebuilt by Ernest Parish, with help from the Mt Pleasant Burgess’s Association and the Mount Pleasant Boating Club. Unable to find suitable sods, Ernest Parish reconstructed the building in cob.

Interior view of earth materials

Interior view of earth materials

In December 1944, 7000 people attended the reopening of the cottage, a memorial to the Canterbury Pioneers.

Two years later Scott Brothers Ltd gave the cottage and its surroundings to Christchurch City Council for ‘the health, amusement and instruction of the public’.

The cottage was again repaired by Ernest Parish in 1948 after it was badly damaged by fire. Further repairs to the cottage were carried out in the 1980s (cob) and 1990s (clay blocks).

Listed in the Christchurch District Plan as a significant heritage item, the cottage has architectural and aesthetic significance as 'a rare Christchurch example of an earth building, a method of construction once used quite extensively in Canterbury and Marlborough'. Some original sod courses remain at the lower levels.

The design, a symmetrical single storey structure with a single gabled roof, is typical of the 19th century workers’ cottages.

Option for stabilisation and repair

Proposed option - road frontage

Proposed option - road frontage

Proposed option - road frontage: Structure strengthened with interior steel frame supporting roof and walls. Plates will not be visible.

Proposed option - rear

Proposed option - rear

Proposed option - rear: Toughened glass panels outside the line of the original walls. Glass secured with steel columns.

Options considered

Option 1. Stabilise and repair in current damaged state, and interpretation. 

  • Retains a locally unique example of very early sod construction (c.1870) and later earth construction repairs (1940–1990).
  • No loss of its remaining heritage fabric.
  • Retains key aspects of the heritage significance of the cottage – historical, social, landmark, technological and craftsmanship values (i.e. the reason for its heritage protection in the District Plan).
  • Showcases best practice heritage conservation by the Council, offering exciting education and advocacy opportunities.
  • Engages visitors and involves the community in providing an authentic visitor experience, in an exciting and innovative manner which is unique in Christchurch.
Reconstructed rear

Reconstructed rear

Option 2. Deconstruct and reconstruct, and interpretation.

  • Architectural form and intactness of the cottage reinstated.
  • Roof retained.
  • Landmark status retained.
  • On-site interpretation can inform visitors that the cottage is a reconstruction.


  • Permanent loss of heritage fabric – foundations and the original sod and early cob wall construction which is still standing will be lost.
  • Significant loss of historical, social, archaeological, technological and craftsmanship values.
  • Loss of authenticity and integrity.
  • Does not align with best practice heritage conservation.
  • May no longer meet the threshold for heritage protection in the District Plan.

Options 3 & 4.  Options to ‘Do nothing’ and ‘Deconstruction’.

These options were not pursued as they would result in the complete loss of the cottage and its contribution to the understanding of the area’s history.

What happens next?

Following consultation, a summary of responses will be prepared and included in a report to be considered by the Linwood–Central–Heathcote Community Board in October. Those who provide feedback will receive the response summary, as well as details of the October 2017 meeting.

If the proposed plans to repair and stabilise the cottage are approved, detailed designs will be developed. These will be implemented from July 2018, when project funding will be available.


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How the decision is made

  • Decision made